Service Desk Outsourcing Triggers

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Over the past 30+ years of providing IT Services, we have noticed a familiar pattern among clients on the brink of considering an outsourced Service Desk provider. Accelerating costs or poor service are the macro reasons for setting this in motion. However, this article will address the particular triggers driving the need to seek an outside service structure.

  • Currently a “No Help” Desk. Even though an organization may have an IT department, without the first point of contact, fully staffed service desk, available for end users to contact, a perception often develops that the help desk is unresponsive. Once this reputation gains ground, end users are apt to avoid the service desk and defer to colleagues or alternate resources for even more costly assistance.
  • Significant Backlog. You can always tell the effectiveness of a service desk by checking backlog over time. When it stays high and/or grows, the logical reaction is to add staff instead of using current agents more productively. A well-run operation will minimize backlogs by assigning and forwarding incidents to the available agent with the best skills. Scheduling based on predictive modeling of past experiences is a valuable tool to improve efficiencies.
  • Scarcity of Skills. As the IT industry unemployment rates drop, recruiting qualified professionals becomes a daunting task. After consuming extraordinary time searching available resource pools with no success, organizations frequently turn to MSPs that specialize in attracting and retaining seasoned talent.  They provide paths to career advancement in the service desk industry and are able, because of sheer volume, to staff with well-trained agents available beyond normal working hours.
  • Inadequate Tools. Work isn’t getting done but you don’t know why. Organizations utilizing a bare-bones ticketing system, freeware, or a spreadsheet to track incidents are susceptible to their limitations especially in reporting function and ultimately data analysis.   Even if the internal help desk excels at incident management and diligently captures all ticket data, it all goes for naught if the larger root cause or problem is not recognized and remediated. Without an action-oriented approach to an in-depth analysis of metrics, trending data, and all ongoing impacts to the help desk, the information is meaningless.
  • Lack of Accountability. IT departments sometimes find satisfaction in adding staff without accounting for results. Taking ownership of all IT related support is insourcing at its best. If there are no internal service level agreements (Average Speed of Answer, Resolution Rate, Abandon Rate, etc.) undefined service quality is delivered on a “best effort” basis. Client IT management needs to do more than stake out its territory. Ownership without measuring productivity is not the answer. It’s essential to develop workflows so specific incidents are routed to the appropriate support groups.  Knowing contact types is equally important in order to redeploy resources to where they can have the greatest impact to IT operations as a whole. By contrast, if one department holds on to everything from AD administration to server upgrades, chances are those operations will be costly and inefficient.
  • Ineffective Queue ManagementFor organizations with an informal contact, triage, and escalation process, Level 1, 2, 3 tasks aren’t segregated by skill sets or an established average handle time for resolution. So no matter what the complexity of the issue, the next available IT staff member handles that contact and troubleshoots it through resolution no matter how long it takes. While this approach is ideal for maximizing resolution, it neglects both skill to incident alignment and help desk agent availability management. So conceivably organizations could have their most skilled and costly network engineers handling password resets or a junior Level 1 junior tied up on a complicated server patch issue while the next inbound contacts remain on hold indefinitely.
  • Distributed workforce. With the proliferation of mobile devices, face-to-face support is no longer a viable option. In this new environment, the outsourced vendor who has invested in the appropriate tools can handle a mobile workforce more easily.   For example, infrastructure investments in a scalable Automatic Call Distributor a secure cloud, robust clear voice communications can all be incorporated in an offering by the outsourced MSP.
  • Mission Critical Project Distractions. Undisciplined service desks with no quality or performance measurements often accept informal contacts or walk-ups, a fairly common occurrence when support staff is located on the premises. While it may appear convenient for end users to tap an on-site technician on the shoulder every time they need help, this interruption makes it difficult for the tech to focus on long-term, more strategically advantageous projects.
  • High Turnover can result for a number of reasons but when rates become exceedingly high (IT industry standard is 38%), it creates serious support issues. At that point, workforce management faces a time-consuming and costly problem from a recruiting and training standpoint to say nothing of the negative impact to and reputation of the service desk while the staff is continually being replaced.