Like many IT organizations, Cisco IT provides help-desk support only for Microsoft Windows-based PCs. Yet many Cisco employees choose to use a Mac, even if it means they are on their own for resolving problems, obtaining repairs, installing software upgrades, and similar support tasks. By the end of fiscal year 2009, Cisco had over 8,000 Mac users, and by fiscal 2010, over 12,000.
However, even the engineers among these Mac enthusiasts struggle to support themselves at times, which leads to lost productivity. This struggle and the arrival of wiki technology prompted users to create the Cisco Mac Wiki in 2006. Since then, the Mac Wiki has become a successful online community, attracting nearly 10,000 unique visitors per month.
The Mac Wiki contains instructions, resources, and tips–all contributed on a voluntary basis by community members. Discussion forums allow employees with a problem not covered on the Wiki to post a question or request for help. Typically, someone from the community responds within one hour–far faster than the official two-day service level of the Cisco help desk for most laptop issues.
The community support model helps Cisco avoid approximately US $2 million annually in help desk costs. As an alternative, we could have considered outsourcing Macintosh support to an external vendor, but the Mac Wiki also allows us to avoid these costs.
Another payback comes from less employee downtime because they are able to quickly solve problems themselves. This productivity factor represents an annual value of $3.5 million for Cisco.
Like many employees who considered moving to the Mac platform, I had some fear about losing access to help-desk services and having to find support resources and assistance on my own. But after an initial learning curve, using the Mac Wiki has changed how I expect to get support. With so many useful resources so readily available, I have more confidence in my ability to do things myself and to rely on my peers when I need help. The Mac wiki’s self-help approach is helping change Cisco’s employee culture around IT support.
This self-support model is now helping Cisco IT cope with supporting “alternative platforms” in a new area: mobile devices. From Blackberries to iPhones and iPads to Nokias and Windows Mobile and Palm and Android clients (including the new Cisco Cius), Cisco IT cannot provide support for the new wave of mobile devices on a limited budget. However, by certifying basic functions for secure internal use, and then providing user-led wikis for support, Cisco IT is enabling us to choose the device we want most and for mobile access to enterprise tools. We have over 35,000 employees who have bought their own mobile devices – based on feedback and information provided by other employees who have already tried them out – and Cisco IT supports their secure access to whatever corporate collaboration tools these mobile devices can support. It’s a win-win for us all – Cisco IT can spend its resources tweaking the network to provide mobile access to services rather than supporting a growing number of devices, and we get to use the tools we want to get access to more services. Many thanks to our own home-grown wiki support community.