Help desks change with the times

Today’s device-toting workers look for tech support wherever they can find it, but a help desk is still the best bet for fixing enterprise apps.

When troubleshooting computer problems, enterprise workers have long turned to their office mates for help before taking the time to file a formal request for support from the help desk. But the rise of social media, employee mobility, cloud computing and the consumerization of IT have amplified that trend, leading research firm Gartner to predict the "possible end to the traditional help desk."

"Users are crowdsourcing," said Jarod Greene, an analyst at Gartner, which last summer included the potential demise of the help desk in a list of 10 predictions for the IT industry. The firm said people will bypass the help desk and seek answers from co-workers and friends via social media, or they will search for answers themselves on the Web.

"We call it 'Hey, Joe!' support," Greene said. "It's not about opening a help ticket or closing the ticket. It's 'I just need to know how to use this better.' That 'log it and flog it, detect and fix' [help desk] model is dying."

While tech support veterans acknowledge that the help desk is rapidly changing, they also contend that reports of its death are exaggerated.

Franz Fruewald, CIO at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, says most users still call a traditional IT help desk with tech problems. "That has not changed, and I don't see that changing," he said. "Even if things do change, the help desk won't go away entirely. Definitely not."

The archdiocese maintains a help desk staff of nine to serve 125 locations housing a diverse group of some 3,000 users, including teachers, healthcare professionals and cemetery workers.

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