A Strategy for future Helpdesk and Problem and Change Management Functions within ABC-IT Essay

A Strategy for future Helpdesk and Problem and Change Management Functions within ABC-IT

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Executive Summary

            The overall assessment of ABC-IT’S operation lies to its Leadership and Management,  Strategy and Policies, Procedures, and Resources. This can be done thru an effective helpdesk system internal of the company. Helpdesk can be a rich and empowering source of information whether you are a consumer, employee, investor, active member of your community, or just an interested individual. Helpdesk should provide a balanced and reasonable representation of the sustainability performance of an organization – including both positive and negative results.

            Helpdesk is the core avenue for all information in the company to:

©      Assess effective performance with respect to company policies, cultures, standard operating procedures, performance standards.

©      Create a continuous platform for dialogue about expectations for responsibility and performance;

©      Understand the impacts (positive and negative) that company can have on effective operations; and

©      Compare performance within an organization and between different groups or department over time to assess in decision-making.

            Effective reporting thru helpdesk is a living process and tool, and does not begin or end with a printed or online publication. Reporting should fit into a broader process for setting organizational strategy, implementing action plans, assessing outcomes, and continuously improving. Whether a key element in risk management, your main vehicle for external reporting, or a platform for stakeholder dialogue, effective reporting is fast becoming an essential part of management practice for successful organizations. Reporting should be a focused exercise that supports the needs of management and stakeholders. In particular the present helpdesk system of ABC-IT is going thru a difficult situation since subsequent merger with other companies present a difficulty in adjusting their software and hardware and specially control. The ABC – IT personnel is few and less training to keep in pace with the changing environment. Therefore, it is best to outsource to the leading supplier as suggested from the reports of  Birdbath in 1995. “The summary of the report contained two key areas of recommendation. Firstly, that the most significant driver to any IT strategy should be the business strategy, and that since the business was, at that time, in a constant state of flux, the IT strategy should be fluid enough to recognize this. It recommended that any strategy should include a move to outsourcing for every Asset as this would free ABC-ITs from the worries of running (and re-sourcing) a multi-architecture environment and allow them to concentrate on their core activity. A further advantage to this approach, they indicated, was that the need to “keep up” with the ever-accelerating pace of change within the IT arena was passed over to the supplier of the service.

The second suggestion was that a set of standard KPIs should be defined and imposed upon each business unit. Only in this way, they said, could comparisons across Assets be made. Each Business Information Manager will be responsible for ensuring the timely delivery of this information in a standard format. Birdbath went on to suggest the use of Comshare’s EIS system as the repository for this information.  In the UK, these KPI are created from a variety of sources. Reports are run against the various source data files and uploaded to the Financial Controller’s PC. He then applies several Excel macros, exports to text and then emails the text file to head office. The primary concerns about this process are that commercially sensitive data is sent using the Internet, and that only two people really understand the entire process, and only one of those understands what the macros do.

Principles and Guidance

            Apply the Reporting Principles and guidance to ensure your report is focused and of value for internal and external stakeholders.

• Define report content by applying the Principles of materiality, stakeholder inclusiveness, sustainability context, and completeness.

• Ensure report quality by applying the Principles of balance, comparability, accuracy, timeliness, reliability, and clarity.

• Set report boundary by following the guidance provided to determine the range of entities that should be included in the report.

Standard Disclosures

There are three different types of measures that can be used to express strategic approach, management goals, and performance results.

• Profile disclosures set the overall context for understanding performance – such as strategy and governance.

• Management Approach disclosures explain how specific sustainability issues are managed, including goals and targets.

• Performance Indicators elicit comparable information on economic, environmental, and social performance.


:           The goal of the company is” efficiency, effectiveness, productivity” For externally focused  “ customer support” helpdesk, the benefits are even greater since the helpdesk is a source of competitive advantage through customer service. More importantly, however, is the fact that as e-Business grows, the helpdesk into an integrated customer service, management center, will become an all-embracing imperative and the lack of one will become a competitive disadvantage.

Revolutionary Oil and International trade

The merger in 1921 between American Company Revolutionary Oil and Peterssen Dutch holdings brought the company to a new struggle and expansion in its operations.

