Out of all the industries, higher education may perhaps suffer the most from disparate service desks and diverse types of customers. Think of faculty, administration, staff and students and all the different services they require and the support they expect. Is it possible to bring all IT support into a single service desk offering, and more importantly, why should you?
Cherwell Software’s Jarod Greene recently shared his view on this topic within an itSMF USA Higher Education Special Interest Group webinar, Best Practices for IT Service Desk Consolidation.
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Jarod describes the overall notion of consolidation as “being the same, even when you can’t be together.” This means that regardless of whether you have multiple service desks or one centralized service desk, you need to all be singing from the same hymn sheet and using the same workflow and processes and standard protocols to gain efficiencies, optimize costs and develop a single source of truth from a data perspective.
When you absolutely must be decentralized, the focus should be on standardization as if there was a single point of contact model. With this, customers can expect a consistent experience regardless of the issue or request they have. In addition, a consolidated service desk enables the efficient storing and sharing of knowledge, which enables scaling, optimization and the growth of the IT organization. The days of ‘knowledge hoarding’ go away, and the benefits are long lasting.
Furthermore, a consolidated IT allows for better allocation of resources and personnel. Many staff members across separate service desks will believe their expertise and services cannot be efficiently taught and distributed throughout the IT organization. According to Greene, these learning curves are often illusory, and the subsequent structural errors result in costlier calls and wasted resources.
In addition, a consolidated service desk will be able to accurately portray its performance. In a decentralized IT service desk model, data must be collected from the separate databases and finagled into its overall priority and value making for a fragmented picture on performance. By consolidating, a single source of truth can be achieved, and performance is real-time and easy to capture and report.
Developing the business case for consolidation revolves around optimizing costs, gaining efficiencies and increasing customer satisfaction.
Costs are optimized as:
- Staff shifting from local to central
- Licenses for multiple IT ticketing tools are pooled
- Tier 1 resources, typically the least costly human resources, are utilized more for common issues
Efficiencies are gained as:
- Common processes and procedures are developed and adopted
- Training is standardized and knowledge is scaled
- Automation can be introduced to address a wider range of issue types
Customer satisfaction increases as a result of:
- The development of a common user experience
- Formation of a one stop-shop
- Better data to analyse the customer experience, for continuous improvement
So, if you’re convinced and want to explore how to actually go forward with consolidation, here are the approaches you need to take:
- Centralize knowledge and enforcing leverage
- Assign areas of expertise to balance the workload
- Foster customer trust—the sooner this happened, the easier it will be to get by-in
- Understand location and cultural based differences
- Repurpose local staff
- Show the value of the consolidated service desk
What about the challenges…there must be challenges. Yes, there are, and here are the most common:
- Different local SLAs and different expectations, different maturity levels, no one wants to lose that Tier 1 or top regarded service desk
- Developing a single point of contact, which is a user challenge
- Developing an integrated front-end for ticketing, self-service and knowledge management
- Reducing the impact of change during consolidation
- Getting service desk customers to change their behaviour
No matter how you do it, the change from disparate service desks to a consolidated system requires trust and understanding. As a change instigator, you should research the different cultural and location based differences. Once you understand this, you can balance each culture with the single point of contact view. This way, you’ll allow them to be themselves in the context of your organization’s single face. Furthermore, you should educate the consolidated desk to build trust. It’s a daunting task, but once you have consolidated the service desks, the shared resources and knowledge will open up new doors to efficiency, visibility, and an overall better IT service.