A Real Mobile Service Story

Load Tray message on a copier

Five years ago I would have had to walked back to my desk, picked up my phone, dialed the number for the IT help desk. Then I’d have had to describe the issue, and hopefully the support guy on the end of the phone would have known exactly which printer I was talking about. Time to complete this task? About 5 minutes.

I had one of those clarity moments the other day. It’s a familiar story to anyone who works in and office environment with computers and printers. I was sitting at my desk looking at a big document that I’d been sent to review. I decided to review the document on a flight I was taking later in the day. (I like to review big documents on paper while I’m travelling), so I clicked Print and my computer told me the document was on the way to the printer.

I was then straight on my way to a meeting and I wanted to grab that printout as I went, so up I jumped and I walked the 50 feet to the shared printer that is used by those in the Product Management section of the LANDesk offices. I got there and discovered there was no printout waiting for me.

Being mildly IT literate, I didn’t panic, I looked at the printer and saw–not the dreaded ‘paper jam’ which always strikes terror (and a surreal mental picture) to anyone looking at a printer–but the east-to-fix “Out of Paper” message. Yes, even I can fix that.

The usual cupboard full of spare paper ready to be loaded was empty. No spare paper. I checked the floor, the shelves, and nearby desks. There was no paper to be found. My little print job was politely queued up waiting to be printed, at the front of the line, but the printer was standing there with arms folded, frowning and refusing to do anything until it got some paper.

Five years ago I would have had to walked back to my desk, picked up my phone, dialed the number for the IT help desk, then waited and waited, until someone answered. Then I’d have had to describe the issue, and hopefully the support guy on the end of the phone would have known exactly which printer I meant. Time to complete this task? About 5 minutes.

These days we live in a self-service world. We live in a consumerization, BYOD, social world where we expect to be productive all the time. If we can’t we expect to make ourselves productive first and call for help second. So that’s never going to happen any more because it doesn’t fit against my world.

Mind you, two weeks ago I would have walked back to my desk, opened my browser, clicked on the shortcut to take me to the Service Desk self service page, clicked on a shortcut to report a printer fault and filled in the details and clicked ok. That would take me about two minutes to complete that task.

But you know what would really actually have happened in both cases? In the real, selfish, busy, messy, human land? I’d have seen that the printer wasn’t printing, that it was out of paper, and I’d have just gone straight on to my next meeting. Isn’t that mean? It wasn’t urgent, I was in a rush for something else and I knew that eventually when the paper was put in, my printout would come out and wait for me.

So the people suffering are not me. It’s the other people needing to print more urgently, and the IT department that doesn’t know about the fault stopping people being productive. Think about how many other people with urgent print needs would have been impacted and made less productive because of my natural human behavior. I feel bad about that.

Anyway, I noticed a poster from our IT department stuck up on the wall next to the printer. Options on the poster included “Let us know that the printer needs more paper”, “Report a paper jam that you can’t fix”, “Report another printer error that you can’t fix”, and Show alternative printers near me.” Next to each option was a QR code. So I took out my phone, scanned the need more paper code, instantly got an OK message on my phone, and headed off to my meeting. Total time? Thirty seconds if you include reading and taking phone out of pocket. And I did that because it was easy and it didn’t need me to go back to my desk or to talk to anyone, or even to type anything. I pressed a virtual button.

And you know of course that an incident process was automatically created in our Service Desk went straight to the mobile device of the local IT/facilities guy who read the detail of the incident (location, printer, description of the incident – all stuff I didn’t have to type in). And by the time I came back round past the printer, there was a stack of new paper, the printer was fully loaded and my printout was waiting for me.

Now, I could talk about how LANDesk technology can automatically detect statuses and alerts from devices like printers and bring them into your Service Desk as event processes, which is all good IT service focused stuff and obviously is an important part of mature IT service management. But if you operate an IT model where you encourage self-sufficiency, then you would be encouraging employees to just insert more paper in when the printer runs out. That’s empowering and simple and reduces IT workload. Unless you run out of spare paper. But as the story shows, a physical real-world issue (lack of spare paper) caused an IT Incident (I Can’t Print), And I’m a customer of IT, an End-User, and that printer is an IT thing. And, actually, I don’t care whose ‘thing’ it is. I pressed print and expect printout.

The story I’m telling is the one about how we can now make it super super easy for an employee or any other person to interact with physical objects to communicate about those physical objects, mobile from anywhere. And not only mobile, but in the context of a physical device. People interact with Things the outcome is Process, and the outcome of Process is that other people interact with those Things, and People become Productive.

It’s very exciting. and you know the best bit? When that IT (or facilities) guy scooted past with a stack of spare paper, and loaded the printer, he took out his phone and scanned another code on the printer, and walked off. That was it. He’d scanned and it resolved the Incident. SLA was achieved, and business continued to be productive. All mobile, all process, all real. And I got my printed document which I ended up not reading on my flight because I wrote this blog article instead. 🙂