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IT Service Desk Knowledge Management Whitepaper

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Could knowledge management help you operate a more effective and efficient IT service desk?

Can you relate to these challenges? Being asked to support a wider range of technologies with fewer resources. High turnover of staff, with new staff requiring extensive training. Wanting to rely less on individual “experts” and wanting to share information widely and effectively across your team.

Some have been able to rise to the challenge, but, for many, the continuous addition of new pressures has resulted in an inefficient, unproductive IT help desk with staff and results to match.  It is often the case that frazzled service desk staff (that have their customer’s best interests at heart) expend time and effort finding a solution to the problem that they’re working on at that very moment.

However, they fail to acknowledge that the problem may occur on another call a little further down the line, so they find a solution from scratch each and every time.  This inevitably results in a lot of wasted time and effort, with a focus on finding ‘quick win’ answers rather than long-term, re-usable solutions.  So, just what are the challenges that result in pressured help desk staff that don’t maximise their potential?   And, more importantly, how can they be tackled?


IT Help Desk Resource and Budget Constraints

In the current economic downturn, it comes as no surprise that the resource and budget of an IT service desk is being stretched – often far beyond its capabilities.  This reduction inevitably puts a strain on productivity and efficiency – and, without processes for all to adhere to in place, the problem only worsens.

However, at a point where the allocation of resource and budget is tight (and structured processes are, therefore, more important than ever), the pressure to provide customer responses quickly becomes the most important factor – and any structure can easily become a thing of the past. The solution, then?

Rather than a resource-heavy, manually managed process that takes a long time to implement (and, even then, is not necessarily successful or in line with best practice), a technology-driven knowledge management tool that effectively and efficiently drives forward processes and delivers the right information at the right time is key.


Staff Training

With an industry standard of 30-40% staff turnover, the service desk relies on effective training allowing new staff to easily familiarise themselves with information and the most efficient ways to help customers in the shortest amount of time.  However, whilst 89% of the training that staff do receive is on the subject of service desk processes, 49% of staff receive less than 1-2 weeks’ training¹.

This inevitably raises the question as to whether the training is sufficient.  Should more time to be given to training up new staff?  Possibly.  However, with the issue of resource and budget already mentioned, this isn’t always a feasible option – nor is it a preferable choice; service desks require new staff to be up and running in as short a time as possible.

This, then, begs for a solution that combines both effective training with efficiency and increased productivity.  Knowledge management technology offers quick ways to gain knowledge from the expertise held by fellow colleagues, thus significantly reducing training times – and making the training that is received much more effective.


Do More with Less

Given the current economic climate, it is now more important than ever that businesses aim to ‘do more with less’; increased budget constraints and reduced staffing levels are just two of the many challenges faced by entire organisations – but nowhere are these challenges more prominent than within a modern day service desk.  Can efficiency and productivity be increased against the odds?


A complex set of Challenges

The challenges of a service desk are vast; not only are senior staff asked to support an increasing number of often complex technologies with fewer resources but they are also under pressure to ensure that the resource that they do have is trained adequately and, most importantly, quickly.

Additionally, they are required to increase first line resolution whilst reducing escalations all without relying too heavily on individual ‘experts’ that, should they be absent for any reason, can leave behind a number of unresolved issues.  Add to this the desire to implement a self-service strategy and it’s clear to see why an intelligent knowledge management solution is required.


The Time Spent Searching for Information

45% of the US workforce spends at least 3 hours per week just searching for information in the workplace¹.  This shocking statistic becomes even more considerable when it is within the context of a service desk where the inability to find relevant information at first contact can cost the satisfaction of a customer and affect revenue.


Using Knowledge Management to Leverage Existing Information

Such is the reason why companies are keen to implement a knowledge management solution where the ability to leverage existing information is key. One centralised knowledge base that sits over the top of an entire information estate (and all the departments that sit within it) allows staff to quickly and easily find key information at the point of need, consequently making self-service and its many benefits (increased service levels and customer satisfaction plus lowered costs and call volumes) a possibility.


What are the Alternatives? 

The consequence of not implementing such a system?  Low customer satisfaction and high customer turnover; in a survey of 58 business and technology decision-makers, nearly 40% evaluated their knowledge management abilities as poor or below average.

This gap makes it difficult for customer service agents to quickly find the most relevant information with which to respond to customer requests.  This lengthens call-handle times and frustrates customers who are not provided the most pertinent advice for solving their problems.²


Reduce Training Times for New Users

Another advantage to having one ‘overarching’ knowledge management solution is the reduction in (new user) training times.  The ability for ‘experts’ along with any other member of staff to share experience and knowledge in a reusable and easy-to-find format allows new employees to quickly gain the confidence that they require to be productive.

This would also help experienced staff to further increase their existing knowledge.  This consequently improves the customer experience, reduces escalations and most importantly significantly lowers training time and costs.  In fact, some best of breed knowledge bases used effectively have reported reductions in training times from 6 months to 6 weeks to gain 80% operational effectiveness.


Delivering Benefits to Secure Stakeholder Support

Whilst it is true that technology alone cannot transform a business, securing the buy-in of senior members of staff (and consequently adding the final piece to the jigsaw) becomes much easier when they can see a return on their input the value of knowledge management can be measured by the increased effectiveness of staff using the knowledge³ refined speed to resolution and quality, aided adherence to SLAs and, most importantly within this context, a significant improvement in the productivity and efficiency of the service desk.


IT Help Desk Challenges for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Finally, the continuous advancement of technology presents its own challenges; whilst effective implementation of new systems offers an array of advantages, the introduction of too many technologies in a short period of time inevitably results in inconsistent results and costly mistakes.  Nowhere is this more apparent than with the increasingly common trend of BYOD.

For tech-savvy staff wanting to use their personal devices to access their work files and information, the issues that arise from this can be extremely problematic.  This is due to the fact that, for BYOD to work, office staff need to be able to confidently rely on the service desk should they require any guidance or advice.

This means that the service desk needs to be able to provide expertise on a much greater number of technologies and devices. BYOD does, however, have its benefits – the ‘always on, always connected’ style of work can ramp up productivity and efficiency, for example.  So, how does a forward-thinking service desk (that wants to accommodate the needs and requirements of its technologically advanced staff) implement a solution that could potentially bring a multitude of issues?

An advanced knowledge tool that has the ability to pull through information from a wide variety of sources – from forums to social media, in-house knowledge to user guides – ensures that the service desk can adequately provide for the requirements of its employees – regardless of the device in question.

“Too often, people think of knowledge management as a noun. They’re mistaken: Knowledge Management is a verb, a way of getting work done.” – Jeff Angus, Knowledge Management World

Challenges faced by the modern-day IT help desk could be overcome with the effective use of technology.

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