CXO

Members respond on IT vs. help desk

In a recent edition of In Response, TechRepublic members were asked to express their opinions regarding the IT department acting as the company help desk. Take a look at what our members had to say.

In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, TechRepublic members express their opinions regarding the use of IT department staff as help desk techs.
Some very good points were made
I never anticipated the amount of e-mails and posts that we received regarding the IT vs. help desk In Response article. It’s apparent to me that this is a topic that TechRepublic members feel strongly about and it will be a topic of future editions of In Response.

A special thanks goes to everyone who submitted an opinion regarding this topic. Unfortunately, we can’t publish every opinion that we received, but I believe that you will find some of the best arguments below!

Stepping onto the soapbox…
  • Paul S.
    ”I believe that an IT department is employed to fix and maintain all of the business' computers, even if it is end-user problems. The people on the floor or office always like to see a face when their computer goes down, as they are normally very worried and reassurance is sorely needed. I found time to get the entire task done that was required of me. If I were ever snowed under, then the IT manager would help me out. There is no excuse for any IT person to put himself or herself on a pedestal, as they have a gift/knowledge to help out others. Therefore, they should be happy to share this knowledge and to help the less computer-literate people out in the office. After all, they are getting paid, in some cases, a lot of money.”
  • Marie D.
    ”I had to take a moment to calm down after reading the point-counterpoint items. When you get to the base of it, the function of IT is to enable the end users to do their jobs. Now, not everyone should have to go to the users’ desks to help them with problems. But to try and put that function outside of IT is just arrogant and wrong. The same people who don't think they should have to help end users are probably the same ones who say that their jobs would be so much easier without those pesky people using the systems. What they are forgetting is that those systems are put there especially for people to use, and their jobs are to make those systems functional. I've worked and managed computer support for over eight years. During that time, I've had to deal with any number of techs that don't feel that the end users are all that important. Sometimes I succeed in changing their attitude; sometimes I don't. But no matter what, I succeed in getting the end users the support they need. My vote? The IT department needs to do whatever it can to make sure that the business functions. Helping end users is one step in the process.”
  • Jeff J.
    ”I think it depends on how the company is built. In our company, the IT department is the help desk. We currently have five people in the department. I’m the main help desk tech for the call floor, another person is the tech for the shipping management department, and then we have a third individual who operates in both departments. The other two people are in the server room, doing various tasks to keep the major servers and databases up and running. Right now, it's working great, but if you look at the last job I was in, the IT department was so busy they could not attend to all the complaints and problems that faced them. Nor did they have the budget to bring on more help. So, the department’s solution was to have people from the call floor who could be trusted go around and attend to the trouble tickets. These people had training on how to ghost a system and other tasks that we did.
In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, TechRepublic members express their opinions regarding the use of IT department staff as help desk techs.
Some very good points were made
I never anticipated the amount of e-mails and posts that we received regarding the IT vs. help desk In Response article. It’s apparent to me that this is a topic that TechRepublic members feel strongly about and it will be a topic of future editions of In Response.

A special thanks goes to everyone who submitted an opinion regarding this topic. Unfortunately, we can’t publish every opinion that we received, but I believe that you will find some of the best arguments below!

Stepping onto the soapbox…
  • Paul S.
    ”I believe that an IT department is employed to fix and maintain all of the business' computers, even if it is end-user problems. The people on the floor or office always like to see a face when their computer goes down, as they are normally very worried and reassurance is sorely needed. I found time to get the entire task done that was required of me. If I were ever snowed under, then the IT manager would help me out. There is no excuse for any IT person to put himself or herself on a pedestal, as they have a gift/knowledge to help out others. Therefore, they should be happy to share this knowledge and to help the less computer-literate people out in the office. After all, they are getting paid, in some cases, a lot of money.”
  • Marie D.
    ”I had to take a moment to calm down after reading the point-counterpoint items. When you get to the base of it, the function of IT is to enable the end users to do their jobs. Now, not everyone should have to go to the users’ desks to help them with problems. But to try and put that function outside of IT is just arrogant and wrong. The same people who don't think they should have to help end users are probably the same ones who say that their jobs would be so much easier without those pesky people using the systems. What they are forgetting is that those systems are put there especially for people to use, and their jobs are to make those systems functional. I've worked and managed computer support for over eight years. During that time, I've had to deal with any number of techs that don't feel that the end users are all that important. Sometimes I succeed in changing their attitude; sometimes I don't. But no matter what, I succeed in getting the end users the support they need. My vote? The IT department needs to do whatever it can to make sure that the business functions. Helping end users is one step in the process.”
  • Jeff J.
    ”I think it depends on how the company is built. In our company, the IT department is the help desk. We currently have five people in the department. I’m the main help desk tech for the call floor, another person is the tech for the shipping management department, and then we have a third individual who operates in both departments. The other two people are in the server room, doing various tasks to keep the major servers and databases up and running. Right now, it's working great, but if you look at the last job I was in, the IT department was so busy they could not attend to all the complaints and problems that faced them. Nor did they have the budget to bring on more help. So, the department’s solution was to have people from the call floor who could be trusted go around and attend to the trouble tickets. These people had training on how to ghost a system and other tasks that we did.
  • A. Williams
    ”I currently work in a very stretched IT department. At the present time, it is my responsibility to support a large number of end users, as our help desk personnel have quit. It is a very stressful and busy job. However, I find that my superiors expect more resolutions on the spot from me than they had from the previous help desk personnel. Mainly it’s because the previous help desk persons would forward the harder calls to the IT department. Now, all the phone calls and requests come directly to me. It makes concentrating and working on resolutions for the end user impossible. Not to mention long-term projects and research. I believe just on the work environment that constantly ringing phones and interruptions from clients make a separate area imperative, physically.”
  • Peter F.
    ”I read your article with great interest. And my response to your question "Should your IT department also be your help desk?" is:

    NO.

