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Dealing With Rogue Support Agents - Practitioner Radio Episode 27


Troy’s Thunder Bolt Tip of The Day:

If you are unable to gain agreement or participation of different parts of your distributed IT organization the best way to deal with this is to treat them as a respected customer but break off their back office access.

Show Notes:

Podcast Statistics Released to the Public

Logans Run

Troy’s Body of Work

Troys Rogue ITSM Support Agent

Pink Forum for ITSM Discussion Board

Pink Forum Leadership Event

Distributive Service Desk Model Podcast

Agents on the Support Desk who are REMOVED from the central organization

Enterprise Support Process

The Service Management Office Podcast

External contractors in a service organization vs. remote agent

Testing Unique

Team vs. Group Thinking

Supplier Management (Insourcing vs. Outsourcing)

Back Office Black Market

Outside Inside Outside Thinking (Employees are the customers)

The difference between Technology Management and Service Management can be understood by the analogy presented by the differences between a Group and a Team

1. Group (def): A group is a set of individuals or a collection of smaller groups working in parallel according to a common or shared objective.

2. Team (def): A team shares the same characteristics as a group but in addition practices and execute plays accordirng to formal roles and a predefined game plan. (Services and Processes)


Listen below or download the MP3 HERE!  / iTunes / PinkAPP for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android







Welcome to another additional of practitioner radio. Pink Elephants podcast for the IT management community. Welcome to Practitioner Radio. Actually it's not really radio is it . It's more Practitioner Broadcast. Pink elephants offense podcast for the IT service management community. It is episode twenty seven for the week ending June 7, 2012.


Hello Troy DuMoulin!


Hey Chris, how are you doing today?


Oh, gosh it's, I'm doing well. Your voice sounds very authoritative.


Yeah, it's been one of those weeks. I've been and all kinds of beatings and I've been making decisions. it's on, I'm in decision mode. This is the decision voice, okay. The voice of decision. Since we last chat we release some stats to the public on podcast. I just wanted to graciously thank you.and say "I am humble that you are the number 2 and number 3." slot for most streamed.


And it was just one where we've got that [xx]. But overall, you're a very popular...or our show is very popular. That's humbling. I really appreciate the listeners because we enjoy doing this. The fact that you guys are listening even makes it better. Yeah, [xx] I'm pretty sure you and I would do this even if no one listened it's just kind of, you know, weird that way.


Yea, well we enjoy it. Well, I'd say we're rogue ITSM agents. We you know a kind of Logan's Run, we gotta run before they call our number. Yeah, yeah. Do you remember what that thing was called that you go to when they call your number? No, I don't. I remember the movie, but...It was called Carousel.


You went to Carousel, that's right. It kind of floated and there was all the pretty lights and the music and they all kind of floated and then kind of hit the bug zapper. Yeah, it was funny 'cause in the last episode American Idol and everybody dressed in white and I tweeted Is this American Idol or Logans Runs Carousel?


Oh well, on to the show! Rogue support agents, so you've this great blog. And your body of work by the way is amazing, have you ever thought about publishing it? That's another podcast. But we've got a blog with the other would say which kind of wraps into a lot of the conversations going on online today...And by the way, congratulations on Pink Forum.


I finally got a chance to drop in the other Veraciously consumed some of the conversations over there. Ya the discussion board is going really well and the pick up for the event too is actually very encouraging. so we're looking forward to a great time. It's not going to be a normal thing. It's gonna be dialogue around some difficult topics.


No, and again, you're gonna new ground. My only feedback as a former pinker - I think I'm always a pinker. You're always pink in your heart. Pink alumni. Yes. Is, why do you guys always do these things that the hottest places at the hottest times a year. Actually there's a method to that madness. Because you're not going to and play golf right, in August in Arizona.


So, you're going to come in and you're actually going to participate, and play the game with us. to do Disney Land. The biggest issue about Disney Land doing conferences there is that halfway into the event, half the group would be off with their families in the park. So then, you know, Go to a really beautiful place.


Which you're motivated through demand management to come and sit and participate.


All right so this is the pink leadership form. We'll put a link in the show notes.


In Scottsdale, Arizona I think the end of August. Middle of August?


That's right. Middle of August actually.


Yeah, I kind of pay attention to the industry. So, yeah, but the other reason I say that is because I was lucky enough to go with David and crew over to Asia, which, I thought, oh, how amazing. Asia. But I didn't realize that was in the middle of summer and on the equator, so I was like aah, I'm crazy.


