Tony North on Help Desk Leadership in 2023: Challenges, Governance, and AI

Celeste Mottesi April 20, 2023
- 8 min read

Help desk leadership is always an ongoing topic. People can’t seem to feel they know enough about it, so they keep digging, looking for new ideas, perspectives, methods, or whatever can make them even better at their jobs. And don’t get us wrong; that’s exactly what you should be doing! And to help you with that, we discussed “Service and Leadership in 2023” in April’s Ticket Volume podcast live recording.

Tony North –  Senior Manager of IT Service at King County, Washington (United States) – as a guest, chatted with Matt Beran – Ticket Volume host and InvGate Product Specialist – about how to lead a help desk in the public sphere, the challenges associated with it, data governance, Artificial Intelligence for Incident Management, and a lot more.

So, here’s a quick written recap of the episode. But before we start, don’t forget that you can register to our monthly live recordings and ask your questions live. Are you up for some free consulting? Then register for Ticket Volume live now!



Managing a county help desk

The first topic to address was North’s experience being a help desk manager at King County. His role involves managing service desks that fix and retrieve systems throughout their lifecycle, and its particularity lies in working with a union shop.



"It's a union shop in the sense that all the employees are within a union. And because of that, there are stipulations that are required from the union.

For instance, when I start managing this type of environment, I like to create a ticket and then take that ticket and go service that customer. That way, I can actually get the experience that our customers feel. [...] Well, because it’s a union shop, I can’t do that; somebody else has to do that."

Tony North
Senior Manager of IT Service at King County, Washington
Ticket Volume’s live episode


Besides this example, the role comes with several other challenges, such as:

  • Responding immediately to provide confidence to customers.
  • Remote work difficulties (including having a hard time getting people back into the building and replacing PCS within their lifecycle).
  • Motivating technicians to come into the building and help people.
  • Assigning the right people to the right spot.

Nevertheless, North pointed out the legalities that require more time in government entities than in the private sector as a benefit, since they allow him to have a bit of additional time to train his staff.

3 tips for leading people on a service and support organization

And speaking of leading people, North also shared some nuggets on how he understands leadership, as well as some tips to help his agents build a career path.

  1. Take time to understand your team members’ strengths and weaknesses before making decisions.
  2. Build a career path within your team to help manage staff and position them where they will be most successful.
  3. Be persuasive in helping staff see where they fit best.
  4. To achieve your ultimate goal, you have to pull people along.
  5. A positive attitude is crucial because it allows you to adapt to what people need.
  6. Psychology plays a key role in leadership, and seeking counsel from others can help you see the full picture.
  7. Comfort is often the enemy, and taking baby steps out of our comfort zones can lead to growth.

Using dashboards for data-driven decisions

North also expanded on a key topic for managers: ITSM dashboards. He encouraged listeners to use them strategically to be able to base their decisions on facts and solve problems completely. 



"Build your dashboards for the KPIs that you have as a company [...] and then educate your team as a data culture. Instead of just making off-the-cuff decisions, go to the dashboard, look at the data, have a history of the problem."

Tony North
Senior Manager of IT Service at King County, Washington
Ticket Volume’s live episode


In line with this, he also recommended having good data governance practices in place to know where all the organization’s information is located and who’s responsible for it.

To put it in practice, he advised to:

  • Analyze help desk metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores.
  • Build a "war room" with metrics on every wall to understand the root cause of problems and improve decision-making.
  • Use dashboards and metrics at a lower level for daily work to enable KPIs to be used effectively.

If you want to learn more about IT Governance, check out Dan Aragon's episode.

Using AI for Incident Management

Lastly, the episode could not be finished without addressing the big elephant in the room: AI. North shared his experience on a previous job leveraging it for Incident Management and using it to communicate about incidents, speed up approval processes, and update tickets.

In his opinion, AI can be used to solve problems and improve efficiency, but it should not replace human decision-making entirely. Furthermore, agents could benefit from it to reduce chaos and connect information across multiple systems. For example, an AI system could identify missing tickets or updates in call logs and provide links for easy access.

AI can also be applied to manage Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs) since the system could identify broken links or other issues, allowing technicians to focus on fixing those issues rather than manually running reports.

Nonetheless, he recommended using it after a strategy has been developed to help identify areas where it can be most effective in achieving specific goals but avoid implementing it as a human replacement.

If you want to learn more about AI in ITSM, check out Mauricio Corona's episode.

In conclusion

This is just a short recap of Ticket Volume’s April live episode with Tony North, but the recording was almost an hour long! So, make sure to catch up on the full chat with InvGate Product Specialist Matt Beran to learn more about Customer Experience, remote work, system replacement, and more!

You can find the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or your favorite podcast platform. And remember to subscribe if you want to be a part of the monthly live recordings! 

Read other articles like this : IT Management, Ticket Volume podcast

Evaluate InvGate as Your ITSM Solution

30-day free trial - No credit card needed