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Help Desk Becoming New IT Frontier?

The help desk traditionally rests among the cobwebs when it comes to IT strategic planning sessions and budgeting. Some in IT even regard it as a “necessary evil,” because it is the customary gathering place for problems and for interruptions of “production” work.

However, as more IT departments reshape themselves into private-cloud purveyors with new levels of service and even SLAs (service level agreements) that raise the expectations of the end business they support, the help desk is becoming a central focus. Why? Because it can capture important SLA metrics for mean time to response and customer satisfaction on IT service requests. It also has the ability to deliver predictive analytics on where future problems are most likely to occur, enabling IT to make preemptive strikes on bugs before they become real issues.

Online grocer FreshDirect has over 1,000 end users that a handful of help-desk and network-support staff provide service to each day. “We’ve had help-desk solutions, but our manager felt that we needed a help desk that would give us greater ability to control and to manage our own tasks, tickets and priorities,” says Edwin Centeno, system administrator. The goal was to implement help-desk software that supports ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), a set of IT service management practices that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business.

“With the new help-desk software, we have improvements to basic features that we are already familiar with, and a dashboard that easily displays tasks and reports. I can immediately see how many tickets are resolved at any point during the day, and at the end of the day I know exactly how many tickets have been resolved and how many are open,” says Centeno.

This sounds easier that it actually is. Many help-desk personnel, especially in companies with large user bases and campuses, spend the majority of their days away from their desks and out in the user community. In this situation, it becomes difficult to remember as you move from user department to user department just how many trouble tickets you fixed (and which ones) by the time you return to your desk to update the help desk log. Meanwhile, anyone looking in on the log is not going to have the latest information, because persons in the field are not likely to have made all of their updates.

Max Block is a network administrator at Champlain College, and is one of seven technicians tasked with supporting 2,000 users. “All of our technicians now have iPads,” he says. “Often, we have to travel from one end of campus to the other to handle user help calls—and on the way to different areas, we get stopped by people in the hallways who also ask questions.”

Block says the ability to use mobile devices that are fully integrated with the help desk is a great boost to productivity—and also to accuracy of the help desk’s open and closed ticket log. “I can immediately close a ticket as soon as I resolve it because of the mobile capability,” he says. “I don’t have to try to remember the five or six tickets I closed out when I get back to my desk.”

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