Although I spend a lot of my time thinking about how self service works in enterprise IT, the concept itself is much more pervasive. Increasingly in modern life there are self service options for many actions traditionally handled in a manual way. The local supermarket offers a key example of this. Increasingly self-service checkouts are becoming more and more common, often augmenting traditional staffed checkouts.
What is interesting to me is the popularity of these self service options. Purely based on the experience of myself and my friends, I assumed self-service checkouts would be favoured by younger early adopters, but shunned by more traditional users. I was visiting my father recently who is 84 years young and who I would not describe as tech-savvy (he has recently learned how to email me but he still telephones me each time to tell me he has emailed). I went with him to the supermarket and was astounded to see that he chose to use the self-service checkout. He said that he prefers it, although he doesn’t necessarily use it as quickly as some people! After this I did some research, and actually it appears that people do either love or hate the automated self service checkouts, with feelings being strong on both sides (A Market Force survey cites 57% of people saying they like them).
The lesson I take from this is that it is very difficult to predict who would prefer to use a self-service capability. Although there are undoubtedly people out there who prefer to deal with a person – either face to face in a shop, or on the phone when dealing with corporate IT – you just can’t tell who will take which position, and how fast that might change when other options are available. As populations as a whole become used to self service in their every-day life (with smartphone and tablet app-stores, online banking for more complex activities, and any number of other examples), it seems clear that Enterprise IT must see the provision of at least the choice of self-service as increasingly important. Users of corporate IT services expect to have the option to help themselves rather than just call a helpdesk. They expect a self service portal like an App Store that can give them the experience they get from modern consumer devices and that can automatically deliver the software and services they need when they need them – just as savvy shoppers expect to be able to pay for their goods without queuing for a checkout assistant.