            “Over the next ten years the American side of the company gained a majority holding in the company squeezing Dutch interest down to 35%. More smaller US oil producers were bought up and in 1970 the company announced a major purchase into a British offshore sight. Along with a shift in production emphasis to Europe that company again changed its name to reflect it’s international aspirations, and became Revolutionary Oil and International Trade. 65% American, the multi national oil company now has global operations in 30 countries. Operations include oil and gas services supplied direct to industry worldwide. The company has major holdings in some of the UK’s best-known service station companies. It also supplies servicing facilities direct to the consumer for multiple motor vehicles including: heavy and light industrial plant, cars, motorcycles, vans, trucks, tractors and other machinery. ABC-ITS also constructs offshore facilities including multiple purpose platforms, sub sea operations, and onshore refineries.”

The Problems

            These expansion in its operation is bringing with it problems, One of these problem is in the helpdesk operations. Although helpdesk are playing an increasingly important role in the corporate universe, they are not, in themselves an exciting subjects and do not capture the imagination of executives. Consequently, many executives tend to overlook the potential benefits they can give a firm. The good news for the executive who begins to yawn at the mention of the word “helpdesk” is that a will run company will not have  many problems implementing an effective helpdesk and much of what needs to be done falls well within the domain of general management. For readers from a technical background, this might sound disappointing but effective helpdesk are more about providing help than they are about the technology used in providing that support. Any organization that is on top of its business processes will  well positioned to rapidly implement an effective helpdesk.  For ABC – IT their helpdesk system is in trouble. First, “Management Reporting and Executive Information Systems (EIS) were traditionally seen as a nightmare for the Board. Although each business unit, or Asset, knew how they were performing and could report accordingly, there was no standard set of measures.”

            “ It was not unusual for one set of Key Indicators, used by one Asset, to have as little as 20% commonality with those used by another. When added to this mixture of indicators, the diversity of supporting systems used by the various Assets caused no end of problems every period end.” As a consequence of this, in 1995, ABC-ITs Board commissioned the stateside Birdbath Consultancy to produce a report, which addressed the feasibility for a global, IT strategy. Birdbath has a good reputation amongst large multi-nations.

Background information

            Specialist IT teams who flew in from corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas originally installed the current UK information technology systems and hardware over five years ago.

Although the Aberdeen office maintains a very small team of front office specialists who trouble shoot basic system problems, most of the everyday running and support for the systems is outsourced to a variety of companies. Several companies supply the systems and the outsourcing companies not only deal with ABC-ITS during systems changes and upgrades, but also need to liase, negotiate, and closely co-operate with all other 3rd party suppliers. This can lead to misinformation, not enough information, and missed communications.

The supplier / support situation has come about over a number of years as new systems were required and new technologies identified and installed. Coupled with company buy-ups, ABC-ITS has inherited a lot of systems from the smaller companies they have absorbed. At take-over time, ABC-ITS has always tried to maintain the status quo for staff and systems, in the hope that at a let date, more global systems would be put in place. This however, has never actually happened. The result is a large number of systems, some of which are completely redundant now, still in use. There are many software packages across the company, which perform the same task, but there is resistance to rolling out single packages, due to the training time required for those staff who have no knowledge of the package.

Due to the diversity of the systems needed to run global operations across the sites, there are various suppliers for the varying technologies in use. Supplying on and offshore communications, including satellite communications, telephone communications and radio communications, are BT Syncordia. Supplying the hardware and maintaining the software for ABC-ITs Intranet and access to the Internet is Data Marine Systems (DMS). Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) supplies all firewalls into the Intranet and for access out to the Internet. The personnel system used by the personnel department for staff records is called Peoplesoft © which is supported by a company called Talisman. Software available on staff desktops (including COTS packages), licensing for software, and specialist software developed in an ad-hoc manner as required specifically for ABC-ITS are all currently maintained by ABC-ITs own front office staff from the Aberdeen office. Sub sea, drilling and Geoscience applications have been developed, and are maintained and supported by Schlumberger Geoquest. Other on-site vendors include Baker Hughes (Inteq) and Landmark Graphics Corporation. The Manpower Personnel System (MAPS) was specifically developed by SAIC to control the movement of personnel to offshore platforms. There is a very basic Helpdesk at Aberdeen manned by five ABC-ITS staff, but it has been obvious for some time that the number of calls far outweigh their time and skills and the whole Helpdesk function would be benefit from a more professional approach from an outsourced company.


ABC-ITs network system is contained within the Aberdeen main office. It is maintained by the Network Command Centre remotely by SAIC. Due to the nature of the equipment and the sensitivity of data and systems held within the server room, a document called a Permit to Work must be obtained before any maintenance or upgrading can be carried out in the server room.

