Help desk software – the RoI challenge
With so many excellent choices in the market, it isn’t difficult to choose a good help desk software product. However, choosing a help desk solution that is going to maximize your return on the investment is not so easy. An RoI calculation has two components – the ‘R’ and the ‘I’. In the case of a help desk solution, the ‘I’ element will consist not only of the license and first year’s support and maintenance but also the costs of implementation and training. All these will be readily identifiable. The ‘R’s side of the equation is notoriously more difficult to pin down. Many have been built by help desk vendors looking to leverage their particular blend of features and methodology and are jealously guarded. Some have been made publicly accessible (or at least accessible to members) such as with the outsourcing institute. This model asks for very high level parameters only, and I’m going to guess that its estimate of RoI is drawn from models based on gathered data. This is akin to the way analysts often present findings – “.. for an organization of your size and structure, savings will be typically be generated at $x00,00 per annum”. Other models ask for very detailed information about the average times consumed at each of several stages of issue resolution – such as initial email or phone call, research, follow-up conversation with the user, etc. (Ironically, you are very unlikely to have this data available unless you have already invested in an issue tracking tool with detailed issue progress recording and strong reporting.) If you have the time and discipline, it would be very useful to complete and then compare a set of five or six of these models. It should at least help you build your own understanding of how you see your help desk investment generating return.
Help desk software costs – marginal when compared to analyst costs
One somewhat anomalous factor in all this is how small the capital cost is (or SaaS or rental cost if you’ve gone that route already), when compared with the annual cost of each analyst in the team. With concurrent per seat licensing of around $1,000 quite typical, and (let’s say) just $200 per annum for support and maintenance, the cost of your help desk software investment is marginal compared to the $50,000 – $100,000 fully expensed cost of an analyst. If we believe that the specific functionality and usability of a particular help desk solution can make a difference of just 5% in analyst productivity, and therefore keep a team at 20 strong rather than 21, that’s an annual saving of (conservatively) $50,000. The annual support and maintenance on that 20 seat license might typically be 20 * $200, i.e. $4,000.
This suggests that selecting a help desk solution should be driven 95% on the basis of an in-depth understanding of how it will work for your support team, and with a 5% emphasis on making sure it doesn’t exceed your budget. It’s one the clearest cases I have ever seen for investing in the right tools.