Let's start off by using a sports analogy about American Football. By now you know how much I love sports analogies. Which players on an NFL team are consistently paid the highest amount of money, per contract. Many would say it's the quarterbacks, especially since we've seen recent high dollar deals with the likes of Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, and Tom Brady. But if you said QBs, you'd be wrong. The players making the consistently highest amount of money are offensive linemen. For those uninitiated into the "greatest sport", the positions on the offensive line are:
- Tackles (OT)
- Guards (OG)
- Centers (C)
How does my football discussion relate to IT? Everything in IT is built on a the same foundation - customer service. You can read all the articles about process improvement, strategy, innovation, relationship building, etc. But if your core services are not excellent, you will be at best a mediocre CIO.
Take a moment to think about where the majority of interactions with your customers occur. Can you guess? They happen between your users and the helpdesk, service desk, support center, or whatever you want to call it. If these individuals are not good at their jobs - professional, knowledgeable, efficient - that's the perception your customers will tend to have about your whole group. Which brings me to an interesting point. In most IT shops, the Helpdesk staff tend to be paid the less and are viewed as the least important function. Consequently it's no wonder that a lot of Helpdesk organizations make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To rectify a situation where your Helpdesk is hindrance to your overall organization there are several steps you can take.
- Put a truly competent manager in charge of the Helpdesk team and make the role a peer to other key managers
- Stop paying them less. Hire people who are business analysts, not interns
- Make it a requirement for each individual to achieve a Helpdesk Professional (HDI) certification as a prerequisite for promotion or advancement
- Rotate functional analysts from other areas through the Helpdesk for short durations. Nothing enhances the appreciation for the difficulties of being on the Helpdesk more quickly than having to be there to field calls personally
- Metrics/Metrics/Metrics!! Keep score, so to speak, to show just how effective your Helpdesk is to the mission of your organization. Trumpet the successes of the Helpdesk and reward exceptional performance