How to enable self-service IT support in a remote environment

Ignoring the shift to work-from-home during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has been on the rise for a long time. Between 2005 to 2017, remote working arrangements increased by 159%. Today that number is at 4.7 million (3.4% of the US population). Even with the difficulties of the pandemic, many enterprise companies are considering permanent arrangements for many more of their staff. And it isn’t just tech companies like Twitter or Opentext – it includes traditional bricks-and-mortar industries like finance and banking, say Morgan Stanley and Barclays, who have advised that they’ll need less commercial real estate in the coming years.

While getting an employee and their tech stack ramped up for remote work is straightforward and quick with the widespread availability of cloud-based tools that suit working from anywhere, the more pressing concern is how you plan to provide IT support to those remote team members for issues as they arise.

Building the brain

To make a terrible analogy, having a remote team without a robust knowledge base is like building a human body without a brain. The knowledge base is the central nervous system of your organization. Its where collective learnings are stored and accessed as it grows and matures from its early days as a startup. With that in mind, its difficult to imagine building any culture, remote or otherwise, without a robust knowledge base.

The key features of a knowledge base that enables self-serve support are that it is:

  • Universally searchable through a single source of truth in a remote setting
  • Comprehensive coverage of topics for all components of the remote stack
  • Up-to-date and accurate
  • Verified by experts
  • Created with rich content (rich-text, images, videos, audio – whichever is most appropriate)

The first item in this list (universal search) is mission-critical for working in a remote setting. Employees need to be able to search, sometimes across numerous knowledge silos, from a unified access point that they can trust as the single source of truth for knowledge. From there, they can be confident with their self-service platform and only escalate issues when absolutely necessary.

24-7-365 support

Remote work doesn’t always follow a typical 9-to-5 structure, so support services must be available to remote employees during off-hours, while being respectful of other working arrangements. This leads administrators to explore both self-service support options built with smart technologies (possibly AI powered bots) that can guide a knowledge seeker in the right direction. This intelligent approach also helps triage issues in terms of complexity – with less human intervention for issues that a knowledge base can solve.

Internal Messaging and Support

slack laptop screen

Chat programs like Slack or MS Teams have greatly improved internal communication for teams and accelerated support workflows between IT help desks and remote teams. While these conversations are easily searchable, the only drawback of these messaging platforms is that if a support issue, resource or corresponding resolution is not in the message history, it cannot contribute to a solution. Therefore, it is important to note that Slack and MS Teams are not optimized to act as a knowledge base on their own (you’ll need to depend further integrations, like Obie, for that capability). Your remote team can’t rely on these platforms to self-serve problems on their own. But, the fact that they do open up a dedicated communication channel to the help desk makes them critically valuable in the remote setting.

To sum these up, the knowledge base is central to self-service support in the remote work setting. By choosing solutions that emphasize universal search, compatibility with messaging platforms and 24-7 availability, you can ensure that your remote team has a strong foundation to help them achieve their goals.