4 Reasons Why The Helpdesk Is The Least Loved Department At Work

Despite its name, the IT helpdesk is often seen just as much as an impediment to solving problems than an actual solution to them. It is customary for others around the organization to regard IT in general and the helpdesk in particular as departments that deserve plenty of blame when something goes wrong, but they get little credit when things go right. Why is this attitude so widespread?

There are many reasons for the disconnect between the IT helpdesk and the rest of the organization. For starters, IT is something that enterprises increasingly need for competitive advantage, yet the skills associated with it remain exclusive and opaque – IT is sometimes treated as a “dark art,” as Tom Brewster once noted for PC Pro. There are also the everyday annoyances of long ticket wait times and complicated workarounds for common support scenarios.

Of course, a lot of helpdesk problems are rooted in factors beyond IT’s control, such as the company’s ongoing reliance on a legacy WAN and other infrastructure unsuited for reliably supporting real-time or interactive applications like voice, video conferencing and VDI. To improve, the helpdesk needs both a supportive and collaborative culture and a strong technical foundation. Let’s look at four explanations for current dissatisfaction with the helpdesk and how things might be made better:

1) Wait times
If you have ever seen the classic film “Office Space,” you may recall an early scene in which a helpdesk operator tells each caller to wait for “just a moment…” before being transferred. This sequence sums up what often happens when anyone tries to contact a service desk: Small delays add up and aggravate already irritating issues.

Strong WAN connectivity for automated applications can help. Last year, the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii implemented a new ticketing system that automatically handled 20,000 tickets on the spot one month, which would have otherwise taken weeks to sort through in the normal queue. Reducing wait times so dramatically can cultivate good will across the organization.

2) Departmental silos in the organization
The helpdesk and the rest of the operations teams often exists in isolation from developers, testers and everyone else in the company. There is a clear divide here that major movements such as DevOps – a portmanteau of “development” and “operations” – have tried to bridge by encouraging cross-departmental collaboration.

Aligning helpdesk needs and workflows of other offices can help revitalize the firm. The 2015 Puppet Labs State of DevOps report found that high-performing IT organizations recover from setbacks 168 times as quickly as their low-performing counterparts.

“Bringing the helpdesk in line with the needs of other offices can help revitalize the firm.”

Being able to systematically respond to issues, via the helpdesk or other outlets, is a key part of accelerating overall organizational speed. The IT helpdesk should be a central part of modernization strategies, rather than an island where blame is dumped.

3) Irrelevance in bring-your-own-device environments
The rapid growth of bring-your-own-device initiatives in workplaces over the past decade has counterintuitively starved many helpdesks of crucial resources. A few years ago, Gartner analyst Jarod Greene noted that service desk costs as a percentage of total IT spend had been declining by a few fractions of percentage.

The drop may perhaps be due to increased use of mobile device management and the availability of useful information about devices around the Internet. Greene noted a decline in the average number of contacts made by helpdesks in the wake of BYOD adoption, maybe indicating that end-users are more comfortable taking matters into their own hands.

To succeed in BYOD environments, the helpdesk should be trained on the most recent MDM tools and set up to address mobile device issues in particular. With more computing being done on phones and tablets than ever before, having a mobile-centric outlook will be crucial.

4) Inadequate technical infrastructure
As stated in the beginning, the IT helpdesk often takes the heat for problems beyond their control. Just think about some of the most common helpdesk queries and their causes.

Help desk.
The helpdesk often gets an undeserved bad rap.

Forgotten passwords? Often due to the lack of a password management system. Difficulties troubleshooting remote PCs? Perhaps a result of an aging WAN and limited adoption of cloud-based services. Poor VoIP calls? Likely the network can’t fully support latency-sensitive apps.

The helpdesk can only do so much if it has a subpar technical foundation to work with in the first place. Making upgrades, such as increasing network bandwidth and rolling out a SD-WAN, can go a long way in taking pressure off support technicians. A more efficient IT architecture is ideally one with fewer tickets and higher satisfaction rates across the whole organization.

Case study: The Hain Celestial Group
One organization that was able to reverse its helpdesk blues was The Hain Celestial Group, one of the biggest natural and organic products companies in the world. In the past, some of its employees would complain about slow apps and poor quality phone calls that would inhibit their work. This led to their IT department having to field a lot of calls and tickets, but unfortunately there was not much they could do. With up to 50 users for each MPLS T1 line, their connectivity was simply not up to par with end-user demands and expectations.

To address these concerns, Hain Celestial turned to Talari. With SD-WAN now in place, the network is more resilient than ever before. The performance issues that used to plague employees are now firmly a thing of the past, and Hain Celestial was able to reduce expenditures with the move.

“I was working helpdesk tickets like crazy, trying to figure out what was eating up bandwidth. I spent a lot of time analyzing traffic. All that went away when Talari was deployed,” Scott Steinke, Network and Security Engineer at The Hain Celestial Group, said. “It was a major win.” The helpdesk isn’t getting calls because of slow applications, and that has given me a lot more time to deal with my other job — network security.”

Categories: IT Challenges