Common computer issues can directly impact employee productivity. Over time, they can also significantly degrade the user experience and negatively impact an organization's bottom line. To address these issues, Microsoft IT created a solution to automate troubleshooting and technical repair issues. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Windows 10 app has been extended to iOS and Android devices—helping to reduce the cost of Helpdesk and other IT resources.

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Microsoft IT has a goal to make Microsoft employees as productive as possible, wherever they work—and on a wide variety of devices. The number of different devices used at Microsoft has increased dramatically in recent years, and employee expectations are increasingly diverse in our mobile-first, cloud-first workplace. These changes have led to new challenges for IT, including how to quickly resolve issues that can slow down or halt an employee’s work. To help address the challenge, Microsoft IT developed My Microsoft IT, an automated system that runs on our employees’ computers and helps detect, troubleshoot, and resolve device issues.

My Microsoft IT is a Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform app, integrated with Microsoft Azure, which runs on any Windows device. Using the Xamarin mobile application development platform, we built the solution to also run on iOS and Android devices. Requiring only minimal human interaction, My Microsoft IT uses built-in troubleshooters to automatically fix issues and restore employee productivity. My Microsoft IT also includes a dashboard that employees can use to proactively monitor and manage their computer’s health.

Automated troubleshooting and issue resolution has several benefits, including:

  • Productivity gains. Automated troubleshooters have a 70-percent solve rate.
  • Fewer Helpdesk calls. There has been an average of 15,000 fewer global Helpdesk calls per month.
  • Cost-saving, mobile-era support model. Modern service levels are achieved by efficiently using contextual information and by shifting issue resolution support from hands-on IT to self-service, and from self-service to automation.
  • Optimized IT efficiency and risk control. Analytics and reporting provide improved insights about the usability and efficacy of automated troubleshooters, leading to new and better fix deployments.

Measuring productivity and opportunity losses

Microsoft IT measured productivity losses and opportunity losses as part of its value equation for the My Microsoft IT project. Productivity losses were based on an average employee’s hourly cost to the business multiplied by the time lost. Time lost is calculated as the sum of:

  • System-based delays. The additional time required to perform tasks on the employee’s computer because of the issue, multiplied by the number of days or weeks that the employee tolerates the issue before seeking resolution.
  • User-based, issue-related delays. The time that the employee spends resolving the issue, including investigating the issue, trying to fix the issue, asking coworkers for advice, researching issue resolution, and engaging the Helpdesk.
  • Colleague-based, issue-related delays. The time that an employee’s colleagues spend helping to resolve the issue.
  • Helpdesk engagement-time losses. The time that Helpdesk personnel spend helping to resolve the issue.

Unlike productivity losses, which measure the amount of time that employees would otherwise spend working, opportunity losses measure the new business impact that the employee could have attained during the lost time. Opportunity losses can be difficult to quantify, but they’re still a significant factor when you examine business losses caused by employees having to spend their time resolving trivial issues. We measure opportunity cost by calculating lost productivity multiplied by a “value uplift over cost” factor. For example, a value uplift over cost of 30 percent means that an employee’s value to their organization is on average 30 percent greater than the amount it costs the organization to retain them.

Calculating the relative costs to resolve issues

The measurable impact of issue resolution is clearest when productivity and opportunity losses are viewed on a cost spectrum. A Helpdesk call is typically considered the most expensive resolution tactic for common issues. The more self-service or automated the resolution tactic, the lower the cost of resolution. Fully automated issue resolution is the lowest-cost tactic.

The spectrum of issue-resolution tactics from most to least expensive

Figure 1. The spectrum of issue-resolution tactics from most to least expensive

The business cost of a Helpdesk call reflects not only the engagement time of Helpdesk personnel, but also the lost productivity of the employee during the call. This cost is increased when an issue requires a complex description by the employee, research by the Helpdesk representative, and time to communicate the resolution to the employee. Fixing issues without the assistance of Helpdesk can similarly impact productivity to varying degrees, depending on how simple or complex the issue and resolution are.

My Microsoft IT solution overview

My Microsoft IT is a modern Windows 10 HTML5–based Universal Platform app, implemented together with Microsoft Azure cloud-based management. My Microsoft IT includes a set of automated troubleshooters that resolve common PC issues. New troubleshooters are regularly added to the app, enabling it to seamlessly respond to changes in the production environment.

