The IT world is in the midst of dramatic change. With each passing day, the traditional model for remote support becomes increasingly outdated. Today there are 10 billion mobile devices, 50 percent more applications, an infinite amount of unique configurations, and more distributed workers than ever before. Yet IT departments have fewer resources to support these global users. How will the service desk have to reinvent itself to ensure efficient and continuously improving service delivery? What technical innovations must support teams make to make the transition, to become the Service Desk 2.0?
Anywhere, Anytime, Any Platform
The service desk of the future will operate anywhere, anytime, and on any OS or platform. Support technicians and users alike will no longer have to be tied to a particular locale or technology to connect and deliver fast technical relief.
The workforce already is distributed and mobile. Employees can access company tools and databases from anywhere in the world, using their favorite apps and on their own preferred devices (BYOD). Service desks must turn to 2.0 solutions to keep pace and ensure that their employees and clients are efficient, effective, and happy.
Integrated Tool Sets
Most IT support teams employ specific, separate solutions for remote support, ticketing, and workflow and IT monitoring. But IT is increasingly looking for streamlined, integrated tool sets that bundle these services together for easy access.
Derek Lightfoot is the director of technology for Alliance iCommunications, a full-service contact center serving clients throughout North America. Lightfoot can testify to the added burden caused by using multiple, incompatible tools. “Before we switched to our new solution with its three integrated modules, we were using three different systems to provide remote support, service desk management and monitoring. Coordination and communication were a nightmare,” he says.
Lightfoot’s company recently adopted a unified tool set that included IT monitoring, service desk management, and remote support, and he reports definite advantages. “The integration has enabled us to be more efficient,” he says. Many technical service and support organizations are beginning to demand integrated, affordable solutions as an alternative to multiple single-purpose tools. Let’s take a closer look at three critical support tools and the benefits of integration.
Tool 1: Service Desk
Having an easy-to-use cloud-based application that enhances workflow management is a high priority for IT professionals. These applications let them easily log and track incidents, manage configuration changes and releases, deliver end user self-service, and so much more.
The service desk tool ensures the implementation of clear standard procedures, enhancing the quality of service. It’s important to have a tool that incorporates ITSM and ITIL best practices right into its design, so IT teams can easily and intuitively achieve service excellence.
The expectations of a fast-growing IT team and the need for increased management drove Dave Winstead, director of technology and business development at Registry Partners, Inc., to adopt service desk management as part of an integrated solution. Registry Partners provides operational, research, and educational support services to hospitals and cancer centers in forty states. Winstead says, “We were anticipating dramatic business growth and saw the need for a tool to support and manage a larger help desk staff.” Adding a service desk module to its remote support tool “enabled us to coordinate activities and share information about support incidents and issues across multiple representatives,” Winstead reports.
A good service desk tool will enable IT teams to:
- Easily log, track, and resolve incidents
- Manage configuration changes, releases, and workflows
- Build a knowledge base that enables customer self-service and speeds technician issue resolution
There are important advantages to be gained from combining a service desk tool with remote support and monitoring tools. Instead of wasting time and effort juggling multiple tools, a support professional can launch a remote support session directly from an incident ticket, and session notes and recordings can be saved directly to the ticket; after all, support staffs don’t have the time (or patience) to waste on duplicate data entry. Besides documenting work done, saving session data back to the service desk tool can also facilitate the accumulation and exploitation of information on standard support problems and best practices in issue resolution.
Ideally, whenever an incident is logged, the service desk tool should indicate the occurrence of similar issues in the past and what was done to resolve them. Of course, knowing that an issue pops up repeatedly is a sure sign of an underlying problem that needs root cause analysis and rectification.
Tool 2: Remote Support
IT professionals must be able to resolve technical issues by instantly delivering web-based support to customers and end users on their PCs, Macs, and mobile devices, and to unattended computers and servers. Remote support, of course, has been the service desk’s go-to tool for about a decade now. But in its new role, remote support is no longer restricted to any one OS or platform.
