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IT Help Desk Reactive, Transition or Strategic?

Here are 10 questions that will help you determine whether your help desk is reactive, in transition or strategic.

1. Have help desk managers created and distributed a supported product list (SPL) so that callers and agents can share an identical understanding of the help desk’s boundaries of responsibility? READ MY LIPS: STANDARD HARDWARE, STANDARD SOFTWARE, CDOE (COMMON DESKTOP OPERATING ENVIRONMENT)

2. Has help desk management established a SLA (Service Level Agreement) with customers and is all of the IT organization measured by it?

3. Does the help desk play an active advisory role in critical IT functions such as change management, product development and purchasing?

4. Do help desk agents log ALL calls, track the number of incidents that are escalated outside of the help desk department and calculate the percentage of calls that result in a technician being dispatched?

5. Do help desk agents capture problem solutions in a reusable knowledge base?

6. Does the help desk use continuous, event-driven surveys to measure customer satisfaction?

7. Does the help desk post key performance indicators such as customer satisfaction, first-call resolution and call cycle time?

8. Do help desk agents have performance goals in these areas?

9. Do help desk agents practice continuous planning in order to reduce costly call volumes?

10. Do help desk personnel meet with key customer groups at least annually to explain important help desk services and offerings?


If you answered yes to eight or more questions, congratulations. You have a strategically mature help desk. Less than 20 percent of all desks fall into this category. If you answered yes to least five but fewer than eight questions, you likely have a transitional desk. Most fall into this category, which helps explain the recent increase in help desk budgets.

Finally, if you answered yes to fewer than five questions, you are probably operating under the reactive model. Some help desks operate in this mode because of sheer resource constraints.

Here are great White Papers on the topic:

Three Stages of an IT Help Desk-Help Desk Institute

In 1992, according to the Help Desk Institute, help desk budgets averaged 1.25 percent of corporate IT spending. Today, that figure is nearly 3 percent. With costs going up 10 to 20 percent every two years, it is easy to see that there has been a shift in customer support. The Help Desk Institute further states that there are approximately 300 million help desk calls per year and with the average cost of a call being $20, a conservative estimate of $6 billion is spent per year on internal customer support! Also, there has been a doubling of the percentage of employees dedicated to customer support in the last six years. Here are just some of the reasons for this growth:

> The increasing complexity of new applications including the shift to client server computing.

> Shorter life cycles of hardware and software challenge the deployment and learning practices.

> As help desks have matured, they have gotten better. As they get better, employees opt to calling rather than reading instructions or trying to fix it themselves.

> IT organizations are realizing that significant efficiencies can be gained by solving customer calls the first time.

With these pressures have come changes in the way help desks do business. This is a shift from the 911-break/fix position to one of becoming proactive about meeting customer’s needs. Rather than simply respond to user problems, the strategic help desk minimizes incoming calls by anticipating and addressing user problems before they occur and when the call does occur, using tools and processes to optimize agent time.


Help desks typically evolve through three stages, as they become more strategic.

1) REACTIVE. High abandonment rates, low customer satisfaction and rampant employee turnover because of agent burnout characterize the first stage. In addition, help desks are often referred to a “Helpless Desks.” Because of a low status, cooperation with other IT departments is a major problem for the help desk.

2) TRANSITION. In the second stage, typically the help desk practices various call prevention techniques, providing users with self-help tools such as automated password resets and effective user training, and working with development groups to ensure better design and testing of new applications.

3) STRATEGIC. In the third and final stage the help desk realizes its full potential as part of the IT value chain. Customer satisfaction is high, call cycle time is low, turnover is low, and the help desk is looked upon as the “conductor” who manages the IT orchestra.

Here are some great White Papers on the topic:

Knowledge Base Best Practice Features-Help Desk Institute

If you are looking for a knowledge base for your help desk or customer service software, consider these features:

Knowledge Base Record Spelling and Grammar Checker

This provides for a spelling check on all proposed knowledge base records to maintain the usability of the knowledge base software system.

