The Myth of Self-Service 2.0

With self-service, the transaction costs of managing information appear to have fallen. But the real costs have not gone away. In fact, they’ve risen as they shifted from lower-cost administrative staff to professionals — hidden in the salaries of professional staff who start early, stay late and spend weekends checking email, searching, answering questions on discussion boards and organizing documents. Though it only takes a few minutes here and there, self-service information management consumes a significant portion of our personal and professional lives. Anyone with a slightly complex problem booking a flight on-line, seeking computer tech support, comparative shopping or using different software to participate in discussion forums, find an expert, or document an insight understands how much time this consumes.

Self-service has another consequence. It takes professionals’ attention away from their real job, which is to use information to think.

You might be surprised, but I don’t believe that self-service is the answer to everything. l’ve actually written a few things in the past about this point of view (see my articles page: ‘Beyond HR Self-Service’ and ‘Empower customers with self-service, not automation’).

What’s surprising here is that Richard McDermott is effectively describing in his article a knowledge management approach that is a decade or more old. But its one that is still very much applicable, even in an era of social software and big data. Web 2.0 and social software should not automatically mean self-service – that’s entirely the wrong perspective.

Hat tip to Jack.