Have you forgotten something – the Service Desk?

I recently worked in an office where there was a large area of empty desks – there was an air of loss and abandonment in the room.

All around there was building work going on and a sense of activity, although hidden away and forgotten in one corner sat a few stoic people, manning a serivce desk – it reminded me of a current issue I have…


As ever there is a lot of talk on Social Networks about the direction for ITSM industry, including whether there is even such a thing as an ‘ITSM industry…

Gartner are now saying that its called ‘ITSSM’ and there is no Help/Service desk software industry. There  is the discussion around what happens with ITIL/Devops/Agile etc. Should organisations go for COBIT and or ITIL as well as other standards and frameworks? Do we need meta-models and ontologies for ITSM and ITIL? We need more community involvement – where is the ITSM community? Also we need practical advice on how to do the basics – at a pragmatic and practitioner level.

At the same time we are in the hype curve of the ‘customer experience’ movement in IT and ITSM, which (finally) recognises the value and relevance of looking at IT delivery from the customers point of view – not the IT perspective. This has been very much business and consumer driven, due to the changes in technology and commercial models over the last few years. The focus of this has of course moved discussion away from process and tools and SLAs/KPIs to human interaction (H2H not B2C!) – which of course is a hugely valid and laudable development that we should all welcome and support.


However, whilst I support, understand and contribute to all of the above discussions and developments (e.g. I’ve recently done ITSMF UK BIG4 chat, I’ve just written the White Paper for SITS 2014 on Customer Experience, plus created some value proposition content for ITSM/ITIL for AXELOS) – there is one aspect of all of this that stands out as a major omission – and it really quite bugs me…


[warning]WHERE IS THE SERVICE DESK??[/warning]


Why is the Service Desk not included and seen to be at the centre of these discussions? Are we not guilty of recreating the old IT problem of overlooking/bypassing/patronising this operation and the associated industry around it, when it is to me fundamental and central to all of these discussions? Consider:


  • Service desks are part of the IT ‘supply chain’ which includes engagement, development, design and transition, but we all constantly complain about how new services don’t get properly handed over and given early life support – yet we don’t see much discussion around the importance of involving service desks in these debates. Service desk is almost seen like a separate industry, compared to ITSM, when in fact it’s at the centre of what we do.  We spend a lot of time talking about agility and efficiency of development – yet the handover and release/introduction part of our lifecycle is rarely mentioned.
  • Service desks are at the forefront of delivery and customer experience – effectively that’s what they do manage the perception of the whole IT organisation. Of course nowadays we are talking more around touch-points where people interact with portals and logging and knowledge systems as well as their actual interaction with tools, but this is now in the domain of the service desk. Certainly the human communications factor has been the central core of service desk for many years – maybe just not noticed or fully appreciated by the rest of the industry.
  • Service desk already has a strong community – or communities – based mostly around the SDI / HDI organisations, (plus some other local country-based groups), which also have robust and proven standards, accreditation and practical training and research frameworks. I don’t know why these organisations don’t get invited more to the table when discussing the way forward and big issues – like the service desk in the IT department, it seems to be an afterthought…

[notice]OK I might have an interest here, as SDI are a long term partner of mine, and I’ve got good connections with HDI folks too. However as I also move and work in other ‘ITSM’ circles I can plainly see that the Service Desk perspective and input is often not taken into account – at all levels.[/notice]

Maybe this is a marketing and message issue – both SDI and HDI are very good at marketing to their own captive and well-defined target audiences – maybe their messages just doesn’t get out to the wider IT and ITSM community. I do regularly find myself explaining the history, status and capability (standards etc.) of these organisations to experienced, capable and knowledgeable people in the wider ITSM ‘community’  who just weren’t aware…

Of course I completely get the whole point that ‘service’ is a wider concept and that technology design and development are huge parts of the delivery process. We need to improve our customer engagement and how we turn that into useable technology that our customers want. All of that requires a significant set of disciplines and skills that are beyond the reach of most service desk teams and people.

