The world of IT support and the IT service desk has changed significantly in recent years. Not only have IT services, and therefore IT support capabilities, become more important to business operations, the needs and expectations of organizations, including those of employees and third-parties, have also increased. The way that IT services are sourced, delivered, and supported has also changed, with more and more services procured externally when it makes business sense to do so.
It already sounds pretty complicated but let’s not forget the other common challenges that are pressuring IT service desks before looking at the mechanisms for improvement.
10 Common Challenges Faced by IT Service Desks
Your IT service desk will not be alone in feeling the various pressures on IT support – with not only the higher volumes of IT issues and requests but also a need to deliver a “better, faster, and cheaper” service. Something that requires even more consideration and action than the previously-popular mantra for IT service desks to “do more with less.”
Some of the common challenges faced by IT service desks are new, while others are old (and some perhaps significantly older). Some are internal, and some are external. And some require people and process-based change (and not only via ITIL), while others require better-enabling support (and ITSM) technology. Plus, of course, some might require change across all three (of people, process, and technology).
Not all IT service desks will be affected by all the common challenges, but you might recognize some of the following ten examples:
- Needing to deal with higher volumes of issues and requests with continued budget limitations
- Rising employee and stakeholder expectations of service delivery and support
- Greater business and IT complexity, including providing support for the changing technology landscape and the nuances of enterprise service management needs (including tooling).
- Needing to work together better in delivering services and support – with both internal and external parties – including managing third-party service delivery and support performance in service integration and management (SIAM) scenarios.
- ITSM tool suitability across a variety of modern ITSM and enterprise service management needs, including consumer-grade self-service portals and service catalogs that present available services based on entitlement.
- Staff recruitment and retention, plus upskilling and reskilling, issues
- Getting service management “basics” such as self-service and knowledge management right
- Unsuitable performance measures – with decade-old metrics potentially out of line with modern business and employee expectations
- The need to deliver and demonstrate value and better business outcomes
- Using support technology to best advantage, including new capabilities offered by artificial intelligence (AI).
These ten challenges will also be applicable in enterprise service management scenarios and in addressing them, and other common service and support challenges, there’s a need to identify and progress a number of opportunities to improve:
- There’s a need to “work smarter, not harder”
- Working together for better IT and business outcomes
- Working optimally through better metrics.
These are explained below.
1. There’s a Need to “Work Smarter, Not Harder” on the IT Service Desk
With much-higher workloads, plus a need to both understand and work within more-complex and more-complicated organizational and service-delivery structures, service desk practices and the enabling technology needs to be focused on making life simpler and easier for everyone involved while still delivering better outcomes.
This necessary improvement can be viewed through a number of different lenses:
- Improving things for people
- Getting maximum benefit from the employed technology
- Optimizing workflows and exploiting automation.
2. Working Together for Better IT and Business Outcomes
While some might think that IT is all about technology, particularly as more automation is used to speed up processes and deliver better outcomes, the reality is that IT is powered by people. And, most importantly, people working together with common goals. The same is true for other business functions too.
This collaboration is important to service desk success on a number of fronts, and it’s improved by two things in particular (in addition to better processes and technology use, although there are of course overlaps):
- Better knowledge sharing
- Working better across team and organizational boundaries.
Again, if you want to read more on both of these, I’ve provided more detail in this free-to-download paper.
3. Working Optimally Through Better IT Service Desk Metrics
While the previous ways to improve the service desk are all important in their own way, there’s also an overarching need to address – that of the suitability and quality of your service desk metrics.
From one perspective – usually, the service-provider perspective – the metrics might appear great, because they’re a series of performance targets that are consistently being met, with a big tick in the performance checkbox. However, they might be doing your service desk more harm than good – masking the real level of performance relative to the evolving needs of the organization and its employees.
The bottom line here is whether the employed metrics are really fit for purpose in gauging whether your service desk is truly meeting the changing business expectations relative to operational performance, outcomes, and improvement. If it’s not, which is likely given the common metrics mistakes, then your service desk runs the risk of succumbing to the (untrue) management metaphor of the frog that’s slowly boiled alive, with it unable to sense and react to the incremental, but perilous, change it finds itself in.
Again, if you want to read more on this, I’ve provided more detail in this free-to-download paper. The paper covers a lot of ground in sharing five ways to significantly improve your IT service desk and wider enterprise service management operations:
- Assessing the fitness of your current ITSM tool in supporting the common service desk challenges and avoiding the common tool failures.
- Optimizing and automating, especially optimizing through automation.
- Taking the steps needed to improve your knowledge sharing capabilities.
- Creating an operational model that allows different service providers to easily work together in meeting the needs of your employees or customers.
- Accurately measuring end-to-end performance and outcomes through fit-for-purpose metrics.
Please download the paper to find out more (sign up needed).
Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.
Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.