This post has been kindly provided to us by Nicklas Fredriksson. Part of ITSM Zone’s team of virtual mentors, Nicklas is a passionate, experienced and much appreciated ITSM magician with 20 years in the field. Former member of the ITIL Expert panel in Northern Europe, he is a much appreciated and highly valued ITIL teacher that prides himself with always making things work in practice. He is an ISO 20000 Lead Implementer and certified in most project governance models.
Nicklas is an experienced ITSM/ITIL mentor/coach with many transformation projects and programs, in most business areas across our beautiful planet. Awarded with the itSMF project of the year, conference speaker and popular ITSM blogger, he is an acknowledged producer of ITIL course material.
Service desks are the window of IT
The service desk should be considered the window of IT, the real meeting place between the business and IT. Thus making sure that your service desk is world-class should be one of your highest priorities right now. However, it rarely ever is in any organization, in fact the service desk normally suffers from a range of problems such as high staff turnover as well as lack of tools and information.
This leads to productivity losses due to long resolution times, lower quality and frustration. Improving your service desk is however not very complicated; neither expensive nor time-consuming. Focus your improvement forces on the 4 P´s of ITSM: People, Process, Products and Partners. There are plenty of low hanging fruits just waiting for you to harvest them. So, what are you waiting for?
How to create a world-class service desk
I often claim that the service desk is the heart of IT, the very spot that defines our relationship with the business. The service desk talks to the business every day, many many many many times and are the ones that solves their problem, hopefully gives them good service and therefore I would say that it is the window of IT, seen from a business perspective. Of course, the whole IT organization is involved in the ongoing delivery, including the support through the service desk. However, none of this is important if we fail in the main customer interface.
I want your service desk to be the very best it can be, and I promise you that this will boost your relationship with the business.
In reality, the service desks I know are often struggling with high staff turnover, sometimes lacking support from more specialized resources within the IT function, and usually lacking information about current events of importance. Without being dramatic, I would like to conclude that the service desk, in most organizations, is mismanaged and does not even reach close to its real potential. This is very unfortunate indeed.
The service desk is here to manage the main support process, incident management, which has the main objective to restore normal service operation in case of disturbances or total failure. In short terms, getting people productive as quickly as possible. If this is something we master, the negative effects of service failures are kept to a minimum.
Having people waiting for “IT problems” to be solved is not only unproductive, it is also frustrating and demoralizing for the business and for IT. Lower productivity has negative effects on sales, delivery and well, on pretty much all the core business processes. To sum things up, we can easily say that it’s very costly to not manage service failures.
However, there are of course things we can do to remedy this unfortunate situation, some of them I would even say are almost dumb not to do since they are so simple yet powerful. You do not want to be labelled as less intelligent now, do you?
As always, I use the 4 P´s of ITSM when we talk about how to best manage things within your IT organization: People, Process, Products (tools) and Partners (suppliers). Most of these things are quick, cheap and easy to implement.
You need to train your service desk agents, help them to solve more user problems directly, without passing things to the next support level. Create service desk agent levels, and also consider the actual management functions for the service desk and the processes included, creating a career inside the support organization. Capture and share knowledge, and reward knowledge sharing. Create and maintain team spirit, visualize the efforts made, show your wins, the progress and talk about success stories. Bang your own drum; make people proud of what they do every day, as they should be.
People are not robots, and will never be. However, establishing working processes, with associated key performance indicators and training people in these processes is simply mandatory. For the sake of having a common way of doing things, processes are simply unbeatable.
But take things slowly, do not rely too much on your fancy swim lanes and 2343243 KPIs, before we run we walk, before we fly, we run, and you have to give your organization time to get the processes working in practice. Do not forget to establish governance of these processes, and reward people suggesting improvements, keep the momentum going.
Our tools are a natural extension of our ability, making us more effective, faster and a lot more efficient. The tools are here for us, making us smarter, not the opposite. There are some very common tools such as ticketing systems, knowledge bases, support portals etc. Just remember, process always comes first and tools alone will not help you, a fool with a tool is still a fool.
However, if done right, this is what will make the real difference for your performance and quality. Use caution, as tools have a tendency to make you believe you can fly while you are still crawling on the floor. Tools always offer a large pool of possible uses but it is what you need to use, based on your processes, which is relevant, not the other way around.
There are hardly any IT organizations without external suppliers involved in the service structure today. With cloud-based infrastructure, outsourcing and other popular concepts this is growing. You need to ensure that your suppliers work inside your process, with your tickets, supporting your targets and using the same set of KPIs as you do. This might be tricky but it really worth it. Nothing sounds as bad in my ears as when a service desk agent pulls the “blame game” card. This is very irresponsible and not something I consider service. Including your external service providers does not have to be complicated at all, just define the boundaries and make sure the support processes and routines used makes sense together.
There are of course a lot more you can do, but these things could easily be your first steps when turning your service desk into a strategic asset. If you’d like to share your service desk tips, please do so in the comments or contact us.