The reach of the solution is now being expanded beyond 200,000 Windows 10 devices with the cross-platform mobile app, built using Xamarin, for iOS and Android devices.

The app is provisioned using System Center Configuration Manager on domain-joined machines and, available via the Company Portal for devices managed by Microsoft Intune. By integrating with our existing manageability solutions, we can streamline updates and introduce new troubleshooters consistently.

My Microsoft IT also educates employees about the ways that they can monitor their computers’ system health and resolve some common issues on their own. The My Microsoft IT project began with only a few troubleshooters but has grown to more than 35 troubleshooters. By analyzing usage metrics, Microsoft IT observed that the troubleshooters are now running on employee systems throughout the company at a rate of tens of thousands of times per month.

In addition to being an integrated troubleshooter platform, the application provides a dashboard that employees can open anytime to view:

  • Direct access to employee support resources. These include Helpdesk (Skype for Business-based) and Tech Link (in person) issue resolution teams that are local to the employee.
  • Self-service issue resolution options. These include troubleshooter scripts that employees can run themselves, system health best practices, and links to the Microsoft IT internal portal.
  • Diagnostic and reporting tools. These include dashboard icons and other user interface items to track hardware, software, network, security, and system startup and backup details.

The My Microsoft IT dashboard

The My Microsoft IT dashboard displays the various actions that employees can take proactively to monitor their computer's health and resolve common issues.

The My Microsoft IT dashboard

Figure 2. The My Microsoft IT dashboard

In addition to providing access to tasks, the My Microsoft IT dashboard includes a troubleshooter control panel where employees can opt in or out of various automated actions.

Creating contextually aware experiences

My Microsoft IT works by collecting contextual data elements about the employee’s computer. It collects:

  • Network identity information, including the host name and the employee’s domain and credentials.
  • The name and exact version number of the operating system and any updates.
  • The manufacturer’s name and model name of the computer.
  • Detailed system specifications, including the system type, BIOS version and date, wireless information, and video cards and drivers.
  • Exact version numbers of commonplace desktop applications, including Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and Skype for Business.

My Microsoft IT uses this contextual data to help expedite communications between the employee and Helpdesk on a typical call. When an employee contacts Helpdesk, My Microsoft IT can transmit the contextual data, saving the time it would otherwise take for the Helpdesk to gather the information.

Implementing troubleshooters

To determine the issues that can be resolved proactively using automated troubleshooters, we followed a list of criteria that started with identifying common computer issues. The issues were ranked in order of their impact on the employee, frequency of occurrence, and the ease in which a solution could be developed. We gathered the issue data by reporting on Helpdesk ticket data and by talking to key Microsoft IT service managers and other IT personnel.

We determined that the best candidates for initial troubleshooter development were the remote connectivity apps that are used by mobile employees. The complexity of providing seamless corporate network access over wireless, telecommunications, and cellular networks caused these apps to produce frequent issues. IT developed troubleshooters that addressed three of the most common remote connectivity scenarios, and a fourth troubleshooter that identified and resolved virtual private network (VPN) configuration issues on the employee’s computer.

High-level My Microsoft IT troubleshooter architecture

Figure 3. High-level My Microsoft IT troubleshooter architecture

Each troubleshooter consists of Windows PowerShell scripts. When My Microsoft IT detects a known issue on the employee’s system, it runs the troubleshooter to fix the issue. To increase the number of troubleshooters, we created a software development kit (SDK) to help groups across Microsoft develop their own troubleshooters.

Benefits

We have realized significant cost savings by automating the issue troubleshooting and resolution process.

Improved feedback and analytics

We included a feedback feature in My Microsoft IT that invites employees to tell us if a troubleshooter fixed the issue on their computer—or if it didn’t. We created the feedback feature and analytics capability using Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Application Insights for Visual Studio Online.

The feedback question appears in a prominent interface location after a fix is applied. We store and analyze the responses to this question for each troubleshooter. And then we use the data to make decisions about refining existing troubleshooters and determining new ones to develop.

The goal of gathering feedback was twofold: add quality to the application by learning what our employees like or don’t like about it, and measure the success of the troubleshooters by calculating the amount of productivity and opportunity gains that result from automated issue troubleshooting.

My Microsoft IT usage analytics gathering process

Figure 4. My Microsoft IT usage analytics gathering process

The feedback analytics played a role in how the ongoing troubleshooter development project was funded. By collecting feedback on My Microsoft IT, we could gauge the success of our troubleshooters and measure that success in a dollar value that potentially shows positive and immediate business impact. In this way, the cost of developing new fixes could be funded using the savings that result from previous troubleshooters.

