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Article 3 min read

Help desk vs service desk: what’s in a name?

By Trent Seed, CTO, Oomnitza

Last updated June 6, 2021

Have you ever overheard people having heated discussions about the differences between help desks, service desks and IT service management (ITSM)? Surprisingly, we have.

Some argue that help desk is an outdated term referring to an IT-centric support capability born in the late 1980s (think mainframes), with little attention to the end-user. They may say service desk was coined to describe a new focus on serving end-users in a timely manner. They argue that ITSM is characterised by proactive capabilities such as remote monitoring and automating tasks like patch management.

We’ve also heard all the jargon about help desk, service desk, and ITSM, such as time-to-ticket resolution, change management, active listening, average call duration, blended call centre, cost per contact, escalation, etc. The list of buzzwords is long.

To all this, we say “potayto, potahto”. Does it really matter that much what you call your IT support team? After all, many help desks are very proactive, automated, and focused on end-users. Alternatively, service desks may spend a lot of their time solving IT issues, depending on the organisation’s mission. ITSM, too, may not be able to provide automated services due to system incompatibilities and integration issues.

Regardless of what you call these support teams, there are many solutions that help you better meet customers’ needs.

By any name, the goals of IT support are the same:

  • Resolve issues quickly and efficiently so employees can get back to work. For issues related to machines, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to have bidirectional integration between IT asset management and customer service software. When support agents receive tickets, they can see the status of the employee’s asset, its needed maintenance, refresh schedule, age, how the asset is being used, and so on. This bidirectional capability between IT asset management and customer service software allows them to provide high-quality, swift service.
  • Attract and retain the smartest knowledge workers in a world where every company is a tech company. To keep employees happy and maximise their productivity, organisations must continuously equip them with the best possible technologies.
  • Secure the organisation’s precious intellectual property (IP). Every “smart” asset is a window into your network, one that can shed light on the proprietary IP that is the lifeblood of any organisation.
  • Ensure IT efficiency by automating manual tasks to save time. This will require integrating best-of-breed technologies and disparate systems, and creating workflow that complete many tasks for you. The IoT revolution will only increase the need for automation, because IT support teams will go from managing desktops, laptops and smartphones to tracking myriad Things. They will need to work out which sensor is defective on a wind turbine or discover why a smart car is acting stupid. The IoT will go beyond IT asset management to a new era of “Thing Management”.
  • Find solutions that tie your service desk solutions, messaging, system management, mobile device management, single sign-on and finance tools together. With so many APIs and easy integration options, it no longer makes sense to let all these systems operate separately. Integrating them will make your life easier and slash manual work activities.
  • Help the organisation stay report- and audit-ready at all times. With a single source of truth for every asset, centralised in one place, companies can stay continuously audit-ready and make the monthly/quarterly/annual audit process a breeze.
  • Make it as easy as possible to report issues, in ways that are convenient for end-users. Some integrations allow users to create support tickets within their favourite collaboration software. Instead of filling in support tickets when they have a problem or need, users report issues about an asset from within the collaboration platform.

It’s time to stop splitting hairs about what to call the IT support capability, because there are more important things to consider: the onslaught of the IoT, the need to integrate best-of-breed technologies, security, compliance and more.

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