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The IT Service Desk – First Aid for End Users!

We all know the number to call in an emergency that requires an urgent police, fire or medical response. Similarly, employees in modern organizations across all industry sectors know the number to dial in the event of an IT Incident or query. In fact, these days the Service Desk phone number is usually the first piece of information that a new staff member commits to memory.

And, as the Service Desk is the first (and often only) point of contact for customers, it’s generally regarded as both a critical ITIL® function and an important ambassador for the IT organization as a whole.

ITIL Best Practice

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library®) is a best practice methodology for delivering quality IT services to the customer. It was originally developed by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (now the Office of Government Commerce) in the 1980s and 1990s and has been reviewed twice since, culminating in ITIL V3. This current version advocates a logical ‘Service Lifecycle’ approach that incorporates Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement.

The Service Desk Function

The IT Service Desk is an ITIL function, which falls under Service Operation. Service Operation is responsible for coordinating and conducting the processes and activities needed to manage services for business end users and customers within agreed service levels. It also manages the technology required to provide and support these services.

A Single Point of Contact

The Service Desk is a ‘Single Point of Contact’ for IT users and typically handles Incidents and Service Requests. Its main goal is to restore normal service (defined in Service Level Agreements) to end users and customers as quickly as possible. The technical capability of a Service Desk is directly reflected in its ability to resolve an Incident or Service Request ‘first-time’, without escalating to 2nd or 3rd level support teams. Yet, it is ‘soft’ skills that are most prized in this highly visible ‘face’ of IT.

Service Desk Types

Service Desks can be implemented in a variety of different ways, according to the specific needs of a business. ITIL recognizes five types of Service Desk:

  • Local Service Desk – located at or near the end users it supports. This works particularly well for organizations that operate from a single site.
  • Centralized Service Desk – installed in a centralized location, yet supports users spread across multiple sites or geographical locations. This is a cost effective solution for organizations with staff in more than one site.
  • Virtual Service Desk – gives the impression of being centralized by harnessing technology such as the Internet. In reality, its staff operates from more than one site or geographical location.
  • Follow the Sun Service Desk – provides a seamless 24/7 service to end users scattered around the world. This setup usually consists of two or more Service Desks located in different continents and is ideal for large, multi-national companies with a global presence.
  • Specialized Service Desk Group – supports a specific IT service or business department.

Many businesses implement a hybrid solution – for example, a Centralized Service Desk to support regular end users combined with a Specialized Service Desk Group dedicated to a particular division of the business (e.g., the Trading Floor of an Investment Bank), which requires more specialized, on-site support.

Service Desk Activities

IT Service Desk personnel manage and own an IT Incident or Service Request from the moment it is logged until its resolution. Their key tasks include:

  • Registering all IT Incidents / Service Requests (often in a centralized tool)
  • Providing first-line investigation and diagnosis in accordance with first-line fix rate targets
  • Resolving Incidents / Service Requests wherever possible
  • Escalating Incidents / Service Requests to 2nd or 3rd level support teams when more technical expertise is required
  • Monitoring and chasing 2nd and 3rd level support teams to ensure Incidents and Service Requests are resolved within SLA
  • Handling end user complaints and escalating where appropriate
  • Keeping end users informed about the progress of their Incident or Service Request
  • Communicating Service Outages / Disruptions
  • Closing resolved Incidents (preferably after end user confirmation)
  • Provision of Management Information

Benefits of an ITIL Aligned Service Desk

The benefits of a well-oiled Service Desk are myriad. Implementing an ITIL-aligned Service Desk dramatically improves both customer perception of and satisfaction with IT. This is achieved through increased accessibility (via a single point of contact) and faster resolution of both Incidents and Service Requests. Service Desks also encourage enhanced teamwork and communication within the IT organization itself, ensuring improved use of IT support resources and better management of the infrastructure, ultimately resulting in increased productivity for the business.


About this author:

Angel Prusinowski

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

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