I came across an article in Computerworld titled “The Help Desk is Hot Again” articulating the revived popularity of the Help Desk. It explains that the Help Desk “serves as a vital liaison between employees’ mobile technologies and the networks, servers and applications that support them.” Help Desks certainly serve an important purpose however, this positioning feels slightly askew. For most IT organizations the Help Desk is where you go when you have a problem and need help. Help Desks do not understand how IT consumers are experiencing IT and are certainly not a liaison. I can see how there is a logical leap from issue management to evaluating the health of IT but do you go to the doctor when you are well?
Until recently, visibility into the consumer side of IT was not considered essential when measuring IT service availability. The assumption was that maniacally monitoring data center health provided enough data to show how effectively IT supported the business. For most organizations, IT availability and ‘end-user’ satisfaction is evaluated with metrics provided by the help desk, showing what went wrong and when. From the perspective of issues this may be acceptable but it hardly provides an accurate view on how the business is using IT. It would be like asking a doctor “so, how healthy does the world look today?,” where the answer would be “It looks pretty sick”.
This whole situation has been exacerbated by the use of mobile devices, the growth in non-corporate cloud-based application sources and the influx of people entering the industry who were born digital. These new market entrants have learned to become more self-sufficient than any generation before and would rather have the flu than call the service desk. Many of today’s mobile issues are ‘fleeting’ with performance being a variable impacted by increasingly complex and congested network connectivity. For many, it’s easier just to wait it out. Does the help desk capture this experience? No.
So, if the objective is to understand how IT is used and experienced, then you don’t start from the data center. The starting place is the IT consumer. This requires more than a set of tools giving visibility from ‘the edge,’ it will require IT support to organize and focus teams on IT consumer activity. Measuring experience means understanding how IT is used, when it is used and where it is used, not just when there is an issue. Capturing, monitoring and analyzing IT consumer activity allows IT organizations to assess the true IT business impact, regardless of where the user is, what they are using or where their applications are sourced.
This approach is not going to be an easy for IT departments that have spent decades focusing on silo’d data center elements and back-end applications transactions. IT consumer activity monitoring is not an option. Users do not use one device, do not remain in one place and do not use just one application. IT innovation, mobility and IT consumer creativity will continue to push the limits of IT operations management with those able to adjust their IT management focus benefiting from greater IT decision making and business alignment.
The service desk must evolve to be a true high-touch solution and this can only be done when it is also used to monitor how all IT consumers are experiencing IT. IT organizations that do not plan to focus on their IT consumers will be left struggling, trying to manage increasingly diverse IT needs using tools providing a datacenter centric application performance snapshot, stumbling their way towards the edge by trying to see through increasingly complex third-party service black-holes.