Life is packed with two types of experiences – those happening to us and those we create for others. Over the next few minutes, I’ll walk you through why this is important. Last week, I had the honor and pleasure of attending the annual FUSION IT Service Management Conference. Energy in the sessions and in the keynotes was slightly different this year. Nearly every speaker I saw was hyper engaged. Walking around the room, shaking hands, chatting one on one with those in the room. Now, I’ve seen this before, but not on the scale that I saw it at FUSION. It was exhilarating! I also met an amazing attendee who returned the speakers’ enthusiasm by asking every speaker for autographs in every session. Miss, I didn’t catch your name, but if you’re reading this, please know that you helped make my FUSION experience even better! I will never forget you. If you arrived on Halloween, you were greeted with festive treats in the expo hall – just after Kirk Weisler advocated spreading some vendor love in the conference maximizer. Some vendors were dolled up in costume, many had big bowls of candy and itSMF even had a green screen so attendees could take a picture with Hoo. Since we’re talking about experiences today, I really want to call attention to one vendor in particular. First, know that we have no relationships with any vendor, but this booth drew me (and a lot of others) in. Perhaps it’s because I have an obsession with all things AI, or maybe it was the actual human Barista, but the entire experience stood out in a packed expo hall. I added some more about Espressive at the end of this article in case you’re curious. Speaking of my obsession with AI, let’s talk about the keynote that kicked off FUSION. Amber Mac is both excited and terrified about the future. I echo that sentiment to a point, but have to admit that I’m more excited than terrified. After all, I’m the one that brought a travel Alexa with me to the conference! It seems like every day, my life becomes more and more technology dependant. As my echo’s skills evolve, so do my behaviors. Alexa acts as my personal assistant. She controls the lights, the door locks, the garage door, security system and my thermostat at home. She’s my alarm clock. My calendar. My personal shopper. She even acts as an intercom to my parents who live 1,100 miles away. At any given moment, I can pop into their living room just to say hello. Someone once told me that we tend to mimic the behaviors of our children. I don’t know about you, but my expectations of voice technology everywhere are growing. That’s why I simply can’t leave home without a travel Alexa! There really is no stopping this snowball! Left with mixed feelings about the future, FUSION attendees anxiously made their way to the first session block. We kicked off the day with MetricNet’s own Jeff Rumburg for META Reps, and the Convergence of Level 1 and Desktop Support. Anyone who was fearful that AI would push them out of a job, got a boost of encouragement from Jeff when he said that “Tech support isn’t going away, it’s evolving”. In fact, there are 50% more level 1 techs and 20% fewer desktop support techs today than there were 5 years ago. AI is reminiscent of the ultimate form of self service, but self service can and should only solve the easy things. As a rule of thumb, if an end user spends more than 10 minutes in a self service portal, they cost the organization more money than calling the service desk! The simple fact is this – More complex technology requires a more complex skill set and, more importantly, a mature discipline of stakeholder communication. Malcolm Fry was next on our list of couldn’t miss sessions. An industry luminary, Malcolm is also a storyteller. It’s always a pleasure to hear him speak. My favorite quote from this session “A great horse is almost as good as a unicorn. If you go looking for unicorns you may find a rhino and no one wants that.” The story that stood out to me was one of palm pilots. Oddly enough, I skipped right past the palm pilot phenomenon, but the moral of Malcolm’s story can be applied to just about any technology in any era. Imagine for a moment that an organization buys 2,500 palm pilots, but neglects to buy one for IT… Frustrating isn’t it. But it’s still not all that uncommon! Digital transformation is a hot topic in most industries right now so we were intrigued by Matt Hooper’s session Can ITSM Lead the Digital Transformation? One of the things Matt said stuck with me. He asked the audience “Who’s running Google Analytics on their self service portal?” Now I’m really curious to know who IS running Google Analytics on their self service portal. Remember, it’s all about the experience. So, if you’re not running Google Analytics on your self service portal, how do you know where your users are getting stuck? How do you know what your users are accessing most? I’ve always had a passion for marketing and too often, the concept of marketing gets lost in translation. Marketing is not just about flashy ads or compelling copy. It’s about effective and timely communication. It’s about creating outstanding experiences – for your end users, for your stakeholders and for your team. Want to revitalize and transform your team into a high-performing unit that always exceeds expectations? The afternoon keynote with Simon Bailey included actionable insight to do just that. He urged the audience to let go of what’s comfortable and convenient. Let’s be honest here. Over time, everyone flocks toward the comfortable and convenient. But this mentality breeds a culture of zombie workers. One that is void of questions, creativity and innovation. The voice of your team becomes smaller and smaller until one day, they are like the Whos in Whoville! If you ask me, one of the biggest challenges in the workplace right now and a significant driver of the comfortable and convenient is the influx of millennials and, more importantly, the stigma surrounding that generation. You know, those entitled little brats we all know and love so much. Technically, I’m one of them, but I’m really not an entitled little brat. I have a strong work ethic. I have drive and determination. I’m creative and I consistently seek out opportunities to better myself and those around me. So when I hear everyone complain about millennials, I can’t help but wonder if the generation as a whole is really not just misunderstood. When Simon said “We have to stop treating millennials like they are from outerspace” my ears perked up. That is exactly what’s happening. We’re building walls and working in silos when we should be collaborating and communicating! I read an interesting article shortly after FUSION about one forgotten generation. It’s a blended group that grew up analog, but successfully embraced digital as adults. To my dismay, after nodding along to all of the GenZennial traits, I’m still technically a millennial. This blended generation is the key to everything and I’d go so far as to say that there is always a blended generation. Those