The Evolution of the IT Help Desk and Where it is Going Next

ITIL, the best practices framework for IT service management (ITSM), had the banner year 2019. To begin, it marked its 30th anniversary. Second, an updated version of ITIL 4 was released – incorporating newer ITSM concepts such as Agile, Lean, and DevOps enabled businesses to leverage IT help desk best practices 

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It also resolves broader ITSM issues such as employee experience, value visualization, and the use of emerging technologies. However, we should not neglect the humble IT support desk’s evolution over the last three decades or the effect of ITIL on it. 

The pre-ITIL IT help desk 

It would help if you did not underestimate the days of “big hair” and the arrival of personal computers as they came together at the end of the 1980s. The IT (and telephony) assistance have always been there to help with systems since the dawn of time (think mainframes and dumb terminals). Yet, this increased with the personal computer’s introduction; since business operations increasingly relied on technology, the production became more and more effective, thus, more reliant on their IT support desks. 

Today’s IT support staff is drastically different than it was in the 80s and early 90s. When you used the words “catch and deliver” and “and assist” to characterize an intermittent IT support situation, you created the idea of “log and flogged and trap.” 

As there are no defined dependencies or deadlines for the provision of IT, help desk best practices. IT would be among the people who help colleagues supply their IT needs, a person who can help when and when required who were fed up with waiting for the IT help desk to respond. 

The various IT support methods included helpdesks as well as manual approaches. 

The origin of the IT service desk 

“It gets better from here” and ITIL, that was and continues to be all about utilities and their quality management coupled with the better business outcomes. ITIL (Information Technology Architecture, Information Technology Service Management, and Leadership Institute) laid the groundwork for elevating the IT support desk to an IT service level. While debating the various meanings of “IT support desk” vs. “IT service desk” all day could be interesting and diverting, it would get us nowhere.  

Additionally, customers and employees continue to use “the help desk” to obtain information, facts, and service and items. 

However, another critical factor in the growth of ITSM has been the effect of ITIL on the IT support desk (or its use of IT tools). ITIL exam candidates and their initiatives desired to integrate successful, ITIL-compliant applications. With ITIL resources reciprocating the favor, resulting in a win-win scenario. 

Adapted to the task at hand, IT has altered the traditional approach to computer support. Since then, new features have been introduced. 

The addition of new IT support capabilities 

Calculating the dates whenever new IT support technologies were added to the IT help desk or ITSM tools is indeed a difficult task since it depends on whether you are looking for the first instance or the point at which the product reached adequate market penetration to be deemed a “must-have.” 

Thus, the following are just a couple of the improvements to providing IT help desk best practices that we have seen over the years: 

  • Email access to IT supports – After email became the organizational standard in the 1990s, help desks transitioned away from the phone channel (and possibly walk-up) into broader omnichannel capabilities. 
  • Process automation – Understanding the need for improved performance, cooperation, and likely approvals when it comes to IT issues and requests. One cane has a real hard time nailing down this one’s timeline and ranking on this list. 
  • Capabilities for knowledge management – The late 1990s saw an increase in corporate knowledge management programs, with the IT ticketing system being a clear use case. 
  • IT asset management (ITAM) capabilities – As IT estates (and use) expanded, it became essential to manage all these IT assets effectively. Whether using separate ITAM tools or through the addition of capabilities to the IT support desk (or ITSM) tool. 
  • Remote support – Similarly to how help desk apps increased the productivity and efficacy of IT support officers, small support tools improved deskside support mainly as supporting workers became widely scattered across numerous buildings and even nations. 
  • Automation and service orchestration capabilities – This is yet another hard-to-time-place IT capability, from a primary data center automation capability to cloud management solutions’ current complexities. 
  • Service catalogs and self-service capabilities directly resulted from incorporating service catalog development to the ITSM best practice system in ITIL v3 in 2007. Self-service was a natural extension that included knowledge-based self-help and automated self-care features such as password reset. 
  • Chat capabilities – While the capabilities mentioned earlier work well in combination with remote assistance, they have failed to succeed in isolation from mobile, email, and self-service networks (plus, potentially, walk-up). However, for others, this is their favorite form of contacting IT help. 
  • Social support – There was a time in the early years of this decade when the IT support environment anticipated social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to the IT support channel mix. This, however, never gained momentum and was ultimately supplanted by mutual peer-support capabilities. 
  • Gamification – Similar to the previous argument, it was once called “the next big thing in IT support.” Although many businesses use it and are happy to tout the benefits of their customer service analyst morale, efficiency, and results, it has never gained traction. 
  • AI-enabled IT support capabilities – Ranging from chatbots to virtual assistants to machine-learning-based Automation and artificial intelligence that automates high-volume, reduced IT support tasks. 

The future of the IT help desk 

In several ways, more of the same is on the way. From the development of self-service and organizational learning capabilities and improving their use to offer IT help desk best practices. The rapid adoption of capabilities is allowed by artificial intelligence in conjunction with Automation. 

it ticketing system - expandFORCE

All the above factors affect IT call centers (or IT service desks) on a human, process, and technological level. With individuals impacted in terms of personal skills and capabilities needed, the kinds of issues and requests they manage, the technologies available to assist them, and the metrics used to evaluate their success. As we advance through 2020, we foresee significant improvements on the human side of IT support. 

However, two additional significant improvements are coming to the IT support desk (or IT service desk). Furthermore, many would say that they have already arrived:

Importance demonstration – With IT support desks being expected to look past what they do to see (and report on) the effects of their acts.

Employee experience – This is an extension of the business-to-consumer (B2C) world’s customer experience (CX) investments, as it relates to increasing employee efficiency (via improved IT service and support), and thus business operations and outcomes.

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