Dos and don'ts to help desk success

Meredith B. Derby, assistant news editor

Management tools can automate help desk processes, but it takes a skilled IT manager to make those tools work to the best of their capabilities. To add to help desk managers' skill sets, searchWindowsManageability asked help desk experts to offer tips for improving product selection, management, and manager-to-user communication.

Do have a clear understanding of short-term needs, said Kris Brittain, software infrastructure research director at Stamford, CT-based Gartner Group. What are the immediate pressures that need to be solved?

Then, do focus on the "strategic discussion," she said. That is, what type of growth will you have? "What tools can help us understand the types of problems we have, and how can we allocate our resources to do proactive management?"

"Don't make it a tool discussion," said Brittain. Tools will solve only 20% of the problem. Address the people and processes involved with the help desk. What are their skill levels and roles? That will help refine the process, she said.

Do talk to users about the service levels they expect and need, said Fred Broussard, senior research analyst at Framingham, MA-based International Data Corp.

Then, do figure out how much you're willing to pay, and research how the products will operate, he said.

Don't take on too much at once, said Kim Byrne, director of business product strategies for Colorado Springs, CO-based FrontRange

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Solutions. A common blunder, she said, is when help desk managers, some without much training, implement built-in applications, such as SLA tracking, too fast.

Do recognize what you need to implement now, not what you want to implement, Byrne said. "Understand the reason for the change and the value you'll get out of the change."

Do help technicians understand their job, Byrne also recommended. This is helpful, so when a problem occurs, their expectations aren't set higher than what they really can solve.

Do realize that it's OK to upgrade after just six months. Often, what organizations need is a quick start and once a product is implemented, upgrading will be beneficial, she said.

Do prepare and plan, said Pete Cole, help desk manager for Chattanooga, TN-based Olan Mills Portrait Studios, who runs Magic Solutions Magic Service Desk. Before he brought Magic live to the company, he used live demos and Web seminars provided by Magic to learn how to best use the product. "Don't bring it up and then learn how to use it," he said.

Finally, do make the decision process a team effort, Cole said. Listen to what the people who will be using the product daily have to say.


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