Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 9

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on February 24, 2018

This is my 9th installment to a brief series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

I began discussing Information Technology help desks and their systems and processes, as an illustrative source of working examples in Part 7 and again in Part 8, for discussing how critically important business communications can become structured through multiple organizational levels and complex systems of gatekeepers – and with opportunity for communications inefficiency and delay and of communications error at every step of those business process flows. And one of my core goals in offering this was to lay a foundation for outlining and discussing an alternative to the standard information sharing and communications processes that in effect, set up a business for the types of challenges noted in those two postings, and in Part 8 in particular.

More specifically, I stated at the end of Part 8 that I would turn here to discuss and consider the potential role that a social media-inclusive, interactive intranet can bring to this type of challenge. I will focus on that in what follows as a possible resource for limiting the types of business systems friction that I pose as arising from this challenge. But before doing so I want to dig a little deeper into the challenges that all of those potential communications and action layers can bring to any effort to resolve the types of complex, novel help desk challenges as outlined in Part 8.

• Anyone employed at a workplace of any significant scale, comes to meet and gets to know a circle of fellow employees at their place of employment. And they come to know, in varying levels of detail what these colleagues do professionally and certainly at the level of basic job description. More than that they often come to know with time, at least categorically what these colleagues know and can do in their particular fields: how expert and experienced they are and how through they are in carrying out their work.
• This circle begins with their immediate peers and colleagues who they actually work with and near, and radiates out from there. Note that in a pre-internet context with its essentially entirely immediate direct communications limitations, “near” as just cited means physically near for the most part. But in an online context with effective bandwidth connectivity available and used, it can be quite possible for a professional in one office of a larger and more physically dispersed business, to come to know a physically remote colleague better for what they do hands-on and for how their do it and for how well they do it, than they know about people who work just down the hall from their office or cubicle who they might only know as nodding acquaintances.
• This circle of professional connectivity and knowing comes to include a wider range of stakeholders within their own business, as touched upon above. But this range of professional network reach routinely extends out past the outer walls of a place of employment too, and for many who work there. Consider, for example, supply chain collaborations, or networking connections and real communications built from them that are developed from working with specific contact persons at third party specialty businesses that their employer acquires supportive specialized services from. In an Information Technology context, to take that out of the abstract, consider IT employees at a business who as a matter of ongoing practice, work with specific accounts managers at a cloud storage business that they use for data and file backups and for facilitating remote access from approved and vetted users.
• And if we change jobs, we also bring with us a knowledge base of who does what and how well, from where we have previously worked and from our wider professional networking that we have entered into at least when in job search. This point highlights how time and loss of direct ongoing contact can attenuate and degrade the value of these information resources as people move on and both to new employers and to working on different types of tasks and with different skills. Our networking is probably going to be the most up to date for those we directly work with now and on an ongoing basis. It is likely to be more limited, and to have more, and I add more significant gaps, the farther out we look in this expanding circle. And as the start of this bullet point indicates, this is where our directly applicable and useful knowledge of who we know, can and does age out too.
• But the key point here is that we all with time come to develop professional contact networks. And the more closely and the more frequently we work with individuals in those networks: the more often and the more effectively we communicate with them, the more detailed and accurate an understanding we can have of what they do now and what they have done and certainly recently, and what they are up to date on for doing as that work is done now. And this also means their being more up to date on what we do too, and on how well we do it. And older and long-moribund contacts degrade with time for their immediate effective usefulness and in both directions. And in between, we all develop what might be called gray area contacts who we still know but not well, and who may remember us but not well either and certainly at that might apply to any given here and now context.

Let’s reconsider the help desk work ticket escalation issues of Part 8 in light of this functional networking model. A help request arrives by phone or email and a member of the basic first level help desk team fields it, opening a work ticket that outlines what a now-reported problem at least presents itself as symptomatically. And this ticket also serves as a starting point for tracking all that will come next, as effort is made to resolve this problem; this work ticket opens a file on this instance of help desk activity and on the problem that has prompted that response. And when completing that problem resolution task has been achieved, this ticket will be closed out with a concluding note on how that was accomplished and by whom and with a goal of more effectively tracking the types and frequencies of problems faced, and of tracking and improving how responses and at all levels might be resolved.

