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Twitter ... As an IT Service Management Tool?!?

May 8, 2009

Jason Druebert

The result was immediate and dramatic. Before implementing our Twitter pilot we were averaging about one critical, self-inflicted incident per week. From the day we started our pilot we went almost 90 days without having our next one. Needless to say, it wasn’t called a "pilot" for long. Eventually we implemented an open source Twitter-like app (Chyrp) to help people to keep their in-boxes cleaner and provide more of a central repository, but the initial process changed very little. The only real change we made was we asked people to use categories: “Change:” to announce changes and “Info:” to provide or request information completely unrelated to the change process.

Why It Worked

The IT staff generally didn’t like the extra step and didn’t like any extra e-mail in their already cluttered in-boxes. But what they were asked to do was so simple and easy that there was absolutely no problem with adoption. There were later suggestions to add bells and whistles, which we resisted because we realized the simplicity of the process was what made it effective. Also, when we rolled out the pilot, we deliberately didn’t put a lot of rules in place, and we resisted subsequent urges to make it more formal.

This process allowed information to be shared by the IT team very quickly and without adding a lot of overhead―you can’t have everyone in each CAB meeting and looking at every ticket. A Twitter to the effect of “I’m going to update this server” usually went without response, but sometimes resulted in stopping or delaying the change or another course of action entirely. It was especially helpful in getting information from the senior team members to the more junior ones.

Another benefit was that it allowed us to quickly zero in on the culprit when a change did cause a problem. If your PDA stops receiving e-mail, and the last message you got was a tweet about a firewall change, you have a pretty good idea where to start troubleshooting.

The moral of this story is don’t dismiss using social networking tools to help improve ITSM processes. The technology and concepts behind a lot of Web 2.0 and social networking tools are relatively simple in comparison to what is normally found in an enterprise, so they are easy to implement compared to other tools. By definition these tools generally address the areas IT struggles with most―collaboration and sharing. And a good portion of the population is familiar with their use, so training and adoption are not big issues. And, perhaps, best of all, it's free.

This, I believe, constitutes a win-win-win-win.

Jason Druebert is a Consultant with BT Professional Services; he has extensive experience in ITSM, IT operations, and project management.