I just wrote a post about IT Team Basics where I highlight the I.T. Service Desk in an illustration and that got me to thinking about all the challenges non-profits face when it comes to organizing service desk requests.
Here’s the scenario. You are a growing non-profit organization and you find that your growing demand on technology to achieve organizational goals is resulting in an overwhelming number of requests for technology services and support. You downloaded and installed Spiceworks or purchased another helpdesk management system, but you still don’t know where to begin. Most people make one of two mistakes:
1. They overcomplicate the process by trying to track too much to fast and they gain little organizational or productivity value for their efforts.
2. They do nothing or wait too long to do anything. This results in a loss of productivity and organizational trust.
This post offers a couple tips to help growing organizations begin to organize their service requests and enhance their ability to provide excellent I.T. service.
TIP 1 – Be mindful that the true strategic value of Service Desk Categorization is to Senior Strategic Management.
Before I dig into this recommendation, I feel the need to confess a little secret. Engineers and Technicians don’t like doing paper work. At least I have not met a hands on practitioner who likes working with helpdesk/service desk systems. Most technologists have an overwhelming amount of work to do. The service desk/helpdesk system is just a futile reminder to them of everything they won’t get done that day. With this in mind, It is critical to be mindful of the supreme value that is provided by service desk systems. Sure these systems offer knowledge-base benefits and they are necessary for continuous improvement and operational continuity. However, the highest value of a service request management system is to senior management. I.T. can be a tremendous catalyst, but it can also present great risk to an organization. Understanding the nature of service requests, and technical incidents can be extremely helpful to corporate leaders as they strive to manage costs and maximize productivity. Back in the day, if someone lost access to a computer it didn’t necessarily impact their productivity. Today in the post knowledge worker, connected, mobile world we live in, losing access to technology for a day often means a loss of most of our productivity for a day. I am not saying that this is right. I am just making an observation. Furthermore, technology is expensive, understanding the nature of requests and incidents can help senior management align and focus resources.
In addition to helping senior business managers make strategic decisions about technology spending, Accurate service desk statistics can also help I.T. executives gain needed resources. Nothing cuts through the drama of overwhelming I.T. demand better than objective facts and data.
TIP 2 – Start Simple, Keep it Simple
Don’t go crazy trying to come up with an exhaustive list of categories to track service requests up front. If you have a list no problem, just remember the more complex your service ticket taxonomy is, the harder time you are going to have getting I.T. staff to remember and enter accurate information. The shorter, more concise the list is the better. A shorter, concise list of categories is easier to manage and more useful for reports. I believe that the rest of the metadata information required to organize service desk data can be provided through leveraging tag methodologies and modern search engine technology. In short, categories should be tied directly to structured reports that help you make strategic decisions about technology in your organization. So, if you don’t already have a short list, I recommend starting with only two service desk item categories: Service Requests, and Incidents.
Any seasoned I.T. manager will know that more categories will eventually be required in order to produce useful reports. Nevertheless, many I.T. shops get so caught up in the process of categorization that they miss the value of even these simplest categories and critical information like incident and service demand trends get missed. It is after you start tracking these high level trends that useful questions about these trends start to take shape (e.g. Why are incidents going up or down, What is causing increases or decreases in Service Requests.).
Another reason why I like starting specifically with the two categories of Service Requests and Incidents is because there are standardized, objective definitions of these categories that are widely accepted in the I.T. management industry.
TIP 3 – Be Consistent.
If is easier to be consistent in your I.T. service desk records if you keep your categories simple and concise. However, whatever taxonomy you decide to implement needs to be managed and applied consistently. This means that everyone on the I.T. team really needs to buy in to the the process. One tactic that has helped me motivate I.T. techs to enter complete records is to make sure that they understand that the facts and data they enter have a direct impact on our teams ability to expand staff and technology resources.