So remote support agents.

 So, I have some background with this. Can you kind of summarize the blog, for those people, and we'll kind of put a link in the show notes.


Right, so kind of goes forward from where we left off last time about distributed service desk models, right? How you're always going to have people in your support structure kind of spread around.

 And this concept is there is a group of people that we typically place out for deploy. Sometimes its actually called a for deploy support agent, right on the branch or out the branch proper or there sitting on the shop floor in the manufacturing environment they are literally out beyond from this in the corporate walls out there among the business units so they can be close, they can understand the business requirements and they can be quick and nimble when they need to be to support usually desktop or, you know, different types of application support.


And what happens, what we find what happens is this is done with good Attention!!! and what we find often is that the person out there who is so remotely removed from the center may care yourself often goes rogue. it's native, to you another kind of analogy here. Yeah. And it's hard to pull them back in.


It's even more difficult if they were actually born out there and are paid by that remote area.So people who are geologically born and they form thir remote work. maybe people can have agents that are rogue who are allowed to work remotely now that we're on kind of a very mobile decade and people can work from home days a week.


I would think there would be a lot of types of rogue agents, whether they be physically or mentally rogue. Yeah, in fact, you can kind of walk through a continuum here. Yeah. So there are people who are paid from a central function, the support organization, and they're placed remotely out there. Okay?


But their performance and their financial linkages back to the home office. Then there are people that, again, are hired and paid and reviewed internally at the corporate, but they have a dotted line. So there's a official understanding of relationship and/or accountability to your business unit manager, again, in that remote area.


Then there are people that are actually hired locally and are partially paid by both, right? So you have kind of this shared "I own part of you and the corporate owns part of you" kind of concept Then there are people that are hired locally and have really little formal relationship with the center other than a dotted line back to corporate.


and then there are people that are hired and paid and reviewed locally and there really isn't any dotted line and they're really kind of remote support that's been hired within the business unit itself. This is where we talked about ghosts desks, right, and kind of hidden support or organizations that evelop and develop because the local group has defined or they have believed that the central support isn't sufficient.


So they need their own specialty. And this continuum has a great deal of influence on the willingness of that remote person to participate in common practice. as you could well imagine. In our podcast last week or last episode - it might have been the episode before - you made reference which I've used over and over and over again about the concept of support literally being a base element on the periodic table of business.


That's right. And I loved that. Because now I want to develop they'e out of [xx] business you know, now because support is a base element now and actually [xx] my [xx].


But if that's true The idea of these remote agents that you're talking about, while it makes business sense, it seems like you might be messing with an unstable element.


It's definitely a riskier one. But there's a reason we put them closer to the business, closer to the customer, closer to the region they're supporting. Right? The same thing happens in a business where, you know, we have Rogers Telco. I see their trucks coming around. Now that could be a corporate truck that's running around or it could be something that's been contracted to a third supplier but they're representing the Rogers, right?


That is still a remote support organization and how well they will enact with and participate with and be part of the overall common practice, corporate process, I'll call it enterprise process, because that's a better way of looking at it, we have one process for support here, really will be on what structures we've put in place to make sure that the people that are our distant cousins feel part of the family and play the game, right, participating in a common enterprise approach.


So we're actually recognizing their differences and celebrating them, not forcing themof our enterprise process for support.


In fact this kind of goes into a different discussion, is what is an enterprise process?


Well you and I do this all the right . I can have level the continuum there, you can have a do your own thing everywhere. That's one model.




We can have a center of of excellence, here is a process definition and a set of content, pull from this and make your own. Kind of build from this ingredient base. Then that's kind of uncontrolled Then you have this.Here's a set of core practices we all use, but you can add on top of core, core plus.


So we've got differentiation but at the core level were all common. And then we've got, no, we need the common practice regardless. It's gonna be the same hamburger at McDonald's wherever I go. Because that's the kind of consistency I'm looking for. Which works because the first place I look for when I land in a foreign country is McDonald's because I know it's safe and it's gonna be the same thing.


So business model would say, how do I want my forward deploys, my remote support agents, involved in the common practice? And that's each one of those levels is a reasonable decision but you've got to make a decision and set it up that way. I bet you a lot of people just set it up and don't even think about that.


Well, some companies, well, some places will actually set up I'll use this business concept again. There's a non-Apple store in China because they hired and built their own store and branded it Apple and there's nothing doing it with the corporate, right? This is simply they've built their own rogue support group and support function here.