As part of an integrated solution, the technician in a remote support session should be able to initiate a ticket quickly, recording work done and problems resolved, as well as tracking work time or billable hours. In addition to its service desk tool, Registry Partners uses an integrated remote support tool to meet its support challenges. With the hands-on control offered by remote support, Registry Partners’ support team solves problems faster than they ever could by phone. “Ten times faster,” Winstead estimates. “It’s enabled us to cut issue resolution time by at least 80 percent.”
In addition to delivering support to mobile devices and their users, service desks should be capable of providing support from a variety of mobile devices. Just like staff and clients, IT, too, needs to be liberated from the office. Remote support tools must offer mobile apps, so that technicians can easily deliver fast assistance from work, home, or on the go.
The ideal remote support solution needs to:
- Quickly connect to customers’ Macs, PCs, and mobile devices
- Access unattended computers and servers
- Enable technicians to share access to machines and record and transfer sessions
Tool 3: Monitoring
A monitoring tool gives service desks the ability to proactively monitor the entire IT infrastructure, including critical servers and services. It should be simple to deploy and it should help support teams:
- Discover and inventory every device
- Deliver proactive alerts
- Monitor server performance and network usage
Monitoring enables organizations to gain full visibility into their IT systems and engage in proactive identification of issues to ensure maximum uptime. Using an integrated tool set, and through careful monitoring, IT professionals can identify hardware or software problems and either start a remote support session to remedy the issue or log a ticket and put it into the support team’s work schedule.
For the Service Desk 2.0, seamless integration with existing technologies and processes needs to be the rule, not the exception. Tools should be immediately available and processes should be automated (where possible). For example, support request forms and chat should be embedded in business applications so that both internal and external users can initiate support sessions with the click of a mouse.
Let’s Not Forget About Self-Service
Self-service portals and knowledge bases are two essential requirements of the Service Desk 2.0. Not only are they the ideal tool for resolving simple incidents and service requests quickly, they are also the most cost-effective way to provide 24×7 customer support. Readily accessible, documented knowledge eases the demands on support teams by making essential information available both internally (employees, other support team members) and externally (customers). For Registry Partners, Winstead explains, “more than half of our support calls could be answered with a standard email describing a common issue. The knowledge base empowered our employees to solve issues themselves—such as configuring a printer—and cut our workload so we are able to spend more time answering complex questions.”
Other self-help tools, like FAQs, how-to guides, videos, and forums, can further reduce the impact of routine work. To become a Service Desk 2.0, today’s service desks must implement robust self-service resources to facilitate the resolution of repetitive tier-one problems. The Service Desk 2.0 must also promote knowledge sharing. Here again, an integrated tool set can improve the gathering of information and the building of knowledge bases.
Lee Wrall heads Everything Tech, a UK-based managed service provider to small and medium-size firms. Wrall’s preferred remote support tool works with his service desk and monitoring solutions. The remote support tool “records each support session and downloads the recording into the service desk [solution], where it becomes a knowledge base article,” Wrall says. “This process saves training time by making information available to all team members, whether it’s a routine issue, such as how to increase the size of a user’s Exchange mailbox, or a complex two-hour fix. We don’t have to relearn how to do something.”
2013: When the Service Desk Goes 2.0
To meet the challenges facing service desks in 2013 and beyond, technical service and support organizations must embrace mobility and become more efficient by utilizing new technology. Instead of relying on multiple tools for separate support functions, service desks must embrace integrated tool sets that encompass the full spectrum of remote support, incident logging and tracking, and infrastructure monitoring. Imagine the efficiencies to be gained by proactively identifying issues, launching remote support sessions, and creating tickets—all from one easy-to-use interface. Only by evolving into the Service Desk 2.0 can technical service and support organizations keep pace with these changes and remain relevant to their customers and industries.
Elizabeth Cholawsky is vice president and general manager of the IT support line of business at Citrix, a cloud computing company that enables mobile work styles. Under Elizabeth’s leadership, Citrix has grown its share of the global remote support market, maintaining its number-one position, and introduced the first cloud-based, integrated toolset that combines remote support, service desk management, and intelligent IT monitoring. To learn more, visit