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14 July 2016

Moving away from the traditional service desk

For years we have been supported (locally) by service desks with a variety of expertise, ranging from HRM to IT.  Interestingly, the  digital revolution certainly doesn’t appear to be passing them by. New solutions, like self-service forms – and the associated efficiency benefits – may have a major influence on the viability of the ‘traditional’ service desk. So what exactly are their future prospects?

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Many organisations use service desks, for instance for IT support, but it’s not always possible for smaller companies to employ or engage a specialist for every problem. The associated costs would simply be too high.

The discipline-transcending service-desk

It’s precisely when luxuries are not available that creativity comes into play. A service desk that brings together a whole range of disciplines is certainly a good option with a view to efficiency. One central place, where one team operates to handle all workplace  questions.. It sounds simple, but to what degree are organisations ready for this? After all, Facility Management, IT and HR are entirely different worlds. 

Service-desk new style

At the same time wider knowledge would be expected from the staff in this new-style service desk, because they no longer only receive questions about their own specialisations. So there are certainly plenty of hurdles. Yet I discern a trend in organisations towards one central service desk. I think the key lies with self-service forms. Question-driven forms based on a questionnaire can absorb a large share of the queries. By incorporating a so-called question tree in a self-service form, the required follow-up steps can be determined automatically.

An example: the coffee machine in the office is on the blink. Using a smartphone to scan a special QR code affixed to the device gives the employee access to a self-service form. A questionnaire appears, and the answers generate a number of solutions for the employee. If these suggestions don’t apply,  however, a work order is then sent immediately to a caterer or technician, including supplementary information about the problem.

In the ‘old’ system such issues ended up at the service desk, which then had to call a technician. Now this step is skipped through the use of dynamic forms. I recently hosted a knowledge session for several universities. They estimated that using such forms would absorb 70 per cent of the queries from the workplace, without needing any intervention from the service desk.

The changing role of the service desk assistant

This will also change the role of service desk staff. As much of the work will be taken over by the self-service forms, they can focus on issues which do require client contact.  So they will only end up with the very specific queries to deal with. This will raise the service desk’s knowledge level. Alongside handling specialist questions, maintaining and enriching a knowledge base will become an important part of the role of the ‘new’ service desk assistant. It must be kept both current and complete. Then the assistant doesn’t need specific knowledge of all the aspects of the service-desk, while at the same time the organisation can economise on the numbers of FTEs, because it no longer needs a whole range of different specialists. 

Although this could be a splendid solution for smaller organisations over the shorter term, I don’t exclude the idea that players in the middle segment could soon follow. As why would you keep spending money if there’s no longer a need to do so?

Vincent Henricks
Product Manager Integrated Services Management