5 ways to rethink IT service desks for a remote future

How does the pandemic-related shift to remote work affect your IT service desk operations? Consider these tips to help your team support remote workers more efficiently
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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses of all sizes to rethink the way they operate – and IT leaders to reprioritize their technology investments.

As global organizations have adopted remote working models, many are also taking a hard look at what “business as usual” truly means. The technology agenda shaped by IT leaders needs to reflect this if their organizations are to capitalize on the competitive advantages remote work can offer. According to a Gartner survey of 317 CFOs and finance leaders on March 30, 2020, 74 percent will move at least 5 percent of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19.

While there will always be enterprise-wide decisions to be made, CIOs must also understand the fundamental needs of a remote workforce. A simple but often forgotten component of this is the day-to-day work performed by the IT service desk.

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CIOs need to rethink how to deploy their service desk resources.

From setting up new employees to dealing with system updates and resolving user-specific issues, the service desk helps limit employee downtime and maintain high productivity. Even in the pre-COVID-19 infrastructure, remote issues were more time-consuming, requiring more end-user troubleshooting and cooperation. Now that everyone is remote, CIOs need to rethink how to deploy their resources.

5 tips for IT service desks in the remote work era

Here are five ways service desk teams can support the virtual workplace more efficiently:

1. Create workflows for high- vs. low-priority issues

Ensure that all employees (including the service desk team) understand that resolving remote issues may take longer, and offer a concise, understandable workflow, along with clear definitions of high- vs. lower-priority productivity issues. While organizational SLAs might change when handling primarily remote issues, the service desk team must commit to handling high-priority issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.

2. Define self-service vs. IT-driven

Focus on tools such as learning software and e-guides that guide your staff step-by-step through resolutions to common issues.

It is critical to identify which support elements can be taken off your team’s plate. From an investment perspective, focus on tools such as learning software and e-guides that guide your staff step-by-step through resolutions to common issues. This involves more upfront work for your IT team, including user-level education, but empowering end-users to resolve their own issues in their own time is a worthy long-term benefit.

3. Focus on end-user security

With more staff members taking on IT activities usually handled by technical teams, security becomes a greater concern. A decentralized workforce clearly creates more challenges as individual users are working on their own network and without central corporate governance.

[ Want everyone in the organization to be focused on security? Read: 3 ways leaders can build a stronger security culture

4. Consider different options for organizational interaction

Many organizations are accustomed to a static in-person service desk, backed up by phone support. Consider implementing Livechat or using AI to help users solve common problems. Now is a great time to reimagine how you can best support your internal customers.

Now is a great time to reimagine how you can best support your internal customers.

5. Learn what your users need most

We are in a new, business-as-unusual situation these days – one that could significantly change the service desk’s priorities. Take the time to understand what support your remote working population really needs by using surveys and focus groups to gather data. The upfront investment will enable you to optimize support for this new business reality.

While end-user support is likely not the headline when it comes to digital transformation in the world of remote work, handling customer needs will enable your enterprise to focus on the more business-critical elements needed to support the future of remote work. Identifying and mitigating your end-users’ pain points now will help drive the organizational changes needed to accommodate the workplace of the future.

By defining and accommodating remote work requirements, CIOs can have the agility to adjust to the business needs of tomorrow. As society and businesses struggle to cope with the impact of the pandemic, now is the time to strategize and implement the technical building blocks that enable your organization to rapidly scale, adapt, and prepare to support a remote future.

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Sampath Sowmyanarayan leads the global enterprise segment for Verizon Business Group, with responsibility for delivering innovative business solutions to Verizon’s global wireline and wireless enterprise clients.