What I heard: Trends from the SSPA Best Practices Conference
Having spent the majority of last week at our Spring Best Practices Conference, I’ve thought a lot about the conversations I had and have tried to come up with some top trends/issues to share. These are still a bit raw, but I need to write up a formal research report on the topic so consider this the draft! Here goes:
- Customer support application boundaries have erroded. It used to be easy when someone asked me to recommend technology for a specific business problem. It isn’t any more. Intelligent search vendors offer knowledgebase but not channel management; channel management vendors offer knowledgebase but not intelligent search; automated attendants include knowledgebase and search–but only to be used with the automated attendant; knowledgebases are included for free in CRM suites, but once the data is in there you can’t do much with it. Large companies have a complex ecosystem of products, with increasingly overlapping modules. When they need to fill one functional hole, what can they do? No one sells just one piece anymore, and members end up with a short list of vendors who all have completely different core competencies. And from what I’m hearing, vendor salespeople are so immersed in pitching their platform vision that it is hard to get details on any one module. What a mess.
- Merging of IT Service Desk/Customer Support. There are three drivers to this one. 1) ITIL, formerly only a topic for IT service desks, is now becoming common for external support. 2) Customer support technology created for IT service desks remains strong within our external-facing member base. As an example, 13% of SSPA members are using Remedy for incident management. 3) Proactive support means external support teams are now monitoring equipment at customer sites, doing similar to work to IT teams monitoring internal systems. Defining SLAs, premiere support, and the role of technical account managers (TAMs) is much more difficult when support ‘crosses the firewall’ into customer operations, and new systems and processes are needed to do this successfully–with companies often taking best practices from IT operations.
- Ownership paradigms for content have to change. I’m treading lightly on this one. To grossly simplify, I heard 2 schools of thought at the conference, one who says customer authored content is dangerous, the other saying companies should “get over” their ownership issues on knowledgebase and procedural documentation. As you can see in the discussion on a previous post, I think there is obviously room for content authored by both company and customer, and collaborative efforts where both are involved. But this opens the door to bigger issues: who owns the IP on documentation, controlling access to documentation for non-customers, piracy and loss of IP, etc. I don’t have the answer–I don’t think anyone does yet–but clearly the ‘old’ rules need to bend, if not change, in a Web 2 world. And with members adopting Wikis faster than I expected, I guess we will learn by doing.
For another look at trends emerging from the conference, check out Esteban Kolsky’s post on the eVergance blog, where he talks about the 3 trends he encountered.
Thanks to all of you who attended, and those who have emailed and commented on previous posts about the conference. If you have any thoughts on these trends/issues, please let me know as I begin writing up the formal research note. And as always, thanks for reading!