With continuing growth and absorption of other companies a lot of the hardware is out of date and obsolete, and is causing a problem in the server room. With the expected “joint venture” about to go ahead even more room will be needed for the ingress of hardware for the South American operations. It is known that two AS/400 machines are reaching the end of their working life, but a replacement solution has yet to be put forward.

95% of systems are held on site at Aberdeen in the server room. Also contained within are the Cisco routers and hubs, and from here raptor firewalls are managed. The local area network around the building utilises Ethernet cabling. Systems used are mixed of Unix and NT Servers.

At the main onshore sites, every staff member has his or her own desktop system. Although a lot of the server equipment is out of date, a good level of upgrading has been maintained for user machines. Although approximately 25% are older systems of Pentium 266MMX with 10 speed CD-ROM and 15″ monitors, most systems are Pentium 3 running at approximately 600 MHz complete with 30x CD-ROM with 17″ or 21″ monitors. All machines have a floppy drive, and apart from Director’s of the company who have their own printers per machine, all other desktops share HP Laser printers at one printer per 10 machines. There are other specialist printers required for printing large size maps and underwater topography etc, and each department has at least one colour printer of varying makes, models and ages. There are approximately four print servers in the server room, although information on how many machines are used for printing is sketchy.

Each offshore installation has it’s own dedicated server networked as appropriate to high specification Pentium desktops. Connections to main services are via an adapted WAN set­up. Some services are available via the Internet, but not enough. Some systems can also be accessed via satellite links but these are proving to be expensive.


The common desktop operating system is Windows 95 based. All desktops have Microsoft Office suite running locally, with specific DLL’s and EXE’s brought down from home server space on login ensuring security for the software and to counteract piracy. Dr. Solomon’s virus software is locally installed to each machine but is dependant on the individual checking each floppy disk as they access it; needless to say this rarely happens. Policy for security is that no floppy disks should be inserted into the floppy drives without the Front Office team first checking them for viruses, but unless the floppy drive is disabled it is a difficult policy to police. Common software available to all and in general use includes: Documentum – document management software (UNIX); ClearCase configuration management software (UNIX); PI (Production Information) (UNIX); COOL:Gen (CASE tool – used little) (NT); ERIS legacy database internet building interface; Minitab statistical package (NT); Geoscience software suite used for oil exploration (UNIX); Remedy Helpdesk software, front end application on (NT box); Remedy Helpdesk database built in Sybase (UNIX; MAPS manpower and personnel planning software (SAIC bespoke software solution); Visio drawings and diagrammatic software; ArtemiS state of the art analysis software.

            Microsoft Explorer is the preferred browser, although some users have managed to get copies of Netscape and are using that locally on their machines. There are no controls on downloads from the internet, and a lot of music software such as Real Player; Sonique; Macromedia Shockwave; Adobe acrobat are but a few examples of the illegal software finding it’s way onto user desktops.

There have been three serious instances of virus infection from email and browser downloads in the past two months, which have resulted in unplanned outages to the email system and to the Documentum server. Each fix has had to come from Dr. Solomon’s in the form of a virus patch and the average wait time and unavailable systems has been five hours.

Microsoft Project 4 is available to all desktops, but not everyone uses or needs access to it. Specialist packages and access software are also available to some but the licensing issue is a bit unknown, and no one really knows who has what on their machines.

There are many specialist systems available to individuals at both on and offshore locations; these have been listed separately.


DAT tape drives – two per server. Backups are run nightly by ABC-ITs on site front office team who start backups off each evening. Tapes are stored for three months and then replaced. They are rarely checked for accurate backups, and sooner or later a backup will need to be used to replace a critical system and it will be found to be faulted or not to have completed successfully. This is an issue often brought to the attention to of the management team, but nothing has been implemented for contingencies so far. There are various servers in use in the server room. A lot of applications are held on Unix boxes of varying ages. Databases are usually held on UNIX servers although not always. Some applications are on NT servers. All of the data servers are NT. Email and Intranet and Internet software are held on separate servers. There are also numerous print servers.

Front Office

            This is the first line of defense when it comes to work that needs to be done in any of the ABC-ITS locations both on and offshore. Two staff have safety certificates which allow them to work offshore, but of course not all staff have been certified which makes manpower logistics quite difficult at times.

