Enterprise Support in the year 2020

cables blog.pngI recently read an interesting post, “What will Software Support look like in 2020?- Unsourced, up-skilled and refocused” outlining ideas on software support in the future. I wanted to add a few thoughts of my own, also looking out to 2020.

 

(Image : JordanHill School, D&T Dept : flickr.com)

 

Unstructured/structured data analysis

These days, most products have one or more forums associated with them. On these forums, people talk about the issues of the products, ideas to fix these problems, what the competition does and so on.

 

Being able to systematically milk this information and use it for support purposes (and for product management) will be routine in 2020, I believe.

 

I've seen a lot of web sites start to put up "Trending" sections. This, I believe, is a nice first step, but misses the point. What they really mean is "trending on our, company owned, web site." I'm pretty sure that most of the "juicy" stuff about products, the stuff that support really needs to know about, doesn't exist on the official web site.

 

And so, the ability to link structured support data with unstructured support data will require analysis of many sources in an unstructured way.

 

The other aspect of support is not just fixing problems but feeding back to the lab for the next release (or, next iteration if we're agile). And so the ability for a product manager to see what's out there across a number of unstructured sources will be hugely helpful.

 

Self-serve will get much smarter

I don't think that anyone minds self-serving, if the self service is smart. By 2020, my fervent hope is that self-service systems will have made massive improvements over where they are now.

 

I think we are making strides. For example, the network diagnostic that comes with Windows 7 is much better than anything that has gone before.

 

I believe that the most important aspect of self-serve (or self-healing) is diagnosis. If we know exactly what the problem is, we usually know how to fix it – often automatically.

 

On the server and client sides, we have made huge leaps in automated, and more importantly, accurate diagnostics. For example, the latest management technologies are able to do statistical correlation for performance problems. And it is able to understand the root event from an event storm and thus, the events that are subsequent to that. It is able to recognise patterns that, last time around, caused problems. With such accurate diagnostics, we can then auto-correct with confidence.

 

I believe that by 2020, it's our client and server diagnostics that will become even more accurate and smarter. This will then allow us to build up large libraries of auto-correction actions, knowing that they can be used on a confident diagnosis of the problem state.

 

Programming application self-care parameters

I think that by 2020, programmers will not only specify the code of an application, but also many of its operating parameters such as…

  • What performance flexing do I need for this application?
  • What security scanning do I need?
  • What compliance checking do I need (for example, does it need to be frozen during the year-end reporting period?)
  • What level of virus scanning do I need?
  • What level of data backup and data recovery do I need?
  • What priority of recovery does this application need should there be a crash?
  • Where should the data be held? In a specific country, in a region (in the EU, for example) or anywhere (within reason !!)

And the system in which the application runs will take care of ensuring that all these requirements are met. The higher the requirements, of course, the more the application will cost to run.

 

I think that the specification of these parameters up front makes the chances of an application having problems in production less likely.

 

Support for SaaS-ed non-core applications

By 2020, I believe that many of the non-core applications like payroll, expenses, travel, email and collaboration will be provided by SaaS companies. However, such SaaS applications won't be used stand-alone. They will be lightly integrated into the enterprise's portals.

 

When there is an issue with one of these systems, anyone providing support will need to understand the enterprise's context in order to solve the problem. For example, if an enterprise SaaS-es its expenses application, anyone solving a user problem with that application will need to understand how the SaaS application is configured for the enterprise.

 

Thus, the model for 2020 will probably be that the self-serve and first-level support is provided by the enterprise, but using content from the SaaS provider. When the problem needs to be moved up to second level, there will need to be a hand-off between the enterprise and the SaaS provider.

 

It is going to be a real challenge for the enterprise of 2020 to create a consistent level of support across all of the applications used by the business, whether they are enterprise-owned or SaaS-provided.

 

Support of mosaic business processes

By 2020, I believe that many enterprise business processes will be mosaics of functionality with some parts provided by enterprise developers, and some parts provided by external cloud services.

 

As with the SaaS applications for non-core applications, providing a good level of support for such mosaic business processes is going to be a challenge. Once again, enterprise support will need to be able to provide self-serve and first level support for the cloud services in the context of the overall business process. And it will need to be able to hand off support issues to the cloud suppliers for second level support.

 

Back-to-back support contracts will become a key part of choosing a supplier. And the ongoing monitoring of the performance of such support contracts will become a key part of supplier management.

 

Support for bring your own device

I believe that bring-your-own-device (BYOD) will happen. I also believe that important applications will need to be multi-client; that is they need to support Windows and Mac laptops, multiple OS tablets and smartphones, and even different TV platforms (Xbox, AppleTV, GoogleTV, and so on). How on earth will enterprise support handle such a multitude of devices?

 

I think that economies of scale favour the use of cloud SaaS providers. Let's imagine you are creating a next-generation expenses app. You get told by the business that they need the application (and it must be an application) to run on Android and iPad tablets, Android and iPhone phones, Win 9 laptops and Macs.

 

You are part of a 50,000 person organisation. All that work for 50,000 users?!

 

Contrast this with a global expenses SaaS company. They might have 2 million customers. They are able to spread their development costs over 40 times more customers. So, for the SaaS company, support of a wide range of clients is cost-effective.

 

For the enterprise IT department, however, multi-client is going to make the development very expensive. Enterprise IT could say, "we are only going to support browsers – take it or leave it." In which case the business, who now has a choice, is going to say, "I think we'll leave it and use the SaaS provider."

 

Smart things and their back-end cloud services

Until now, we have been talking about self-service support of humans for their clients and their use of applications.

 

But by 2020, we know that there will be many smart things out there – smarter cars, smart healthcare devices, smart refrigerators, smart shopping trolleys, smart bicycles, smart everything. These smart things will often "call home" for help and for an optimised experience of transportation, diet, health, and so on.

 

But, we can't assume that these smart things will always be working perfectly. Thus, by 2020 we will need to build a large degree of self-diagnostics and self-healing into the combination of the smart thing and its back-end cloud service.

 

What do you think will be the key issues for enterprise support in 2020?

Do you have a view on the future of enterprise support? Join us on the HP Enterprise 20/20 site[H3]  where readers, community members, academics, partners and customers are contributing their insights into where IT is headed. We’ve started the discussion off with chapters about particular aspects of IT that we’ll then revise based on everyone’s input.

 

Related links

 Author : Mike Shaw

 

Comments
Travis Hills | ‎10-20-2012 06:44 PM

I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he enjoyed it as well!.

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About the Author
Mike has been with HP for 30 years. Half of that time was in R&D, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product manag...
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