Profit from the Obvious - The Help Desk Data

By Liz Tluchowski, CIO, Frenkel & Company

Liz Tluchowski, CIO, Frenkel & Company

I was pleased when asked to write a piece on some facet of my experience as a CIO.

After 30 years of having seen and taken part in the world of networks, cloud computing, virus concerns, super storms, and most importantly defense against hacking, I wondered what was there to write about.

"We need to take a closer look at the detail associated with help desk issues and the impact it causes to the organization"

Since the big picture gets all of our focus, I decided to address the obvious which most of us shun, yet it holds the key to an efficient operation—the ever-present Help Desk. I know many of you are questioning why a CIO is even involved in the day-to-day interactions of the helpdesk, especially when we have so many critical aspects of operations to deal with, on a 24/7 basis. The answer is because this is the area that we are best educated through information as to what our users need to be efficient and effective while servicing our clients.

In my early days, the Help Desk consisted of a rack of “Hardware and Software—Books for Dummies” and the practice of reverting to a typewriter, pad of paper and markers of various colors.

As time passed, the competitive era kicked-in, companies ordered the latest equipment and programs if for no other reason than to impress competitors, customers, compliance and even the IRS during an audit. Several folks were not even certain these products would bring value or increased revenues to their organizations but thought that they should have them anyway. It was a sad period for workers—switching from the traditional manual operational modes to the “gadgets”, thereby increasing every company’s need for user support. In fact, during this time how many of us used the phrase “you cannot teach old dog new tricks” in our daily vocabulary. This led to the advent of Help Desk.

Throughout the years, work at the Help Desk was performed by the nerds. Who else would have the patience to deal with dial-up internet connections that moved at the speed of a snail, complicated non-responsive wires, computer boxes, screens, power failures, bewildered technicians, accountants and the ever angry department managers who had staffs that could not work through this inevitable learning curve.

Having been one of the nerds, as the years went by and I moved to a CIO position, I lost touch with the Help Desk and the opportunities it might offer, as I focused in areas associated with the bigger picture. It was not until one day, I passed the help desk work area several times and saw a number of bewildered employees pointing to various screens and key boards, that I realized that they weren’t picking power ball numbers, but were rather addressing various help desk request, as a means of keeping an operation going while better understanding company operations and potential improvements.

Most, if not all of the times we just correct an issue providing very little information to the users on how to avoid the same in the future, and move along to the next ticket in order to stay on top of the daily workflow needs. That is a mistake; we need to take a closer look at the detail associated with help desk issues and the impact it causes to the organization, when a user has to stop servicing a client in order for their system to be fixed. There are several reasons why help may be needed including, lack of training, aged systems, inconsistency and of course users that may require extra assistance.

The issues that are reported to the help desk on a daily basis provide a wealth of information. In several instances, they are our first notice that something may be wrong with one of our systems or that our employee training program needs to be defined further. Aside from being reactive and fixing the issue reported, a plan needs to be developed to minimize employee support needs. Perhaps one of the difficulties in achieving this goal is due to our global concerns over security and the need to lock down the users capabilities to help protect potential vulnerabilities.

All of the money spent on company information systems to provide employees with the best industry tools available will not make a difference if we do not analyze our data at the simplest level, beginning with the Help Desk and understand where we may be able to minimize support needs in an organization while achieving added efficiencies. By developing this protocol, it will also afford us accurate knowledge to make future decisions on which technology is best for a company rather than the concept of the latest and greatest or ‘time for a change’, because our industry is dictating that direction.

The next time we pass the help desk, let’s give a nod to the people working there to show our appreciation for their patience, commitment and skills for solving our problems. At the same time we should all consider every user request or issue the starting point in analyzing how the problems might be used to improve our company.

Our industry like many, can profit from the obvious, by starting with the help desk tickets and their analytic importance, including the use of related software to measure and improve performance resulting in long-term value to a company.

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