Knowledge Base Record Action Notification

As knowledge base records moves through the approval process, designated approvers are automatically notified via email.

Knowledge Base Source Tracking

Defines the source of the knowledge base record such as a service group and agent. This is used to measure who is creating knowledge base records.

Knowledge Base Record History Field

A knowledge record history field keeps a permanent record of all changes to the record as well as who did the change as well as the date and time of the change.

Search Scope can be Widened or Narrowed

If the knowledge base search results are not satisfactory, you can widen or narrow the search scope to generate new knowledge base records without having to start the search from the beginning.


Here are two great White Papers on the topic:

Knowledge Base Key Features

Are you looking for help desk or customer service software?

When looking at the Knowledge Base module here are a few features to look for:

Automatic Customer Profile Creation

When a new customer requests someone contact them, besides creating a service request, the knowledge base software application automatically creates a new customer profile.

Capability to Designate Knowledge Base Records as "HOT" Knowledge Base Records Bypassing Approval

Some knowledge base records need to be available immediately without going through the approval process. A knowledge base proposer can designate any record as "HOT.” The knowledge base record is then immediately available for others to utilize. Later, if the knowledge base record is approved, the "HOT" designation can be removed.

Assign a Scope to a Knowledge Base Record

Record Scope is a field used for grouping knowledge base records for a single service desk, multiple service desks and parent/child companies.

Knowledge Base Record Redundancy Avoidance

When knowledge base records are initially proposed and also during the approval process, the knowledge base software automatically searches all existing approved knowledge base records to identify possible redundancies. This allows the knowledge bas record proposer or approver to consider these possible redundancies.

Here are two great White Papers on the topic:

Cloud/SaaS/Hosted or Traditional Software Licenses?

Here is a great white paper with a comprehensive look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis any decision maker should complete before making a choice between a SaaS or a traditional software deployment.

The key cost drivers for any software implementation are the cost of the software application, the hardware required to run the application and the people services required to design, deploy, manage, maintain and support the application.

> Traditional software pricing is limited to the cost of the software application, in most cases an upfront fee in exchange for a perpetual user license. It is up to the customer to determine the cost of the hardware and the people services.

> SaaS applications are charged on a subscription basis. The subscription fee includes the cost of the software application, the hardware and the people services.

This difference in pricing models can make an apples-to-apples TCO comparison “tricky”.

Software and hardware costs are well understood but the people resources associated with traditional software applications are often underestimated or omitted in a TCO analysis. As a result, the usage driven subscription cost of SaaS applications can seem to be the more expensive solution over a multi-year period. However, when these people resources are correctly associated, deploying a SaaS application becomes – in many cases – the more cost effective option.

This white paper helps in better understanding all the different cost factors and includes a TCO calculation for you that will help influencers and decision makers to better estimate the true TCO of a SaaS versus a traditional software deployment. The ultimate goal of this paper is to educate the reader that in some cases traditional software applications remain the right choice, but in other cases deploying SaaS applications provide a better business case.

Please see

Most Successful CIOs Use SaaS

It's not easy to become a wildly unsuccessful CIO or CTO. TechRepublic asked around to find out how this can be done. They found seven habits of wildly unsuccessful CIOs. I want to mention just one very important habit.

Wildly Unsuccessful CIOs and CTOs Create Solutions in Search of a Problem

With any wildly unsuccessful CIO or CTO, any problem that arises is handled, always, in-house. Always. "They think that what they do is so absolutely special that nothing off the shelf could fill their needs," said Scott Testa, Chief Operations Officer for Mindbridge, a leading provider of Enterprise Intranet Software solutions.  "They expend a lot of energy building a solution that could have been bought right off the shelf," Testa said. These same CIOs often are not open to other vendors or anyone else "who may have other ways of solving certain problems," Testa said.