Now was it in the article that I read, yeah, about this service organization. And you and I had a podcast where we talked about a service organization and how it adapts to function but we never really introduced, you had a really great diagram which we put in the show notes, I'll link to that. Looking at the service, the office of service management I think is what we called it.


Was that it?


Service management office, absolutely.


Am I doing good, Troy?


Yeah. That's our central group, that's trying to create practices for an enterprise approach, right?


So, they're part of the center of excellence approach for these remote support agents. Am I starting to string it together too fast?


 Well, again, they're creating a practice and then defining a set of conditions and criteria that would define how formal and how consistent we need that practice to be across the structure of whatever this process floats, right? So, for example, the Rogers example of the third party contractor.


And for those people that don't know, what is Rogers again? Because not everyone's in Canada.


It 's a telephony organization like AT&T and Verizon and their local trucks go by.


In Canada there, okay.


This is Canada.


All right.


All right? So even if they have a third party, they're gonna wear the Rogers branded shirt. They're gonna drive a Rogers truck. And they're gonna have some very strong terms and conditions in the contract that they will do things the way wants it done. There's contractual agreements that say we accept you as a partner, but you're going to operate in this manner.


That's like government contractors.


Yeah, so it's an extension Right? Even though they're way out here, in this remote suburb, they in fact are representing Rogers. And they act and breath as if they were a corporate employee. Now, that being said They might have externalized that service and it might be a different truck that shows up.


But, you know they're doing the business for Rogers in this community. So, the level of branding, the level of [xx] mality level consistency is actually a business decision. The same could be said for when we put a remote agent in the field at a branch level or in a factory What level we need them to comply with common enterprise processes and decisions.


So, can I play devil's advocate? Yeah. You just put me in a factory. Because I've I've been a level one agent. I will always be a level one agent. I'm sorry, Mr Troy [xx], but don't know what it's like here. I just can't do that process. I need to get this going and I need to not follow your rule.


And so why are you hey man Chris let me understand your thoughts so I understand what the unique requirements are. We have a rule that basically if we're going to update a system in anyway and I understand you guys over at the main headquarters got all the systems but here at the factory we've got a couple of systems.


I [xx] you guys know they exist. I don't know what you use to make these decisions but sorry, we need to actually go in and add and remove things to these systems keep them going. And they're unique to where we are. They really don't follow. We don't have the manpower you guys do. I don't know I need to tell you that I'm breaking your rule and I'm sorry.


So, the first thing I would have to do is test that you're unique. Because, you know truly, is it unique and totally isolated to that one that one branch, that one shop floor or actually is it connected. Well Troy, you can test all day long I've been here twenty years. You guys just acquired us, and i'm telling you that's the way it works any process has to be tiered, right?


And we have to understand the requirements based on risk. Ah, you're not gonna let me play devil's advocate, are you? Well, I I'm answering your question. What your perception is may not be the reality. And that's a reality. I know, and I deal and I've been that obstinate person that just doesn't want to follow the rules because we're unique and different.


You said on one of the shows about somebodys got to get the work done we all can't be designers especially back between '98, 2002 when I was consulting. You know, government contractors was the best example of this. I'd be in, you know, one of the government agencies. I'm not gonna name them but it doesn't really matter.


I was at the government accounting office. And it was really interesting because there were contractors on the help desk but the people that manage the desk were government employees and there was this just severe cultural disconnect that was an us and them. Well see that's the thing. Are you part of the team or are you part of the group?


Are you part of the family or are you just part of a collective? But doesnt that have come from both entities. The organization which you're putting on the suit for and the organization that's actually paying your check. Yeah so you it's a emotional attachment is a major part of it. So it if you think about list of the continuum list of I'm part of this corporate entity and I'm just forward deployed or I'm actually paid and hired locally.


There's this whole view connection or separation, disassociation or family relationship. And the closer I feel to the enterprise, good, the more I'll willingly participate in enterprise process. The farther distance I feel, the less so.


So that vendor relationship becomes really strategically important, whether you're or maintaining it or terminating it because as the GAO, I can love and nurture these support agents all day long if they're management is making them feel separate and disconnected by cultural advances are kind of moot.


Yeah, remember the conversation we had around supplier management, how I really dislike the term outsourcing because it gives this connotation that I'm putting the work outside my boundaries.




