Service desk – the unsung heroes of IT?

In recent years, the 'IT help desk' has undergone a shift in meaning thanks to its new name, the 'IT service desk'. It was deemed that if it's known as a 'help desk' then staff would only call it when they needed help or when something was wrong.  A service desk can in fact deal with anything from the need to install Adobe Reader, setting up a new user, to dealing with an exploded computer, all the way through to how to update a formula on Excel.

The IT service desk is the frontline contact between the IT team and the rest of the company. Why then are many businesses quick to outsource this service? They contract a third party with the potential to have no business knowledge and who doesn't necessarily share the same business interests. Do businesses really understand what the desk can offer and provision it correctly to meet the wider organisational need?

The role of the IT service desk and its potential is often under-rated and overlooked by the IT department and, more importantly, the wider business. You don't need technical people on the front line, or a mentality that every incident must be resolved there and then - you can in fact deliver an excellent service for all involved on a lower cost base.

How? If you focus on recruiting diligent, friendly service desk staff who are good at recording an incident and who are able to escalate the query to the correct technical person, it's a win-win situation. You're dealing with the individual on the end of the phone effectively whilst keeping expensive technical resources off the frontline and at the same time remaining able to deal with incidents quickly and efficiently.

Using ITIL® and its guidance on operational processes as your framework, you can ensure that the service desk, however provisioned, keeps full control over the library of known-errors. If an incident occurs regularly, technical staff can produce a decision tree, resolution script or other relevant source of information so that the front-line person with no technical experience can deal with the incident there and then, thus reducing the need for assistance from a technical person.

Hosting your service desk in-house can provide key benefits: it's more personal - if your internal customers know the service desk frontline staff, they're likely to be more patient, instead of letting out anger on a poor anonymous voice outsourced to a different country. It also gives you the ability to get important insights into how the company operates in relation to IT, this can inform you in future decisions for IT provisions such as license renewal of software, as well as skills shortages amongst the team.

Placing your service desk with an outsourcer can also yield benefits, such as reducing internal headcount and therefore liabilities associated with direct hire. But it also presents challenges such as alignment with the organisation, management of knowledge and wider integration with the IT provider if that remains internal. Properly defining and scoping the desk in this instance is critical and having well defined processes and interfaces is crucial. Using ITIL as your framework can help to ensure higher levels of interoperability in this scenario.

If you'd like to find out more about best practices in IT, take a look at our ITIL courses.