The mission of the help desk is to help employees by resolving IT problems as quickly as possible. To support help desks in that mission, companies invest in IT Service Management (ITSM) tools for tracking employee requests. These tools, along with other IT tools for connecting to employee endpoints and analyzing endpoint problems, help bring order to the chaos of tracking and responding to high volumes of help desk requests.
In any large organization, though, chaos has a way of creeping back in. In the case of help desk software, chaos often takes the form of agents working with multiple toolsets, rather than a single, standard, unified platform. Some of these toolsets are for tracking requests. Others are for connecting to endpoints and diagnosing problems. Still, others are for capturing help desk knowledge in a knowledgebase.
As companies grow and change, it’s common for help desk toolsets to proliferate. But just because having multiple toolsets is common doesn’t mean it’s a best practice.
To realize the best possible ROI from help desk investments, it’s good to standardize toolsets and adopt a single ITSM platform covering these tasks for the help desk team.
In this post, I explain why toolset standardization is so important. I also discuss some of the ITSM platform features that have become more important now that companies have switched to work from home (WFH) models.
Why standardizing on a single ITSM platform is important for help desk ROI
There are many reasons why a help desk team might end up with multiple toolsets. The duplication could be the result of one company acquiring another. After the M&A deal closed, each company’s help desk team might have decided to continue using the tools they already knew. Or it could be the result of help desk agents being allowed to pick their own tools as a department policy. Eventually, personal preferences, rather than department cohesiveness, rule the day.
Tool duplication could also be an instance of Shadow IT within the IT department itself. Agents might purchase tools that haven’t been screened and provisioned by the IT department because they prefer the unofficial tools to the official ones.
Regardless of how the situation came about, the existence of multiple toolsets is likely causing problems both for help desk teams and the employees they’re trying to help.
The problems with multiple toolsets include the following:
Increased training requirements
To master the tools used by the help desk, agents have to learn multiple products with different interfaces, terminology, and procedures. As a result of this complexity, training lasts longer and costs more. Often, employees end up mastering only some tools, which they come to rely on at the expense of others. Suddenly, they must use a tool they’re not familiar with, and they’re forced to learn on the job, slowing their response to other employees.
Because different agents are using different tools, responses to help desk requests are inconsistent. One agent might resolve a problem one way with product A, while another agent resolves the problem differently with product B. How an employee gets help will depend on which agent picks up the phone or opens the request. The same employee might experience widely different resolutions to the same problem on different occasions, undermining their faith in the help desk’s expertise.
Complicated case escalation
If a level 1 agent using one product escalates an open help desk request to a level 2 agent who prefers using another product, confusion might result. Did the first product collect the information that the second product requires? Will the level 2 agent repeat some of the level 1 agent’s work simply to collect the information needed to resolve the problem with product B? Collaboration on help desk tickets becomes complicated, error-prone, and slow when agents use different tools to perform the same tasks.
Fragmented knowledge bases
When an agent records their process for resolving a problem, that process likely includes steps and data artifacts specific to the toolset set the agent was using. Agents who use other toolsets might have to develop their own solutions to problems and document their own findings separately. Instead of a knowledge base containing a single, official description of a problem, it results in multiple, conflicting descriptions based on the experiences of agents using different toolsets.
Running a help desk with multiple toolsets increases costs. Not only do duplicate tools require duplicate software licenses, but collaboration among agents becomes more difficult, dragging out resolutions to problems and driving up labor costs. Help desk teams are unable to achieve the efficiencies of scale that would be available by standardizing on a single toolset, developing just one set of best practices, and documenting those best practices and other help desk tasks in a single, comprehensive knowledge base.
Slower response times and reduced quality of service
Perhaps the most important reason not to continue operating with multiple toolsets is that the confusion that results from multiple toolsets ultimately makes resolving problems take longer. Inevitably, the employees the help desk is supporting suffer the consequences of this complexity and confusion.
While it’s understandable that help desk organizations might encounter resistance from agents to standardizing toolsets, the best reason to do so goes back to the mission of the organization itself: providing speedy resolution to employee’s’ IT requests.
ITSM requirements for maximizing help desk ROI
Standardizing on a single ITSM platform improves the work of help desk agents. It also helps an organization increase the ROI it receives from its investment in ITSM tools.
To achieve the greatest possible ROI from an ITSM platform, it’s important that the platform address the needs of help desk agents serving a WFH workforce that relies increasingly on cloud applications and services, rather than traditional, on-premises applications.
Here are some features to look for in an ITSM platform to ensure it supports today’s highly distributed, cloud-centric IT environment.
The ITSM platform should enable help desks to work with real-time data from the endpoints (employee devices) being managed. Working with real-time data improves the speed and accuracy of troubleshooting. There’s no mystery about what processes an endpoint was running, how memory was being used, or which versions of which applications were installed on the device. Real-time data puts this valuable information at a help desk agent’s fingertips, so that they can accurately diagnose problems and resolve them as quickly as possible.
Comprehensive coverage of endpoints
The ITSM platform should be able to discover the endpoints being used by employees, including their BYOD devices. Many ITSM vendors promise this capability, but experience shows that most platforms overlook 10-20% of endpoints deployed, leaving help desks blind to any problems on a large number of devices.
Support for automation
With real-time data about the endpoints, it’s easier for help desk agents and other service desk personnel to automate tasks such as software updates. Help desk teams can automate processes, confident that they have accurate information about endpoint configurations.
No VPN required
Today, most organizations have adopted a WFH model that allows many employees to work remotely at least several days a week. With so many employees working on home networks or other Wi-Fi hotspots, it’s important that ITSM platforms be able to monitor endpoints that aren’t on a local LAN. ITSM platforms should be able to connect to these remote endpoints without requiring a slow, cumbersome VPN connection that would only complicate troubleshooting. By connecting to endpoints securely over standard internet connections, a modern ITSM platform ensures that the IT organization can reach and support any endpoint anywhere, anytime.
Support for self-service models
Today many help desks want to “shift left.” That means taking a problem that could be solved only by a level 2 agent and making it solvable by a level 1 agent. It also means taking a problem that previously required a level 1 agent and empowering employees to solve it themselves. A modern ITSM platform makes it easy for help desk teams to set up self-service portals so employees can handle common help desk requests themselves. By enabling employees to perform common tasks such as software updates independently, a modern ITSM platform reduces mean time to resolution (MTTR) and help desk costs. It also frees agents to work on more difficult problems.
Now is the time to standardize and modernize help desk tools
With employees working remotely and more dependent than ever before on technology for doing their jobs, it’s important that help desk teams make the right decisions about toolsets for resolving problems.
By standardizing on a single ITSM platform that connects in real-time to remote users without requiring a VPN, help desks can ensure they’re ready to solve employee IT problems quickly and efficiently, living up to the mission of the help desk itself.