The team deals with problems such as printer problems and desktop faults. They change systems out and install new machines as required. They install and maintain the Ethernet cabling for the LANs and oversee the WAN functionality.

There is little time for updating of skills and further training so the team feels they are falling behind in the current job skills market, and are becoming quite concerned about this. They also fear that should the Helpdesk function be outsourced, and then their skills will not match the skills of the incoming Front Office team. In the past ABC-ITs has ensured that staff absorbed by joint ventures, or take-overs have been found suitable work within the company without major upheaval, but this has done little to allay fears.

Front office also support computer of the shelf packages such as Microsoft Office suite etc. There is a small number of staff that has in-depth knowledge of the suite of programs and can trouble shoot general problems.

Back Office

The back-office team is a combination of members across ABC-ITS and the third party support companies depending on which application is being supported. The networks are monitored and maintained remotely from the SAIC site in Aberdeen.

Back Office maintains, upgrades and decommissions the servers with the NCC. They remotely install off the shelf software, patches and upgrades via SMS. The email team is also part of this group. They work across sites adding new accounts, deleting old ones, upgrading email packages as required, installing patches etc.

The NT team is also part of the back-office set-up. They monitor all NT systems and ensure servers are functioning correctly.

The function is a little haphazard at the moment as there are a large number of companies supplying so many different systems. This function would benefit from outsourcing. The outsourcing company chosen could then head up a full back-office team and take over the 3rd party liaison activities and more effectively co-ordinate systems changes and outages.

The Solutions

            As every organization is different, it is not possible to establish a helpdesk out of a box. However, the issues that need to considered are common. We divide them into five “categories” which we refer to as the “four elements “of effective helpdesks, All four overlapping elements need to be successfully addressed to result in an effective help desk. They are;

©      Leadership and Management

©      Strategy and Policies

©      Procedures

©      Resources

Leadership and management

It should come as no surprise that a leadership is the first element in the list as without leadership and clearly defined objectives; there is little chance that anything will be successfully accomplish. Management needs to define what it wishes to accomplish with a helpdesk. When this has done, the definition should embody in a helpdesk mission statement. This gives the helpdesk its mandate, functions as a control to prevent the establishment of conflicting objectives, acts as a tool to help communicate the role of the helpdesk throughout the organization, and helps to provide a sense of purpose to the helpdesk staff. Once the purpose of the helpdesk is clear, the scope of the helpdesk’s responsibilities and its objectives can be set. To establish meaningful objectives, we recommend using the mission statement in conjunction with other strategy and policy considerations as a guideline. As with all strategic decisions, these decisions are best not carved in stone. However, enough thought should go into making them to ensure that they do not need to be revised too quickly. Revisions carry the hefty price tag of confusion and, if there are too many changes, the decision makers may be discredited. The objectives serve as a benchmark against which all subsequent decisions can be evaluated – “ if we do this will it help us achieve our objectives?” As management is responsible for ensuring that the helpdesk strives to create competitive advantage, it must ensure that the objectives are related to customer requirements – be they internal or external customers. Deciding on the scope of the helpdesk’s responsibilities is not always as clear – cut an issue as you might first assume. Possible responsibilities include:

©      Providing information

©      Problem Tracking

©      Problem Solving

©      Hardware and software evaluation

©      Hardware and software installation

©      Hardware and software inventory control

©      Training

However, strictly speaking, most of these are not legitimate helpdesk functions. We only list them since many firms assign these responsibilities to the helpdesk for various reasons. The main factor preventing the scope of the helpdesk from being a black and white issue is a lack of differentiation between the IT department and the help desk. Often, this is because a firm’s IT department has fallen into the role of trouble shooting and ends up being a de-facto helpdesk. In other cases – especially in smaller firms – it is s result of a lack of staff with the technical skills that management feels are required for helpdesk work and so no separate helpdesk business unit is formed. In contrast, in larger firms the IT department is a customer of the helpdesk, which may even be outsourced.

            While we feel that the first three tasks are bonafide helpdesk responsibilities, we do not believe that the others are. Let’s examine the reasons why:

©      Hardware and Software Evaluation and Installation

            We feel that the evaluation of software prior to purchase is a task for the end-user working in conjunction with the IT department and that the selection and installation of hardware – as well as software installation – is the task for the IT department. There is little logic to support the assignment of these responsibilities to the helpdesk other than the lack of human resources.

