Most organizations approach IT support management somewhat reactively (think of the familiar phrase of “firefighting IT”). But in today’s world of increased expectations and instant gratification, it’s no longer enough for IT to simply fix something once it breaks. In order to stay ahead, IT support must take a proactive role in its delivery of IT services and support. Even though support management usually implies activities that involve an immediate response, it is possible to plan and manage services so that incidents are less frequent. Anticipating common requests and making tools available to the end-user, measuring and creating succinct request processes, and maintaining strong communication with stakeholders, all help to both alleviate the agent’s workload and resolve end-user requests more efficiently. In this post we share the top five actions you can take today to optimize your IT support department.
Action 1: Create a system for tracking requests
Users want a fast and easy response to their incident requests, and technicians want to quickly see the problem so as to provide a fast and efficient solution. For this purpose of this article, we assume you have a service desk system in place (a way of assigning requests by number), but if not that’s the first place to start. With a request management system, requests are uploaded by an identified user and prioritized so that an agent responds. The goal is to devise a way of assigning categories to the requests, allocating respondents, automating processes, etc. to resolve the request as quickly as possible. At a base level, we want to establish clear communication for the agents and end-users throughout the lifecycle of the request, and simultaneously track its progress.
Action 2: Create a knowledge center to encourage user self service
Resolving incidents and preventing common requests is the goal of IT support. When end-users are able to troubleshoot and resolve their own requests, this of course greatly reduces the workload and backlog of the IT support department. By anticipating common requests and allowing the users to easily access self-help articles and information to troubleshoot their own issue, user satisfaction increases and resolution wait times decrease. To do this successfully, it is necessary for users to have access to a knowledge base where they can quickly and intuitively find solutions to their problems, and even have the option to suggest a solution when they are uploading requests. The knowledge base can host articles both inward-facing to support staff and outward-facing via the self-service portal. Simply put, the better your knowledge base, the better you can anticipate requests.
Action 3: Managing your workload
Providing quality support means managing your staff in the most efficient way possible to best respond to service incidents. The support goal is to meet the end-users’ expectations while still managing the pending job requests so they don’t pile up. One of the ways to ensure success is to track the historical backlog, i.e., accumulated pending requests, so as to see the whole picture and take the necessary measures to resolving requests. Analyzing the historical backlog is key to better staff efficiency and fewer missed or delayed requests.
Action 4: When in doubt measure, measure, measure
When deciding on what actions to take in order to optimize the support provided, it is necessary to measure what we are doing, i.e., wait times for users requesting a response from the agents – and vice versa - job priority changes, scoring the knowledge base request resolution times, support agent collaborations, etc.
The way in which data is gathered, cross-checked and visualized is essential; collecting accurate metrics quickly and easily facilitates the decision-making process. Therefore, it is very important to have a support tool that enables customized graphics and reporting, in real time. Any IT manager wants their department to run as optimally and efficiently as possible, and the only way to know what is and is not working, we always have to go back and look at the data.
Action 5: Identify who is in charge of the resolution of a request at any given time
Depending on the incident request, circumstances and time, a support request can be shared amongst multiple agents in order to resolve it. Knowing who ‘owned’ the request throughout its lifecycle and the details about the request provides the needed data to make further evaluations. For example, if jobs are consistently not meeting the established SLAs, that could indicate an internal process issue or that the SLAs were not initially set up correctly.
Everyone can agree it’s more efficient and profitable to prevent repeated, common, and time-consuming requests from reaching the IT support desk. Encouraging self-service actions for end-users and further supporting them through a robust knowledge base, will increase end-user satisfaction over time, decrease the historical backlog, and end high wait times for support. Systemizing IT support through a request management tool is one of the fastest and easiest way to save money and time while better supporting your internal stakeholders and end-users. Finally, establishing SLAs, request ownership, and tracking/measuring requests will all contribute toward IT support working at maximum efficiency. And at the end of the day that’s what we want; an optimized IT support department and happy end-users.
What is one action you plan to take today to optimize your IT support?