In 2010 Cisco embarked on a journey of innovation to enable engineers to collaborate in new ways when solving customer problems. At the time Cisco support structure was very traditional, with “lines” of support transferring cases from one level to the next (an escalation model).
This meant that the support experience felt like “ping pong”; cases bounced around from engineer to engineer until a resolution was reached. The change meant re-designing their management approach to that of manager as coach and workflows to enable skills matching and collaboration for urgent work .
The design resulted in a new process and system of getting the urgent work to the right person quickly and giving that person the ability to find and collaborate with others with the right skills to analyse and solve.
The system had to provide tools and processes for the engineer to ask for assistance from others, creating a sophisticated people profiling system. This system enabled intelligent matching of work to skills, enabled visibility to relevant work, and offered the option to request help from others.
The new way of working avoids resolution delays or case transfers that would have taken place previously. Engineers in need of non-urgent assistance are encouraged to use crowdsource collaboration, which is a forum-style format that is visible to everyone.
This innovative framework and system is now known more widely as Intelligent Swarming.
Cisco offers suggestions for what’s needed to succeed:
- Be prepared to learn as you go and assume that you will constantly be tweaking the system.
- Make sure you collaborate with your engineers and managers as the system is designed.
- Make sure that all key contributors get credit for participating.
- Offer multiple collaboration requests per case.
- Make a fuss about the collaboration heroes early on in the implementation.
- Measure everything so that you can watch it and improve the routing logic.
- The people doing the work and their managers must own the changes.
- Collapse and integrate the tools so that engineers are not jumping from tool to tool.