Those of us involved in service support are acutely aware of the maturing of the help desk, now more appropriately referred to as the Service Desk. Contemporary Service Desk operations demand much in the way of technology and people skills for Service Desk personnel. The Service Desk is a key investment area and often a starting point for broader Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) initiatives.
Investment in this area is strong for 2009! It makes sense to optimize support operations through the best use of process, people and technology.
The role of the Service Support Analyst extends much beyond problems and incidents. And the Support Manager is now much more accountable for quality support and performance transparency. As Enterprise Management Associations (EMA) has written, the Service Desk has become the "nucleus" for service management activities that reach out to most ITSM domains including Asset Management, Configuration Management Systems (CMS), Change Management, Knowledge Management, the Service Catalog and more.
This expansive set of responsibilities is putting increasing pressures on the service support team. As in sports, the best defense is an offense-great staff, adequate training and robust Service Desk tools to support a highly automated operation.
Tools of the trade, or so we say, include Automation, Integration and Workflow designed and implemented to ease the burden on individual staff members while improving service quality. Not all tools are the same and not all solutions integrate in a way that is most helpful.
Cautious advice is "buyer beware" as you evaluate toolsets to be sure functionality is there to support advanced operations for your particular technology environment.
For some, the Service Desk evolution can seem like an academic discussion. That is a mistaken perception and avoids the chance to capitalize on increasingly sophisticated technologies and improve the role and cost structure at the Service DeskĖitís a very "roll-up-your-sleeves" pragmatic opportunity.
Automation, Integration and Workflow-when used collectively-can help the Service Desk to make big strides in smoothing out the operation and leveraging the skills of technical staff members. How can these tools of the trade be used to make meaningful gains in efficiency and service quality? Some possibilities are:
Most use cases will require the work of automation, workflow and integration to be working in concert with one another. EMA conducted an extensive study on the service desk earlier this year called The Aging Help Desk: Migrating to a Modern Service Desk. While this study was not specifically about automation, it did probe participants about the importance of Automation, Integration and Workflow. Network, Application, Systems and Security Management were the most critical integrations identified by participating users when looking at technology domains. Change, Asset and Service Catalog integrations are also important.
Many organizations are focused on ITIL deployment and best practices. Our study shows that 23% are planning to adopt the ITILv2 processes on top of 40% that already have done so. Another 51% have plans to adopt the ITILv3 lifecycle approach with 13% already having done so.
Yet, anecdotally, EMA knows that many organizations are putting a box around ITIL scope and not assuming that the enterprise should fully adopt all disciplines. We have moved clearly beyond understanding that best practices are valuable. Now, enterprise culture is focused on dissecting the value of what is best for the organization.
This approach is relevant to automation and integration as well. It is not feasible to automate everything all at once or perhaps even at all. The same is true about integration-there is interest in integrating solutions from silo-based technologies to accounting systems-IT must choose its priorities wisely.
The trick in any endeavor is to be able to demonstrate results early. When utilizing technology to build bridges with limited staffing, it will not help to try to tackle all that could be achieved with Automation, Integration and Workflow. Much better to look at the two or three things that can show success and ease processes in the Service Desk.
Excellence should be the focus, but excellence for priorities that make the most sense. This will vary by vertical, geography and organization.