Anna Frazzetto's Blog

Digital Innovations and Technology Solutions

Can the Help Desk Win from Behind?

Examining Key Questions from HDI 2014

The end of March saw me enjoying a whole different kind of "Madness." It was the 2014 HDI Conference and Expo where basketball courts and college fans were nowhere in sight but that sports trope of "coming from behind" was on my mind consistently.

basketball through net.jpg

To me, "coming from behind" in the age of unremitting technology advancement is the constant state of the help desk. Like a scrappy team in the NCAA's famed national basketball tournament, today's help desk teams are asked each day to achieve the near impossible: effectively and rapidly provide support to users/customers who utilize software and devices that are constantly changing.

In an HDI Conference session I led called "Fast Moving Technologies & the Help Desk Response," the audience was full of questions on how their teams could succeed when the technology foundations beneath them were constantly shifting. Here are the most common questions I heard and the approaches I believe businesses and IT organizations must take to ensure help desk teams can come from behind to win.

How can you keep the help desk in the know in terms of the technologies they have to support?
Help desk managers play the most important role today in ensuring the help desk team is informed and on top of the technologies they must support. Managers must partner proactively with technology leaders and senior management in order to stay ahead of the technology curve. If they don't, their help desk teams will be taking calls to support new devices and technologies they know nothing about. Managers must make it a priority to stay well ahead of the technologies coming into the workplace through regular updates and continuous communication with IT leaders.
Help desk managers can empower their own teams, inviting them to take on key roles in monitoring technology advancements and opportunities. By identifying subject matter experts (SMEs) or groups within the help desk team focused on monitoring developments to key technologies, a manager empowers staff members to use their own tech skills and passion to increase the knowledge and capabilities of the help desk.

What's the best way to handle legacy applications with so much new technology coming in?
To manage both new and old, businesses need to be ready to take a dual approach. Offshoring and/or outsourcing the legacy application(s) can save money, time and give internal help desk teams time to focus on emerging tools and new business direction. Other businesses may find it critical to keep some legacy application management knowledge in house. In this case, dividing the help desk team into legacy and emerging technology groups allows the business to split SLAs and workloads while retaining knowledge in house.

With help desk training often reduced or cut due to budget constraints, how can managers keep their teams knowledgeable and trained? 
Managers have to get very creative to train teams in cost effective ways today. In the HDI session, cross training was identified as a cost effective way to leverage internal experts to teach new skills and technologies to help desk teams as well as user groups. Many businesses host brown bag lunch training sessions in which one help desk team member shares his/her knowledge on a new application or platform. This kind of peer learning/training offers both skill development and knowledge sharing benefits, encouraging help desk teams to work together to support users and their technologies.

To effectively recruit skilled, knowledge centric professionals for the help desk, what should the job description include? 
Today's best help desk professionals have a combination of technology experience and soft skills (communication, problem solving, team player, dedication) that can be hard to pinpoint and attract. Focus on listing the technology skills most important to your help desk and then look for candidates with experience that requires working in team environments, learning on the job and thinking on your feet.
Today's best help desk professionals are adaptive and thoughtful, able to use their technology skills to creatively solve problems. When recruiting help desk professionals, be open to people with varied backgrounds. While their technology skills might not align perfectly to your needs, candidates who show the ability to learn and evolve with technology are exactly what every help desk needs.

Have any questions or insights on how to keep the help desk ahead of constant innovation? Send them here and we'll discuss.