In this day and age when IT is supposed to be less complicated and easier to manage, more users are submitting help desk requests than ever before, according to a recently released study by HDI (formerly the Help Desk Institute).
HDI discovered that the number of help desk requests made IM, via chat, e-mail, telephone, self-help systems, social media, the Internet and walk-ins is increasing. 67% of all help desks saw increases in 2010 – which is about the same percentage who reported an increase in 2009.
Recently, many organizations have made efforts to consolidate their help desks and establish a single point of contact for employees, according to Roy Atkinson, an analyst at HDI, whose members represent a help desk community of roughly 50,000 people.
These consolidation efforts have improved support request data collection, which helps to explain the uptick in reports. Essentially, creating a single point of contact and offering multiple options for communication with the help desk encourages users to seek assistance, Atkinson said.
While consolidation and better data gathering might explain much of the increase in reported requests, it doesn’t explain it entirely. According to Atkinson another piece of the answer might be the fact that IT complexity is actually increasing. This is especially true as more users are asking to connect multiple devices, including mobile phones, tablets and laptops to corporate networks.
“There is the trend to being able to work anywhere and anytime,” said Atkinson. And that “requires more support, so the environment as a whole is probably more complex.”
Earl Begley, who is the head of HDI’s desktop advisory board and is also an IT project manager with the University of Kentucky, said incident volumes for the university’s healthcare help desk have increased by 15% to 20% each year. Part of this increase is due to the adoption of new technologies in the healthcare industry, he said.
Begley’s team is working to reduce the volume of requests by implementing an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) at the university, which has a long-range goal of improving overall IT efficiency.
An ITIL incorporates best practices and procedures in a myriad of technology management areas. This includes help desks, that are designed to enable organizations to sort out the root causes of IT problems and predict future issues.
The increasing volume of requests at the university keeps his staff busy, remarked Begley, adding that “it is frustrating, because they see the same problems occurring over and over again.” The idea is that an ITIL implementation will reduce much of those repetitive requests.
Technologies that help reduce help desk support demand include such things as desktop and application virtualization (where an application can be used via a web browser). Increasing the use of voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology also reduces the time it takes to support phone systems.
For organizations that reported an increase in help desk requests, roughly 41% attributed it to infrastructure changes, system upgrades or conversions; while 26% cited expanded service offerings by their support staffs; and 22.5% reported that they have more customers, according to the HDI study.
The uptick in help desk support requests is happening as most IT departments are cutting their help desk budgets, according to a study that was recently released by Computer Economics.
In its recent survey of IT organizations, the research firm discovered that help desk workers now make up about 6% of total IT staff, after factoring in about 7% of the average IT staff for the past several years.
The report states that this decline “represents a relatively substantial dip and indicates that providing high-quality support to users assumed a lower priority amid the wave of operational budget-cutting and staff reductions that accompanied the official end of the recession.”
Computer Economics said also that many factors affect the size of a help desk, including outsourcing, an increasing number of employees with smartphones, ITIL adoption, and upgrades in applications and devices.
“Some of these trends are working to diminish the size and function of the help desk, while others are putting more pressure on help desk staff,” the organization said in its report.