I would prefer insourcing term used for outsourcing, because I've got to bring those people into my family, into my value system, into my management systems, and make them feel a part of that ecosystem. If I keep them at the end of my hands, if you want to talk to me, talk to the hand. You're starting this relationship on disassociation.


You're not part of me. Interesting. On a personal level, it's almost like I've had two types of service the past few years. And it's not because I'm rich, it's because I'm lazy and I don't have kids. I've had someone clean my house So I got develop a relationship with them. I also had a service. So one of those people actually became my family.


And it's interesting how not only the levels service, but the things I'm willing to tolerate roguely actually become more to the benefit of the person who has the personal relationship with me. I'll overlook it because they are on that family level, whereas I wouldn't overlook it with somebody with a stricter relationship.


Or you've add this core plus, right? You have a certain set of criteria. You still expect the family member to able to deliver. But you'll accept some regional differences because of that person.




So, this core plus is in play here, they're not just doing whatever they determined is good and saying, I'm done, now pay me.




Right, you've got this balancing act.


Interesting. The key is you've got to, if you want the person to participate in the process they have to feel emotionally connected, financially connected, they have to feel connected. The further you are away, disassociated in this model, the more difficult it is and perhaps impossible it is for them to participate or even be required to participate in your common practice.


In fact, in that continuum I would say there is a certain point at a pass of no return. Beyond that there is no common. It's just now we have to treat that external agent as a customer to the process not part of the process. you know what I'm saying there? Yeah, again, you send my mind spinning because I'm thinking, you know, I set up Troy's panacea, which I always like to do in my head as we're talking.


That's how I actually have these conversations. I'm actually thinking and living what you're saying. And then all of the sudden I actually introduced real physical humans, like sea monkeys. And regardless of how perfect I have all the set up, they're nuts! They do whatever they think. And I can condition them and make them part of the...all right, sorry.


Depending on the relationship criteria did I just call people sea monkeys because...? You did. Sorry. But it's about the relationship you've established from the beginning. Yeah. If you have no relationship and there is no accountability between two parties then that's a non-starter. You either have to establish relationship or accept there is no relationship.




You know, so those rogue support agents, just call them a customer, don't call them rogue. Their the respected customer and their the person who is going to call into the service desk for that branch or that departments needs. Now, if they're going to be a customer, they have to enter the process as a customer.


That means you're cutting off their back end entry points.


Right, they're what makes them feel close.


Right, because right now, they're enabled through this back office black market concept.




And if they won't participate in your process as a family member, then that's fine. They have that option. And we don't reject them for it.




We simply say, "Okay, here's our offer. Here's the front door. And you're free to interact but yougonna have to come through the front door. No breaking through the window.


Yeah. And wipe your feet, right?


I'm sorry, but we're going to have to remove your admin access or root access on the server. And if you need something done then you'll have to come through the change process. If you don't want to be part of the change process, you can certainly be a customer of it. you can use the back door with your muddy feet all day long.


So at some point, no relationship means that I have no bearing or no basis for getting agreement on common. So the organization that's merged that you've had a merger and acquisition and they never successfully bring these organizations together as feeling like there's a commonality of purpose and goals and family entity will struggle forever.


It'll always be Companies A's process and company b's process.


But you've seen this done. You've seen this successfully done. Yeah I mean. Because there are people listening right now who'll go oh my God. now we're doomed. Or maybe [xx] One of the first things that we do before we begin a transformation, is we get agreement on a common There has to even be a common definition of what division is before we build the blueprint and do the roadmap.


What does tomorrow look like, do we all agree that's what it looks like and do we all agree that's where we wanna go? So there has to be this shared common value system, just like a family has a common value system. So That's rogue agents. It's funny, because you talk about treating the agent like a customer.


That's only if they don't want to be part of the family. If they don't want to be part of the family. The other day I was working and something dawned I mean, usually, if you ever saw my tweets it's literally I thought of it that moment. It's not like I planned them. It's very much like I act in real life.


It just falls out of my mouth. And I tweeted that. You know, our customers, if you're a business, are actually our employees, and it's our employees that actually support our customers. If you're an organization your customers are your employees. And what you think are your customers are actually your employees' customers.


And the reason I tweeted that was because I thought there's so much value in empowering someone to make a difference for the ultimate person you're supporting, then circumventing the actual person who's going to support them and just saying we love our customer. Does that makes sense? Yeah, in a weird kind of Chris way.


