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3 Reasons to Consolidate Your Higher Ed Service Desks

Posted by on May 01, 2019

3 Reasons to Consolidate Your Higher Ed Service Desks

When struggling with disparate service desks and ultra-diverse customer groups, higher education may perhaps suffer the most out of any other industry. Think about all the different user types—faculty, administration, staff, and students—and all the different services and support they require. It’s hard to imagine a streamlined approach for service this broad of a customer base. So it begs the question: Is it possible for your IT team to unify IT support under a single service desk offering?  And more importantly, why should you?

Jarod Greene, a leader in the IT service management (ITSM) field, shared his view on this topic within an itSMF USA Higher Education Special Interest Group webinar, Best Practices for IT Service Desk Consolidation.

Greene describes the overall notion of consolidation as “being the same, even when you can’t be together.” What he means to say is that regardless of whether you have multiple service desks or one centralized service desk, your department needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet and utilizing the same workflows, processes, and standard protocols to maximize efficiencies, optimize costs, and achieve a single source of truth for your data.

So, what do you do if decentralization is simply unavoidable? To improve efficiency when you absolutely must be decentralized, your focus should be on developing standardization, as if you operated using a single point of contact model. With this, customers can receive a consistent experience, regardless of the issue or request they have.

If decentralization isn’t mandatory, a consolidated service desk can enable you to efficiently store and share knowledge, allowing you to scale and optimize processes, and to mature your IT organization. The days of "knowledge hoarding" go away, leaving long-lasting benefits. As TJ Martinez, Director of Customer Support for Core InfoTech at the University of New Mexico, puts it: "Knowledge is power but only when it’s shared. If you hold knowledge, then it is not power."

In addition, a consolidated service desk enables you to better manage and allocate resources and personnel. Staff members across separate service desks might believe their expertise and specific services cannot be efficiently learned and provided by anyone in the IT organization. According to Greene, these learning curves are often illusory, and the subsequent structural errors can result in costlier calls and wasted resources.

Furthermore, a consolidated IT service desk makes it easy to track performance. In a decentralized service desk model, data must be collected (sometimes manually) from the separate databases and arranged by its overall priority and value, yielding a fragmented picture on performance. With a consolidated service desk model, you’ll have a single source of truth from which 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 is introduced to address a wider range of issue types

Customer satisfaction increases as:

  • A common user experience is developed
  • A one-stop shop is formed
  • Data quality to inform improvements is collected and leverage

If you’re convinced about and want to explore how to actually implement a consolidated service desk, here are the approaches you need to take:

  • Centralize knowledge and enforce leverage
  • Assign areas of expertise to balance the workload
  • Develop standard, best practices
  • Foster customer trust—the sooner this happens, the easier it is to get buy-in
  • Understand location and culturally based differences
  • Repurpose local staff
  • Show the value of the consolidated service desk

What about barriers to entry? As with any change, there must be at least one or two challenges you will encounter. Here are the most common:

  • Different local SLAs and different expectations, different maturity levels
  • Fear of loss around Tier 1 or top-regarded service desk
  • Creating a single point of contact for users
  • Developing an integrated front-end for ticketing, self-service, and Knowledge Management
  • Not acknowledging the impact of change during consolidation
  • Customer adoption of new service desk experience and protocols

No matter how you do it, the change from disparate service desks to a consolidated system requires trust and understanding. As the instigator of this change, it’s your responsibility to you research the different cultural and location-based needs of each group you service. Once you understand this, you can create a single point of contact view for each user group, allowing them to reach out on their terms, but still in the context of your IT organization’s single, consolidated face. Furthermore, fostering a spirit of sharing—resources and knowledge—amongst your department will help build trust, efficiency, visibility, and overall, a smarter and better IT service.

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