An organization must decide on the level and range of skills it requires of its Service Desk staff - and then ensure that these skills are available at the appropriate times.
A range of skill options are possible, starting from a 'call-logging' service only - where staff need only very basic technical skills - right through to a 'technical' Service Desk where the organization's most technically skilled staff are used. In the case of the former, there will be a high handling but low resolution rate, while in the latter case this will be reversed.
The decision on the required skills level will often be driven by target resolution times (agreed with the business and captured in service level targets), the complexity of the systems supported and 'what the business is prepared to pay'. There is a strong correlation between response and resolution targets and costs - generally speaking, the shorter the target times, the higher the cost because more resources are required.
While there may be instances when business dependency or criticality make a highly technically skilled desk an imperative, the optimum and most cost-effective approach is generally to have a 'call-logging' first line of support via the Service Desk, with quick and effective escalations to more skilled second-line and thirdline resolution groups where skilled staff can be concentrated and more effectively utilized. However, this basic starting point can be improved over time by providing the first-line staff with an effective knowledge-base, diagnostic scripts and integrated support tools (including a CMS), as well as ongoing training and awareness, so that first-line resolution rates can gradually be increased.
This can also be achieved by locating second-level staff on the Service Desk, effectively creating a two-tier structure. This has advantages of making secondlevel staff available to help deal with peak call periods and to train more junior personnel, and it will often increase the first-call resolution rate. However, second-line staff often have duties outside of the Service Desk - resulting in rosters having to be managed or second-line staff positions being duplicated. In addition, having to deal with routine calls may be demotivating for more experienced staff. A further potential drawback is that the Service Desk becomes really good at resolving calls, whereas second-line staff should be focused on removing the root cause instead.
Another factor to consider when deciding on the skills requirements for Service Desk staff is the level of customization or specialization of the supported services. Standardized services require less specific knowledge to provide quality customer support. The more specialized the service, the more likely specialist knowledge will be required on the first call.
Note that first-line resolution rates can be reduced by effective Problem Management, which will reduce a number of the simpler, repetitive incidents. In such cases, although the resolution rates appear to be going down, the overall service quality will have improved by the complete removal of many incidents. While this is good, if Service Desk staff are paid incentives or bonuses for firstcall resolution, it could prove disastrous for morale and process effectiveness, unless the bonus threshold is reviewed.
Improvements in resolution times/rates should not be left to chance, but should instead be part of an ongoing Service Improvement Programme (see the Continual Service Improvement publication for fuller details).
Once the required skill levels have been identified, there is an ongoing task to ensure that the Service Desk is operated in such a way that the necessary staff obtain and maintain the necessary skills - and that staff with the correct balance of skills are on duty at appropriate times so that consistency is maintained. This will involve an ongoing training and awareness programme which should cover:
For such a programme to be effective, skill requirements and levels should be evaluated periodically and training records maintained.
Careful formulation of staffing rotations or schedules should be maintained so that a consistent balance of staff experience and appropriate skill levels are present during all critical operational periods. It is not sufficient to have only the right number of staff on duty - the correct blend of skills should also be available.
In order to have a good understanding of ITIL and the importance of configuration management, we first define what ITIL is: ITIL is literally a collection of documentation.
This documentation can help IT organizations implement the best practices. The documentation grows and grows as more successful techniques are documented and guidelines established for what can make others successful. The latest ITIL resources are published by the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC).
Integrated service delivery refers to the need for Configuration Management, Change Management, Incident Management, Problem Management and Release Management processes that are linked together in a meaningful manner. For example, the process of releasing components to the live environment (the domain of Release Management) is also an issue for Configuration Management and Change Management whilst the Service Desk is primarily responsible for liaison between IT providers and the Users of services. This section highlights the links and the principal relationships between all the Service Management and other infrastructure management processes.
ITIL processes fall under Operational Layer or Tactical Layer, as follows:
|Operational Layer:||Configuration Management - Service Desk Management - Incident & Problem Management - Change Management - Release Management|
|Tactical Layer:||Service Level Management - Availability Management - Capacity Management - Continuity Management - Financial Management|