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Change How You Think About the Level 1 Support: No Down Payment, Immediate Returns

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Everything is changing and so is the IT department. Not only the focus, but also the users. Add the constant pressure of doing more with less and understaffing (about half) you probably end up with burned out Level 1 support employees. Under these conditions, it does not make sense to insist on the traditional Level 1 support. Of course, we have to review procedures, paying more attention and time to training but, the reality is we need a different way of thinking.

Let’s start with the users: With the Generation Y already in the workforce, we have born-digital users. They are already capable

No Investment

No down payment, no direct investment but immediate returns. Yes, you can do this with your existing IT support personnel.

of taking care of many problems they encounter (ok, sometimes they create worse problems than they can solve). Some of them want to use their own devices (the famous Bring Your Own Device – BYOD issue), which makes IT executives scream “unsupported device.” But, on the other hand this is a luck. Users are already familiar with technology and comfortable with it.

The same users, both born-digital and the tech-savvy first go to the Internet to find the answers to their questions. In fact, the born-digital generation had friends from the social networks before they have any real-life friends. The same people are already active users on the forums, asking questions and answering them. Instead of keeping their knowledge as a secret, they share it. They are also familiar with the online forums and their rules.

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Add all the ingredients together: familiarity with the technology + ability to make friends on computer networks + active forum use. The only thing left is the platform on which they will express themselves, which is Sharepoint Foundation in Microsoft platforms (there are many open source products of course).

What I say is, create a social help desk. Assign tech-savvy users to departments (key users) who can solve their colleagues’ problems without help desk assistance. Create a self-service portal where users can ask questions and receive answers from other users. Those questions and answers will be your knowledge-base. Assign one or more Level 1 support personnel for forum moderation and knowledge-base creation and management.

You will need some time and some extra effort to establish this base. After that, or in parallel, depending on your resources, you can establish policies on making calls to help desk. For example you can establish policies to go through the knowledge base before asking for support. Or, since you have assigned key users to departments, you can establish a policy to go through the key user first or require the support tickets to be opened by the key users. There are also points which you can direct users to self-service portals. One example to this is the password-reset issue. Deploying an Identity Management solution, even for the sole purpose of password resetting, will provide huge returns in the short run. One of my clients reported that more than 50% of the help desk calls are password reset requests. Just imagine the benefits the company will reap when the identity management is deployed. Most probably you have similar Level 1 calls which you can deploy self-service solutions.

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There is one more thing you can do, which is to inform the users when there is a problem. There may be issues with the terminal servers,  there may be issues with the Internet connection or there may be some connection problems. Just tell the users what the problem is. Many IT managers think this as a loss of control, or admitting that they are incapable of performing their own jobs. But this simply is not true. Letting users know about the problem means that you are in good control of your job and you are respecting others’ work and time. They will not lose time to figure out what is wrong, or try to fix it on their own or making a support call. I have a handful of clients who do that. And believe me, their users are incredibly happy with and supportive to their IT departments.

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You will be asking why IT training is not in my list. Because there is no discussion to that, you should already have a clear training policy for your users. However, revisiting your training content with your help desk personnel will make the training right to the point. What I have seen so far in my clients is that they fail to follow-up after the training. They think that continuous training is the cure. While there is no apparent downside to this, not following up means that if you have excluded an important thing in the first training, you will be missing it in the subsequent trainings, plus you will not be able to see if the training has the desired effect.

The bottomline is, we are living in a turbulent environment. Things change rapidly and we need to adapt instead of whine. We need to consider the alternatives and think about the opportunities. We need to speak this out to the corporate management and seek their support. As I have just said, our users are changing and so must we. If the management still resists, tell the people that what we have discussed (throughout the article) does not involve any down payment. They will be most likely to think different.


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