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ITIL’s 4 Ps Need Another P – Purpose

By | July 23, 2015 in ITIL

ITIL's service desk Ps

The corporate IT service desk gets a lot of criticism. More specifically, service desk agents get a lot of criticism. They often get accused of using their service desk role as a stepping stone to "a better IT job." They are commonly chastised for following scripts, even when the scripts are completely inappropriate (but are the best they have under the circumstances).

On a more personal level, they are often treated as a herd rather than individuals; tar brushed with generalizations such as having poor interpersonal and customer service skills. On the upside though, they are assumed to know more about IT than most.

So What?

I'm getting to a point (of sorts), but first I wanted to throw out a few of the mean, but not unnecessarily untrue, things that are commonly said about IT help desk or service desk agents. I've been there and bought the t-shirt.

So how well do IT service desk agents do? Individually and collectively? They often hit the SLA/operational targets that their IT paymasters have forced upon them - such as first contact resolution levels, speed of response, and correct incident classification percentages - but they still fail to have a glowing reputation with end users (their business peers). This includes even those that are touted as IT superheroes within IT.

Is the Issue Simply that Service Desk Agent Performance Is Poorly Targeted?

There's no denying that some IT organizations have way too many service desk metrics, often metrics that conflict and/or drive the wrong service desk agent behaviors. However this is just part of the issue. While IT service desks and the agents that work within them would benefit from a better basket of metrics, there's much more to be done to get the service desk's corporate reputation to where I'd like to think it should be.

But what needs to change? Is there a need for tighter service desk processes? Probably not. Should they replace their ill-fitting and complicated help desk tool? Not necessarily. Should they recruit more staff, with better technology skills? Nope. I could continue but we’d probably end up with Is it Henry, the mild mannered janitor? instead…

Staff Need to Rise Above Process to Think Differently

I'll repeat this as it's important - staff need to rise above process to think differently; and it's not just service desk agents, it needs to start with service desk and IT management. It could be the fault of legacy IT help desks that were designed to fix IT issues. It could be the fault of ITIL, the IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework. That's an odd thing to say isn't it? After all ITIL introduced the service desk to all of us still running an IT help desk.

Think about it. Many will quote the three or four Ps of ITIL - People, Process, Product (tools), and sometime Partners. There is, however, another P that's overlooked - Purpose. How often do you hear of IT organizations investing in, reinvesting in, or changing people, processes, and ITSM tools? Especially the latter. How often do you hear of IT service desks (and perhaps IT organizations as a whole) reconsidering their purpose? Or even questioning the purpose they probably gave themselves in the late 1980s at the dawn of help desks?

The Service Desk Is All About Service

Sounds obvious doesn't it; but what's the purpose of your IT help desk or service desk? Does everyone who works on the service desk know this (assuming that you're right with what you have replied)? They probably don't. I'd happily bet that many of your service desk agents think that they are fixing IT issues rather than helping business colleagues (and services) work again.

I'd also bet that many have minimal insight into how each IT issue is impacting individuals, groups, and business services. Bar the automated priority level that is. You know this - we train people on the processes and the tool rather than the purpose and context of the service desk.

For me this needs to change, otherwise IT help desks and service desks will continue to work hard in earning a less-than-favorable corporate reputation.

So what's the purpose of your IT help desk or service desk? And don't just spout back something you've read in an ITIL book.

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Gil Blinov

About Gil Blinov

Professional Services Engineer with experience ranging from data analysis to managing IT departments. Gil helps organizations to find their best-fit ITSM processes and implement them into SysAid. An avid reader - mostly sci-fi, fantasy, or life-hack productivity blogs - he also enjoys dancing with his wife or just enjoying play time with his son.

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