This hardly reflects well on the IT department, which can lose quite a bit of credibility with the other non-IT departments and personnel. In time, this can spell smaller budgets and work staff. However, that isn't the only reason this CIO is unsuccessful. This habit also is a very expensive one. Their in-house custom solutions cost more time to develop and launch. Those same "solutions" could well be abandoned a short time later if a higher C-level executive gets wind of a better way—or even a worse way—if the in-house solution is genuinely a bad idea.

Smart and successful CIOs and CTOs look at Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to fill needs and voids quickly, painlessly and at a much lower cost to the company.


See the following link for a great White Paper on saving money with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

How to Buy Help Desk Cloud Software

Help desk and customer service software empowers businesses to take a more proactive approach to addressing customer issues. Companies can eliminate the inefficient, manual procedures that cause lags in response times, and solve customer problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. But, selecting the right help desk or customer service software solution can be complex and confusing. How can you make the process easier?

Outline Your Needs

Build a list of your key requirements before you begin calling in vendors.

Start by talking to key stakeholders and end users to determine what their goals and challenges are, and what kinds of tools they need to achieve or overcome them. This will help you identify the help desk or customer service software features you can't live without.

Select a Vendor

Once you know what kind of help desk or customer service software you're looking for, you can begin evaluating providers.

Talk with your colleagues about what products they are using to achieve success. Review the Web for customer case studies to find the best-matched vendors. Sometimes the perspectives of industry analysts can be helpful, but remember that they do not use the products that they discuss with you. Wouldn't it be smarter if you found very happy customers who you have needs in common. Conduct an in-depth assessment of each product, and compare it to your  list of requirements. The best way to accomplish this is to have a very clearly detailed Needs Assessment that asks insightful questions about features and functionality that your stakeholders need. Once you've identified those vendors who can meet all or most of your needs, review their histories, support track record, financial statuses, and speak with their customers.

Request Demos and Trials

Product demonstrations are a standard part of the sales process, but make sure you see more than just a canned or pre-recorded one. Request a customized demo that highlights those features on your checklist, and simulates processes within your current help desk or customer service environment.

But remember, a demonstration - no matter how in-depth - will only provide you with an overview of a help desk or customer service software package's capabilities. If you want to really see how the solution will work, you'll need to trial the software for 30 days before you commit to buying it. Will the vendor provide unlimited support during the trial without cost to make sure that you are well taken care of? If not, you need to ask yourself, "what will happen once I become a customer if they do not want to support me now while I am still a prospect"?

Here is a great Excel Tool that will help you document your needs and requirements. See

Reduce IT Help Desk Costs with Cloud/SaaS

Given the state of the worldwide economy, it is timely to now to review how much money your company can saved with Software-as-a-Service.  Why is Software as a Service (SaaS) so popular?  Is your company making budget reductions, but want to keep providing exceptional levels of customer service and support?  SaaS can help you reduce costs while giving your team a product that is generally easier to learn and use with minimal training and not require any IT resources to support. Every time you go to your IT department to ask for assistance, they probably say they have too many project that will directly impact revenue so they cannot help your with customer service software selection, deployment and ongoing maintenance. With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), you do not need resources from the IT department to get your project started and keep going.

It's the economics stupid!

Look at the Total Cost of of ownership for required hardware and software for a typical midsized Customer Service department, Call Center or IT help desk.  These costs do not consider the cost of the actual customer service, call center or IT help desk software.

It's Green and Cheap!

Also, do you really need to have more servers in your company data center burning up power for server operation and cooling. It's an inefficient use of energy. Ask a SaaS vendor if they use a multitenant architecture. Many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are architected from the start as pure web applications and have multiple customers sharing the same underlying server infrastructure.  This saves power and cooling resources by leveraging and sharing computing infrastructure. Smart CIOs and VPs of Customer Service are planning for this today.

