How ITIL Can Assist the Help Desk
It might seem strange, seeking to apply a framework of best practices to a job role that might involve explaining the reason an end-user’s keyboard isn’t working is because it’s not plugged in. But according to the architects of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), it can be done.
The ITIL is a framework of best practices designed to elevate the level of quality of IT services. It was developed in the 1980s and widely adopted in the mid-1990s, which in turn led to the development of the IT Service Management (ITSM) discipline. Within ITSM, a Service Desk framework was developed.
Within this framework, the Service Desk is defined as a single point of contact to meet the needs of both the customers and staff of an IT provider. In other words, it’s a help desk, but one that integrates other functions. These include providing a focal point for reporting incidents and for users making service requests, with better-defined parameters and intentions.
The Service Desk, as defined by ITIL, also performs proactive functions such as informing all users of relevant service events, actions and service of changes that are likely to affect them. If any service-level agreements exist in a service contract offered by an IT provider, the Service Desk manages service at a level in accordance with those agreements.
ITIL defines common Service Desk functions as receiving calls and e-mails, recording and tracking incidents and complaints, keeping customers and staff informed of the status of requests, making an initial assessment of requests and attempting to resolve them or refer them to someone who can, monitoring and procedures relative to any set service level agreements, performing communication activities related to service events, reporting to management, etc.
This model departs from a standard help desk in making the function of this job role more empowered and less in line with the stereotype of a help desk attendant under siege by an unseen contingent of Neo-Luddites.
Further, applying such a level of discipline to the Service Desk function likely will lead to cost reductions for a company, as internal and external support improves and support services are clearly defined and aligned with business needs. And by integrating multiple functions in one job role, IT providers can avoid major losses in time spent on looking for ways to fix issues and get help.
But to implement a successful Service Desk, it’s important that certain things be made clear from the outset.
· A business’ needs and customers’ requirements must be understood.
· An investment must be made in training both the Service Desk staff and the customer base.
· Service objectives and goals must be clearly defined and service levels must be practical, agreed-upon and regularly reviewed.
In the current climate of increasing offshoring of computer service and support, as well as government regulations affecting the IT sector more and more, the evolution of the help desk to ITIL’s Service Desk might prove to be a much-needed and important change.
With this shift, the job role of help desk attendant potentially could move from being an entry-level position to being a central trafficker of information within organizations.