SmartAdvice: Add Security Appliances, But Remain Vigilant And Have Backups

There are too many security threats these days to have just one security point, The Advisory Council says, but add firewalls, VPNs, and other appliances to the mix. Also, measure how the help desk aids profits and rethink it as a proactive IT-services partner.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 6, 2005

4 Min Read

Question B: How can we demonstrate the value and justify the cost of our help desk to the business?

Our advice: The help desk is an easy target when cost-cutting measures are instituted. It doesn't generate revenue, and its value to the organization can be easily questioned. In today's cost-focused business environment, those that manage and serve on the help desk need to rethink and rejustify its mission. They need to see beyond its function merely as a reactive vehicle that answers user's requests for help. Instead, they need to reposition the help desk as a proactive IT service that can aid in identifying and driving down IT-related costs.

First, show management how important user support is to the organization. The support of the technology infrastructure is a means to a greater end, which is overall corporate productivity. An organization needs user support.

Second, establish ways the help desk can measure how its function serves to support and aid in the attainment of profit and revenue goals, starting with some basic service principals:

  • Document the services the help desk provides to the business units. Let everyone know the full range of services you provide.

  • Establish service-level agreements for all services you provide. Make sure the respective business units buy-in to those SLAs. Then, measure overall performance against those SLAs, and report that performance to management.

  • Measure utilization of help-desk resources and report. Let business units know you're busy and what you're working on.

  • If your organization has a charge-back approach to support, be creative with your service offerings to enable business units to manage their support costs.

  • Institute self-service support options to provide more direct, actionable support means to users. This could include Web-based support and knowledge bases for company-standard hardware and software.

  • Periodically survey users to measure and rate user satisfaction. Let management know you're serving the interests of your user population.

Third, think about how the help desk can assume a more proactive IT-services management role, as opposed to the typical reactive model. Consider turning the help desk into a knowledge center for the firm. Help desks can mine their call databases looking for value-creation opportunities. Examples include:

Analyze call patterns for software support to suggest new or replacement training courses. Examine hardware calls to see which involve in-warranty versus out-of-warranty repairs. Validate where hardware upgrades are needed by matching application usage to hardware needs.

Instead of reacting to every telephone call, help-desk management needs to begin to identify areas where the help desk can be seen as adding value to the organization. Keep management apprised of your actions. Demonstrate service through well-deployed metric measurements and through a proactive analysis and use of help-desk call data to see where cost savings can be realized. This can clearly demonstrate the contribution the help desk is having to overall enterprise productivity and cost containment. Management can't argue with that.

--Stephen Rood

Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future. Stephen Rood, TAC Expert, has more than 24 years experience in the IT field specializing in developing and implementing strategic technology plans for organizations as well as senior project-management and help-desk operations review. His consulting experience has included designing and implementing a state-of-the-art emergency 911 call center for the city of Newark, N.J., and managing technology refreshes for a major nonprofit entertainment organization as well as a large, regional food broker. He also worked at Coopers & Lybrand, General Foods, and Survey Research. He is the author of the book "Computer Hardware Maintenance: An IS/IT Manager's Guide," that presents a model for hardware maintenance cost-containment.

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