Help deskers send an SOS

During a session at the recent Comdex Canada 2001 in Toronto several IT experts dissected some of the basic problems that are pervasive in the help desk world.

Mark Minasi, an IT author and columnist based in Virginia Beach, Va., said problems arise because new programs are dumped upon the old ones long before the first set of bugs are exterminated. “[Let’s] squeeze the bugs out one at a time until we have no [support] jobs left,” he said.

George Spalding, chief technology consultant with Mind Sharp Learning Centers, in Bloomington, Minn., was even harsher with his ire. “[We are] basically in the business of supporting new technical crap,” he said. Often the end user is to blame, as few companies spend the time or money to properly train them.

The average call to a help desk is usually not a specific problem but rather due to end-user ignorance, said Essex, England-based Malcolm Fry, co-chairman of Pink Elephant Inc. He said the IT department is becoming, in addition to a help desk, the training and security department as well.

The trio also said few companies spend the time or money to do root cause analysis – if your help desk is good at solving a problem then no one senior bothers to fix it.

Fry said CEOs are not involved enough in support issues and that the corporate cost is dramatically higher than often thought. One call to the help desk often represents one lost hour of productivity, and 40 calls a day equates to being short five employees over the entire year, he estimated.