Your Service Desk Strategy: ITSM Tools are Just a Start

 In IT Service Management Blog, ITSM Tools

As IT evolves, so must the service desk. Here’s help with how this can be accomplished.

Multiple technology trends and market forces are catalyzing changes in IT for almost every size and type of business. Those changes, in turn, are both enabling and compelling change in how IT leaders and teams manage the critical functions of employee service and support. This post will help you understand what a service desk is, what service desk management is, the technologies that power its practices, and the trends transforming those practices today.

Service Management vs. Service Desk

The tasks you and your colleagues perform every work day rely on IT-powered services. Service management is oversight of how those services are developed, delivered, and maintained. The historical focus has been on IT services, as reflected by the term “IT service management” (“ITSM”). Increasingly, however, “service management” refers to services used within and beyond IT.

At many businesses, a service desk is the primary service management hub. It’s where employees go to submit problems and requests, and where IT teams begin or escalate their responses to issues. These often involve use of one or more ITSM tools, in addition to service desk software.

A service desk is sometimes called a help desk, but the two entities are different. Help desk teams tend to be focused primarily on fixing things when they break. In comparison, service desk teams both fix things that break and work on making things break less often. And service desk software typically supports both “break/fix” tasks and more advanced functions. Examples include IT asset management (ITAM), service level management, and oversight of an IT service catalog. At most organizations, as IT expands and matures, help desks tend to evolve into service desks.

Your Service Desk: Bringing ITSM, Digital Transformation, and Employees Together

Your service desk is the portal to your organization’s IT-powered business and technology services, and their management and support. The service desk is the interface connecting your IT service and support team and the ITSM tools they use to the rest of your business.

The IT service management best practices known as ITIL provide guidance for every critical IT management process and function, from IT service design through IT change management to continual service improvement. The ITIL guidelines position the service desk as a critical element of what’s known as the ITIL Maturity Model.

The service desk not only brings employees and IT service management and support resources together, but also enables continual service improvement. This is a primary goal of digital transformation, something being pursued by almost every size and type of business. In a survey conducted by the Service Desk Institute (SDI) earlier this year, nearly half of all respondents (43 percent) said their service desk teams had already undertaken a digital transformation project. An additional 26 percent said such a project was planned for the near future.

The roles and functions supported by your service desk strategy and service desk software are critical to the success of your business. There are multiple challenges to success with those roles and functions. Examples include employee dissatisfaction with IT self-service and self-help options and inefficiencies in the routing and handling of submitted incidents and problems.

Fortunately, modern solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI) help to address these effectively, with features such as intelligent automation and predictive analytics. (Check out our post on “ITSM Tools Overview” for more on AI-driven automation.) In combination with effective ITSM tools and processes, such enhancements can make your service desk more valuable to your employees and your business.

Your Service Desk Strategy: Specific Elements

To achieve the benefits promised by an effective service desk and minimize the challenges, you need a service desk strategy that is employee-centric and business-driven. And your strategy should include steps to solicit and respond to input and feedback from your employees and IT team.

If your business already has a help or service desk, your strategy should focus on modernizing and updating that resource to ensure it is sufficient to support current and planned future IT initiatives. If your business has multiple help and/or service desks, your strategy should focus on consolidating and rationalizing them. And if your business has no help or service desk in place, your strategy should focus on identifying the most immediate need or promising opportunity a service desk can address.

Whatever your starting point, make sure your journey follows these four basic steps.

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    Define and prioritize your top business objectives.

  • Assess the true abilities, liabilities, and costs associated with your current IT management and support efforts, whether or not your business operates a help or service desk. Also, make sure to assess all available relevant skills, and fill any serious gaps you find. Intelligent automation can be a great help here.
  • Plan and prioritize improvements to those efforts in line with your business goals.
    • If digital transformation is already planned or under way, make sure those initiatives are aligned closely with your service desk strategy.
    • Make sure your plan addresses other important business IT trends. These may include but are not limited to support for mobile users, “bring your own device” (“BYOD”) programs, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and connections, and integration of managed cloud-based services.
  • Engage with your team and your customers closely and frequently as you roll out and refine those improvements, to spot and make needed changes and identify and take advantage of additional opportunities.

You may find that a strategy template or set of guidelines from a credible outside source may ease and speed creation of your service desk strategy. Many vendors and even some organizations that use IT offer such assets online. SDI, the Help Desk Institute (HDI) and other industry associations are great sources of information and analysis, some at no cost.

Once you and your team have picked your strongest starting point, you should create a detailed, well-documented plan. You should then identify and get commitments from the organizational leadership and staff needed to pursue that plan.

As you execute elements of your plan, make sure to document your results, and use them to choose and prioritize your next steps. Include frequent check points, to keep your plan aligned with your business and IT goals and respond to relevant changes as your plan and business evolve.

Throughout your service desk journey, make sure to communicate clearly and frequently with all of your internal stakeholders. Those communications should focus on business outcomes and metrics, and link your service desk efforts to these. Also, make sure to get support from your executive team. Executive sponsorship and support can provide the “pull” you need to translate your plans into reality.

You should make sure to capture and store all relevant data generated by your service desk efforts. In many cases, a configuration management database (CMDB) is the optimal repository for such information. To maximize the value and accuracy of the information in your CMDB, your business should strongly consider implementing comprehensive, automated discovery across your entire IT estate.

You should also implement reliable, consistent, and automated updating of your CMDB. Such steps will help guarantee the information on which you base your service desk decisions in accurate, complete, and timely. (See the previous post on service desk management tools for details on other technological enablers of your service desk strategy.)

Your Service Desk Strategy: Your Business’ Path to the Future

With well-defined business goals, support of your team and your executives, and a solid, detailed plan, you can craft and execute an effective service desk strategy. The pursuit of that strategy can ensure that your business and its IT estate are ready for the future, whatever that future may hold.

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