Take a look at these numbers. Are you surprised?



3 Year Infrastructure & Administration Costs of Owning Servers $259,100

  •      Server Support & Maintenance $208,500
  •      Server Hardware & Software $50,600


1. Database Server required
One server at minimum is required to run applications. DB server cost estimate is $10,000 for hardware. Plus annual maintenance contract and power 40% of cost per year. Use $10,000 x 40% x 3 years = $12,000

2. Database Licenses Required
Microsoft SQL @ $5,500 processor license x 2 processors is $11,000. Plus annual software maintenance is 20%..$11,000 x 20% x 3 years =$6,600

3. Web Server required
A web server is required for best performance. Total Web Server cost estimate is $5,000 for hardware. Plus annual maintenance contract and power cost is 40% of cost per year. Use $5,000 x 40% x 3 years = $6,000

4. General Server Administration (O/S, Patches, Virus, BIOS, HD...)
Servers and O/S require continuous maintenance. Gartner Group estimates 65 hrs/year @ $150/hr. per server is $9,750 x 2 servers x 3 years is $58,500.

5. Daily Incremental and Full Weekly Back-up
Your IT department either performs or must automate data backup. Back-up media storage process and costs associated with off-site storage. Gartner Group estimates $10,000/yr. per server x 2 servers x 3 years is $60,000.

6. Required Application & Database Administration
Database and application requires continuous monitoring for performance and storage. Gartner Group estimates 50 hrs/year per installation @ $200/hr. is $10,000 x 2 servers x 3 years is $60,000.

7. Man-hours required for upgrades
How many total IT man-hours are required to implement an upgrade (Backup, install)? Gartner Group estimates average upgrade requires 80 hrs @ $125/hr is $10,000 x 1 time/yr. x 3 years =$30,000. This does not included user training.

Other costs to consider if you want to own Customer Service, Call Center and IT Help Desk software:

8. Up-front configuration required
Configuration requires outside consulting, significant time and input from your organization. As your needs change, this is an ongoing cost.

9. Frequency of incremental upgrades (Months)
How often does the vendor distribute upgrades? What is your required process to deploy an upgrade?

10. User Training
How much additional administrator and user training is required to gain proficiency with a complex client server application deployed locally vs. an externally hosted application? Do you need to maintain programmers and Crystal Reports experts on staff?

Here is a great White Paper on the topic.

The title is "Saving Money with Software-as-a-Service". See

Customer Service Software Key Features/Best Practices

Customer Service Software can empower businesses to improve and enhance their critical post-sales support operations.

+Boost Productivity and Improve Your Customer Service

The ability to rapidly answer inquiries, address issues, and solve problems is crucial to achieving and maintaining the highest levels of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Many businesses are turning to customer service software to dramatically enhance their post-sales support operations.

Customer service automation, can significantly improve the productivity and responsiveness of service and support teams by centralizing and streamlining the tasks associated with issue management. Staff members can effectively track and monitor the status of customer problems and related activities every step of the way, from the moment they are reported until they are resolved, to ensure smooth and efficient handling.

With customer service software, support teams can also leverage a comprehensive, yet intuitive knowledge base that provides them with easy access to the thorough and detailed information they need to quickly satisfy customer requirements. This knowledge base not only increases efficiency, it enhances collaboration across product development, quality assurance, field consulting and support, and other departments by allowing them to share timely and accurate information as it becomes available.

+Let Your Customers Help Themselves

One of the most beneficial features of a customer service software solution is its self-service capabilities. With customer service software, customers have convenient, 24 x 7 access to Web-based help, frequently asked questions (FAQs), troubleshooting tips, and product documentation, so they can solve routine problems on their own. If they have more complex issues that require further assistance, they can then report a problem or open a service request or job ticket online.

