IT Service Desk: Is Yours Right for Your Needs?

According to Info-Tech Research Group, your IT service desk has a direct impact on your users’ satisfaction with your organization’s IT in general. The service desk is the cornerstone of end-user satisfaction. In fact, users who are satisfied with the service desk’s performance tend to be up to 36% happier with other IT processes.

How is your service desk supporting your users’ needs?  And let’s be clear here. What are we referring to when we say, “service desk?”

It’s the Help Desk. Typically, IT staff in smaller associations are generalists who provide a variety of services to staff and other users, and they do so with limited resources and budget. A service desk function handles requests from users on a wide variety of systems and issues. Help me with my computer, help me log in to SharePoint, the internet is down, help me with an AMS question.

With the number and types of requests coming in regularly, the IT service desk often gets stuck in firefighter mode. IT folks end up putting out fires of all sizes, as needs are often not able to be triaged. These requests, as a result, are always immediate and important.

This firefighter mode does not allow IT staff time to effectively work on critical projects. For example, they do not have the time to assist with software selection and implementation or to improve their own skills in an IT environment that changes sometimes overnight. Frustrating for them, and ultimately it is frustrating for their users who begin to perceive the help desk as “behind,” or “not able to help quickly,” or “not helpful.”

How do we get better at this?  Better processes and tools.

Help Desk Management Tool

There are limitations to time, resources, and budget in any IT department. To overcome the firefighter syndrome, building a process that shifts away from “hand-holding” every single situation is important. Having a tool or method by which requests and incidents are automatically logged and tracked is required. This will allow for:

  • Performance tracking – how much time was spent to resolve which issues?
  • User empowerment to resolve issues themselves, if possible.
  • Triaging requests by priority and importance (including important users).
  • Tracking types of service requests over time.
  • Noting “gaps” in service.
  • Generally allowing the IT function to demonstrate in a data-driven manner their value to the organization, in terms of costs, time to resolve, end-user satisfaction, and effectiveness.

There are many free or low-cost service desk management tools that are available for this function. So it shouldn’t be a heavy lift to purchase.

Process Review

Understanding what processes are in place for responding to IT issues, and what processes need to be developed, is a big step toward the success of the IT help desk function. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are roles and accountability defined and understood by the users? Are they likely to tag the database administrator to help with a Windows issue, or ask the network administrator to fix a website problem? Clearly defining who does what is a step in the right direction of ending user frustration.
  • Are you clear on how an incident or problem is resolved, what steps are taken to do so?  A common incident process workflow is invaluable to understanding how best to get things resolved. 
  • Are you clear on what constitutes a priority, or what makes something an incident versus a request? The ability to successfully triage, assign responsibility, and document critical issues are vital.
  • Is there documentation? A good IT documentation repository will include process workflows, system documentation, and will act as a knowledge base for both service desk and end user articles. Having documentation to point an end user to may allow them to resolve their own issues. It also makes it easy for them to refer back to when they forget what they did six months ago to resolve their problem.

Documentation should also include service requests. Often a similar incident may have occurred in the past.  Being able to look it up in a service request database (another benefit to the help desk management tool) is more efficient than starting from scratch.

  • Do you have a communication plan for incidents? If a system goes down or critical work needs to be done on short notice, do you have a workflow with responsibilities for each step outlined? Too often, the IT help desk can be bogged down answering users’ questions about “what is happening?” and not able to address the issue attentively. Having a communication plan with roles, responsibilities, and messaging saves time and stress when something urgent requires IT staff’s attention.

The Wrap Up

There’s no getting around it: technology and the IT function remain the backbone of any organization today.  Taking the time to have a good look at your IT service desk and making improvements will pay off in an often elusive benefit: through end-user satisfaction. And when your users are satisfied, it increases your organization’s ability to achieve its mission with greater ease.

Want more information on how to review and improve your IT service desk processes? Get in touch with us.