The new enterprise IT help desk features bots, cloud monitoring, and consolidated views into problems, and it can be implemented today.

Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

September 14, 2017

4 Min Read
Image: Shutterstock/chainarong06

If your IT help desk is struggling to meet employee demands, one common knee-jerk reaction is to assume you don’t have the proper staffing levels or skill sets. But often, the problems you’re IT department might be experiencing have nothing to do with your employees. Instead, the problem could very well lie in the technologies the help desk uses to support end users. Today, we’re going to identify three promising technologies that you can implement today that can greatly improve the IT help desk experience.

One thing about modern help desks that has changed over the years is that the physical boundaries have largely been eroded. A help desk should no longer be a desk, floor or building where end users are greeted by a level-1 technician who assists in problem ticket creation and fielding basic tech questions.

 Instead, IT departments should take advantage of technologies available to present a virtualized customer-facing initial point of contact. Doing so will reduce the time it takes to log, identify and resolve user problems or questions. Most of the benefits found in modern help desk technologies revolve around streamlining processes and procedures through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation so end user’s issues are handled in the shortest amount of time possible.

One such technology group that is streamlining communication channels between end users and IT support staff are modern collaboration tools. A suite of unified collaboration tools can be deployed across an entire organization to seamlessly merge chat, voice, video, file sharing and screen sharing into a single platform. Additionally, third-party customer relation tools can be integrated into collaboration platforms using application programmable interfaces (API’s).

From a help desk perspective, combining all the methods used to communicate and triage end user technical problems under a single umbrella can dramatically help in speeding up many time-consuming processes. For example, a help desk that integrates their chat collaboration tool with a help desk ticketing system can automate ticket creation using information collected within the chat session. Additionally, based on the information gathered, tickets can be analyzed and automatically sent to the appropriate help desk queue, eliminating the need for human interaction -- and ultimately -- speeding up the entire triage process.

Taking the chat concept one step further, some IT departments are moving in the direction where the first line of response isn’t a human technician, but an AI bot that is programmed to act as a virtual technician. Bot platforms have made tremendous strides over the past couple of years. They are now fully capable of handling repetitive tasks far faster than human counterparts. Additionally, a single IT admin managing a bot platform can perform the work of several front-line help desk employees. Bots also never take a day off. Gartner Research claims that 20-30% of help desk requests are for password resets. If those resets could be handed off to a bot, that alone can significantly free up support staff to take on more challenging issues.

Finally, next-generation help desks will include advanced proactive monitoring. The idea is to identify and resolve issues prior to the end user ever knowing there was a problem. While infrastructure monitoring is certainly nothing new, the scope and granularity of advanced monitoring platforms is clearly advancing. For one, monitoring and alerting on faults is moving beyond corporate boundaries and is extending to the cloud. Now that many businesses are moving applications and data into the cloud, it’s important that these services be properly monitored. In situations where a business uses multiple IaaS, PaaS or SaaS providers, proactive logging, monitoring and alerting can become cumbersome for IT staff. That’s why many are spinning up their own monitoring solution in the cloud to centralize the monitoring of technology resources located on the corporate network and within various cloud providers.

Proactive monitoring using Internet of Things (IoT) smart building sensors is another way to stay on top of  the health of computing resources and be notified of a potential problem prior to it impacting users. Temperature and humidity monitors placed throughout building locations where critical equipment is located is one such example of where IoT can be leveraged by the help desk.

Keep in mind that none of the technologies mentioned here are farfetched or impossible to deploy today. In fact, the next-gen help desk is achievable, if you want to work towards it. The technologies are proven effective, but the challenge rests in breaking the mold of the traditional help desk procedures that dictate support staff be on the customer-facing front lines. Instead, let technology take on the bulk of time-intensive monitoring, ticket creation/triage and repetitive requests. This will free up staff to tackle more challenging issues that ultimately speed up the time to remediation for all end users.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich

President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.

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