©      Hardware and Software Inventory Control

            There is some logic behind the idea of having the helpdesk responsible for inventory control since it requires knowledge of the existing systems and setups to provide solution to problems. However, since it only needs access to the information, we feel that the task of maintaining the information is better left to the IT department.

©      Training

            There is a reasonably strong argument to justify giving the helpdesk responsibility for user training: Inadequate training is the result of many helpdesk calls and increases their workload. Therefore, since the helpdesk knows where the areas of weakness are, it is able to plan appropriate trainings and since its workload will drop once employees are better trained, giving the helpdesk responsibility for training seems to make sense. However, we believe that the line managers should be responsible for their staff and we maintain that the responsibility for training should lie with them. Furthermore, as training requires a very different skill set to core helpdesk work, we have a second argument supporting this stance. We believe that it is best that the helpdesk provide analysis of its support issues to HR or line management, which can then be used as an input for creating training plans.

We do not hold that it is wrong to have the helpdesk responsible for installation, inventory and training – how can we, as we each firm is different and will have different objectives – but we do hold that it is inefficient. The downside of having helpdesk staff perform non -problem solving tasks is that it takes resources away from their core activity.

Consequently, resources permitting, we recommend only assigning the first three of the responsibilities listed above the helpdesk.

Strategy and Policy

            As mentioned, the four elements overlap. Consequently, certain strategic issues have been covered under leadership and management. What remains to be discussed are:

©      Security

©      Outsourcing vs. In-house

©      Structure

©      Service level Agreements


From the strategic point of view, it is necessary to decide how much authorization on the helpdesk team should have since there is a tradeoff between security risk and helpdesk scope of service, Issues to consider include:

©      What system can they access?

©      What degree of access are they give? The helpdesk often has Master passwords.

©      Under what conditions and at what times have they access?

©      Ate they given remote access?

A security policy should be drawn up by making decisions on each of these issues and then careful attention should be paid on how the policy support, consideration should be given to a dial- back mechanism that only allows access from authorized numbers.

The Outsourcing Question (Outsourcing vs. In-house)

Although not a very popular option in Japan (considerably less than 50% of firms outsource.) it is possible that the needs of the company and its strategic objectives can best be meet by outsourcing the helpdesk rather than by creating one In-house. Doing so can make it possible to access experienced helpdesk professionals, can be more cost effective, simplifies the job of getting a helpdesk up and running, and can free up resources to focus on the core business. If you can find a firm  that will provide the desired level of support than it is definitely worth evaluating this option.

Factors to consider when making this decision include:

©      Does outsourcing fit with your corporate strategy?

©      Does the provider understand your needs?

©      Will the provider, consistently, be able to meet the required level of service?

©      Will the provider be able to give sufficient feedback on problems and processes?

©      Do security concerns make it acceptable to outsource?

©      Are the long term cost of outsourcing significantly less?

If you can answer “yes” to all of the above questions, then you probably should outsource the helpdesk. However, if this perfect fit is not possible then outsourcing may not be such a good idea. A negative answer, for example to the first questions should rule out the option of outsourcing. That said, negative answer to both the third and fourth may not eliminate the possibility. It very depends on your firm’s circumstances and what tradeoffs you feel you can accommodate. An alternatives to outsourcing the whole helpdesk is a combined approach that outsource only certain responsibilities, such as off-peak support or support for certain software or technologies.


If you decide to create an in house helpdesk, then you need to decide on the structure of the helpdesk. There are two aspects to this:

©      Centralized – Decentralized

©      Function

A centralized helpdesk provides a single point of contact for all technical problems. The helpdesk staff nay solve the problems or allocate them to other personnel but they are responsible for managing the problem and tracking its status. The advantages of this model are that fewer resources are required, there is easier sharing of knowledge among helpdesk staff and since everybody is provided with a single point of contact, there is less risk of confusion among the other staff.

However, decentralized helpdesks can be more suitable for some organizations. In general, decentralized model works well for organizations that are spread over a large geographic region, that require  more than one language or which operate in multiple time zones. In addition to the ability to cope with these needs, a decentralized helpdesk also facilitates much better disaster recovery than a centralized one.

