Whether managing an internal service desk or considering outsourcing, it’s important to evaluate the current state of end-user support activities before devising a potential solution. Starting with the basics, IT organizations need to review trends in demand in order to adequately forecast the appropriate supply of technical talent as well as the most efficient tools and processes for them to leverage. If there is sufficient historical data, setting a baseline contact to agent supply and demand quotient is less of a challenge, but some operational soul-searching may still remain. In other words, how does the current support model measure up in terms of overall productivity for both IT and non-IT groups? Are your skilled engineers being pulled away from strategic, companywide projects in order to support minor incidents? Is end-user downtime at an all-time high because support staff is deployed to other workstations? Below are some initial focus areas that outsourcing vendors and internal IT departments assess in order to realign workforce management with their IT support needs.
1. End-User Population
How many end users require support? If there is no historical data tracking service desk activity, the end-user count is the next best thing and applies to computer-using employees. So for vertical markets like manufacturing or any industry that has a significant portion of staff whose job functions preclude use of a desktop, laptop, or mobile device, they should be removed from the equation. A good service desk rule of thumb dictates that monthly contact volume is roughly .8 times the number of IT or end users.
2. Contact/Ticket Volume
How many total contacts (all emails, voice calls, voice mails, etc.) are handled per month? For organizations that have been tracking contact volume, forecasting the support demand enables IT management to set appropriate staffing levels. Whether staffing in-house or outsourcing to a shared or dedicated team of agents, arriving at the appropriate number hinges primarily on total monthly contacts taking into account the Average Handle Time of Level 1 incidents and the period of coverage.
3. IT Service Management Tool
What call tracking or ticketing system is being used? Is it an industry standard or ITIL v3 verified tool or is all support activity haphazardly documented in emails or an excel spreadsheet? What are the capabilities regarding incident management, problem management, change management, workflows, notifications, and reporting? When considering an outsourcing solution, the ideal vendor will incorporate a brand-neutral approach to the ITSM platform in the solution. This means they should be willing to leverage the client’s preferred tool, especially if they’ve invested heavily in a robust system and wish to retain consistent reporting. Integration is another option, though often cumbersome to manage if fields are captured in disparate databases aren’t conducive to smooth workflows or status notifications. A flexible service provider will only provision a preferred ticketing system when the client doesn’t have an effective one implemented.
4. Snapshot of Supported IT Assets
What is your current IT environment? Particularly, what operating systems and applications are being supported? Many organizations will provide hardware asset inventory, but for a remote Level 1 support, the primary driver for solution development from a technology standpoint is the software running on those assets and how users are accessing them. Are there any rollouts planned to phase out legacy systems? Getting an accurate snapshot of current IT assets provides an advance preview of what support items and compatibility issues may arise and helps the service desk anticipate what agent skill sets will be required.
5. Call/Incident Types
As with IT assets, getting a clear picture of what types of problems generate the highest number of contacts to the service desk helps gauge the support complexity. As resolution procedures become more involved Average Handle Time increases which, as mentioned above, is a factor in determining staffing levels. In addition, high complexity support items such as device reimaging, patch management and anti-virus updates require more technically proficient service desk agents who tend to be compensated at higher rates when compared with those who focus on basic access and connectivity issues.
These are the quantitative aspects of an initial service desk assessment that determine the breadth of the scope and ballpark pricing, but there are many qualitative considerations that require solution fine tuning. Please check back next week for Part 2 of the solution development process or click the “subscribe” button in the upper right-hand corner.