I have seen it many times. A team has a great, innovative idea. They have that magical combination of people that enables them to bring it to life and articulate its business value so the idea gets line of business support and funding. Then the worst possible thing happens. Their creation is a tremendous success.
As a result they become completely consumed by operational demands. Their personal schedule becomes subservient to their service desk queue and their email inbox, and they become completely reactive. A product or service can quickly become irrelevant in the application economy if that is not addressed at light speed. The outcome can be dismal. A demoralized, overworked, team working on something that even they no longer “love”. It doesn’t have to be that way.
“Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times.” – Gustave Flaubert
We experienced this when our cloud crossed the chasm. A team of people who were passionate about innovation were spending all of their time (and a lot of after hours time) just responding to service requests. They were tired, and if they didn’t address the issue quickly, things were going to get worse. While some outside the group suggested we simply needed to add more people, we decided that such a knee-jerk response might as likely exacerbate the issue as it would solve it. We didn’t want to feed the beast. We needed to better understand the root cause.
Following much debate and resistance from our agile/DevOps-minded team, we had decided to implement a service desk tool. We did that because, apart from their obvious benefits with workflow and queue management, it had been my experience that these tools were tremendous sources of intelligence. In the past, I had discovered opportunities for new services or products, or the need for training (to increase productivity) by proactively mining a service desk database. We produced a few basic reports and the answer to our problems slapped us on the face like Don Corleone slapped Johnny Fontane.
The reports clearly showed that one type of request accounted for most of our team’s efforts. It was actually worse than we thought. It was the most manually intensive type of service we provided and, as I recall, it was taking more than 75% of the team’s time. (Ouch!) It took about two weeks to create a new, completely automated, self-service feature that enabled customers to obtain the service with a couple of clicks of the mouse. (What we came to call intelligent self-disintermediation.) In just more than a week we achieved 100% ROI and the solution continued to return value from then on. It also helped to address a key fear of prospects that enabled the next wave of adoption. We were, again, the happy victims of our own success.
There were also cases where a quick review of similar data led us to discover completely new opportunities to innovate. So when you’re looking to innovate – looking for the next big thing – don’t forget the pot of gold you already possess. And today’s data collection and analytics capabilities make that pot even larger.