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Welcome to the SysAid Blog - the place to go to find out where the IT industry is going, and what is SysAid’s role in it.

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Posted by on in Service Desk

Self-service at the service desk Q&A

I really enjoyed delivering a webinar with Stephen Mann recently.  The webinar, which was called Real-World Tips for Self-Service Success, attracted a large audience, and generated some great feedback. If you missed the live event then you can still listen to the recording by following the link, and if you want a brief synopsis of what we spoke about, read this blog. If you would prefer to read more about the topic (with or without watching the webinar) then start playing the webinar and click on the Attachments button to access our white paper.

Quite a few attendees typed in questions, and although we didn’t have time to answer all of them during the live event, we have given them some thought. So here are my answers to some of the questions.

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Posted by on in Service Desk

A service desk incident's journey

Everyone knows that incident management is designed to manage the overall life of an incident. Start to finish. Cradle to grave.

But what does that really mean?

The standard, accepted practice is that (most) incidents are started at the service desk – aka "Level 1 support". In fact, the service desk is generally synonymous with incident management ownership. The role of service desk employees includes ensuring timely and effective resolution.

Issues that cannot be fixed at level 1 are escalated to specialty teams, also known as Level 2 (or 3) “resolver” groups. Resolver groups have deep technical experience in a specific technology area (network, servers, application, etc.)

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Posted by on in Service Desk

Service desk customer experience

Sadly, many IT departments don’t see the importance of delivering great customer service to their end users. After all, it’s not as though the end users can leave them for another support provider, right?

Technically this is true, but it’s also wrong… Have you heard of a new-fangled thing called Google? At a recent IT service management (ITSM) conference in London, a great point was made: “No ITSM tool vendor is the leader in providing technology to help solve IT issues. That award goes to Google.” And according to Forrester Research, only 17% of IT issues actually make it to the corporate IT service desk. So where does the other 83% go?

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Posted by on in Service Desk

Service desk tension metrics

Sets of best practices for service management – like ITIL for example – are full of good ideas and good advice, and all that good information is valuable, but sometimes you are able to generate added value by combining two elements of advice from different parts of the guidance.

If you look in ITIL® 2011’s Service Operations book (Chapter 6.3.5), you’ll see a list of relevant metrics about service desk performance. Now go to ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement (CSI) book (Chapter 5.5.2) and you’ll find some words about tension metrics, which are different metrics that effectively compete with each other. Each book has some pretty good stuff on their own, but put them together and you really start getting somewhere!

Metrics, of course, are just things you can measure to give you an idea of how well something is performing. We use metrics every day – for example we might measure a car by how fast it goes or how much fuel it uses to cover 100km. This is, in fact, tension metrics. The faster your car, the more fuel it is likely to use. You might choose to drive slowly to save fuel, or quickly to save time. You won’t be able to do both because the two compete with each other – there is ‘tension’ between them.

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Posted by on in Service Desk

IT Managers Need Vacation

It’s summer time in the Northern hemisphere, and many of us are getting ready for our annual holidays. It’s really great to get away from work for a while, but some people don’t get much relaxation because they are constantly interrupted by emergency calls from work.  There are things you can do to make these calls less likely, and that’s just as important a part of holiday planning as booking the flights and the hotel. If you’re going away tomorrow then it’s probably too late to do these things now, but you could get started as soon as you get back, so that next year’s holiday will be more restful.

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Posted by on in Service Desk

Service desk myths

TV programs such as The IT Crowd and the Dilbert comic strips convey IT teams and service desks in a comical yet often negative manner. They are very funny, I know I laugh at them, but they are funny mainly because they are based on truths – truths that have been with IT and the service desk for far too long. Sadly, I’m sure that many people resist calling service desks based on the assumption that what they've seen and read is correct. 

However, the humor is often based on generalizations or snapshots from a previous time in the history of the corporate IT organization. Many IT organizations have moved on from the 1990s and I’d like to think that most service desks definitely have. So in this blog, I’d like to challenge some of these IT assumptions and help you to bust some typical service desk myths...

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Posted by on in Service Desk

self-service-webinar-blog.jpg

Many IT organizations see employee self-service as a ‘knight in shining armor’, ready to solve all their service desk issues in one quick project.

However, for many organizations, their investment in self-service often results in a white elephant rather than a white knight, i.e. it’s a possession that is useless or troublesome and which soaks up money and other resources without delivering much return on the investment. A self-service white elephant typically has low rates of adoption and utilization – often due to an overemphasis on the technology.

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Posted by on in ITIL

ITSM Basics: A Simple Introduction to Problem Management

If you regularly read my blog you’ll know that I’ve already written a fair bit on the tough nut to crack that is problem management. It’s often something that’s started as part of the latest IT service management (ITSM) tool implementation project, but it’s not unusual for this initial investment in problem management (processes) to fail in execution due to one or more reasons.

From a problem management uptake perspective, if you believe what the annual industry surveys report, roughlytwo-thirds of IT organizations are already “doing” problem management. But it’s not always what it should be, i.e. the investment of time and resources to proactively investigate and address recurring IT and business issues, and their root causes. It’s this type of investigation that helps to identify the issues that cause (or may ultimately cause) repetitive and potentially serious IT and business issues or failures. Instead, IT organizations are often just doing major incident reviews, using problem management techniques, as and when needed. It’s problem management of sorts but not truly effective problem management.

In reality, problem management is often somewhat of the “poor relative” to service desk and incident management activities. Whereas service desk and incident management are commonly receiving adequate investment in terms of staff, definition, training, and ongoing operation, problem management, on the other hand, is often “something to be done later” and therefore often not done at all.

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Posted by on in ITIL

Improve availability of an IT service

I was recently involved in a discussion about IT services and how to deliver acceptable levels of availability. This discussion was triggered by a failure of the London air traffic control (ATC) system on 12 December 2014, but the ideas apply to any system, not just safety critical services like air traffic control.

Although the ATC failure did not last long, the impact was enormous, as many flights were diverted, resulting in lots of aircraft being in the wrong place. Airline schedules took a full day to get back to normal, many passengers were stranded, and there was a lot of disruption to travel plans.

There are two ways to improve the availability of an IT service.  One is to reduce the frequency of failure.  The other is to reduce the time needed to recover from it. The ATC system is a safety critical service.  Failure is unacceptable, since it will result in deaths and injuries, and this is why planes had to be grounded. Some of my colleagues argued that since failure of the ATC system is unacceptable, it should have been designed to prevent any possible failure; fast recovery would not have helped as planes would still have been grounded. I, however, argued that in the real world we can never prevent every possible failure, so reduced recovery time will always be essential.

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Posted by on in Service Desk

Service desks in academic institutions

Georgetown University Law Center is home to high-profile professors who have served for the U.S. Supreme Court as well as graduate students streaming in from 67 countries. Situated just a few blocks from DC's Capitol Hill, Georgetown Law is a bustling hub for law-making and academia. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask the university’s Tier 3 Senior Technician, Dustin Nigro, about his insights into managing the service desk for a prominent educational institution.

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