The point here is however that the role and early engagement of service desk/front line support is absolutely critical to the customer experience and perception of the wider service provider, not just the individual service or piece of technology, so it must be seen as critical to success.

Certainly the traditional ‘break/fix’ role of the service desk is changing and declining – however there are many new areas of human interaction and support that are needed and  service desks that will survive need to keep up with those.

Moving beyond the deserted rooms I mentioned earlier, I have recently also visited and worked with some really excellent service desk operations and guess what? – in these places the service desk is valued and supported by its management, yes, but also this is seen as a vital part of the business as a whole.

So, the other ‘loftier’ aspects of service management actually work and work well in these places where the service desk is far from deserted and abandoned – rather where it is celebrated, respected and admired. 

So actually to get ITSM or ITSSM working, we need to put the service desk at the centre of our thoughts and make it an aspirational and highly professional centrepiece for our frameworks, meta-models and customer experience ideals.


Let’s also keep a focus on what is already out there and useful and valuable and worth engaging with – if we are serious about ‘customer experience’ then we need to get involved with the people who know how to manage it…


service desk triangle


Do you agree?

ITSM in 2014 – Getting ‘Hands On’



It’s another new year and of course there are many reviews and predictions for our IT and ITSM industries. See these recent ServiceDesk360 and Cherwell blogs of mine…

For me the most positive thing to emerge over the last year or so is the absolute and comprehensive confirmation around the 2 key goals of Service Management :

Successful business outcomes


Positive customer experience

We’ve moved on from process and other internal components of Service – important as they are – to celebrate and confirm successful business outcomes and positive customer experience as the over-reaching aims of our work. Of course these have always been the ultimate aspiration and have been delivered in many successful projects over the years, but there is now an ineluctable consensus and concerted voice that is shouting this out.

This time last year I blogged about the need for ‘practical unity’ in our industry and this is the most tangible evidence of it that I can think of…

As an industry we are of course waiting with some anticipation to see what happens next with the development of ITIL via AXELOS. There’s also a refreshing increase in activity around tooling and new product procurement as well as increased focus on new operating models such as Service Integration and Management (SIAM).

For me however on a personal and very pleasing note, the real activity and demand in the industry has continued to move towards more practical and ‘hands-on’ ideas, advice and knowledge. My own ITSM Goodness output has been well received and used (it has more than doubled activity on my website); there are many organisations using some or all of the content, and the content has been developed and used by vendors and industry people alike. I’ve also delivered workshops and webcasts to a number of people e.g. at SMFusion in the US as well as in the UK and delivered the ‘Goodness’ message via a number of conference presentations and workshops.

I’m going to continue to develop this over the next year, so look out for more activity in this area and opportunities to engage with the ITSM Goodness approach and simple message. The first initiative is an ITSM Goodness series of webcasts on my BrightTALK channel starting Wednesday 15th at 1:00 pm GMT. Over the course of the series I will be delivering the equivalent of a full day-long ITSM Goodness workshop, via 8 individual monthly webcasts, covering the 7 Steps, plus practical feedback from practitioners.

[important]As part of this series, I will be encouraging practitioners to participate as they work through the 7 Steps and send me updates on their progress. I will in turn share this real practical progress in the webcasts.  If you would like to participate, please contact me. The first webcast focuses on the 1st Step – Engage and Listen to Customers. [/important]

Finally I will be embarking on a new project with the ITSM Review to re-ignite the now defunct ITSM podcast and other media over the next few months – I’m excited about that and will provide more information in due course, so look out for more info.

Of course, I will continue to do mostly what I’ve been doing for years (celebrating 20 years of consulting this year…!) – that is real, practical ‘hands-on’ consulting and projects with client organisations. This has formed the basis of things like ITSM Goodness and the input I’ve brought to ITSM media in recent years – and for me it’s essential for currency and credibility that I continue to do that. I’m just embarking on a few really exciting new projects so watch this space for more lessons learned, feedback and practical ideas…

Have a great year.