The CIO and the help desk disconnect

Stacked against investments in other areas like new hardware or software purchases, the help desk is often overlooked yet is tasked with a larger support role with each passing year. But it's critical that CIOs currently planning for the next year also include the help desk in their assessment.

Around this time of year, the C-suite begins the grueling process of planning and budgeting for another year. Many CIOs have the unenviable position of being responsible for delivering technologies that benefit new business initiatives, but without a boost in their IT budget.

At the same time, subject matter experts have begun their prognostications about trends that will gain momentum in the new year. Yet what’s new and cool in tech is rarely mentioned alongside the help desk, which plays a key role in determining whether these emerging trends will ultimately succeed.

With the buzz surrounding 2014 predictions, it’s important that organizations also confront the help desk disconnect to lay the framework for efficiently—and securely—supporting the trends of the new year and beyond. The following are just a few examples of how outdated help desk practices can impede IT innovation:

OS migration

Particularly in today’s distributed, multi-generational workforce, migrating to new operating systems is no easy feat. With Microsoft ceasing support for Windows 2003 and Windows XP in April 2014, these challenges are likely to be on the mind of a number of CIOs in the new year. To ensure a successful migration—regardless of the operating system at hand—organizations need help desk tools that can assist at every stage of the process.

For example, having the ability to remotely access and check the migration status across devices and geographies during the process enables IT to address any issues in real-time, before they become significant roadblocks. It’s also important that companies are prepared to scale support to accommodate the influx of service requests that always follow a migration period. Given the significant interface changes of Windows 8, any company preparing an upgrade to Microsoft’s newest operating system in particular should be prepared to help educate end-users on the new features.


Get ready for lots of new mobile devices. According to the latest Gartner report on smartphone sales, new faces in the smartphone industry are targeting traditional leaders Samsung and Apple for larger chunks of the market worldwide. Vendors such as Huawei, LG Electronics and Lenovo, specifically, are planning for stronger sales growth in 2014.

This is likely to result in an even greater diversity of mobile devices in organizations, putting additional pressure on the help desk to keepend-users productive regardless of their operating system of preference. To efficiently address this challenge companies need multiplatform support capabilities. Outdated support technologies developed for traditional operating systems that cannot sustain new devices and platforms will create an army of frustrated workers. In addition, organizations that fail to adequately address today’s multiplatform workforce face an elevated security threat as end-users will look outside of the business for their support needs.

Adoption of enterprise apps

A recent Appcelerator survey of more than 800 app developers found that enterprise apps are on the rise. Half of the developers polled said they plan to roll out at least one enterprise app in the next year, while another 40 percent stated they plan between two and 10 apps in that time period.

As enterprise apps continue to grow exponentially, the help desk must be empowered to support these applications. Each new custom app will bring its own increase in support requests and, as certain segments of the business develop and roll out their own apps, requests will amplify again. Technology has evolved to enable developers to embed support capabilities into custom apps. As such, it’s critical that organizations consider app support from the very early stages of development. Otherwise, the enterprise risks huge efficiency roadblocks later for both IT and end-users alike.


Study after study reports that CIOs are increasingly concerned about security. For instance, the Society for Information Management just published a report that found security is the second largest worry for IT leaders behind “alignment of IT with the business.”

As CIOs invest in new technologies to address security concerns it’s also important that they look internally at how reps are utilizing existing solutions. Many legacy help desk tools (specifically remote support tools) offer a named licensing model, in which each license is associated with one set of login credentials. To maximize their investment companies often share licenses using default logins—a practice that leads to a number of security vulnerabilities. In addition, legacy tools don’t allow for granular permission settings, meaning all technicians have access to even the most confidential corporate information. Because these practices can leave companies vulnerable to attack, investing in modern, enterprise-focused help desk solutions is an important step in bolstering security.

Remote support

Organizations are increasingly relying on remote support tools to virtually access and fix devices and systems. Unfortunately, many companies are using legacy remote access tools such as RDP, VNC or Dameware, which lack the robust security features of more modern solutions. Numerous security studies have consistently found these unsecure remote access technologies to be the chief hacking vector in financially motivated attacks. In order to efficiently support today’s mobile, distributed workforce without leaving the company vulnerable to attack, organizations should evaluate their remote support environment and upgrade to more modern solutions if required.

Decisions about how and where to spend IT resources are always pressing concerns for the CIO. Stacked against investments in other areas like new hardware or software purchases, the help desk is often overlooked yet is tasked with a larger support role with each passing year. As the above underscores, however, it’s critical that CIOs currently planning for the next 12 months also include the help desk in their assessment. 

By Nathan McNeill, Bomgar Corporation