    My experience of inquiries coming to help desks is that they are mostly requests for assistance with applications. And, surprisingly, most IT staff members are not very adept at the intricacies of computer software and applications. That is, I find that IT staff are much more oriented toward, and trained for, building and modifying hardware, loading software, and network management. I think the individuals in a company who would be best suited to field most help desk inquiries would be clerical staff. They are the ones who generally make the most and best use of computer applications. And they are the ones who generally come up with the best tips, tricks, and shortcuts for applications.”
  • Synergy
    ”Obviously, this is a hot topic for lots of us! My opinion—it depends on the size of the organization. But regardless of whether they are together or apart, there needs to be common management and lots of communication between the two departments. There's nothing worse than having IT and help desk people at each other's throats, pointing fingers and blaming one another over user problems. To me, the key is for both IT and help desk people to understand each other's jobs and work together for the benefit of the user. And let's not forget, it is the user who is the customer of both departments.”
  • Wmack
    ”The help desk is one of the best indicators of how well the IT department is doing. A high number of help desk calls identifies problem areas. The two functions need to stay together. The argument that IT does not have enough staff to run the help desk is plain silly. Where are you going to find the staff if you split the functions? The mission behind IT is to make the business run at its best. This means both installing new technology and helping the end users make use of it.”
  • Jeff D.
    ”Once an organization gets over a certain size, it is essential to separate these two functions. If the IT engineers are trying to get through their normal workload, you cannot constantly sidetrack them to sort out user queries. I have personally experienced this. The help desk helps users with simple queries and any other assistance that they may need. The engineers fix things according to priorities. The help desk sets these priorities and filters the nontechnical queries, and submits problems to the engineers that need to be passed on. When you have a company where people simply shanghai engineers in the corridor, the end result is that no one gets anything done, no matter how loudly the MD shouts.”
Do you have an opinion regarding any member’s comments regarding the IT department acting as the help desk? If so, we want to hear about it! Feel free to leave a post below, or send us a note with your thoughts.
  • A. Williams
    ”I currently work in a very stretched IT department. At the present time, it is my responsibility to support a large number of end users, as our help desk personnel have quit. It is a very stressful and busy job. However, I find that my superiors expect more resolutions on the spot from me than they had from the previous help desk personnel. Mainly it’s because the previous help desk persons would forward the harder calls to the IT department. Now, all the phone calls and requests come directly to me. It makes concentrating and working on resolutions for the end user impossible. Not to mention long-term projects and research. I believe just on the work environment that constantly ringing phones and interruptions from clients make a separate area imperative, physically.”
  • Peter F.
    ”I read your article with great interest. And my response to your question "Should your IT department also be your help desk?" is:

    NO.

    My experience of inquiries coming to help desks is that they are mostly requests for assistance with applications. And, surprisingly, most IT staff members are not very adept at the intricacies of computer software and applications. That is, I find that IT staff are much more oriented toward, and trained for, building and modifying hardware, loading software, and network management. I think the individuals in a company who would be best suited to field most help desk inquiries would be clerical staff. They are the ones who generally make the most and best use of computer applications. And they are the ones who generally come up with the best tips, tricks, and shortcuts for applications.”
  • Synergy
    ”Obviously, this is a hot topic for lots of us! My opinion—it depends on the size of the organization. But regardless of whether they are together or apart, there needs to be common management and lots of communication between the two departments. There's nothing worse than having IT and help desk people at each other's throats, pointing fingers and blaming one another over user problems. To me, the key is for both IT and help desk people to understand each other's jobs and work together for the benefit of the user. And let's not forget, it is the user who is the customer of both departments.”
  • Wmack
    ”The help desk is one of the best indicators of how well the IT department is doing. A high number of help desk calls identifies problem areas. The two functions need to stay together. The argument that IT does not have enough staff to run the help desk is plain silly. Where are you going to find the staff if you split the functions? The mission behind IT is to make the business run at its best. This means both installing new technology and helping the end users make use of it.”
  • Jeff D.
    ”Once an organization gets over a certain size, it is essential to separate these two functions. If the IT engineers are trying to get through their normal workload, you cannot constantly sidetrack them to sort out user queries. I have personally experienced this. The help desk helps users with simple queries and any other assistance that they may need. The engineers fix things according to priorities. The help desk sets these priorities and filters the nontechnical queries, and submits problems to the engineers that need to be passed on. When you have a company where people simply shanghai engineers in the corridor, the end result is that no one gets anything done, no matter how loudly the MD shouts.”
Do you have an opinion regarding any member’s comments regarding the IT department acting as the help desk? If so, we want to hear about it! Feel free to leave a post below, or send us a note with your thoughts.

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