In large organisations, contacting the help desk for support or new services is rarely a pleasant experience. Is consumerisation via tablet apps the way to solve that problem? Only if you also have the right resources.
There are two essential aspects to a help desk operation: the way individual users can contact support when something goes wrong, and the way the process is managed behind the scenes. In many organisations, hitting the telephone remains the most common method of talking to the help desk. (Walking up and actually asking in person is also a frequently-adopted tactic, but that only works if you know where the support team are located and they're allowed to talk to you.)
The next stage of evolution for a help desk system is to direct staff via some kind of web-based system, often located on the company intranet. In theory (though not always in practice), this should result in faster resolution of problems, since common issues can be identified through frequently-asked questions (FAQ) documents, and processes such as password resets (a perennial bugbear for help desks) can be automated.
Whichever of these approaches are used, there's still a need for a system for tracking problems reported, and a requirement for sufficient staff to actually deal with those issues. If a company messes up either of those factors, calling the help desk will be about as popular as visiting the dentist. And that's what has to be borne in mind whenever a new approach to employees accessing help desk resources is discussed.
This week, management and help desk software developer BMC announced its new MyIT platform. The software won't actually become available until early 2013, but BMC is already talking up the main concept: that in an era where approaches such as bring your own device (BYOD) are increasingly the norm, staff should be able to access and request tech resources from a range of devices, and use a more modern self-service interface rather than having to navigate through a painful phone system or an entirely text-based database. Need a help desk appointment? Click on a booking icon.
That sounds like a promising idea, and there's no doubt that current approaches have limitations. "Only 35 per cent of staff say they actually get what they want from enterprise IT," BMC APAC chief technology officer Suhas Kelkar pointed out when he demonstrated the system to Lifehacker earlier this week.
The prototypes look interesting, but they don't change the fundamental dynamic. This kind of automation will only work if the back-end systems are in place to route those requests, and that will only happen if there are actually sufficient support staff in place. Is that true in your workplace?
Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.