+Make Better Decisions

Many customer service software packages also include powerful business intelligence capabilities. Supervisors can use reports and analytics to instantly identify and understand the positive and negative trends that impact both help desk operations, and the business as a whole. For example:

  • Do certain products have above average defect or breakdown rates?
  • Are customers having difficulty understanding assembly instructions, operating manuals, or user guides?
  • What new features or functions have clients been asking for?
+Customized for Your Business

Customer needs, common issues, and support processes and related work flows vary greatly from industry to industry and from company to company. Businesses must have a flexible solution that can be tailored to effectively meet their unique and specific requirements. But, as important as this capability is, not all customer service software solutions on the market today are fully customizable.

+A Few More Common Customer Service Software Features

Other common customer service software features include:

  • Support for multiple communication channels, including phone, Web, email, live chat, and co-browsing.
  • Dynamic resource allocation that automatically assigns staff members to specific customer issues, based on their current workload, as well as their skills, education, and experience.
  • Dynamic real-time alerts that instantly notify managers of any potential breakdowns in critical support processes. For example, a supervisor can receive an immediate alert when an unusual or highly-complex problem is reported, or when a customer issue goes unresolved for an extended period of time.

Here is a great White Paper on the topic:

Benefits of Customer Service Cloud Software

How Your Business can Benefit from Help Desk and Customer Service Software

Summary: The benefits of help desk and customer software are indisputable - improved productivity and cost-efficiency, faster response times, increased customer satisfaction, and more. 

Help Desk & Customer Service Software Deliver a Superior Customer Experience

In today's highly competitive business environment - where customers are more demanding than ever before and are less loyal- companies must strive to deliver world-class support in order to maximize client loyalty, retain market share, and ensure ongoing profitability.

Automation can provide companies with the tools they need to deliver the kind of superior and convenient service that customers require. With help desk and customer service software, they can build stronger, longer lasting relationships and gain a solid competitive edge.

What can your company can do with a help desk or customer service software solution?

+Provide Faster, More Convenient Service

With help desk and customer service software, companies can offer faster and more convenient support to customers - and as a result, give a significant boost to satisfaction, loyalty, and retention rates.

Response times will be dramatically reduced and problems will be resolved as rapidly as possible. Additionally, help desk and customer service software allow customers to choose from a wider range of communication options - such as the Web, email, live chat, and co-browsing - so they can obtain the support they need in the manner they most prefer.

+Increase Staff Productivity

Help desk and customer service software automates the entire end-to-end problem reporting and resolution process, so each and every customer issue is handled efficiently and effectively. Staff productivity is optimized because the manual, redundant, and time-consuming tasks that can cause lags in response times are virtually eliminated, and activities are better coordinated across on-site and remote field support teams.

+Improve Information Flow

With help desk and customer service software applications, all data related to customer problems is stored in a central location for fast, easy access.

This helps support staff stay more informed about common questions and issues, and how to most successfully address them, so they can be more proactive and responsive. Additionally, help desk and customer service software can eliminate the communication bottlenecks that can cause issues to be mismanaged or "dropped". And, it provides much needed insight to other departments who impact customer satisfaction - including product development, manufacturing, fulfillment, and quality assurance.

+Reduce Support Costs

Service and support operations can become quite expensive, especially when they involve dispatching field consultants to remote locations.

With help desk and customer service software solutions, companies can increase their first call resolution rates (a key performance indicator and industry benchmark for support operations), and minimize the number of issues that require on-site support and assistance. Additionally, because help desk and customer service software streamlines, coordinates, and automates related activities, it can reduce the redundancies and errors that waste both time and money.

+Boost Employee Morale

Some help desks and customer service operations support not only customers and external business partners, but employees as well. Many companies maintain internal help desk teams, who are on call to handle issues with IT systems and more, so staff can perform their jobs as effectively as possible.

Studies show that companies who are equipped to quickly resolve both technical and non-technical employee problems are likely to experience higher morale, improved productivity, and lower turnover rates.

Here are two great White Papers on the topic:


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