How to Align IT Service Desk and Service Management Strategies

January 9, 2015

Moving to an IT service desk support model is a complex journey with many decisions to make along the way that will affect the success of your implementation.

Service Desk

Modern technologies such as virtualization and cloud services promise improved business agility, financial savings and better performance. The benefits are outstanding, but these same technologies place new demands on IT. The most common pitfall facing IT organizations when introducing these technologies is the lack of properly aligned service desk and service management strategies.

Support teams often find themselves in a perpetual state of reaction as IT organizations address application issues, service outages and help desk requests. The natural reaction in this situation is to expend significant capital and human resources to manage the volume. While implemented with good intentions, support efforts become disconnected and reactionary, often resulting in employee confusion, higher incident rates, lost productivity and longer mean time to restore.

Service desk defined

The term “service desk” emerged as part of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library standards. Early adoptions of service desks tended to represent a simple change in name from “help desk” to “service desk” without understanding the functions, practices and disciplines that differentiate the two entities. While both groups are focused on resolving IT service issues, a help desk takes a more tactical, transactional approach, so consequently the ownership and responsibility terminate once the issue is resolved. A service desk reaches beyond a single incident and extends the service operations model by providing strategic support centered around reducing management costs by effectively coupling technology to resources, aligning IT with business units and focusing on customer retention and satisfaction. A service desk is an ITIL function, not a process, and it embodies a mindset of providing superior service that leverages the ITIL service management framework.

Service desk solutions

Today, customers are looking for ways to change their IT support organization from operating in a disconnected and reactionary mode to enabling tightly integrated operations that establish a proactive, customer-centric approach. A properly designed and implemented service desk will decrease costs while increasing service levels and customer satisfaction. A good service desk design focuses on each customer’s individual requirements and recommends specific service desk designs that are built on timetested and proven ITIL best practices.

The ITIL framework is flexible and allows organizations to implement only the components that are appropriate for their environment and operational maturity. While the guidelines are malleable, there are foundational elements that are essential for all service desks. For example, a well designed service desk provides customers a single point of contact, utilizes a service catalog, incorporates a knowledgebase, applies critical success factors, measures actual to targeted performance, utilizes customer satisfaction surveys and incorporates continual service improvement plans.

Service desk methodology

A “one-size-fits-all” mentality does not work and each service desk solution must be tailored to meet the client’s specific requirements throughout the entire process so that the customer owns the outcome. It requires experienced engineers to properly design, implement and manage the process.

Gap discovery and strategy

The first step toward service desk transformation is to assess the existing support model by discovering, analyzing and understanding the operational capability of current service desk functions. This is a crucial step in determining the gaps and developing the strategy for aligning those functions with business objectives.

Current service desk operations are evaluated by assessing the people, process and technology, which make up the bulk of IT operations and support all functional areas. The combined capabilities of each respective area define the organization’s ability to deliver IT services to the business. Once identified, the current capability becomes the starting point from which the strategy and roadmap for service desk operations can be created.

Design

To get the most from your service desk requires careful planning and design. The architecture of the service desk should be based on requirements that are derived from use cases within the business environment. The more use cases that are discovered and factored into the base design, the more an organization can realize value from the start. Any design must consider all base elements — people, process and technology — or risk the probability of a false-start deployment and failed project.

Use cases are discovered and applied to the design collaboratively with the customer. Only the customer can identify specific activities, process flows, roles and responsibilities that are most appropriate for their environment. To get a system that is right for you, work with your provider to identify best practices so that you can collaboratively develop a design that provides the right amount of utility deployed against a timeline most appropriate for you.

Implement and transition

The implementation of the service desk takes the architecture blueprints and changes the design concept into a production operation. Some customers will migrate their service workflows to the new service desk in the initial deployment, while others will stage their workflow implementations over time. We help the customer identify a transition and adoption plan that considers the unique dynamics of each environment. While the service desk workflows document how service requests or actions are handled, the service desk as a function of IT must be governed by processes with defined roles and responsibilities.

The last step in the process is to transition the implementation to the customer. It is during this final step where the emphasis is on customer training so that the IT organization has the appropriate skills and comfort to autonomously operate their environment.

Getting started with service desk solutions

Moving to an IT service desk support model is a complex journey with many decisions to make along the way that will affect the success of your implementation. It requires robust program definition and management, as well as participation from technical and business leaders throughout your organization who are committed to the outcome. From information gathering to implementation, nPivot has the methodology and frameworks to change service desk operations to provide well-defined and wellexecuted customer-centric support.