On the issue of functional structure, the conventional approach is to divide the helpdesk into a number of tiers. Typically the first tier- which we will call level one – acts as a
”first port of call” for all help requests. Level – one staff handle many simple issues and allocate issues they cannot resolve to the next level. The second level tends to be divided by specially, with experts in the relevant fields working in the helpdesk. Depending on the size of your organization, the variety and complexity of problems that the helpdesk has to handle, a third level might be necessary. (Note: It is best not to have too many layers, as this will stress the customer)

For smaller organizations, a single level helpdesk might be a viable option. However, this approach has its own set of complications since it is difficult to get generalist with adequate know how in all the required fields. Consequently, unless great care is taken, the helpdesk tends to function as a number of serialized – read decentralized – helpdesks, which can have poor data capture and reporting.

Service Level Agreements

Once you have determined the helpdesks objectives, its scope of responsibility and its structure, it is time to sit sown and draft a Service Level Agreement  (SLA). For an internally focused helpdesk, this can be seen as the commitment the helpdesk makes to the rest of the firm. It is also, a document that makes clear exactly what services are provided by the helpdesk, at what times those services are available, who is responsible for the support, and what the target solution times are.

The SLA can also be used to established certain policies, such as the methods in which the helpdesk may be contacted. Possible contact  methods include telephone, fax,  email, the used of web forms, and even somebody walking up in person but not all contact methods are created equal. For example, emails is an inferior method of contact as the mail may not provide adequate information and this will result in a higher cost of  resolution. In contrast, web-forms impose a structure, can require certain information, and it is even possible to have the information required alter dynamically depending on answers given on previous fields. Likewise, faxes, on standard forms are also acceptable.

Another policy issue that should be addressed in the SLA is the question of whether on site support is included or not? Going to a user’s desk can speed up the of hardware problems but, in general, on-site support significantly increases the cost involved- especially if travel is required.


It should go without saying that the helpdesk needs a set of standard operating procedures that define how it works on a day-to day basis. However, just having procedures is not enough- the procedures must be documented! Documented procedures serve several functions. Firstly, they make it easy to communicate to costumers how their issues are handled. Secondly, they help ensure that issues are always handled in a consistent way- which should be the optimal way if the procedure has been well thought out. Thirdly, they assist in training in new helpdesk staff and, finally, they act as reference, from which it is possible to see if procedures are performed correctly. Finally, for larger helpdesks, some consideration should be given to have a test lab of computers with common costumer configurations that can act as “test systems” for replication of costumer’s environment and problem.

Software Tools

Ideally, all software tools should be accessible from a single workstation and, preferably, from a single interface. The functionality required from the tools includes:

*Problem logging and tracking tools

*Knowledge storage and retrieval tools

*Diagnostic tools

*Reporting and Performance Analysis tools

There are hundreds of different helpdesk software packages on the market. The functionality, usability and price of them vary greatly and some grateful thought should be given to the selection process. If a Japanese language user interface is a requirement the choice is much more limited. A simple package will probably only allow for one category of problem and just log the call. At the other end of scale, diagnostics and problem solving will be built into the software.


When constructing the helpdesk, it is important to identify all the existing knowledge basis (manuals, video, lists and all other sources) and centralize them in a helpdesk resource library.

Each category of problem that the helpdesk handles will need a Resolution Procedure. The good news is that you do not need to start from zero when creating these procedures. Your organization will most probably already have problem solving procedures that can be adopted- with improvements where necessary- for the helpdesk.

Other important procedures include:

*Performance Measurement( with feed back into business processes)

*Planning (With stakeholder input and feedback on how their input is used)

*Employee appraisal


*Corrective And Preventive Action


*Issue prioritizing

*Issue escalation

Most of these procedures should be fairly to write and implement so we will only touch on the issue Escalation procedure here. These  procedure needs to specify the maximum amount of time level one spends on an issue before passing it on to level two. It should also state what criteria determine if  an issue can or should be passed on and if somebody has the authority to make an exception and into what conditions.


A guideline for a well-written procedure document is to structure it as follows:



*Definitions (if required)


In addition, all documents should include the title, the author’s name, a revision date and page nos. It can also be helpful if they have a version numher.


Broadly speaking there are four types of resources needed- people, infrastructure, tools and knowledge- although you may argue that knowledge is  a tool. All should be clearly identified and budgeted.


The most important asset of  any organization is its people. It might be a cliché but it holds true and applies to helpdesks as much as to entire companies. For an effective helpdesk, it is necessary that it is adequately staffed. To determine staffing levels and skill requirements, it is best to use SLA as a guideline.

