The IT help desk as a problem fixer
In an ideal world, where nothing went wrong, and all computer users in your organisation were perfect users of perfect software running on perfect hardware, the Help Desk would, I guess, be superfluous.
But that’s not the case, and the cloud isn’t going to solve everything either. So although the help desk has evolved greatly in its automation and efficiency, it still draws on its first primary objective of providing a centralized resource for restarting broken PCs and broken software and helping users for whom the whole computer thing was a bit of a mystery. The concept of self-healing PCs, so popular in the previous decade, never really became reality; if it had, it would have given the help desk a narrower focus on guidance for users. Instead, the help desk is a bit like a good (public?) health system, taking care of any ailment with whatever resource is available to it. Questions arise as to how to charge for it, how to fund it. Should it be via incident-based chargeback at a departmental level? Should you have to pay for simply phoning the helpdesk? Or is it simpler to fund the helpdesk by one universal levy?
The IT help desk role in problem prevention
The help desk can also see itself as ideally placed to act to prevent problems arising in the first place. Through its experience-based insights into the problems of the user community, it can devise educational programs to improve users’ awareness of the IT resources that they use. Improved security awareness, and making the most of some key applications might be examples. Even if the help desk is not seen as having any competency in training (despite the endless examples of showing users what to do and what not to do….), it can still evolve from just solving problems to becoming pro-active in helping maximize the ‘health’ of your IT provision.
Even if you already have a separate IT training function, is the help desk software that you use able to analyze its history of incident records to find common issues, or areas of IT provision that seem particularly prone to problems? Do you make use of that function? Does your training department regularly consult the help desk to help identify training needs?
The IT help desk as instigator of a culture of pro-active IT improvement
And do you then mandate that all users receive training, or do you try to isolate particularly problem-prone groups of users. Then how is it all this training to be paid for, and how is the expense justified as a business case? Just like the politics of healthcare, these are questions that need answering, not ignoring, to get the most out of the IT resource in your organization. The IT help desk can take a lead in identifying the potential value that would accrue from preventing and reducing the flow of incidents, promoting the overall health and performance of IT as a resource, rather than just fixing its problems.