Service-Now Lets Users Be More Social

Chat and live-feed activity streams are part of the Winter 2011 SAAS ITSM platform. IT service desk users can now more easily "tiger team" tough support calls while increasing productivity by handling multiple chat support calls. is bringing enterprise social capabilities to the software as a service IT service-management platform with the addition of chat and live feed to the Winter 2011 release.

Service-now provides the chat and live-feed capability as a plug-in that SNC administrators can turn on to enable micro-blogging and an activity stream devoted to IT service-management issues. Although the capabilities are described as a "plug-in," there is no software to install, and the features are available to all current subscribers.

The Winter 2011 release became available Feb. 16. The published license cost is $110 per month per IT-process user. Volume discounts are available.

In my tests, the chat and live-feed systems performed as expected. The question IT managers should ask themselves is, "Do I want yet another social platform" in the user environment? Because Service-now is geared for front-line and senior IT support staff, the answer could well be "yes." During my tests, I saw how easy it was for other staff members to monitor my current support cases and "tiger team" tough questions in the chat activity stream.

Further, the live-feed stream is a good way to further communicate how a wide variety of projects are unfolding in an organization. For example, I used the recent eWEEK Lab relocation in San Francisco as a test case. While e-mail memos worked to outline the move process (including IT and telephony systems), the live feed provided battle-in-progress updates about how the plan actually played out. Problems were easier to spot in the live feed than in e-mail.

While I recommend that organizations turn on the live-feed and chat features in existing Service-now installations, there are a few caveats. As with any new communication technology, your organization should first develop and publish an acceptable-use policy for chatting on the platform. For one thing, Service-Now chats almost always end up being appended to the permanently stored trouble ticket. I found this to be a good source of troubleshooting knowledge and recommend that IT managers make a routine practice of storing chats. This means that service techs should know that their comments are being stored and searched.

Existing subscribers should also carefully plan a chat and live-feed adoption campaign. During my use of the Winter 2011 release, I found it quite challenging to keep more than two chat support sessions going at the same time. IT managers who are looking at boosting help desk productivity by mandating multiple chat sessions should carefully assess the typical support-technician workload before implementing such a change.

In the Breach

Service-Now Winter 2011 is a full-service IT service-management tool, and as such, has an almost dizzying array of features. This explains the relatively complex process needed to configure the live-feed feature in my Service-Now instance. IT managers have a great deal of flexibility about where the live-feed feature appears in the service-tech screen. Once the feature was fully enabled, it was easy for me and my test users to access the functionality.

The chat feature was much easier to use but also provides a large number of customization features. For example, the chat feature can automatically display messages such as "please wait while a service technician is contacted." Other routine messages can tell users that the technician is working on the problem, thereby reducing repetitive and time-wasting typing on the part of the service tech.

The live-feed and chat sessions seemed well-suited to the specialized, rapid-paced service environment. While using the Service-Now tool during my tests, it was clear that the social media tools are well-suited to the real-time, fast-paced nature of service-desk operations.