COVID-19 and ITSM: How to Run an IT Service Desk in a Crisis

InvGate April 16, 2020
- 5 min read

Running an IT service desk can feel like an exercise in crisis management at the best of times. So, dealing with the day job plus a global pandemic is no one's idea of fun. But we are where we are. So, let’s have a look at our ten tips below to lift your IT service desk to the top of its game during these difficult times and to help your IT department to keep going until things start getting better.

1. Look after your IT support people

Your people are your everything. Keep them safe, make sure that they’ve got the equipment they need, and remind them to take regular breaks. Try to keep a sense of normalcy by having team meetings and catch-ups.  

One of the most worrying aspects of the COVID-19 crisis (aside from the virus itself) is the toll it will take on the mental health of people. So, do everything in your power to check in with your team members and ensure that everyone is OK. Or as OK as they can be right now. 

It’s very easy when times are tough to focus on results and to forget about the people delivering them. So, right now, when everyone is upping their game and working hard despite potentially being at home with rogue pets/partners/children (or maybe even all three), cut your team some slack and recognize what they’re achieving under pressure. 

2. Make sure you’re communicating effectively

Keeping people updated is critical in a time of crisis. Contact your key business stakeholders and let them know which people and what IT support areas you’re prioritizing and why. Let people know that you’ll get to them – that nothing is going to be lost, ignored, or forgotten about. It’s just that if someone is vulnerable and struggling with connectivity they’ll be prioritized over most other tickets.  

If you can, use automation to do some of the heavy lifting for you. For example, push alerts such that people are automatically notified should the status of their incident or request change, so they don’t have to chase your desk for an update.

3. Check equipment levels

Make sure that your colleagues – especially the now remote ones – have the equipment needed to do their day jobs. Have a process in place for delivering equipment to new hires or for people that need to replace missing or broken equipment.  

An alternative to home deliveries could be the use of smart lockers whereby customers can collect equipment from a central, secure location (while practicing social distancing, of course, in the context of COVID-19).

4. Up your game when providing remote support

Fixing issues remotely is a skill in itself. It doesn’t matter how technical you are, if you’re supporting customers remotely, then you’ll need to have the people skills to match.  

So, practice active listening, ask questions, and recognize that the person at the other end of the phone is just that, a human being, not just another call in the queue or ticket to be fixed.

5. You may need to change the way you allocate work

Most IT service management (ITSM) best practices will talk about prioritizing incidents and requests based on urgency and impact. Which is great in theory but may need to be adjusted during a crisis.  

So, check your work allocation and prioritization processes to make sure that they’re fit for purpose in light of COVID-19 isolation measure. Such that anyone who’s vulnerable or dealing with connectivity issues gets looked after first.  

Everything else can be sorted out in good time. But, before you do anything else, look after people working on frontline services or anyone dealing with the elderly, the vulnerable, or the scared. I promise you that it’s the right thing to do no matter what the service level agreement (SLA) says.

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6. Decide what to focus on next

OK, so you’ve dealt with the vulnerable and the absolutely essential stuff. Now is the time to start using that priority matrix again.  

If an incident is a priority one or two, typically this means that there’s potential for a major incident. So, try to fix these as soon as possible. Check-in with your service delivery managers and support teams to ensure workloads are still manageable and that there are no showstoppers.  

If you use event management and monitoring tools, try to find some time to review any automated alerts. It’s very easy for a file server to run out of capacity or for a maintenance restart to be missed. So, keep an eye on any alerts related to critical services.

7. Use self-help and self-service to make things better for everyone

The chances are that your incident queue is absolutely ridiculous at the moment. Reduce the pressure on your IT service desk by posting self-help content on your IT self-service portal or intranet.  

The more you can empower your business colleagues, the more time your IT support team will have to fix everything else. If you can automate things such as account lockouts and password resets, then do it so that your support people can work on the more challenging issues.

8. Be flexible

Most IT departments usually don’t provide support for personal devices. But the COVID-19 reality is that people need to be able to work from home. In some areas, the lockdown and shelter-in-place rules came into effect with very little warning resulting in lots of people stranded without their equipment.  

Employees might have left their laptops in the office and getting hold of their equipment is a bit challenging at the moment to say the least. So, look at what you can work with. If you’ve a business colleague that has their own laptop or tablet, there’s Office 365 (other personal productivity suites are available). Also get people to install Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom, etc. on their devices such that it’s easy for them to stay in touch with their colleagues and other people.

9. Keep sharing knowledge

Try to make sure that everyone in the team has the same basic level of understanding, particularly if you’re having to work differently right now. Make sure that everyone on the IT service desk can handle the IT support basics. For example: 

 Password resets and unlocking accounts (if not automated) 

  • Supporting your organization’s preferred video conferencing software 
  • Dealing with network connectivity issues 
  • Common email-issue resolutions 
  • How to deal with proxy settings in web browsers 
  • Clearing print queues. 

10. Keep going

It’s tough at the moment. Really tough. But somehow this will eventually get better. So, keep going, one person at a time, one issue at a time. Keep doing small achievable chunks of work and we’ll all get there. You’ve got this, we promise. 

For more information on how we’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please see here how we’re offering our service desk solutions free of charge to anyone who needs them.

How is your IT service desk coping with the COVID-19 crisis? Do you have any tips to share with others? Please let us know in the comments.

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