If this is one of the roughly 90% of routine, standard problem resolution requests that would fit into the top 10 or so list of recurring issues faced by that help desk system, the initial help desk contact who picks up on it can in most cases resolve it on their own. And if they do need assistance for some detail of one of these standard problems, that will be routine too and essentially hardwired in. But the more non-standard this problem is, the more dependent its resolution becomes on the networking reach that that help desk professional has.

True, most help desk systems develop contact lists for bringing in specialist support that constitute known shared professional networking resources. But these lists primarily focus on more routine within-system specialists who would be turned to as tickets escalate for higher level response, supplemented with specific contact information to bring in help from particular outside software and hardware providers. These shared resources do not necessarily at least directly include the people who those help desk professionals might need to be able to reach, for managing and resolving true long-tail rarities, let alone disruptively new and emerging problems. And that might include bringing in specific types of information technology specialists, or people with particular expertise in functional areas that this technology is used in, or some combination of both in order to make sure that the right technologists for this task are addressing the right problem and effectively so.

I am writing there, of contexts where both the shared networking resources offered to all help desk employees, and those employees’ own professional networks might very likely break down, and certainly for more traditional professional networks as discussed above and in widespread businesses with large headcounts. And this brings me to a fundamental question and a fundamental challenge:

• How can people at a business tap into a more up to date and wide ranging, and even business-wide inclusive pool of information on who does what and on who knows what, than is addressed by my above outlined professional social networking model?
• Ideally, this type of networking enabling and expanding resource would be useful for, and used from early on as a problem is identified as long-tail or completely novel, helping these professionals to better identify the right networking contact candidates who might be able to help them separate out underlying causes from the more visible symptoms of a problem. And it would continue to serve the needs of stakeholders there in resolving these problems, and with longer-term fixes and with any short-term remediations that might be required before that can be accomplished.

And this brings me directly and specifically to what I have come to call the business intranet version 2.0. And with that I cite as a source of background material, two postings that I have already offered on that topic, that I will build from and expand upon here and in what follows in this series:

Connecting an Organization Together, Version 2.0,
Creating Value from Constructive Conflict 2: thinking through the creative commons as a practical, effective business resource.

I have been writing throughout this blog, of the value of taking a consultant’s approach to work, and even when working long-term in-house for a single employer. That understanding of workplace engagement will prove to offer particular value here, and both to the individual who would have greater opportunity to exercise their full range of skills and experience, and to the business that they work for.

And I have been writing at least in general terms of the value of interactive intranets in enabling businesses by helping them to identify and more fully engage the people they have in-house and in their overall team who have wider ranges of skills than they usually have opportunity to use: skills and experience, as for example gained and developed in prior work positions, that can become hidden by the more day-to-day of what they routinely do in their here-and-now jobs with their usual ranges of assigned tasks. And once again, this means offering information sharing systems that would benefit those employees too, as well as their employing businesses and in ways that would increase their job satisfaction, and that from a business prospective would improve their employee retention rates from that.

Consider this series, or at least this portion of it as offering and developing a specific, very real-world example of how developing such an involving intranet, with business-oriented social media and social networking capabilities added in, can realize such value and for all involved. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will at least begin to delve into the details of setting up and running such an intranet, as a widely involving and including collaborative effort. And then after discussing that, I am going to pick up on and discuss customer service and support desks, as cited in passing as a source of working examples in Part 7, in order to more fully discuss this series’ complete set of issues. I add in anticipation of that, that I will explicitly consider how the issues of this series play out when services such as Information Technology help desks, and Sales and Marketing supportive customer services are maintained and run in-house and when they are at least in part outsourced.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

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