Toolkit: Reduce Dependence on Desk-Side Support Technicians

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1 Gartner for IT Leaders Publication Date: 23 April 2007 ID Number: G Toolkit: Reduce Dependence on Desk-Side Support Technicians David M. Coyle, Terrence Cosgrove The IT service desk and PC life cycle configuration management tools and processes are reducing the role of the desk-side support technician. IT support management can reduce costs, gain efficiency and increase end-user productivity by moving service and support requests from the desk-side support technician to the IT service desk and to desktop management engineers that use PC life cycle configuration management tools. Key Findings Level-one IT service desk analysts can resolve software-related desktop issues at a significantly lower cost than desk-side support technicians. PC configuration management tools can be set up to run in the background or be scheduled for off hours, which will improve users' PC availability. Desk-side support technicians often work on one issue at a time, whereas service desk analysts and centralized desktop management engineers can multitask, enabling them to be more efficient. Because failed PC life cycle configuration management implementations regularly result from a lack of policy, process and staff support, much of the responsibility for resolving PC software issues falls on the local desk-side technician. Recommendations Understand the activities of the desk-side support technicians and the workload that can be handled remotely by level-one service desk analysts and centralized desktop management engineers. Invest in service desk and PC life cycle configuration management tools and processes to reduce dependence on inefficient and expensive manual processes. Limit the scope of PC life cycle configuration management tool projects to one or two functions (such as inventory and software distribution) to increase the chances of successful implementations successful deployments reduce dependence on local desk-side support technicians Gartner is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates. Gartner for IT Leaders is a service mark of Gartner and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner's research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

2 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Advances in integrated inventory and remote control tools and robust incident and problem management processes are enabling level-one IT service desks to resolve more service and support requests at first contact, which results in fewer issues being escalated to level-two deskside support technicians. Centrally managed PC life cycle configuration management tools (such as software distribution and patch management) also obviate the need for hands-on desk-side support technicians. Focus IT investments on tools and processes that promote first contact resolution and PC life cycle configuration management, rather than desk-side support staffing. STRATEGIC PLANNING ASSUMPTION(S) By 2010, fewer than 5% of users' support requests will require a desk-side support visit (0.7 probability). ANALYSIS In the past, desk-side support technicians have had a large role in IT service and support. It was common for most service and support requests whether they were hardware-related, softwarerelated or how-to issues to be managed by local IT technicians, who would stop by end users' desks and fix their problems. This model provided users with a high-touch support experience, required desk-side support technicians to have a broad range of skills and required manual resolution of each request. However, the desk-side support model has several drawbacks: The desk-side support technician can only deal with one issue at a time, making it difficult to multitask. Travel to and from end-users' desks wastes time. The social interactions that frequently take place during visits waste time and reduce efficiency. Desk-side support technicians often solve simple requests that could have been resolved by a lower-paid IT service desk staff member. The breadth of skills required of desk-side support technicians often comes at the expense of developing deep skills. It may be difficult to schedule desk-side support visits at a time that's convenient for the user. IT management often has difficulty managing the priorities and workloads of such nomadic workforces. The manual efforts of desk-side support technicians often cause in inconsistent adherence to policies and procedures. Desk-side technicians may close service tickets in "batches" after visiting several end users, resulting in inaccurate incident and problem data being entered into service desk tools. Publication Date: 23 April 2007/ID Number: G Page 2 of 6

3 Desk-side support staffing in small offices can be inefficient, because technicians stationed in offices are often underutilized, and technicians traveling between multiple offices waste time in transit. IT organizations can reduce costs, gain efficiency and increase end-user productivity by greatly reducing the role of the desk-side support technician in favor of an increased role for the IT service desk and PC life cycle configuration management tools. Reducing Costs IT organizations are able to reduce costs by moving support issues that have traditionally been managed by a level-two desk-side support technicians down to level-one service desk analysts. Using knowledge base repositories, better training and the use of PC life cycle management tools, such as remote control technology and inventory data that is integrated into the service desk, level-one service desk analysts can troubleshoot and resolve support issues previously managed by the desk-side support technician. Total compensation (including salaries, benefits and training) is the largest component of support costs for an IT organization, and the level-one service desk analyst's compensation is typically 20% to 30% lower than the level-two desk-side support technician. Service and support requests managed at level one have a typical cost per call of between $10 and $37 while level-two support requests have a typical cost per call of between $35 and $250. Integrated service desk and PC life cycle configuration management tools and processes will increase first contact resolution (FCR) rates (the percentage of service desk calls managed on the initial contact), thereby reducing costly desk-side support visits. PC life cycle configuration management tools are mature and offer significant flexibility. Manual updates can take hundreds of person-hours (depending on the number of targeted users, their geographic dispersion and the size of the update). Standard tools can update an entire group with a single task (users or computers), while applying rules to limit the invasiveness of the update (such as push, pull, user-delay options and conditional logic to prevent bad installations). Gaining Efficiency For the past 10 years, software distribution tools have been used to reduce the number of manual installations. These tools have evolved into suites that automate the management of a PC's life cycle, including deployment, delivering updates, managing configuration state and disposal. However, despite their obvious benefits, few organizations manage the full life cycle of their PCs, because of a lack of policies and processes (see "Desktop Management Best Practices Focus on Policy, Process and People"). Organizations frequently make the mistake of assuming that a PC life cycle configuration management tool will eliminate the need for policies and processes; however, tools alone can't do that they merely eliminate outmoded processes, such as manual installations. Besides the basic function of delivering software to clients, PC configuration management tools can improve the targeting of their distributions through increased integration with enterprise directories and richer, policy-based management. Sophisticated packaging tools, process maturity and PC standardization are having a positive effect on the success rates of distributions. The ability to roll back unsuccessful installations is a standard PC configuration management functionality. Thus, diagnosing and resolving software problems no longer need to be handled locally. Many of the activities associated with desk-side support result in inefficiencies, such as "small talk" with end users, travel time to and from desks, and other unproductive behaviors. Because desk-side support technicians rarely have the opportunity to multitask, they can waste time at Publication Date: 23 April 2007/ID Number: G Page 3 of 6

