Is it Time to Re-purpose the IT Service Desk?

Posted by on March 30, 2016


Many of us rely on IT services to get our jobs done. And, when IT services don’t work, it becomes more difficult to complete our work. Do you care about metrics that indicate the service desk is usually good at fixing things? Or, do you just want the service desk to work again?

What do you value more – 1) A good looking, IT-centric support metrics dashboard or 2) stable and reliable IT services? Why is it that IT service management leaders continue to focus more on metrics rather than understand what their business customers value?

Tweet This: Why do ITSM leaders focus on metrics rather than true business success?

In thousands of conversations I've had with ITSM leaders, I've heard the following question over and over again: How do I demonstrate the business value of the IT service desk? It's a smart question. IT teams work hard, particularly in the face of increasing complexity and constrained resources. It can be a challenge to get the CIO and business leaders to recognize that hard work. Operational metrics do an outstanding job of telling this story, but there’s one small problem – they don’t make sense to the business. This is where I have to flip the question around for the ITSM leader I’m speaking with: What does the business value, and how can the IT service desk demonstrate they understand what the business values?

Folks in ITSM, listen closely: if you want the CIO, and ultimately the business, to take notice, you must know what is important to them. You should exploit your problem-solving core competencies to deliver solutions. You must re-examine how you frame the value your team provides and the projects your team gets involved with. You need to think differently and re-purpose your IT service desk. To use an analogy, let’s look at the wonderful relationship I have with my wife of ten years. In order to get her to recognize the “value” I provide, I have to go above and beyond what’s expected. It’s not enough to hand her my pay slip and a completed “honey-do” list. It would be a foolish exercise to hand her a benchmarking report of what other husbands do (or don’t do) to show her how much better I am than other husbands, and it would  be even more foolish to ask for more recognition given this information. It’s understanding what she values (i.e. the little things) that’s important. It’s having the context and insight of her goals for our family, and the subsequent, supporting actions that will hold me in high regard.

It’s similar to my favorite scene from AMC’s “Mad Men”. In Season 4, Peggy is upset with Don because he never says “thank you," to which Don snaps, “That’s what the money is for!” When we hold up operational metrics expecting an 'atta-boy,' it’s likely the business could justifiably snap back the same way. Re-frame your thoughts about metrics. The metrics ITSM teams have traditionally been judged by are outdated; they no longer gauge true service desk value. Service desks should be looking for demanding challenges. They should even be welcomed! If you want to show real value, this is your golden ticket.

Tweet This: If IT wants to show real value, help the business overcome real challenges.

For years, we have been told that first contact resolution (FCR) is the most important measure of IT service desk efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction. However, when you consider 60 percent of what comes to the service desk could be resolved by the user or through automation, high FCR might not be an indicator of a high performing service desk. Your team will be dealing with more complicated or in-depth issues that take longer to fix or implement. IT organizations need to wrap their head around this and become comfortable with it. Your first time fix rate may fall to 10 percent, but you’re dealing with much larger issues. This is a good thing – own it.

Ultimately, performance is how you measure yourself through the lens of the people receiving the services you provide. If you measure yourself through the lens of the business, you’ll be better aligned to the business’ goals and objectives. Here’s the question you ask the business: are we making your job easier through the use of technology?  Yes or no.  If “yes,” we’re doing a great job. What if you walked up to someone who was having an IT problem and had a conversation with them about it and it didn’t matter how long the conversation lasted? This could provide a teaching moment where the service desk can provide, and gain, insight. Service desks never get to this level of granularity as they’re more focused on getting the issue or request resolved and off the phone as quickly as possible, which is only a means to an end. The end being ‘yes, you’re making our jobs easier.’

Tweet This: Value is measured by the consumer of IT services, not the provider.

Here’s a bit of good news. Many elements required to re-purpose your IT service desk may already be in place. ITSM leaders often have a passionate, enthusiastic and innovate group of problem solvers with high technical acumen. To date, a good amount of these people have been marginalized for the pursuit of metrics that would deem the service desk best-in-class, but often lack context of the business goals and objectives. There’s also a wealth of technology enablers in place, particularly as ITSM tools become increasingly mobile and social, which incorporates context and personal analytics into support capabilities. There’s a good amount of enthusiasm from people to make this shift. However, less than 3 percent actually begin to take steps to make the strategic shift that’s required. This shift doesn’t just impact the service desk though. Changing the name of the help desk and moving from the basement to the first floor isn’t enough if you make these changes with the same people, the same process and measure the same metrics. Doing so will only exasperate your business partners, your customers and your team. Don’t do this unless you’re also willing to make the fundamental mind-shift and think differently about the role of the IT service desk as a key business partner. Are you up for the challenge?