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Putting a new face on the helpdesk

Putting a new face on the helpdesk

Dictated by the expectations brought about by tightly knit systems management and business process serviceability, organizations are redefining the service desk.

Dictated by the expectations brought about by tightly knit systems management and business process serviceability, organizations are redefining the service desk. Although vendors have not yet delivered final products to that end, Computer Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. / Tivoli, and BMC Software Inc. are eyeing Web services and open standards as a potential means to bolster the interoperability of their wares.

Hoping to be first out of the gate, Computer Associates is designing a "Service Aware ServiceDesk" enabling applications supported by the network and systems management products to open their own trouble tickets when something goes awry, said Jacob Lamm, senior vice-president of Development HelpDesk, at Islandia, N.Y.-based CA.

Through Web services, Lamm said the application will be able to consult directly with ServiceDesk to understand the immediate problem, the customer's SLA standing, and what action should be taken.

"Making bigger and larger and better ways to track and log issues can only help you so far," Lamm said. "Creating autonomic and self-healing things has its own limitations as well," said Lamm, in regard to efforts being made by IBM/Tivoli and HP. "We want to get the application, software, and hardware involved in solving the problem ... by embedding HelpDesk into applications they're supporting."

Customers will be able to use Microsoft Corp.'s .Net or J2EE to build Web services access to ServiceDesk. In addition, system integrators and partners are being asked by CA to ensure that every code error routine that's written have a call-to-the-service-desk capability for inspection into any problem. Lamm said the enhanced Unicenter ServiceDesk is currently in beta and will be available later this year.

Customers in greater numbers are eradicating the "help desk" term in favor of integrated operational service management-run departments entrusted to better define, improve quality of, and provision services, notes Kris Brittain, research director for IT service and support at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner.

With companies under severe scrutiny to ensure that the right resources exist to correct problems at appropriate times, minimize outages, and boost performance, she said, service desk capabilities are being stretched to perform root cause analysis and trending and to improve service delivery.

"Yesterday's help desk didn't get a lot of respect, but today's service desk gets center stage in regard to helping be the intersection for key processes, [and] it also gives organizations a good indicator of service demand," Brittain said.

Despite Gartner Dataquest figures that show a projected 7 percent growth in the service desk market in 2003, challenges abound. The level of information and functional capability in areas of change management, asset management, and service management, are being tested. Also, clients are expected to push technological service desk limits to move from a quasi-Web capability to a full Web-enabled environment to receive a common set of IT services.

Some customers, meanwhile, are discovering that a help desk has the capability to exist as a core strategic business asset.

Nancy Alter, director of IT customer support at Horsham, Penn.-based Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co., said that her help desk must balance its dual role as her organization's "front door to IT" while also acting as a storefront to its customer base.

"Tracking performance is one of the most important things we do. If you don't know what you're doing, how can you make improvements? How can you make your customers happy?" Alter remarked. As business environments become more distributed and complex, she said help desks must be enabled to handle mobile requirements for customers. -- InfoWorld (US)

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