4 end-users' desktops waiting for PCs to reboot or for software to be installed. In contrast, level-one service desk analysts and centralized desktop management engineers can use that time to close tickets, read knowledge base articles and perform other tasks, such as reading . While at end users' desks, desk-side support technicians often lack easy access to knowledge bases that could help resolve issues. The ability of level-one service desk analysts or desktop management engineers to quickly scan knowledge bases while at their workstations can significantly reduce mean time to repair (MTTR). In addition, because they spend so little time at their workstations, desk-side support technicians are less likely to spend time entering knowledge base articles for the benefit of others. Centralized engineers are also likely to handle more issues than local desk-side technicians, providing them with more experience to leverage on future calls. PC life cycle management tools improve IT management's ability to monitor and measure the activities of staff members. Desk-side support technicians are frequently away from their workstations for extended periods, which makes them less timely with their data input and more prone to manual error. PC life cycle tools automatically capture key metrics, such as patch success/failure, which software was installed and which PCs were affected. This ensures greater compliance and governance than relying on desk-side support technicians to correctly input the data and then waiting for IT management to report on the aggregated efforts of each technician. Increasing End-User Productivity User productivity can also benefit from fewer visits from the desk-side support technician, and increased FCR by the service desk and PC life cycle management tools. MTTR measures how quickly an issue has been resolved and how long it takes for the end user to become productive again. A desktop issue managed at first contact by a service desk analyst often has an MTTR of between 10 and 20 minutes (including wait time), whereas the same issue managed by a deskside support technician could have an MTTR of between two and eight hours. Resolving endusers' issues on first contact enables them to quickly become productive again. it also eliminates the necessity to schedule a time when the desk-side support technician can perform the task. PC life cycle management tools are less intrusive than desk-side support technicians, enabling end users to be more productive while issues are being resolved. PC life cycle management tools can do their job without disturbing users. They can run in the background or during off-hours when users aren't working. They can also prompt users to schedule convenient times for updates or reboots. In contrast, desk-side support technicians must take full access of the PC away from end users while they're working, and this often happens at inconvenient times. End users can increase their productivity because of the flexibility offered by PC life cycle tools. Failed Implementations Decentralized PC life cycle configuration management is not always a matter of choice. It's common, especially among small to midsize businesses, to find failed PC life cycle configuration management implementations. Sometimes an organization with a failed tool implementation will simply revert to manual installations. Other organizations replace failed products with lesssophisticated automated solutions, such as custom scripts or software deliveries via the enterprise directory. Both methods are unreliable and increase the number of failed distributions. This puts the responsibility of redressing software conflicts back onto the local desk-side technician. We recommend the following three steps to increase the probability of successful implementations: 1. Gain control over the PC environment by locking down the PCs of users that don't need to install their own software. Publication Date: 23 April 2007/ID Number: G Page 4 of 6

5 2. Develop a detailed project plan that takes into account the actual number of hours needed to implement, use and manage the PC life cycle configuration management tool PC life cycle configuration management projects fail due to underestimated project time and resources. 3. Start implementation projects with just one or two functions (such as inventory and software distribution). The Need for Desk-Side Support The role of desk-side support will not completely disappear from the IT organization. PC life cycle configuration management vendors have started to offer products that enable organizations to image PCs remotely over the WAN; however, this isn't a mainstream practice, primarily because of bandwidth constraints. Issues with network connectivity prevent PC life cycle management tools from reaching problematic PCs, and if such issues can't be addressed at the level-one service desk, they will need to be escalated to a desk-side support technician. Similarly, actual hardware break/fix issues, such as a broken fan or bad motherboard, require a desk-side support technician. Finally, many IT organizations may continue to employ desk-side support technicians to provide high-touch customer experiences, such as support for a high-level executive. Publication Date: 23 April 2007/ID Number: G Page 5 of 6

6 REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS Corporate Headquarters 56 Top Gallant Road Stamford, CT U.S.A European Headquarters Tamesis The Glanty Egham Surrey, TW20 9AW UNITED KINGDOM Asia/Pacific Headquarters Gartner Australasia Pty. Ltd. Level 9, 141 Walker Street North Sydney New South Wales 2060 AUSTRALIA Japan Headquarters Gartner Japan Ltd. Aobadai Hills, 6F 7-7, Aobadai, 4-chome Meguro-ku, Tokyo JAPAN Latin America Headquarters Gartner do Brazil Av. das Nações Unidas, andar World Trade Center São Paulo SP BRAZIL Publication Date: 23 April 2007/ID Number: G Page 6 of 6

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