This ComputerWorld short, - in a handful of paragraphs - demonstrates just about everything that's wrong with too many IT shops:
Employees spend an average of 30 minutes per week either trying to fix their own PC problems or working on a co-worker's PC problems, according to research by Compass America Inc., a Chicago-based IT benchmarking firm.
This self-sufficiency and helpfulness may seem like a good thing, but from the company's point of view, it's not very cost-effective, says Scott Feuless, a senior consultant in Compass' Houston office. For starters, it may be a sign that end users have little confidence that the IT help desk can really help or that users don't know that the help desk could solve their problem. Plus, that 30 minutes of lost work productivity is hurting the company and could be reduced to an average of 10 minutes with a top-notch help desk, Feuless says.
Companies take a 3% productivity hit from users futzing with their PCs, and that could be cut to 1% with a first-class help desk, Feuless says, citing Compass' database of more than 7,000 benchmark studies.
The very first question that companies should ask themselves is why users tend to avoid the help desk whenever they can. Could it be that Dogbert's No Help at All Desk is painfully close to the truth at too many shops? Well, what do the experts that ComputerWorld asked recommend?
- Make the help desk a one-stop shop for PC fixes, so calling it isn't viewed as a waste of time.
- Negotiate service-level agreements to monitor the performance of the help desk.
- Standardize PC hardware and software so the help desk can effectively come up with standard fixes.
The first one isn't a bad idea, although I have serious doubts about the second. Why? Because the end result of that is usually a sea of paper reporting that drowns both help desk staff and end users. Yeah, that's what everyone needs when there's a problem - more paper. The last suggestion is perhaps the most inocuous but stupid one there. It sounds great - standardize the systems, and then everything will be fine. But... is everyone doing the same kind of work? Do the admin assistants need the same systems as the marketing guys? What about the software developers - do they get the same commodity desktop or laptop that the middle manager does? It's an idea that appeals greatly to IT management, but ends up dis-empowering the entire company. There need to be standards, but they need to be flexible standards.
On second thought, maybe it would be easier to just keep routing around the damage...