This is article 5 in a series of 8. Read article 1 in the series here.
Where business prioritization is about doing the right things in the right order today, the service desk also needs to make sure that support capabilities are evolving to align with what the business will need tomorrow. As businesses work to become more agile, the pace of change is accelerating, so there is increasing pressure for the service desk to keep pace—to ensure end user productivity is not interrupted and business objectives are met. If the service desk is not aware of changes that are happening out in the business, change within the service desk will always be reactive.
Most service desk metrics are trailing indicators of what business demand looks like (the “rear view mirror” perspective), so how can the service desk effectively plan for changes in demand and ensure the right capabilities and capacity are there to provide high quality support?
The typical scenario is this: A development team throws a new release of a software system “over the wall” into the operational environment—without proper collaboration with the relevant operations teams to ensure the system is stable and is powered by sufficient compute capacity, storage, etc. In the worst cases, there is no communication at all, putting server and database teams into panic mode when something unexpected happens. As far as they know, nothing has changed—so they can't narrow down the diagnosis.
The service desk gets a spike in call volumes from users because either the system doesn’t work in the production environment, or there are new features that users need help with.
Unaware of what has changed, some of your service desk agents’ knowledge relating to that system or service has just expired—they no longer know how to support all aspects of the service because it is now a different shape.
This is one of many failure-mode scenarios within the IT world which highlight the need for a DevOps approach. The service desk (an operations team) needs to be included in the development cycle so that they can see—upfront—what is changing and work out the impact (and what to do about it). This might include getting involved in testing, training end users around what has changed, and working with development to define an appropriate release schedule to ensure it doesn’t conflict with known peaks in demand.
Gaining a “forward view” of what the business is doing means the service desk can be more pro-active in managing new service and support demands before they manifest as calls to the service desk. And if they do manifest as inbound calls, service desk agents are at least aware of the situation and ready to handle it.
By engaging directly with business unit managers to talk about their strategic plans and tactics, the service desk can look at how current and planned business projects will translate into changes in the types and volume of demand coming in.
When you have a good idea of the currentsize and shape of demand, you can plan more effectively to meet changes in demand before it happens – enabling you to put new capabilities in place and provide consistent quality of support to IT customers.
The key to predicting (andhandling) future demand is finding out what is happening in the business:
Schedule regular meetings with business unit managers to look at projects and plans and how they will impact the service desk. This is where Business Relationship Managers are essential as liaison points. Often, the service desk manager is too busy fighting fires to make time for catch-up meetings with business stakeholders.
Ask business managers and product managers to pro-actively engage with the service desk when they are planning any change projects that might change the need for support. Are new services being developed? Are existing services being adapted? Will the change put additional stress on an existing service? For example, opening a new customer service center will mean many more people using the CRM tool, as well as a crop of new desktop PCs and other endpoint devices to be supported.
Meet regularly with IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) teams to discuss changes to infrastructure, people or processes. E.g. are they planning a Windows upgrade or desktop upgrades? Are they migrating services to the cloud? Are new smartphones/tablet being issued?
Where possible, meet with C-suite executives to keep tabs on the latest strategic plans that will filter down through the organization via Project Portfolio Management, Development and Operations.
Keeping up with new business demands is about the service desk being more pro-active and connected to other areas of IT, not just getting better at being reactive.
For example, if you have a service desk knowledge base in place, it will make it quick and easy to share new support knowledge gained on-the-fly when the service desk gets impacted by a business change—but it is much better for a knowledge base to be pre-populated before the new service or system is launched. When your service desk is synchronized with your business units and can see what’s coming, the stress levels are lower and the work environment is more healthy and sustainable.