It's controversial. Yeah, there you go - Ross, we need a sound effect for a weird kind of Chris way. I'm freaking brilliant. I would look at it as gaining agreement versus demanding compliance. And you've got to treat that people with respect to get the agreement. You can't just audit them and basically rap them on the fingers and expect they're going to love you for it.


You have to treat them with some level of humanity. So I mean When you're talking about people, whether they be - is there a difference between groups and teams? That's a good point. I definitely think that the concept of a group, and I've got this in one of my is the set of individuals, or collection of small groups and they're all working in parallel according to some shared objective.


working in kanada mm the mm go if 13years command go value delivery for IT, but they're not sharing common practices so they're all spinning in different directions. Very agile but the velocity of their outcomes very impressionable. Because they're not working in the same concept together. This is a group.


They're all working against something in individual ways Theme on the other hand shares a same characteristic as a group. They're working towards that common goal. But also they actually play according to the same value. the same pre-defined game plan. So the team is getting together with the coach before they run the play and they're all agreeing on the play and all the parts in the play, and that team is going to win because they're going to have a unified approach to getting a goal.


Versus, a group is like a bunch, have you ever seen a bunch of 5 year olds play in soccer? Um-hmm. They're all just pounding at the ball in one big circle and they all kind of just roll around the field depending on where the ball is.I wonder how many service tests have the are we a group or a team.


Because so many people use that old saying that "there is no I in team" and. The thing is I don't find the service desk is the issue, because the service desk because it's such a small Functional group . Unless we're talking about multiple services distributed everywhere They're a team because they're usually one functional department.


But you call them a group first.


Well they're a group because they're a collective bunch of people. So you can have teams in groups. A team will always be a group, but a group will not always be a team. That should be a thunderbolt. Can we get a mini thunderbolt in here.And team is always made of a collection or group of people but a team works against a common game plan a group doesn't necessarily do so.


Wow, I wish I actually had the bandwidth to tweet that, that's really good. But so are we into the management Right, you have the functional service desk. They might be working as a team, but then you've got the second level and the third level. And, you've got external suppliers, and they're all working toward this concept of support.


But they're a group. They're not working against a team because they don't have a common process nor do they share a common tool nor are they sharing common data. So how can they be a team? to create a diagram with team being a small group of people on a help desk. But then actually build out for us the go all the way to humanity as the biggest team.


And fill out the middle part and submit it and I'll give you something free, I don't know what it is yet. This make sense? Oh, freakin' yeah. It made so much sense I wanted to tweet, but I'm like, I can't tweet and think. When you've got one [xx] process and one tool and one set of data, you've got a team.


right. Across all the structures of whatever that support structure organization looks like including those four deploys. But when you have everyone just kind of kicking the ball On their own you've got group. So you can have forward deploys that are teams. And that's when they're you're doing the family model and they can use the front door.


If you got employees to do their own thing you actually become more of a group and those become a new set of rules. In fact that forward-deployed person is in essence - Come on, tell me I did good, tell me I did good! Yes, amen, hallelujah you got it. Yeah. Because the whole purpose of Practitioner Radio is to teach Chris something.


If that forward deploy is part of the family, they're actually an extension of the service desk wherever that service desk is. Because they're taking the first call. Whether that's tapping them on the shoulder or walking up to their cube, they're first call resolution even if they're not in the functional service you're out there and you're taking the first tap on the shoulder.


His desk and they might conceive of themselves as something higher or better because they get better pay or a different title like desktop support, whatever that might be Your forward deployer. You're part of the call center maybe. Your part of the service desk, and you have to record the incident that you've just now received.


After the fact, maybe. Like your still extension of that service desk. Wow what a way to do Friday afternoon. Troy is that time already? I know. We might have to for Pink 2012. And by the way, is there still a call for papers or submissions? I don't know what we call it anymore. Oh, absolutely. For Pink 13?


Pink 13. People, get your papers in for pink thirteen. Yeah. We might have to make the pink thirteen practitioner read a double extended session because did you know that was number three. I saw that, that was great service management organization. That's the hot topic too. Yeah, it is. It's time for Troy's [xx] Tip of the Day!


So if you're unable to gain agreement And or participation. From the different parts of distributed support model. Then you have two choices you could either encourage them to be part of the family and participate shared values system or the option is for them to become a respected customer and that's not a derogatory term.


They have to be one or the other part of the family or a customer of the process. Well, I'm a customer of this process and a part of a great family at Pink Elephant and the IT service management industry. Troy, a pleasure as always and thank you so very much for wisdom. Have a great weekend. All right, bye-bye.



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