This is part 1 of a 3 part series exploring the value (and even necessity) of a professionally managed Help Desk. The author has over 30 years working as an IT leader with some of the best run companies in the world. He has worked both sides of the fence – as a company IT employee and for outsource providers. He’s seen successful engagements and failures. This experience informs this series.
My intent in writing this series of blog articles is to review the value of a professionally managed IT Help Desk for a small business and the role it plays in business success. In today’s installment, Part 1, I’ll contrast a professionally managed Help Desk with the typical small business variety, argue why it’s a better choice and outline how it works. In Part 2, next month, I’ll discuss the process of ticket tracking and dispatch. In the final installment, Part 3, I’ll review how the data captured by a professionally managed Help Desk creates value.
An IT Help Desk is a resource intended to provide the end user with information and support related to a company’s information technology products and services. In small companies, the IT help desk consists of one or two technicians who respond to walk ups, email or voice calls from end users when something doesn’t work or has stopped working, or they need operational help. It’s an informal, ala carte system provided on demand. Technicians are expected to stop what they’re doing to attend to their end user issue. They put out fires, and for this, they are often perceived as heroes.
A professionally managed Help Desk, on the other hand, requires the end user to ‘open a ticket’ either online or via email or voice call. ‘Opening a ticket’ refers to the help desk technician creating a database record of your call including a time/date stamp, the reason for calling, the issue priority, and disposition of the call – either resolving the issue over the phone or creating a dispatch request. Professionally managed help desks also have an escalation path. If the end user requires a more prompt or personal response than the process appears to allow, then an escalation path exists to management to make the appropriate adjustment. In addition, tickets can be automatically generated by system monitoring tools that the managed IT services provider put in place. Tickets can be monitored 24/7 if needed. A professionally managed IT Help Desk is usually, but not always, part of a managed IT services contract.
Some issues require immediate response and are usually categorized as ‘critical’ or level 1. Other issues warrant a more measured response with a lowered level of criticality and find their way to a dispatch queue to be managed and resolved at another time. The best run IT help desks can address a large number of end user calls on the first call leveraging remote control tools. Data is collected on voice calls like number of rings before answer, recorded conversations between end user and help desk technician, and call duration. The plethora of data collected with each ticket is one of the key distinguishing features and advantages of a professionally managed IT Help Desk.
A professionally managed IT Help Desk is considerably more business efficient than the ad hoc approach practiced by many small businesses. Making the transition from a small shop Help Desk to a professionally managed one can sometimes meet with end user resistance. End users prefer to just go grab one of the onsite IT techs when they need them rather than take the time to ‘open a ticket’. The challenge for any professionally managed IT Help Desk is to provide both the prompt and speedy service of a small company Help Desk with the data analysis that drives efficiency and cost reduction of a professionally managed one.
A professionally managed Help Desk provides a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) record (ticket) for all IT issues, like support, problem resolution, access management, problem escalation, and help with operational issues. Thanks to this process, requests don’t go unanswered, recurring issues can be eliminated, IT projects can be managed to committed timelines, and the support process can be evaluated and improved with the ultimate goal of the COST of IT support being better managed and reduced.
Next month, I’ll get into the detail process of ‘opening a ticket’ and the ensuing response. In Part 3, I’ll review how all that great data collected and tracked can improve efficiency and lower your business cost of IT support.
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