In Japan, the predominant feeling is that  technical skills- in both hardware and software- are most important skills for the helpdesk skill to have. However, in the west where helpdesks have had time to mature, there is much emphasis placed on softer skills, especially for level one helpdesk staff.

Level one staff need to be generalists, these means that they do not need a deep understanding of any technology but of a reasonable smattering of all the technologies supported. Equally importantly, since they act at the  first point of contact for frustrated users- if you can help you are probably frustrated- they do not to have strong people skills. In particular:


*Ability to Question

*Stress management


*Problem solving

*Temperament control


*Logical thinking


For level-two staff, these skills are not as important since, for example, a good level-one colleague should have managed to minimize the need for stress management and temperament control. What they require is a deep and solid knowledge of the equipment and technologies they support.

Once you have selected the staff, they need to be trained so that they are proficient in the required skills and with the tools necessary to do the job.

It is here that the difficulties begin. As alluded to above, helpdesk staff often bear the brunt of a user’s frustration and can even be the focus of abuse. This makes it a high- stress job and, since it is not a highly motivating job, this makes it difficult to keep helpdesk staff. Motivation requires a great attention.

Factors influencing motivation include responsibility, the challenge of the job, sense of growth, and a sense of accomplishment. Here, the helpdesk- in itself- has little to offer most employees. Consequently it is important to show them a career path and to get other factors that influence motivation- such as the physical work environment (discussed later), work atmosphere, and realistic objectives- correct.

The first step is to make certain that the helpdesk staff fully understands their duties, the role of the helpdesk and the impact on the organization- of service failure. If  communicated in the right way, this will help to motivate them. Combine this with periodically reviewed job descriptions, career development plans and development plans and training plans and it should be possible- in conjunction with good management- to maintain a reasonably has many of its IT staff start in the helpdesk as the initial stage of a carrier development plan and the manager frequently discusses employees concerns them.


The starting point for infrastructure is the office environment. As the helpdesk work involves a lot of talking on the phone you should pay attention to noise levels in the helpdesk area and consider having partitions between work areas and other things that will help audibly isolate staff from each other. It is also best to have adequate natural lightning since everything that keeps a helpdesk worker in good spirits is an advantage.

Desks may need to be larger than the norm, especially if multiple workstations and keyboards, are required (a possibility for some helpdesk workers in a multi OS environment, for example).


The tools required by the helpdesk fall into two categories- hardware and software- and we will discuss them separately.

Hardware tools

Hardware tools include the telephone system, computers, and network. They may also include certain handheld tools such as table testers and other diagnostic equipment. The network needs to be reliable and there must be adequate server capacity to run the software support tools. It is also important that there is some redundancy so that the system failures- which will generate helpdesk calls- do not put the helpdesk out of action

The telephone system can be a simple one where all phones at the  helpdesk ring at once or it can make use of automatic call distribution (ACD). For smaller helpdesks the former system is adequate but we feel the once the helpdesk is over five people ACD becomes and advantage. Using ACD, only one phone rings- the programming of the ACD sets the rules that determine which telephone will ring. For example, the call will be routed to the telephone that has been on the hook the longest. ACD’s normally gather info and produce statistics on things such as average  call duration and how many calls are allocated to each duration and how many calls allocated to each person, in order to facilitate better performance measurement by management. Ideally, the ACD should be integrated with a problem tracking system.

Another telephone related choice is that between hand-held or headset phones. Headsets, allow staff to have two hands free to use a computer and are relatively inexpensive but although they are used in most helpdesks in the West, they are not widely used in Japan.


In view of the above arguments ABC-IT  Company will go along way to established an effective helpdesk strategy. However, This problems will be neutralized if the ABC-IT  will institute an outsourcing in all its helpdesk aspects. Since all its operations fits the criteria for overall outsourcing.


Czegal, B. John Wiley & Sons, Help Desk Practitioner’s Handbook, 1998, ISBN 0471319929
Keyes, J, Putting Helpdesks To Work 1995,
Knapp, D, A Guide to Desk Concepts 1998, . ISBN 0760071500

McBride, D, A Guide to Help Desk Technology, Tools & Techniques 2000, ISBN 0760071519
Sinnett, Barr, Effective Helpdesk Solution for Everyone, 2004 http://www.un.org/esa/analysis/islam.pdf

Homepage, Effective Management of Helpdesk Activity,  http://www.smartworks.us/

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