IT Support – The good, the bad and the Ugly

Let me start of by asking you a very simple question. What is the, by far, most common way for the business to talk with IT? On a daily basis, sometimes several times for one day? Yes, it is the service desk, or at least something similar to that, a support function. Let me ask you another questions. What is the IT function that is most forgotten, gets least trained and in general gets the least sugar for what they are doing. Yes, again, it’s the service desk. Is this clever? Not so much.

Managing your most important customer interface like your mother in law is not the way to go ladies and gentlemen!

The first years of my carrier in IT, I was part of a delivery team that managed both development, support, maintenance, well pretty much everything, for a set of services. I remember this like yesterday, I saw the letters ITIL, and I think it was in 1992. I soon learned more, have worked with IT Service management ever since and let me tell you, the way (too) many IT departments still are managing their customer service is as contra productive as the first set of questions above indicates.

I am going to spend some time in this post to tell you exactly why you need to get a really good service desk up and running now.

A customer calling the IT support is normally already frustrated, are in some way not capable of doing what’s needed using our IS/IT services and are now calling to quickly resolve this. Not only does this person deserve our full attention but also our excellent service, quick resolution of this problem and of course all of this with a good level of professionalism. Because we, IT, are here for them, our customers, without our customers we can have as many shiny machines, cool software’s and after works we like but we still have no reason to exist.

I could spend another hour motivating a skilled, motivated and properly tooled up service desk but I hope that at least some of you are starting to realize that you need to boot strap your support right now.

I am going to going to tell you all the basics of how to create this service desk, and its spelled with four P´s; People, Process, Products and Partners.

Now some of you are smiling, recognizing the stuff from some of the ITIL training you did, yes, these are popular concepts from the ITIL and for me it is the way I think about what an IT Service Provider is and does. Anyway, your new and successful Service Desk needs to be established coordinating:

People are your first priority! You need to gather all service desk agents close, if possible in the same office space, equip them well and do consider the aspects of managing large volumes of calls. Consider different groups depending on service- and/ business areas. Train them well and teach them how to quickly find and share knowledge. Award them for efficiency AND customer satisfaction together. If applicable use well visible dashboards to show the current support state, and do not forget to celebrate great efforts. Use job-rotation and create roles with more responsibility. Use layers and try to find ways to increase the resolution levels early, a good service desk should resolve at least 50% of all support contacts already in the 1st level. There are a lot more to consider but these are some of the basics. You need to create and maintain a very good setting.

Process are a vital part of your success. Establish excellent ways of working, preferably based on best practice to save time and re-use processes already proven in battle, I of course love the ITIL support processes: Incident Management, Request Fulfilment and Problem management. Now, do not use the last one in the service desk, problem management is the IT department detective and need to get time and space to do that. However, the people from problem management normally participates in the later support stages (read: the 3rd). The process tells your service desk staff HOW to do things, the procedures, which is what gives the overall calibration. It also includes measuring the processes, KPIs are pure survival for you, and for the love of everything that is holy, do not forget to govern the processes to keep them great. One more detail, establish a Request fulfilment (managing orders and info) process together with support scripts (detailed instructions) matched to your service catalogue, especially getting the approvals flows in place before starting to manage the requests. This is also a huge topic, I will certainly dive deeper in later blog posts, but for now, this will do. Ask someone like me, an experienced ITSM consultant for help; do not do this on your own if you have no real processes today. Will cost you a lot to have theoretic or not implemented processes than paying an external consultant.

Products are the tools we use to make our processes and people even more capable. Here we are of course talking about the toolset to use for ticketing, but also simple diagnostics, troubleshooting, decision support for service desk agents, knowledge sharing, a voice/email platform and everything else needed to be able to save time, give better service and all in all making the service desk efficient. Please, read one of my earlier post about trying to solve everything with just tools (a fool with a tool is still a fool), you need to make sure the process and products are really tightly integrated, preferably work more on the process than the products.

Partners are the ones empowering you externally, for certain services or parts of your delivery, depending on your setup. Now, these partners need to be managed as they are part of your organization, with KPIs, with formal agreements including service levels and you need to keep them really close. You can never, and I repeat never, blame your supplier! Your customers deserves a slightly more intelligent answer for something that is your responsibility. So, get a grip of all your suppliers. This in many cases includes taking over contracts from the business, but after all, if we are responsible for all aspects of the IS/IT services, as I firmly believe we should be, we need get control of everything that might affect the quality.

Ok, sorry, for a really long post this Friday but this is a big topic and even though I tried to stay away from details, but it is a lot of information. I am going to go deeper into these details later on, I promise.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I am saying that a well-functioning service desk is the heart of every good IT department and lets all agree, you need to take care of your heart right?

Have a great weekend and please stay smart!

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