Supporting the helpdesk heroes

Reg Reader views on optimising IT support

Reg Reader Studies Many an executive can quote the cost of downtime associated with the failure of a central system that is critical to the business. In fact, service levels around availability at this level are often used as a key indicator of the IT department’s performance.

Something that executives have probably not considered, however, is the downtime experienced at an individual user level as they run into problems with the everyday use of IT – everything from PC crashes, through login problems, to monitors going on the blink and keyboards locking up because they’ve had a cup of coffee spilt into them.

Whatever the problem, whatever the cause, for a user whose job is dependent on IT, the time between such problems occurring and them being fixed is downtime, that can collectively add up to a significant productivity hit to the business, not to mention a lot of frustration among users themselves.

The guys that step in to take care of this problem are the technicians responsible for IT support. In larger organisations, these are usually dedicated to the support role, but in smaller environments, they are typically juggling support with other duties.

Either way, it’s a heroic job, continuously having to deal with the Mrs Angry, Mr Frustrated, Master Know-it-All and Mssrs Dumb and Stupid. OK, they deal with nice well balanced users too, but people in general are much more prone to strange and volatile behaviour when interacting with helpdesks.

But how well do we support those on the front line in their efforts to get users back up and running in the face of such frequently encountered adversity?

The right level of resourcing and training is important here, but so too is providing them with decent support applications to help automate things like help desk and asset management. From a systems perspective, however, less than one in five (18 per cent) of the 2,630 respondents to a recent Reg Reader study said their support systems did everything that was required for technicians to do their jobs efficiently, with an even higher number (22 per cent) at the other extreme saying needed support systems were either struggling or just not in place. Those in between (over half of the respondents) said improvements to systems would be desirable.

And how much does this matter?

Well, quite a lot actually. During the study, we asked respondents to estimate how satisfied their users were on average with the support service provided by the IT department. This question appeared in a completely different part of the questionnaire but when we cross referenced between user satisfaction and the state of IT support systems, the correlation was very striking, as illustrated in this chart.


Research chart


If we assume that there is going to be a rough correlation between user satisfaction and the individual user downtime/productivity issue we were discussing earlier, the business benefit of making sure support staff have the tools they need to do their job effectively is pretty clear.

The reader study itself, which was sponsored by Numara Software, covered a lot more than this though, and in the study report we produced off the back of it, we discuss a whole range of other findings that illustrate how IT support may be optimised through better IT/user relationships, more effective record keeping, and, in some circumstances, the implementation of industry best practices.

So, if you are in the support function and want to make the case to senior management for better tools or processes, or you are a business manager looking for ideas on how to drive improvements in IT support effectiveness, you can download a PDF of the report Delivering Effective IT Support by clicking below.

Full report in PDF format

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