Focus on Developments in Desktop Support


Desktop support is more than just the “people who repair computers.” Technicians cover a wide range of responsibilities supporting many tasks, including asset management, end-user training, network support, software support, access management, information security, and more.

by Roy Atkinson
December 15, 2016

Desktop support is still trying to overcome the misperception that it consists of “the people who repair computers.” In fact, desktop support covers a wide range of responsibilities and performs a multitude of tasks.

What Is Now Included in Desktop Support

In an effort to discover what desktop support teams are actually doing, members of the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board listed the general areas in which their teams are involved. The list included:

  • Asset management
  • Audio-visual support
  • Mobile support
  • Printer support
  • Hardware (desktops/laptops, etc
  • Phone/telecom support
  • Network support
  • Software support
  • Training and consulting
  • Access (onboarding, moves/adds/changes, separation)
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) management
  • Area support (kiosks, computer labs)
  • Service management (knowledge management, incident management, problem management)
  • Security and auditing

The Responsibilities and Tasks

In asset management, desktop teams can be responsible for not only hardware but also software assets and licensing management. Because desktop support often manages through the hardware lifecycle, the specification, configuration, deployment, maintenance and recovery of laptops, thin clients, increasingly rare desktop computers, and, in many cases, mobile devices falls to this group. Unless there is a separate engineering team, desktop support technicians build and package software installations and monitor systems management tools, which can either be built into the organization’s service management tool or may be a standalone discovery and asset management database tool. The teams are likely to be responsible for “truing up” the assets, including hunting down and recovering computers or other devices that are no longer attached to the network.

Audio visual support includes assisting users who are experiencing difficulty getting conference room projectors, screens, or video conferencing equipment to work and also maintenance of the equipment, such as replacing projector bulbs as needed.

Mobile support includes general assistance with network connectivity as well as troubleshooting.

Although organizations are increasingly outsourcing printer support, where it is not outsourced, the desktop support team is responsible for the installation, configuration, and maintenance of network connected printers.

As Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephones became widespread over the past several years, desktop support often inherited the responsibility of the delivery of new phones, replacement of broken phones, and any required user assistance.

While larger enterprises are likely to have dedicated network teams, in some organizations, desktop teams perform network tasks such as port connectivity and wireless access point (WAP) troubleshooting, ensuring connectivity to the desktops of users.

Focus Point: End-User Training

Although training and consulting would not come to the minds of most when thinking about desktop support, desktop teams may provide some training on new software and hardware and are frequently involved in assisting business units in selecting the best technology for their needs. This points to the increasing business relationship management (BRM) and “trusted advisor” roles desktop support is fulfilling. According to the HDI 2015 Desktop Support Practices & Salary Report, desktop technicians spend about 20 percent of their time performing end-user training.

 

Access management begins when a new hire is brought on board, and it is often a desktop support technician who delivers a new computer to the incoming employee and makes sure that they have access to the resources and software they need. Some desktop support groups may perform large portions of the identity and access management processes for the business.

Where VDI is being used, desktop teams often place and maintain thin clients or other endpoints and might assist in the configuration of the virtual desktop. In some cases, desktop support personnel also manage the virtual desktop environment.

Likewise, desktop teams set up and maintain kiosks, computer labs, and other areas of common access. They might also play a role in the specification and testing of equipment to be used in these areas.

In conjunction with all these responsibilities and tasks, the desktop support technician is expected to provide documentation for knowledge management, to follow the guidance provided by service management frameworks such as ITIL®, and work closely with the service management office (SMO) where one exists. While its role in incident management is self-evident, desktop support is often called upon to assist in root cause analysis for problem management and, as previously stated, has a large role in asset management for hardware and software along with the associated request fulfillment.

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The Increasing Importance of Information Security

When asked which set of responsibilities is adding the most to the desktop support workload these days, managers will most often reply that it is security and all the tasks involved, including increased record keeping and coordination with the information security groups who are primarily responsible for overseeing enterprise security concerns.

Focus Point: Supporting Information Security

Increasingly, desktop support is involved in information security support. From specifying hardware that can handle the load of encryption without substantially slowing users down to ensuring the installation and functioning of endpoint security software clients, desktop is often the “right hand” of the information security office.

Consequences for Hiring

The breadth and depth of these various support areas require a broad skill set, and desktop support organizations say that they are having difficulty finding candidates with the right background, training, and aptitude.

 
Finding Desktop Support

Source: HDI 2015 Desktop Support Practices & Salary Report

 

As reported in research conducted with Robert Half Technology, the needed characteristics for future support staff include both “a passion for supporting customers” and “a desire to continue learning about technologies.” These are certainly true in the current world of desktop support.

Desktop Support at the Deskside

While some of the tasks listed above can be accomplished through remote connection and control of users’ computers, others—such as hardware asset recovery—cannot. Often, tickets are passed to desktop support from the support center when a remote connection fails or when the issue at hand appears to be hardware related. The training and BRM work is most often done at the user’s deskside and in conference rooms, where the technician is expected to have communication skills as well as enough business acumen to understand and advise on appropriate technologies to support the business goals.


Focus Point: Onsite for Deskside Support

To some extent, the roles and responsibilities that fall to desktop support are defined by the group’s ability to move about the building, campus, or territory providing services directly to users at their locations.

Conclusion

Desktop support is still the most common term for the group and/or discipline under discussion here, although organizations may choose to name it differently. In order to break through the persistent myth that desktop support technicians spend their days swapping out motherboards and adding RAM, desktop support directors and managers would do well to find ways to better market their services and make the businesses they serve more aware of the numerous roles their teams fill and the valuable services they provide.


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Roy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. Roy is a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and a former facilitator of the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, as well as cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter. Roy's a certified HDI Support Center Manager, and he studied advanced management strategy at Tulane University’s Freeman Graduate School of Business. Find him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst.


Tag(s): focus series, supportworld, asset management, desktop support, ITIL, mobile device support, security management, technical support, trends, VDI, virtual desktop infrastructure - VDI

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