Category Archives: Service Desk

Is your service desk really a help desk in a fish costume?

Fish

Let me start with some honesty. I hate calling call centres. Every time I call I seem to loose a little bit of the will to live especially when they try and all call themselves all manner of different names, my recent favourite was ‘a customer experience agent’, when all I get is passed around, all telling me someone else should be dealing with my call or they will check and give me a call back, if I had a pound every time I was told that. A customer experience centre is still a bad call centre if I still get passed around and nobody really knows what to say or do.

I have just moved house and needed to register with British Gas (UK Gas and Electric utility company), I needed to do four things on the call:

– Give them all the details, name, address, occupation etc
– Set up a direct debit/giro so every month the right amount for the bill would be taken out of my account automatically.
– Register to add points to my nectar card, its a UK points card where I can get money off my supermarket shop
– Register for Hive, an awesome new system where I can control my  heating from my phone/tablet/computer and hive knows when I am coming home and leaving and switches on or off my heating accordingly.

Hmmm, so not too much that could go wrong. Immediately the person who picked up the call and heard what I wanted, paused, stuttered and said she needed to put me through to someone else. Already I am loosing the will, getting a little frustrated that I want to give them money but they are making it so hard, maybe a little harsh, but this has normally how it starts and only gets worse.

Then another lady picked up the phone and she nailed it, names and address…done, direct debit….done, nectar card points…done, hive…errr, never done one of these before, hold while she asked someone how to do it (this is not a problem, it is a new system so I thought I was probably a first), then bang I have an engineer coming out the following week.

Sill with me, wondering what this has to do with fish and ITIL. Well, recently I saw on a forum the title ‘How to change a help desk into a Service Desk’, the person had been tasked with changing a help desk into a service desk because that is what ITIL says and you can’t be ITIL compliant with out it. I thought, that is like calling a call centre agent a customer experience agent, a name doesn’t change a thing, it is what you do to change the perception of the customer that the team has changed.

People should ask How do I change my IT organisation into an ITIL IT organisation?’ rather then changing team names and think you are done.

I have worked in many support environments, all called many different names and some supposedly within an ITIL framework. However, I would say all were a help desk once you took away the nice names. A help desk to me, was and is, a team which takes all the calls about anything, tries to fix anything and if they can not then they have to beg, and plead, with other support teams to help them as there are no support agreements internally to get assistance. If the Help Desk can not get help then they hold onto the ticket and try over a few days to resolve it. The customer thinks the help desk is a little hit and miss, one customer even once said ‘why don’t you just call yourself, desk, instead of help desk.’

How does this differ to a Service Desk? This really is a trick question as if the organisation hasn’t changed to ITIL then the Service Desk is still just a Help Desk with a new name.

Please read my earlier blog posts to get an idea of what ITIL is about  :

https://itilbegood.com/2014/04/07/what-is-itil/

https://itilbegood.com/2014/07/19/service-management-as-a-rugby-game/

If the IT organisation wants to be an ITIL organisation, they should :

Have a catalogue showing the business what services are supported and the service desk knowing how these services are supported.

The services should be backed up with a configuration database, showing how these services are configured. the aim here is to give support engineers access to the latest configuration of the service with all the components to make troubleshooting easier so the service is resumed quickly. This is not an exercise in creating a database and ticking a box, it has to be usable and up-to-date. How the information should be presented should be after speaking to the stakeholder who will use this information. The database is a read and write database not a write database that nobody reads.

OLA’s should be written to show internal IT organisation resolution times for services, what is included and who can be involved in these fix times and how changes to these services should be implemented. If it comes in a 30 page document, ask yourself, if you were the engineer who just got a call saying nobody can access their e-mails, could you:

Would you know where then OLA is held?
How should the support teams escalate the incident?
Find out who should be on a bridge call to help fix it?
Use the configuration database to troubleshoot?
What support agreements with 3rd parties are in place?
What and who should communicate to the business the issue?
If an emergency change or a normal change needs to be implemented, how and who should do this?

All while users are screaming at you to fix it, if you feel you can’t, fix the documentation to make it easier. One suggestion would be to create a share point dashboard from the 30 page OLA document which support engineers can look to for easy reference.

After the OLA is created, SLA’s can be written which the business then knows how long an incident, request or outages should take to complete.

So, now the IT organisation knows :

What services are supported
How the services are configured
How the services are supported

Next, how does the business tell you they want something or something is broken. This is done through requests and incidents. The Service Desk should categorise the requests / incidents and add a priority to them. The priority comes from the OLA. When the service is restored to normal the incident is closed.

https://itilbegood.com/category/in-a-nutshell/

Overview of requests, incidents, problems : https://itilbegood.com/2014/07/28/requests-incidents-problems-and-known-errors-in-a-nutshell/

If an incident can’t be resolved definitively so a work around can only be used or an incident has been closed but the root cause could not be found. Open a problem, this can be worked on by an individual or a team of people to find the root cause and find the fix for the incident.

Though, ITIL is all about constant improvement there should be some sort of incident and problem management to analyse the incidents and problems to see if these can be reduced or done better through additional training or better procedures.

If you want to make a change to the service, a group of people (defined in the OLA) should assess the change in a regular meeting for proposed work, impact, back out plan, timings (is this within a change window defined in the OLA) and if the business needs to be aware, either by the business being in the same change meeting or a business communication, or both. This should minimise the impact to the business for any changes to services.

Finally, make sure there are some reports showing the business how IT is doing and the value provided. Maybe a report showing the number of changes (successful / unsuccessful), incidents (closure rate/time, categories), problems (types, closure rate, resolutions), SLA (within SLA and if not, what steps have been taken to rectify this)

Now the IT organisation knows :

How to log incidents and requests.
How to investigate incidents in more depth.
How to improve / spot trends with the incidents and problems process.
Make changes to services in a controlled way.

