Let’s begin with the most broadly used definitions of services desks and help desks, in addition to some tips and examples of how to select what is best for your business.
What Is a Help Desk?
Typically, IT help desks are viewed as more tactical. The main goal is to help quickly resolve the immediate needs and technical incidents and issues of the end-user. Help desks are naturally reactive but are expected to be fast and efficient. An IT help desk and service desk software may be part of or separate from a bigger service desk operation in order to improve the customer service of the overall organisation.
Help desks include the following key traits: Provide IT support with a single point of contact (SPOC) All incoming incidents use a tracking solution Automate email notifications, routing, and ticket tracking Offer service request and basic incident management Some limited integration with some other ITSM practice, like knowledge management and configuration management Some applications/area outside the help desk are supported by specialty groups
Provides pass incident ownership and Levels 1 and 2 support if escalation becomes necessary Provide end users with basic self-service options
Who May Choose to Use a Help Desk?
Most likely toolsets that are designed for help desks will most likely provide support for service requests and incident management along with basic change enablement functionality. It is a cost-effective and sensible option for a less complex, smaller organisation that minimally rely on IT.
I work with numerous smaller organisations to help to improve their IT service management capabilities, and with nearly no exceptions, a majority of them are barely scratching the surface when it comes to using all of the capabilities in the toolset they have invested in and implemented.
A simple desk solution could have saved these businesses a lot of money and provided them with the same benefits. Not everyone needs a full-blown service management solution.
What is a service desk?
Generally speaking, the IT service desk is a broader function and is more cross-organisational and strategic.
Service deks look a the broader business context and needs instead of solely focusing on resolving the needs of the user the way that help desks do. The ITIL defines the service desk (or service operation) as being the single point of contact in between the users and service provider. Service desks typically manage service requests and incidents and deal with communication with end users.
There is typically a help desk component in the service desk but has the overall goal of being proactive to improve business processes and IT across the entire organisation. The best service desks continuously search for opportunities for running all IT processes more efficiently, including help desks.
Service Desks Contain The Following Key Traits
Completely integrates with other ITSM processes Act as a SPOC for all IT applications, areas, and business processes.
Track service level agreement (SLA) compliance Provide self service capability for service and incident request and an integrated service catalog as well Integrate and communicate with the CMDB (configuration management database)
Mature organisations with complex IT systems, third party vendor integrations, and that critically rely on their IT infrastructure will most likely need a comprehensive ITSM solution that includes a fully integrated service desk function.
Some best practices for selecting the right tools There are many passionate debates on this topic in forums and LinkedIn groups.
Those conversations often distinguish the kind of software you might use to facilitate the work being done at your desk. Based on my own personal experience, the following are the best practices to help you select the right service/help desk tools for your company.