What is a service desk?

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Posted on Thursday, 29th August, 2019 - 13:34

The service desk is an essential Information Technology Service Management tool. It’s the single point of contact between the IT organisation and the user. The user can be an employee, customer or any other stakeholder. Their service desk can be internal or outsourced to an IT provider.

Service desk responsibilities

Service desks handle incidents and routine service requests, such as:

  • A disruption in the quality or availability of the service
  • Changing user passwords
  • Setting up new users with the relevant login details to company systems

It may also include tasks related to configurations and change/release management issues.

ITIL’s Service Operation book says the service desk should make sure IT services are delivered efficiently and effectively. The book covers 5 processes to achieve this:

  1. Event management
  2. Incident management
  3. Problem management
  4. Request fulfilment
  5. Access management

Although processes 1, 3 and 5 may be carried out by different teams, they still come under the remit of the service desk. The core processes are Incident Management and Request Fulfilment.

Service desk features

An IT service desk features a range of tools, as well as integrating with other business processes, such as:

Help desk tools – such as multi-channel ticketing whereby there are a variety of ways employees are able to log their requests including via email, web forms, mobile, phone and chat.

Employee onboarding – enables employees to manage their own basic IT needs, such as password resets, via an intuitive, self-service knowledge portal.

Acquisition integration and other integration services – simplifies workflows and reduces the number of manual processes. With new service requests automatically transmitted, you can view changes or new incidents in real time. This reduces operational costs.

Automation – includes business continuity and data access management. This powerful set of tools helps IT engineers and teams manage service requests, issues, incidents and events more efficiently. It also helps develop macros to solve common issues quicker.

Collaboration – such as supplier/partner/stakeholder onboarding and off-boarding. This provides an entire ecosystem to integrate service providers and vendors.

Infrastructure and service monitoring – creates a single point of contact for vendors and employees, as well as third party escalation of issues and triage of incident management.

Reporting and metrics management – a range of help desk metrics and reporting measures. This includes ticket volume, response and resolution time, backlogs and ticket distribution and satisfaction ratings.

Service desk vs help desk

Like many people, ITIL v2 defined a service desk as another term for a help desk. However, ITIL v3 and 4 say that help desks and call centres are limited service desks. A service desk has a broader range of tools, capable of resolving more problems in less time and with fewer steps.

ITIL also describes a service desk as being able to integrate business processes in a company’s service management infrastructure.

According to the ITIL glossary, a service desk differs from a help desk in a number of ways, including:

Service desk

Help desk

IT service-centric – delivering IT as a service. The focus is on delivering a service to users, customers and stakeholders.

IT-centric – delivering IT solutions. The focus is on providing help to users, customers and stakeholders.

Incident management and service requests – not just dealing with the break-fix issues, but also managing service requests.

Incident management – if it’s broken, fix it.

An element of service-based IT delivery and support system that’s built around the ‘service lifecycle’.

An add-on to existing activities.

Strategic in outlook.

Tactical in outlook.

Offers more capabilities and less limited in scope.

A subset of service desk capabilities, and can be viewed as limited in scope.

Modern approach to managing IT issues.

Old-fashioned.

Bear in mind that these are ITIL’s definitions. Many organisations will disagree with some of these details. As long as your organisation is internally consistent with names and definitions, you don’t have to be fully consistent with ITIL’s.