Help desk, rebooted: Social, mobile remake tech support
Device-toting users are taking help into their own hands, but enterprise apps still need enterprise help.
Computerworld - A senior executive, hit with balky connectivity moments before an international video call with investors, sticks his head out his office door. Soon several of his direct reports are crowded around his laptop, trying to re-establish a solid VPN connection for their stressed-out boss.
A new sales hire, too embarrassed to admit to his co-workers that he doesn't know how to set a custom print area in Excel, uses his smartphone to discreetly ask his Facebook buddies instead. Later, he watches a 5-minute video, hosted on the company's internal wiki, that walks him through the top ten Excel FAQs. Problem solved.
What's missing from these scenarios? The help desk.
Employees have long sought assistance from their office neighbors, but now social media, employee mobility, cloud computing and the consumerization of IT are amplifying that trend, so much so that one at least one research firm -- Gartner -- says enterprise help as we know it may cease to exist.
Presented as part of a "Top 10" list at its Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit (pdf) last June, Gartner predicted "the possible end to the traditional help desk," to be replaced by crowdsourcing, where co-workers and friends provide answers to technology questions through social media and enterprise social networks, and by self-service surfing, where workers search for their own IT answers through vendor websites or blogs of trusted experts.
"Users and their mid-level managers are crowdsourcing already," says Jarod Greene, a Gartner analyst who has been following the trend. "We call it 'Hey, Joe!' support. It's not about opening a help ticket or closing the ticket. It's 'I just need to know how to use this better.' "
For their part, enterprise help experts acknowledge the terrain is changing at a rapid pace, but say news of the help desk's death is greatly exaggerated.
"For most users, if they have a problem, they call the help desk," says Franz Fruewald, CIO for the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "That has not changed, and I don't see that changing. And even if things do change, the help desk won't go away entirely. Definitely not."
To be sure, help desks have been refining their missions over the last few years, automating solutions to the most frequent inquiries from users -- such as how to change a password or fix a printer -- so help technicians can provide higher-level care for more pressing issues, such as network problems or malware on users' computers.
That's a great start, says Greene, because it allows workers with simple, common tech problems to fix things themselves.
For more complex but still common questions -- creating Word documents, setting up spreadsheet macros, sending group emails, for example -- crowdsourcing can play a part, he says. "The role of IT here is in the community management function, which [will] become critical to the next-generation help desk. If you know there's a specific problem with a certain application or process, why not share it?"
- Social Media Education: The New Edge for Success Failure to train for social media will cost your business money. A recent report showed how digitally prepared companies can unlock up to...
- Social Media in Technology: A Unified Strategy for Success Find out how social media is sparking a new era of customer and industry-understanding in technology enterprises and how industry leaders are overcoming...
- Printer Installer: Eliminating Print Servers Printer Installer is an on-premise web application that enables you to centrally manage and deploy Windows shared or direct iP printers.
- How Network Connections Drive Web Application Performance Users around the globe, on all sorts of devices, expect Web applications to function as seamlessly as desktop applications. This paper discusses the...
- IBM FlashSystem V840: Leveraging Software-Defined Flash to Drive Your Business With end-to-end, tightly integrated functionality and super-fast flash technology, products like IBM FlashSystem V840 Enterprise Performance Solution empower businesses to leverage the efficiency...
- Leveraging Flash Storage to Accelerate Oracle Real Application Clusters Join this webinar to understand the latest solid-state storage trends, the specific applications driving solid-state storage deployments and the benefits of deploying the... All Internet White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!