by Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord

The workforce awakens: insights for the service desk

Sep 13, 2018
IT LeadershipIT StrategyITSM

How to enable the new work environment employees are requesting and facing the challenges of a changing IT landscape.

tiny figures move toward a giant lit bulb amid a line of burned-out lightbulbs
Credit: Thinkstock

In this series, I talk about three insights that will help you unleash the potential of your workforce. Whereas the first piece was about what it is that makes employees satisfied and how IT can help in that perspective, this second and third insights are about how to enable the new work environment employees are requesting, while juggling with the challenges of a changing IT environment as well.

Let’s first look at the changing IT landscape.

Keeping the lights on has been and will always be a big part of the responsibilities of IT. However, because of the increase in automation, a lot of the tasks that are simple and repetitive don’t have to be performed by IT staff anymore, which leaves the other tasks that tend to be more complex. Add digital transformation, the business requiring expanded services, IoT and partner ecosystems to the mix and you face even more challenges.

With this broader and more complex IT landscape, flexibility and communication throughout the entire business is increasingly important. For this you will need an IT staff with different skill sets than in the past. You need communicative employees that can build bridges between technical and business teams, you need employees that have multiple skill sets and that you can flexibly assign to the projects where they are mostly needed. Analyst firm Gartner calls this “versatilists.” The firm even argues that by 2021, 40 percent of all IT staff will be versatilists. Obviously, that does not mean you have to fire your current staff and look for new ones. It is good to keep this in mind when expanding the team, though, or when you are organizing your training goals for the team.

Insight 2: Employees require new tools for their changing work environment

The work landscape in general has been evolving a lot over the past few years. An IWG study points out that 70 percent of employees globally work remotely at least once a week and that they are more productive as a result. There are various other studies on how employees are more productive and satisfied at work when they can use their own technology/devices, rather than the ones offered by their employers. But how does IT facilitate all this?

The connected workforce

The typical first response from IT around BYOD/T (bring your own device/technology) initiatives tends to be “no” because of all the security, maintenance and support issues that can arise. But many IT organizations discover that that strategy does not work to their advantage: People will just look for their own ways to get their own devices and technology into the organization anyways, still with the security concerns as a result. There is no way to control it completely, so communicating and staying approachable instead of banning tends to work better.

When the question comes up, a good follow-up question to ask is if it adds value to the employee productivity or if there may be a good alternative in place. I faced a similar situation myself: I was using Google Drive for some collaboration projects and when casually talking to IT about it, it appeared we had OneDrive setup for the exact same purpose. I immediately switched because instead of using an unsupported replacement technology, I now could use a supported solution that also received secure daily backups.

Keep in mind that when it comes to BYOD, IT does not necessarily have to be responsible for the support, but it is good to be in the know and be transparent about what employees can expect. When it comes to working remotely, IT will face similar challenges. It is better to know and facilitate than to ban and face the security consequences. Who hasn’t heard stories of people saving confidential files on a USB drive or laptop, taking it home and then end up losing it – just because they wanted to get some more work done from home and would not be able to access the files from there.

When enabling working remotely, don’t just take security concerns in mind, but focus on enabling employees to still feel part of the workforce by facilitating communication channels. For instance, I recently read about the efforts that a software company, Sana Commerce, took to raise awareness on the challenges of working remotely and on how to make things better. Company leaders organized a global “working remote day” where all of the employees were urged to give it a try. They learned a lot of lessons from this to enable better collaboration. Examples like this are a great initiative to try out and I’m sure you will have a list of quick wins to work on (more webcams, better headsets, more tools and files better accessible to name just a few).


The workforce is diversifying; not just because of the people from various generations and cultural backgrounds working together, but also because of their changing roles and responsibilities and, consequently, their changing demands. As a result, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work anymore.

The creation of personas is a fundamental process to be able to facilitate a personalized approach. But where personas used to be based on specific departments, we now have to look at it further and take new personas into account, such as people in devops or in other service desks.

All this is necessary to know who has which demands, so you are able to setup a customized service catalog that is flexible and tailored to your various personas.

Insight 3: Employees want autonomy in the choice of support

The agile manifesto has had a major impact on software development and delivery. Think of how many business applications within your organization are on a continuous delivery cycle. This means that in a traditional tier support setup, the knowledge will never get to the service desk fast enough and by the time knowledge can be built into knowledge items, the acquired insights already are obsolete. Gartner claims that because of this inability of the IT service desk to support agile releases in a timely and effective manner, the business satisfaction with IT support will decrease by 35 percent by 2020.

I am afraid there are more challenges ahead; there is a disconnect between the way support is offered and what people expect.

So what can IT do to enable the workforce so that employee satisfaction is guaranteed?


When we look at the different ways to offer support, we can group them into three types: Search, reach out or use their network. Currently IT service desks already offer a variety of channels of which the most offered are: phone, email, web request, walk up, auto logging (for instance, via a system management tool) and live chat. Some are starting to offer social media and chatbot support and there even are some that still offer support by fax. It is very apparent to note that when asking IT service desks that they answer by focusing on one form of support: reach out.

When asking employees how they want to receive support, we get a whole lot more variety, and all of the types come up. Again, in order of popularity: Phone, ask a co-worker, internet search, email, live chat, portal, self-service knowledge base, walk up, ask a friend, virtual agent and chatbot.

We do see the traditional “reach out” channels come by: phone, email, chat, portal, chatbot. However almost one out of two indicate that they prefer to ask a co-worker and another one out of two search for their solution on the internet. That is a lot of solutions that are out of reach of the IT service desk and that is not necessary a good nor a bad thing. The thing to be aware of is that it is important to find out what the preferred channels are within your organization then offer them to the staff. People in finance, sales, medical, development, etc. all will have different expectations. Also look at how you can improve the other forms of support where people are not necessarily actively reaching out to you.

Knowledge accessibility

As mentioned previously, searching for a solution is a very popular way for employees to look for support, whether it is on the internet or within the knowledge base you present to them. This type of support works a lot to the service desk’s advantage as it empowers end users to self-solve while at the same time giving less – usually repetitive and less challenging – tasks to the service desk.

Note that to have a great knowledge base, you will need to cater to different stakeholders as well. Again, they all have their preferences and needs so make sure they can access knowledge wherever and however they prefer and that knowledge items are written in a way that they understand them.

Do not put in a knowledge base what is available on internet: people are used to Googling and self-solve, anyway. The only time where you will want to copy-paste knowledge from another source is when you have to adapt it and make it specific to your situation.

Ownership – autonomy

Employees are social human beings that like to interact. It’s no wonder that they prefer to reach out to co-workers when they have a problem. It is actually great that people take ownership like this, so you will want to enable that even more. Whether the go-to person for questions is John in finance, Stacy in sales or Jasmine in development, find out who those people are and bring them onboard. Build a network within the organization, listen to their concerns and which questions they get most often. They might not reach out to you actively, but will have a lot of on-the-ground knowledge of their department’s biggest challenges. Use the fact that they take ownership to your advantage.

Workforce enablement

This brings me to the end of this series on workforce enablement. I discussed three insights to unleash the power of your workforce and, all in all, I can summarize with these three takeaways:

  • Shift the mindset from helping to enabling
  • Provide the right tools
  • Make IT easy and accessible