Authored by: Seth Ravin, CEO Rimini Street
What is Shift Left and What Does it Mean in Technology Support Services?
Shift Left is a practice that originated in software delivery. In traditional software development, requirements live on the left side of the plan and delivery/testing requirements live on the right side. The aim of Shifting Left is to improve quality and cost-effectiveness by moving critical activities as early as possible in the development lifecycle of a product, process, etc.
Shifting Left seeks to optimise the customer experience by combining the efficiency and speed of technology with the intelligence of human expertise and the warmth and personalisation of exceptional customer service to resolve issues or accomplish tasks with the highest possible customer satisfaction.
This transformational approach positions technology support providers to better meet the new customer demands for services. A goal of Shifting Left is to break down organisational silos in order to allow providers and customers to co-create value.
A Shift Left approach can include a technology focus, a human focus, or combined focus.
How Shifting Left Helps Improve Technology Support Services
Considering a provider’s goal for delivering technology support services, and a customer’s goal for receiving them, adopting a Shift Left strategy provides mutual benefits:
Knowledge and expertise are moved closer to customers: When issues and their resolutions are generally clear-cut and occur frequently across a large base of customers, an automated Shift Left via self-service excels when customers simply require access to information to consume on their own. This approach delivers faster access to answers, reduced time and effort, less downtime, and frees man-hours to address other issues or initiatives.
Improved customer experience/better customer service: With a technology-enabled Shift Left, the easy access can lead to happier customers. With a human-powered or combined Shift Left, experts on the front line provide the personalisation and extra care that digital-savvy customers demand.
Lower service costs through automation: Strategic uses of technology—such as AI-powered self-service or AI as a tool helping engineers perform with higher quality, greater efficiency, and better scalability—can reduce service costs for providers, translating to lower support costs for customers. Note: beware of over-reliance on technology to reduce costs at the expense of the customer service experience.
Customer service as a differentiator: Even though a service can be provided via technology, customer expectations of service are sufficient to drive a human-powered Shift Left. Sometimes, technology isn’t enough to meet the need. When more human involvement is demanded, or human experience is critical, Shift Left personalisation can provide competitive advantage.
The Impact of Shifting Left on the Technology Support Service Model
As Shifting Left moves services closer to the customer, it provides access to better people, delivers a better service model, and creates better outcomes. In order to achieve this, a new strategy must be embraced.
A traditional technology support service model often sees experts applying trial and error—or at least some analysis—to identify and fix the root cause of a problem. This is typically done "behind the scenes" before presenting an answer or delivering a service. When the barriers come down between the service expert and the customer, the issue-resolution/problem-solving activity becomes transparent.
In a Shift Left approach, the experts are not focused on just closing cases – they are solving problems. Ideally, case count goes down when the root cause of the problem is identified and addressed. End users also need to embrace this change to problem solving – the addressing of root causes for long-term solutions. Education and reinforcement may be required to ensure that providers and customers adapt to the new model.
IT service providers will be best served by walking the fine line between leveraging digital investments (such as AI-powered self-service) that put information right at the customer’s fingertips and delivering personalised assistance from enabled and empowered experts.