According to Gartner, IT service desks cost as a percent of IT costs rests at an 5.8% average, which the range scaling as high as 15% for some organizations. Unsurprisingly, 87% of those IT service desk costs are with personnel. This seems easy, right? IT organizations looking to reduce or optimize IT costs, should look no further than to reduce and optimize IT service desk personnel. Furthermore, with the promises of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the notion of a log-and-flog, catch-and-dispatch IT service desk seems antiquated already.
Three years from now, who will need a traditional IT Service Desk analyst?
You will. That’s who.
The argument that AI is a viable consideration to replace low-wage, repetitive, entry-level type roles is valid. Automation should enable people and teams to eliminate or reduce the number of mundane, trivial tasks that do not add value, and eventually take on more complex tasks that have traditionally been reserved for the humans. This can be an enticing conversation for CIO’s, specifically change agents who aim to support revenue growth and increase productivity, while lowering costs. To these leaders, AI presents an opportunity to transform the IT organization for better and modernize IT operations. These leaders also recognize that as much as 60% of contacts that come into the IT service desk can be automated or resolved by the user, and that organizations with fewer phone and email based contacts can allocate time and resources to higher value activities. With time and resources, IT organizations can do extraordinary things. But bear in mind that value is determined by the end consumer – most often the organization IT directly supports, and the end customer/constituents the organization supports.
The ability to deliver value according to them is why there will always be the need for an IT Service Desk Analyst, albeit the role will evolve in several ways.
The IT service desk analysts of the future will focus more on technical advisory than technical support
The IT Service Desk has always been uniquely placed between the business and the enabling technology the business uses, and even through the rise of shadow IT, still expected to enable organizational productivity by eliminating technical issues that prevent work from being done. As more of their work shifts left to self-service and automation, their roles will focus on providing the technical guidance and insights that help business users make better technology related decisions. Siri, Alexa and Cortana can (and should) absolutely trigger a password reset, call on an answer from a frequently asked question in the knowledge base, or kickoff the process for onboarding a new employee, but users will need Brad, Jane and Steve build the right types of dashboards in the CRM system, help them understand which mobile device and apps makes the most sense for them given their work profile, and show them through productivity hacks in Microsoft Office 365. Currently this type of assistance and expertise is distributed throughout the organization and amongst third parties, but user expectations for technical concierges won’t be fulfilled by the machines, but rather the people who have always masterfully blended customer service skills and technical acumen.
According to a recent study from Okta, the number of off-the-shelf applications an employee uses ranges between 10 and 16 per day, up 20% from the previous year. As the use of both custom, on-premise and cloud applications increased, users will place a premium on data, workflow and console integration, as they switch back and forth across applications to remain productive. While Business Relationship Managers can work strategically with different stakeholders and groups to work towards a healthier relationship between the business and the enabling technology, the need for “boots on the ground” to work 1:1 to users in a traditional service desk, productivity consultation is absent. This function will be a key enabler for organizations who will seek out bleeding edge technologies to obtain new competitive advantages.
The IT service desk analysts of the future will be process agnostic
Despite rumors of its demise, ITIL remains the world’s most popular IT management framework. As per ITIL, the service desk discipline provides a single point of contact to meet the communication needs of use and IT staff, and works to satisfy both customer and IT provider objectives. While their primary focus has been around capturing incidents and fulfilling service requests, the scope of this definition provides merit to encourage service desk analysts to take on a broader range of responsibilities. When IT organizations embrace more lean, agile and concepts, a stronger connection between IT Service Desk Analysts and application development teams will be forged. Organizations will benefit from gathering better business requirements and having a better understanding how these requirements drive business goals and objectives. “Incident management” will be supported through the most appropriate channels and methods required, as opposed to letting standard classification and categorization determine the resolution path and expected response time. Some issues may require Service Desks analysts to go directly to application development as part of an established feedback loop for continuous service delivery. The goals of lean and agile concepts are to deliver quality IT services with speed, and the IT service desk analysts of the future will operate accordingly.
Currently IT Service Desk Analysts work primarily through IT Service Management tools, which help them manage incidents and requests across their lifecycle, while providing the reporting necessary to spot trends, eliminate bottlenecks and demonstrate the value of IT to the business. While more ITSM tools are making the effort to offer more collaboration and digital workplace related features, it’s unlikely they’ll ever become the systems of engagement users and employees will rally around, meaning ITSM tools will need to play a role in the larger ecosystem of employee portals, customer portals, core systems, back-office systems, and IOT systems. The visibility across these systems will provide the context future IT service desk analysts will require to support the end-to-end employee experience, as they navigate through many systems at different points throughout the day.IT Service Desk analysts of the future will focus on capturing as much information about the employee technical journeys through the day, and identify opportunities to streamline tasks and processes at the macro level. When Frank in sales is struggling to make his quota, he may becoming increasingly frustrated with the number of technical touchpoints he has to make with the CRM system, the Content Management system, Email, Social Media, and his productivity will suffer as a result. A resource who can understand Frank’s interactions with these systems on a technical level, identify gaps the gaps between Frank’s understanding of these systems and their functional capabilities, and present recommendations and solutions to improve Frank’s productivity will be of value, well received, and have a direct impact on the company’s revenue objectives.
So as long as technology is an enabler of organizational outcomes, the need for resources to help consumers access and ascertain value from those services will always be present. While new processes, approaches and technologies may change the way that support is provided, the requirements for technical resources won’t. IT organizations should work to develop the analysts to support this role, starting with human resources who currently demonstrate a the capabilities to serve in this capacity. The business may not need a traditional service desk, but they evolve into a digital business without technical enablement and that’s the role IT leaders should look to serve.