For the analytics to be helpful, we needed to gather information about the efficacy of each troubleshooter. By understanding the time savings produced by the troubleshooter and multiplying that by the number of employees that benefit from a troubleshooter, we generated benefit data in terms of the total number of productive hours gained.

Estimating savings

To estimate the amount of money an issue would cost the company if a troubleshooter was not used to resolve it, we multiplied the hours gained times a value coefficient that was derived for the hourly productivity and opportunity value of an average employee.

Table 1. Troubleshooter productivity and opportunity savings per employee, using sample values

Measurement

Calculation

Result

Troubleshooter savings

Time saved by troubleshooter

Number of times the troubleshooter runs

Minutes gained per year

Hours gained per year

Days gained per year

 

 

40,000 x 2.1

84,000 ÷ 60

1,400 ÷ 10

2.1 minutes

40,000/year

84,000 minutes

1,400 hours

140 days

Employee value

Average employee annual cost to company

Number of employee work days per year

Fully-burdened employee cost

Value uplift over employee burden cost

Total employee value per day

 

 

$100,000 ÷ 250

 

$400 30%

 

$100,000

250

$400 per day

30%

$520

Benefit

Annual savings per troubleshooter

140 days x $520 per day

$72,800

In this example, a single troubleshooter saves 2.1 minutes of productive time for all employees at a 4,000-person business that has an average employee annual cost of $100,000 over 250 working days. The calculation also allows for a 30 percent value uplift over cost (opportunity savings) for each employee, which represents the value added to the company by the employee above and beyond the company’s cost to compensate the employee. The example assumes that each employee runs the troubleshooter an average of ten times during the year, for a total of 40,000 times annually.

The annual savings for one troubleshooter in this example is $72,800. Depending on the size of the organization and the number of troubleshooters used, this annual savings can reach $1 million or even more. We expect that as new operating systems are released that contain added functionality, new opportunities for contextually fixing common issues will be revealed.

Improving satisfaction with contextual computing

Contextual computing allows issues to be identified and resolved automatically and proactively on a per-user basis. By understanding key information about each asset—who uses the computer, where the employee is located, what software is on the computer, and details about the most recent activity—My Microsoft IT can deliver a programmatic solution that previously required employee (and often Microsoft IT or Helpdesk) interaction. For example, automatic remediation could mitigate deployment failures resulting from out-of-date Wi-Fi drivers.

The contextual awareness in My Microsoft IT is helpful in many scenarios. For example, when an employee selects Get Support in My Microsoft IT to find information about contacting Helpdesk, the application provides a list of the nearest locations based on the geolocation data on the employee’s computer. We plan to add functionality to My Microsoft IT that will use the computer’s clock data to tell the employee if a location is open, and when it will open if it isn’t.

This new support model increases employee satisfaction by improving accuracy and personalizing the support experience. My Microsoft IT also helps create a positive experience by providing the modern application design that our employees expect on their computers and other devices.

Optimizing efficiency and risk control

My Microsoft IT addresses the challenge of enhancing employee productivity and enabling better business decision-making while lowering the overall costs and risks of IT delivery. By reducing the risk of lost productivity and opportunity for the business groups that we support, My Microsoft IT saves costs across the organization and helps employees work more efficiently. Also, My Microsoft IT analytics and reporting provide insights about the usability and efficacy of its troubleshooters—which leads to new and better fixes.

Conclusion

My Microsoft IT has shifted much of the workload for issue resolution from Helpdesk to self-service, and from self-service to automation—where troubleshooters run without human interaction.

Employees can use their computers with fewer technical issues. And by using the My Microsoft IT dashboard, they can monitor their devices and be proactive to resolve any issues when needed.

When an employee encounters an issue that can’t be resolved by an automated troubleshooter and contacts Helpdesk, My Microsoft IT expedites the interaction by providing the user’s system information. We have seen the average length of Helpdesk calls shorten by more than two minutes since implementing My Microsoft IT.

My Microsoft IT has improved the overall support experience, reduced the need for Helpdesk interactions, and provided tools to help employees easily monitor and manage their computer’s health.

For more information

Microsoft IT

microsoft.com/itshowcase

© 2019 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners. This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.


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