Finally, the IT organisation should put in place some method of improvement. Can areas of IT be improved to provide better service or value to the business?

If the IT organisation can provide these support structures to help the Service Desk, without them, the Service Desk is a Help desk still

Remember

Help Desk

Thankyou for reading my post. This is my opportunity to blog about a subject I love but am still learning. These posts are my way of showing how I understand the subject, however, I would encourage you to leave comments, did you agree / disagree with the post? Did I not explain something well enough or incorrectly? Do you want me to blog about another subject within ITIL? All feedback helps me to understand more. Thankyou.

 

 

 

The Service Desk Triangle

I am a big fan of TED talks, one which I came across got me thinking, the one in particular was Dan Pink : The Puzzle of Motivation. https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation

This got me thinking, could you apply some of these ideas to a Service Desk. Could you motivate and engage a Service Desk to make it better in a new way to give a best customer experience. Lets look at what I believe are some qualities of the Service Desk :

  • One of the ways to get your first rung on the ladder in an IT career.
  • Hugely influential to the image of the IT organisation in general.
  • It should be treated as one of the most important teams in IT as this is the link from IT to the business day to day.
  • Should be a feeder team to other IT teams for individuals to move into a more specialised field.
  • Usually consist of individuals with a technical or people orientation.
  • A great way to influence the relationship with the business.
  • IT is all about creativity, looking for new ways to use existing and new technology to solve problems and enhance the services delivered to the business.

As a result of what ITIL and a Service Desk means to me, I came up with ‘The Service Desk Triangle’ which satisfies all these points, encouraging personal growth / knowledge and really try to highlight talent to other teams, making sure the individuals career path continues with the company.

Triangle

 

Documentation

The base layer to the pyramid would be to encourage knowledge sharing and reporting to highlight and fix any knowledge gaps.

This can be as dull as ditchwater but the purpose is to make sure there are no ‘favourites’ in the Service Desk. Everyone should be able to do all the tasks as the team would work to produce documentation detailing all the work instructions. I would suggest in a structured method of a 2×2 grid. e.g.

2x2

the reasoning behind this would be to focus the team on everything in each sector instead of a scatter gun approach e.g :

Hardware:

Hardware Asset database
Printers     – Supplier / Maintenance contracts and contact details
– Re ordering consumables

Software :

Licensing
Install / known issues or errors (maybe already part of a known error database), configurations, rules etc

Key bespoke applications

These would be the programs key to the business e.g. a sales database. The team would focus on documentation which is very detailed and means the team is ready for any incident regarding this.

Updates and Backups

This should details how backups are taken and when, when updates are sent out, what this might affect etc. Building up a picture of how PC’s are updated so if an issues arises due to an update the team are better equipped to diagnose the issue quickly.

This documentation would be reviewed in weekly team meetings, the team suggesting any improvements. All the time working to get to a one definitive document which is followed by the team. Nothing should be in someones head that is not in the documentation.

The other key activity in this level would be reporting. The Service Desk Manager would be looking at reporting and statistics of the team e.g..

Who is picking up the incidents after 10 mins, 20 mins, 30 mins, 1 hours. Are there team members who do not know how to do the more complex calls and are leaving them in the queue, which may mean more training?

Are particular team members picking up particular types of incidents, again, maybe highlighting skills gaps in other team members.

This level is really to make sure all the team members are able to pick and deal with every type of incident and request which comes in. Therefore, when moving onto the next stage, team members can be taken away from there normal day to do activities without a drop in the level of service.

Virtual Networks / Meet the Business

The next level tries to develop the mindsets of technical or people orientated team members within service desk and encouraging development into other teams.

Virtual Network

A Virtual Network gives the service desk staff a safe way to try out new technologies and to test out new and existing working methods. Working on the idea IT is all about creativity, this provides a safe environment to express their creativity in building a network and testing new features. Team members can highlight talents to more senior teams, creating a chance for promotion when the time comes.

Meet the Business

Structured meeting between the service desk and business units to help gain a better understanding how the services provided by the IT organisation are used and if there are any enhancements to be made. Leverages off the relationships already formed through the daily interaction between the business and the service desk.

Ideally, I would like to see the Service Desk team members actually work for one week within each business department. All IT privileges would be revoked, the team member would only have access to the resources the business unit has. This allows the team member to appreciate how IT is used and the limitations. Proactively showing the business the IT department is trying to understand how the software is actually used and any issues or improvements which could be made. After one week the team member would present their findings to the team and any other departments which could provide further assistance to improve the service.

Fedex (taken from the TED talk)

The pinnacle of the Service Desk Triangle, which builds on the knowledge of the previous three sections and allows the Service Desk team members a chance to develop any enhancements or ideas they may of had after completing the previous last three stages, within a 24 hour time frame. The team member can work away from the Service Desk and their day to day work to develop an idea. After which they would need to present their ideas to the rest of the team. Some ideas might not fly but each team member should not be discouraged from trying as other will and this whole structure is trying to find new and better ways of doing things. All the time striving to provide a better, value for money service to the business.

Eg

Are there better ways of doing some of the procedures in level one?
After looking at a functionality on a VM network, could this be used in the production network?
Could a business unit’s spreadsheet be imported into Sharepoint, making it easier to update?

I believe by following this triangle, the service desk becoming much closer to the business and proactively finds ways to improve the service to the business by first hand experience of how the business works with the IT services.

Thankyou for reading my post. This is my opportunity to blog about a subject I love but am still learning. These posts are my way of showing how I understand the subject, however, I would encourage you to leave comments, did you agree / disagree with the post? Did I not explain something well enough or incorrectly? Do you want me to blog about another subject within ITIL? All feedback helps me to understand more. Thankyou.