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Service Desk Tiering Model Improves Self-Support Success

Self-support tools are changing the problem resolution paradigm for IT service desks. To deliver self-support, organizational tiering models must be reconsidered to ensure improved levels of service and decreased costs.
Bottom Line
Key Issues
What are the most critical management practices and processes for creating and maintaining a consolidated service desk organization?
What sourcing strategies will allow enterprises to achieve maximum efficiency in handling support demand?
A major challenge for IS organizations continues to be creating a support structure that channels problems and service requests to the best resource, while maintaining effective management and customer satisfaction. New to the equation of support, the Level 0 function is a pure and simple end-user or customer "help myself" form of support. This addition enables the IS organization to generate trouble tickets, capture end-user procedures, pinpoint training opportunity and leverage knowledge content management via scripting. With the Level 0 function, end users can solve their own IT problems or service requests. The IS organization can create a total support staff tier model (see Figure 1) by analyzing the activity of its end-user base and effectively translating usage types (see Note 1) into the requirements for various tiers of support. Via this modeling effort, usage types can be correlated into core processes required to support problems, changes and assets that can be better analyzed and subsequently better designed. This outcome should deliver a consolidation and collaboration across the tiering boundaries with a focus on the class of call types that lend themselves best to automation at the self-support level.

Note 1
Service Desk Call and Incident Categories
Service Request: A service request call or an e-mail regarding a range of support-specific service offerings.
Change: An end-user-placed call or an e-mail resulting in changes to the IT infrastructure that are not a result of an IT infrastructure failure.
Move: A subset of a change request, a move is an end-user request regarding the physical or virtual movement of IT resources or physical assets.
Add: A subset of a change request, an add is a specific end-user request for guidance on how to install or upgrade end-user IT resources.
How to: An end-user request regarding how to accomplish tasks with, access or operate IT resources.
Break/Fix: An end-user request placed as a result of a problem accomplishing tasks with, accessing or operating IT resources.
Password Reset: A specialized end-user request regarding establishing or regaining access privileges to IT resources.
Outage: A specialized case of an end-user break/fix call affecting a substantial group of end users ("flood calls"); calls are placed to the service desk to inform, inquire or complain about accomplishing tasks with, accessing or operating IT resources.

Figure 1

CSD: IT Support Tiering Model


Source: Gartner Research

Gartner recommends that IT service desk staff members build a chart similar to the one in Figure 1 and follow the steps to rationalize their own environment. The example below represents a baseline version of a tool to be used in project data gathering. IS organizations can easily apply their own criteria and structure predicated to their unique environments.

Level 0 Self-Help (Intranet/Internet Strategy): Level 0 is an intranet or Internet self-support function. Empowering end users to solve problems can be facilitated via universal access to knowledge. Self-help, self-diagnosis or self-healing tools (see Research Note M-10-0539) enable users to capture problem resolution knowledge and apply it toward consistent call types (see Note 2). By 2002, enterprises that move to an intranet support culture will channel 15 percent to 40 percent of their call volume by establishing a self-support option, lowering cost of ownership by 5 percent to 20 percent (0.7 probability) to 2002. Initial tool implementations will be tactical as solutions are in an immature and volatile market.

Note 2
Definition of Call and Incident Types
Consistent: An issue is consistent if a well-defined and known procedure resolves the issue and the procedure is readily accessible by those assigned ownership to resolve it.
Inconsistent: An issue is inconsistent if a defined procedure resolves it, but the enterprise has no documented or readily available access to it.
Transient: An issue is transient if the issue is not understood, recognized or identified and there is no defined procedure to resolve the issue.

Level 1 Service Desk (Business Focus): The Level 1 service desk is the support hot line. It acts as the human single point of contact for all technology-related problems (mainframes to PCs; internal applications to shrink-wrapped software; telecommunications and LANs; hardware break/fix and more) and service requests. The Level 1 service desk should be able to resolve approximately 65 percent to 80 percent of all incoming support calls and e-mail-submitted problems. Remaining calls are passed to Level 2 and Level 3 support personnel. Level 1 service has access to a common data repository. This level of support emphasizes a closer relationship with the users and has a business focus to help customers leverage technology to solve business problems. Level 1 is involved mostly in user management, such as password/access security, data management, workflow management, problem resolution, end-user training, service-level monitoring, application support, and moves, adds and changes.

Level 2 Service Desk (Technical Focus): The Level 2 service desk provides support services beyond the Level 1 service desk's mission or capabilities. Level 2 resolves 15 percent to 25 percent of the total call volume of problems. For example, Level 2 handles problems requiring greater depth of knowledge, more-technical issues or longer time on the phone. Level 2 is most often a centralized resource. It can reside inside or outside of the IS organization, or it can be outsourced. Level 2 is involved in end-user training, systems and operations, desktop support, project services, knowledge management, application support software distribution, change management, documentation management, portfolio/asset tracking, workgroup computing and directory services.

Level 3 Service Desk (Strategic Focus): The Level 3 support team resolves the final 5 percent to 10 percent of support calls and must work with hardware and software vendors to resolve issues. These people are the resident "gurus" and often own the IS organization's compatibility testing lab. Level 3 staff members handle a wide variety of issues concerning all aspects of the desktop and the network. They are focused more on strategic planning and IS infrastructure. This group is involved in leading IS staff members in problem avoidance, relationship management, output management, IS training, disaster recovery planning, application recovery, archive strategies, capacity management and competency centers.

Bottom Line

The key determinant for a successful support structure is a well-thought-out strategy, which ensures that a support site will be an asset, not a liability. Tier structure and problem type analysis are the most critical components of a best-in-class IT service support strategy. Using a tier modeling framework will help to ensure success in developing an intranet strategy for the IS organization and self-help services. IS support organizations must understand their incident/call category mix, apply the appropriate organizational structure against the planned call mix, target specific call resolution goals against each tier, and ensure that communications and feedback between the tiers are maintained. This should be done before any technology purchases are considered. Enterprises must be extremely cognizant of the changes in organizational structure that will be required for successful self-support tool implementations.

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