Differences between A Help Desk And A Service Desk
Today, the name help desk or service desk doesn’t necessarily describe the type of support center it is. As Jayne Groll, President of ITSM Academy (a US based ITIL training organization) notes, “A service desk is not just a help desk with a new name.” Instead, according to ITIL, the service desk handles a range of services, acting as the single point of contact for not only incidents, but also change requests, the forward schedule of changes, problem management and configuration changes. Groll states that the differentiator between a help desk and a service desk is a services orientation. In ITIL, a service is one or more IT systems that enable a business process. A services orientation moves the service desk away from providing incident management for technical issues to providing integrated support that considers the business impact of every issue.
A help desk provides excellent incident management, ensuring that all customer issues are resolved in a timely and orderly manner that does not allow tickets to get lost. Typically, a help desk has access to asset management data (information about IT assets, including hardware and software) and assists in keeping asset information up-to-date. A help desk uses an effective method to create and maintain knowledge and might offer web-based self-help functionality to customers, such as access to the support knowledge base. A help desk may have a Service Level Agreement that is technology-oriented rather than business-oriented. The help desk may or may not see the need to create Operating Level Agreements with other IT groups. (Operating Level Agreements are the internal contracts between a help desk and its support partners, such as application support or network administration. The agreement includes operational promises such as response and resolution time to escalated tickets, communication methods between the groups and reporting requirements.) The change management process in this IT organization may be informal but highly effective. Oftentimes the IT organization is small and help desk personnel will multi-task and perform duties that in a larger organization would be assigned to dedicated employees. When multiple roles are performed by a single person, there is less need for formal processes, meetings and oversight.
A service desk is created when business executives identify the need for a services orientation in the IT department, which integrates IT into the fabric of the business. It also assumes that the organization’s executives have embraced ITIL as the framework for its operations. In a nutshell, the service desk deals with more complexity and more formalized, integrated processes than a help desk. The service desk is the single point of contact for all IT-related customer requests and is the face of IT to the customer. The service desk provides incident management, the goal of which is to restore the customer to a productive state as quickly as possible, either through education, resolution or a work-around. At the same time, the service desk is tightly integrated into many IT processes, including problem management (the process of identifying the root cause of reported problems), change management (the methodology to make orderly changes to the IT infrastructure) and configuration management1 (the means to record asset information plus the relationships among them). A service desk is part of an IT organization that maintains a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) or a repository for all configuration data. Customers contact the service desk to report change requests and to ask questions about planned changes. The service desk communicates the forward schedule of changes to the customer community, and represents the voice of the customer on the Change Advisory Board. The service desk participates in the creation, implementation and maintenance of
the Service Level Agreement and Operating Level Agreements.
Change Management: The formal process of accepting change requests, prioritizing, testing and implementing them in a controlled manner.
Configuration Items: Elements of software, infrastructure and documentation.
Configuration Management: Provides information about all assets and configuration items. Provides information about the relationship among configuration items.
Incident Management: The process to restore the customer to a productive state as quickly as possible.
Operating Level Agreement: The agreement between the Service Desk and its internal support partners regarding how they will work together.
Problem Management: The process of identifying the root cause of incident(s) and eliminating the cause to prevent future incidents.
Service Level Agreement: The document that describes the services and expectations of customers as they use IT services