Firstly, what is a support desk?
Most people have a support desk at their company and know how to make use of it. For those who don’t, ITIL’s (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) definition is helpful for explaining it. It states that a support desk (also commonly known as a service desk) is “the single point of contact between the service provider and the users. A typical service desk manages incidents and service requests and also handles communication with the users”. So, a support desk is a means for end users in a company to gain the help and support of the IT support staff. The benefits of a well-managed service desk are far-reaching, from enhancing employee productivity to safeguarding critical business processes.
Typical uses of a support desk are:
- Unlocking an account
- Printer errors (as always)
- Requests for access to resources
In Datactics, the DevOps team is kept busy by the support desk. Whilst every day brings with it new requests, there are two which occur the most often:
- Password changes/ account lockout: These are definitely the most popular. Recently our LDAP service provided a way for users to reset passwords when locked out by themselves, so we get fewer of these requests now than we used to but it is still quite a popular request!
- Next up is admin access. Security is paramount to any company so we, like most others, work on the principle that users need given permission to do certain tasks (like downloading software on their laptops). As a result of this, we get a lot of requests for admin access on our support desk.
At the beginning of 2023, the DevOps team at Datactics set out a roadmap for the year ahead. One of the tasks in the roadmap was to move the support desk onto JIRA, as the current solution was nearing the end of its contract. Whilst it can be easy to think, ‘Why can we not just allow staff to message us, email their requests, or ask in person?’, the process of moving the support desk to JIRA shone a light on why it is so crucial to an organisation.
Single Point of Contact
There are a few reasons why, the most obvious being from ITIL’s definition- ‘the single point of contact’. The support desk provides one place where the staff knows where to go for help and where the team providing the help will check in regularly. This simplifies communication within the organisation and ensures that issues are properly tracked and managed. When end-users send requests on many different platforms it creates multiple places of contact, which can be confusing and difficult to keep track of. Imagine 60+ people sending you messages on different platforms, all requiring support in one form or another; like spinning plates. It can drive you crazy. Having one place to see all the tasks together helps prevent this (and helps keep us sane.)
On top of this, support desks can allow for self-service. A support desk can host knowledge articles so that users can self-serve in fixing common problems e.g. resetting passwords. Similarly, using HYCU as a backup solution allows end users to restore a deleted file or email without having to contact support. This saves time for the end user and also for the support staff- win-win.
Easily prioritise tasks
A support desk also allows for the prioritisation of tasks. When all of the support tickets are raised in one place, it allows the team to compare them to each other and determine which ones can wait until the urgent ones are completed. If a message comes in with an urgent request, but the team is already working on one, the message could be quickly forgotten about until it is too late. They prioritize and allocate resources based on the criticality of issues, ensuring that the most pressing matters receive immediate attention.
Streamlined issue resolution
Moreover, a support desk reminds the team of all of their pending tasks in one place. Imagine having to trawl through all your messages, emails, and memories of conversations(!!!) to find all the pending tasks- it can cause a lot of headaches, or worse- leave some tasks unnoticed.
It can also track how quickly a team can complete a task and how much time is spent on it; helpful for organisations calculating chargeable time. Without the feature of a support desk, it would be much more difficult to track the time taken to complete tasks.
Finally, support desks create a paper trail of work the support team completes. This helps keep the team accountable and allows for transparency. It is also easy to underestimate just how much is done by the support team, and an inaccurate representation of the volume of work could be given without using a support desk.
In conclusion, the service and support desk plays a pivotal role in the heart of any organisation’s IT infrastructure. It is the frontline that bridges the gap between technology and people, ensuring that technical issues are resolved and operations can run smoothly. Whether you’re an IT professional or a business leader, never underestimate the importance of a robust service and support desk for your organisation.