Whyhelpdesks need alternatives to the telephone



Lee Chadwick

Opinion

If during a normal working day the MD walked into the support office and said that ringing telephones were a...



Lee Chadwick

Opinion

If during a normal working day the MD walked into the support office and said that ringing telephones were a thing of the past there would be a cascade of different looks and hushed comments.

About 30% of a helpdesk's time is spent on low productivity work such as taking 'chase' calls, rather than high productivity work such as call resolution, hence the need to look at alternative "entry points" for users to log calls.

The telephone as a call logging device is already losing points in the popularity polls. As communications and technology have advanced, alternative portals into the helpdesk have become more available. The phone call is simply "dead money".

So let's turn to the question of replacement. The modern helpdesk should offer a range of entry points that provide easy access and even self-help functionality, thus providing the user with easier access to solutions, freeing up agents to focus on more important issues.

Organisations can now offer e-mail and Internet-based access to the helpdesk. Both of which provide users with an ability to explain in detail the facts about their particular problem and both of which allow users to log calls, track outstanding issues or even resolve their own issues.

The fact that these other points of entry will allow the user to get a better support service without leaving their desk, or when a phone call is inconvenient, should ease the impact of the change.

And so to the other end of the call management process - call resolution. Remote control functionality has reduced the distance between user and agent. Agents can also stay at their desks, no longer needing to visit the desktop to resolve every issue. By remotely controlling the user's PC the agent can not only discover the problem more quickly and in more detail, they can also resolve the problem in many cases.

Remote control also enables the agent to get a greater understanding of the problem. IT calls on the telephone are based on the user's perception of the problem - often unreliable.

The helpdesk is no longer a reactive problem-management department. With the correct IT infrastructure to manage, the helpdesk is a proactive problem-avoidance department, able to predict where issues are developing and instigate a resolution to minimise impact to the organisation. It is at this point that the change management aspects of today's helpdesks come into play. Let us imagine that the best resolution to this problem is to upgrade a router. That's no easy job, and without careful management it could bring the business to a halt.

Viewed from a process point of view, with each individual element of the job identified, assigned and planned, the task is far easier to complete. And, once the changes are made, it is the inventory management functionality of the helpdesk that comes into play. Every piece of kit and every piece of software, and its associated configuration information, is stored in the helpdesk. The helpdesk recognises the desired state of the organisation and can identify where changes are made. This monitoring of assets has a major impact on software usage too.

The work of organisations such as the Federation Against Software Theft in reducing the use of illegally licensed software has lead more conscientious companies to overspend on software. Such wasted money can easily be avoided if companies only invest in the software they need.

The vision for the helpdesk takes call avoidance, remote control, inventory management, change management and so on and packages it all up into a complete IT Service Management (ITSM) solution that runs the IT organisation based on a 'known good state'. Using user preferences and individual requirements, this is the perfect configuration for the organisation. The ITSM solution continually ensures this state is retained.

Technology of this nature can often be cumbersome and borne from multiple products that have been combined under a single marketing slogan. This can lead to considerable time and implementation issues in the pursuit of the perfect ITSM solution. Royalblue has built a product with wide ranging functionality. This ensures solutions can be implemented far quicker and a return on investment realised in the shortest possible timescales.

Lee Chadwick is UK sales director at royalblue

This was last published in September 2000

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