Where’s the IT Service Desk Going in 2020

Stephen Mann January 22, 2020
- 5 min read

It’s a new year. In fact, it’s a new decade. Perhaps, even the return of the “Roaring Twenties.” But what does 2020 hold for your IT service desk? Or, if you don’t quite know the answer to this question yet, here’s a selection of areas in which I believe IT service desks, including yours, should be investing in change during 2020 and beyond. Of course, not all of these will be relevant to your IT services desk, at least not immediately, but hopefully this blog will get you thinking about what might, and will need to, change in the next few years. 

So, please read on for five of the key changes driving the future of IT service desks in 2020 and beyond. 

Change #1: The Need to Focus on Employee Experience 

While many IT service desks have measured customer satisfaction, i.e. employee satisfaction, with IT support for many years, employee experience is something different. And it doesn’t help that there are many definitions of what employee experience is out there on the internet. However, for me, this quote from a Forrester Research blog sums it up nicely, that: 

“Psychological research shows that the most important factor for employee experience is being able to make progress every day toward the work that they believe is most important.” 

So, it’s about employee productivity and the removal of “friction” in the workplace and, hence, hopefully you can appreciate why your traditional customer satisfaction questionnaire will not “cut the mustard” here. Instead, employee experience will need to be supported by new measures and potentially new mechanisms for getting the employee-experience-based feedback that your IT service desk needs to improve its operations and outcomes. 

Change #2: The Increased Use of Automation 

How long have we had automation in IT support? It’s a long time I know. But now IT organizations are doubling down on automation due to a variety of drivers that go way beyond the fact that the automation technology is available. 

These drivers include the: 

  • Need to deliver superior employee experiences, which in part includes increased speed 
  • Continued pressure on costs, of which labor cost is a significant element for IT support 
  • Staff shortages that affect the ability of organizations to recruit and retain the needed levels of skilled IT personnel 
  • Availability of new technologies that make for intelligent automation 
  • Success of cloud and DevOps automation investments, plus the automation-related guidance in new IT service management (ITSM) best practices such as ITIL 4 (please see Change #5 below). 

Change #3: Understanding the Value of the IT Service Desk 

Hopefully, you’re already seeing this change in business practices (and not just in IT). Where the focus is being elevated above what things cost to understand the business value that’s created.  

So, while the IT service desk has traditionally been seen as a cost center – and perhaps even a “cost of quality” for some – savvy businesses will take a value-based view of IT support expenditure and the associated operations. 

So, how does your IT service desk create value for your organization? It’s a much harder question to answer than “What are you spending your IT support budget on?”  

The important thing here is to fully understand what the answer is before someone senior asks you the question. Because who knows what the inability to answer such a question could lead to? 

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Change #4: The Changing Demands on Service Desk Analysts 

The first three changes all have an impact on the service desk analyst role – from employee experience, through automation, to having a value focus. They also mean that your service desk analysts will likely need to change (or even to be changed). 

The bottom line here is that what was once okay for IT support will no longer be the case. For example, across these other three changes: 

  • Employee experience – there needs to be an IT-support ecosystem (strategies, policies, processes/practices, and capabilities) that’s laser-focused on getting employees working again as quickly as possible. This will impact everything from the skills and capabilities required of service desk analysts, the numbers employed, to how their performance is measured. 
  • Automation – the technology will remove many of the simpler tasks of service desk analysts (by virtue of it taking over many of the high-volume, low-value tasks of IT support). This will impact what service desk analysts do (on a day-to-day basis) and, as a result, mean changes to role requirements and associated performance measures. With the latter significantly affected by service desk analysts now spending the majority of their time on more complicated and time-consuming tasks. 
  • Value focus – continuing the concept of the “elevation” above costs, the same is true for the traditional “how many?” and “how long?” views of service desk analyst motivations and performance. Here, given the complexity of understanding what different business stakeholders deem to be of value – and hence how the IT service desk creates value – this will undoubtedly affect the required motivations and the associated performance metrics. 

Change #5: The Impact of ITIL 4 

I’ve deliberately left this one until last for a couple of reasons. First, your organization might not have invested in ITIL’s ITSM best practice guidance, and hence this change might be of no interest to you (and it). Second, ITIL 4 brings together much of the change happening in ITSM and calling it out is going to duplicate some of the other points in this blog. For example, employee experience, automation, and value. 

However, there are other elements of ITIL 4 that are likely to affect how your IT service desk operates (and potentially what is asked of it) in 2020 and beyond. For example, the concept of “swarming” which takes service desk agents from the hierarchy of the tiered support model to a “flat” collaboration-based model. Or, the inclusion of new best practice guidance areas in ITIL 4, with an obvious IT-support-affecting addition being that of IT asset management (ITAM)

So, that’s where I believe your IT service desk will be heading in 2020 and beyond. What would you add? What would you disagree with? Please let me know in the comments.

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