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Introducing ITIL®: The Service Desk

Setting Up a Service Desk

In the first article in this series, we introduced practical starting points for implementing ITIL®. If your organization currently relies on a mixture of informal processes and lines of communication to the IT department, it is likely that actual IT service delivery and end-user satisfaction are negatively affected.


Establishing a Service Desk as a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for IT is a logical starting point for any organization looking to bring day-to-day IT activities and requests in view and under control and begin targeted improvements for IT service delivery.  It is important to recall the Service Desk is a function which is responsible for or interfaces with ITIL processes; it is not a process itself.


It is vital to establish with both business and key end users or groups what the objectives and scope of the Service Desk will be. It is also important to decide whether the implementation will occur in discrete phases or in a single project. A phased approach is advisable as it will allow you to apply lessons learned to each successive phase. However, the manner of implementation will ultimately be determined by the size and shape of the organization and the needs of the business. Agreement between business, IT and key user groups on clear objectives and scope of the Service Desk will be critical to the success of implementation.

Structure, Tools, Communication

As the SPOC for IT, the Service Desk handles all IT requests. You can also think of it as the Customer Service department for IT: users contact the Service Desk with a problem or a complaint, and staff must be able to offer empathy in addition to expertise.

In a small organization, this may be a team of a few people during operating hours. In a global organization, there may be teams in several locations fulfilling the Service Desk function 24 hours a day. Regardless of the size of the organization, efficient service requires requests and reports of problems to be filtered and handled based on priority and urgency. Establishing clear priorities with the business is essential. It is equally important that end-users are provided clear lines of communication to the Service Desk.

Common ways for users to contact the Service Desk include web forms, telephone and email. Web forms provide for standard input and allow end-users to indicate an initial priority so that some automated filtering can be applied before the Service Desk staff handle the request.  With even a basic tool, service delivery and perception of IT can be improved. Because a web form is self-service, it saves the Service Desk handling time, and end-users typically report higher satisfaction when empowered to help themselves.

Because telephone and email are free form, Service Desk staff will require extra handling time to input requests on behalf of users. In general, it is best to reserve the telephone for emergencies or if a user’s problem prevents them from using the preferred web form or other approved communication channel.

When setting up the Service Desk, it is also important to proactively make end-users aware of the new, more structured way of working. A simple and effective way to do this is to arrange for short meetings with managers, teams or departments to promote the new Service Desk and to explain changes and the expected benefits. This allows end-users to ask questions, and see and know who the Service Desk staff are. Establishing this relationship can also give the Service Desk staff necessary authority when communicating back to end-users about IT emergencies and planned activities.

In the future articles in this series, we will explore Service Desk activities in greater detail, including Incident Management and Problem Management, and consider interfaces to Change and Configuration Management. We will also look at how a Service Desk can build and benefit from a Knowledge Base and what metrics are useful for measuring improvements.

About this author:

Angel Prusinowski

Angel is a leading ITIL® instructor at Ashford Global IT.

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