Having an external perspective is valuable, and even essential, for an organization to establish improvement ideas. That ability to ”see the wood for the trees” coupled with knowledge of the broader world outside your organization can be helpful. That’s why consultants are often worth the money: to deliver that outside world view and help an organization adopt approaches that have proven to be helpful to others. This is often referred to as following best practice, and getting external help to do so – a traditional IT service management (ITSM) approach taken by many CIOs and IT managers.
But there is another, often equally important, perspective (aside from the wider world view) that an organization should be aware of in pursuit of continual improvement. And that’s the perception based around familiarity, local knowledge, and shared experience, which is available to companies that want them. These are far cheaper than the external consultant path, and will complement and refine best practice approaches.
The most powerful concentration of useful knowledge and awareness in many organizations resides right inside their help desk – especially true if that help desk is internal and local to the user community.
Collecting and analyzing data is an important and valuable exercise. At the heart of good problem management is working with the collected incident data, seeking trends and patterns, and initiating corrective or, better yet, preventative actions. Don’t stop doing that, but remember also that users are people, and the heart of the help desk role is people-to-people communication. So… along with looking at the cold, hard statistics, it makes good sense to collect information on how your users actually feel about the services you deliver, the things you get right, and the things you get wrong. In fact, what exactly do they see as right and wrong? Their ideas may not line up with yours.
A good help desk offers IT management a quick, simple, and reliable route towards understanding how their users actually feel about the services delivered. But how often do those IT managers do the simple and obvious thing: go and talk to the help desk staff. So much can be gained from opening channels of conversation, no need for anything too formal, just go and talk to them, maybe over coffee or even a beer?
In fact, talking with front line staff is, and always has been, a good plan for most organizations. As mentioned earlier, this shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to formal analysis but as a human-oriented complement to statistical and factual analysis.
A whole range of subtler nuances are available from ongoing dialogues with help desk staff, and even more from sitting down and watching them in action. For example, here are some things that might be learned/discovered:
Of course, the help desk people are not the only staff a manager could usefully spend time with. Second and third line support personnel have their own tales to tell, as do service level managers. In fact, just about every one of them offers information and early warning signs about possible future issues.
Therefore, don’t just rely on measurements and numbers – remember that service is about people, so take the time to talk to those people who are out there delivering those services on your behalf.