people that are born and bred to bridge the gap. Bring people together. And destroy the comfortable and convenient. Find them. Embrace them. Listen to their ideas. Now that you’ve heard about the sessions and lessons on day 1 (yes, three pages and it’s only day 1!), let’s take a moment to recognize those that were honored with awards. Kevin Ritter, winner of the itSMF USA President’s Award Procter & Gamble, winner of the itSMF USA Service Management in Action Award San Francisco LIG, winner of the itSMF USA Upstart Community of The Year Los Angeles LIG, winner of the itSMF USA Sustained Performance Community of The Year John Clipp, winner of the itSMF USA Contributor of The Year Ellie Mae, Inc., winner of the HDI Knowledge Centered Service award First American Title Co., winner of the HDI Service Improvement award Ok, still with me? Great! Robert Richman echoed some of the key points from day 1. He focused on culture and the experience, but went a step further when he said “Culture change happens by noticing the frustration.” Again, I’m thinking – how many of you are using Google Analytics for your self service portal? Better yet, how many of you would be willing to change your end user surveys to include an open ended question that says “Tell me the one thing I don’t want to hear”. If the thought of that is making you cringe, you should probably add it. If the thought of that is not making you cringe, you should probably add it. The only way to figure out what you don’t know if you don’t know what you don’t know is to ASK! After that enlightening keynote, we stopped by to see Phyllis Drucker AKA @msitsm on Twitter. While not the focus of this particular session, Phyllis reiterated a key point from her earlier presentation – “A chatbot can only answer a question if you have knowledge”. AI is only as good as the people who build it and there are prerequisites to its success. If your organization doesn’t have a mature KCS discipline, implementing a chatbot without first developing the knowledge it’s built on would be a horrible mistake. Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that AI and specifically chatbots shouldn’t be part of your future vision. It simply means that you must identify the critical path dependencies that will ultimately make your vision successful. While I still wholeheartedly believe that voice is the next great user interface, chatbots are and will continue to grow as a self service channel. I recently discovered Trim, a Facebook messenger bot that, among other things, alerts me when a charge posts to ANY of my accounts and can even negotiate my cable or internet bill when I feel it’s getting too high! This is the way of the future! We wrapped up the morning with Jeff Rumburg in The ROI of ITSM – Know Your Financial Impact! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Jeff speak many times over the past 5 years. He is a passionate thought leader that brings an incredible breadth of knowledge with him to each and every event. Speaking with many of you that attended this session, you felt the same way I did. This session was one for the record books. “Ground-breaking.” “The best presentation at FUSION.” “Something I can implement right away.” “Incredible passion and energy.” These were just some of the things I heard after Jeff’s session on ROI. And it’s all true! I have a feeling the “show me the money” slide stuck with many of you. Measuring ROI takes a bit of effort, but it is a simple ratio. So why aren’t more IT Service and Support professionals leveraging this critical metric? The approach presented in session 501 is broadly applicable. It’s not just service desk or desktop support, it is change management, service level management, knowledge management and so on. If you haven’t done so already, get a recording of this session and download the updated slide deck. Last up for us in day 2 was John Custy. Another industry icon, John urged the audience not to confuse innovation with invention. Your definition of innovation may vary from mine, but I’m sure we can all agree that innovation is synonymous with improvement even if Google says otherwise. It’s critical to understand that an innovation doesn’t need to be some huge undertaking. If you add up all the small opportunities over time, you’ll often find that they lead to a significant improvement. That is the very essence of innovation. John left us with a few calls to action – Be fearless. Challenge the status quo. Innovation needs people like you. After quite a bit of dancing, enriching conversations and some much needed sleep, we all gathered for one final day at FUSION. Ken Wendle kicked us off with an illuminating and hilarious paper snowflake exercise. By visualizing the effect of vague instructions, we all learned that if you want the right outputs, you need the right inputs! This would be an excellent team strengthening exercise and one that you can implement right away! Make sure you download the slides from session 706. You won’t regret it! Like bookends, Kirk Weisler tends to hold everything we learned together. Did you know that over 90% of American workers lose 80% of their motivation in the first 6 months on the job? That is a lot of unmotivated people! After listening to Kirk’s session, it was crystal clear that the large majority of those unmotivated people simply aren’t accountable. I’m not just talking about being accountable for tickets, handle times and the customer experience. Many of us aren’t accountable to ourselves. We wrongly assume that our motivation is dependent upon some external forces. Management. Incentives. Co-Workers. Pretty much anything and anyone but ourselves. Wake up people! YOU and only you are responsible for your motivation. Regrettably, we missed the final keynote with Colette Carlson, but thanks to Twitter and the Conference app, we were there in spirit! If you left FUSION without an aha moment, I hope you found one here. As promised, more about Espressive from the conference website: Espressive moves beyond today’s IT portals, knowledge bases and chatbots to provide consumerized app experiences that plug-and-play with existing IT tools. End users get access to IT self-help, receive proactive notifications, easily make requests for products and services, and much more. Complex processes, like onboarding new employees, that require collaboration across multiple departments are streamlined. AI is at the core of the Espressive platform and helps augment IT efforts to deflect incidents, improve Service Desk productivity and customer satisfaction, while reducing MTTR. Barista, a contextually intelligent AI, provides immediate answers to employee questions. If Barista doesn’t have the answer, it creates and populates an incident or request, channeling it to the appropriate service agent—and learns from that interaction. Importantly, Espressive believes adoption is the barometer of success and aim to create experiences that turn drudgery into delight while improving a company’s technology ROI.