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Problem Management and SMBs

By Carlos Hidalgo One area where the older technology gap is evident is with help desk processes. In another study conducted by Fred Broussard from IDC, it is estimated that more than 30 percent of SMBs currently have a homegrown application or use nothing at all for their help desk.
Sep 27, 2004
By

ITSM Watch Staff





By Carlos Hidalgo

According to IDC, US small and medium businesses (SMBs) will outspend all other segments (enterprise and large enterprise) this year by 2.2 percent, and the overall spending by SMBs will increase by 6.2 percent1. That is an increase of $4.6 billion, not a bad way to start a recovery. With this new increase in budgets, these companies are now able to move forward and get the technology they need to benefit the business and positively impact the bottom line.

One area where the older technology gap is evident is with help desk processes. In another study conducted by Fred Broussard from IDC, it is estimated that more than 30 percent of SMBs currently have a homegrown application or use nothing at all for their help desk2.

Various analysts have estimated this number closer to 60 percent in Europe. Managing help desk operations with homegrown applications or using nothing at all can be costly to an organization. The trouble is, most SMBs do not look at the help desk as a strategic part of their business.

Doing more with less
Having previously worked in a small company, I have experienced firsthand the strain that gets put on IT staffs. Often, IT personnel wear many hats and are tasked with a wide variety of responsibilities. In my previous company, our solution to IT problems was based on who could find our IT guy first. If you found him, you could get your issue addressed. Or, as end users, we tried to fix the problems ourselves and more often than not, made the problem worse while spending our valuable time on an issue that was not related to our jobs.

This model prohibits IT from focusing on the strategic issues that impact the business. Frequently, users just need to know how to reset a password, format a document, or download information. Does an IT professional really need to be the one to walk an end user through these tasks? Wouldn't you rather have your IT staff focus on ensuring 100 percent uptime on your website, making sure your upgrade to XP is working, and that your routers are running? Problems with these areas can have a negative impact on business, yet without a management solution, the IT staff becomes reactive instead of proactive.

Lowering costs with a help desk
If an organization implements a help desk application and provides self-service to its end users, the organization can eliminate a certain percentage of those calls and therefore, lower the support costs. The self-service trend for companies that have a solution installed is increasing over time. The HDI survey shows there has been a 6 percent increase in self-service technologies deployed over the last year.

Most SMBs do not have large IT staffs, and while budgets are increasing for technology, funding for extra headcount is much more difficult. IT personnel are being asked to do more work with less people. In a January 2004 report, Gartner 3 stated that the "average call volume for support to the service desk has increased from less than one call per employee per month to 1.36 calls per employee per month from 1995 to 2001." That's over a 30 percent increase in call volume for most companies.

According to the Help Desk Institute, 56 percent of their membership reports an increase of call volume to the help desk over a one-year period. These increased volumes add significant work to the IT staff, yet many companies still have nothing in place to manage this increase, or are trying to get by with an aging in-house solution.

A hospital staffing organization replaced its homegrown system with a service desk and reduced trouble tickets by 50 percent in areas, while being able to respond faster and more effectively to its internal customers. The reporting capabilities within the service desk solution provided insight into common issues so that more problems could be resolved quickly by the end users without the need to file a trouble ticket.

The service desk helped this company to make sure no tickets fell through the cracks, enabled the IT organization to track inventory more effectively, and the solution was much easier to use and maintain than the homegrown system.

In the most recent Help Desk Institute Practices Survey4, the average cost per call into the IT Help Desk was $22. The cost of support has never been calculated for companies that do not own a help desk solution.

Automating problem management can reduce costs in an organization. Most help desk solutions provide a level of self-service that allows the end user to solve the everyday problems referenced above. By deflecting these calls away from the IT group, you eliminate the cost of the call and the time to support that caller.

One investment company automated its service desk and was able to save one to two hours worth of work over the lifetime of each trouble ticket. If you multiply that time by hundreds of tickets a month, the savings can really add up.

A medical technology company replaced its inconsistent manual service processes with an automated service desk for submitting, tracking and resolving problems. The greater efficiency that automation brought enabled the support staff to accommodate the expanding customer base, while continuing to improve the quality of support.

As more vendors begin to produce IT service solutions for the small and medium-sized business, and with IT budgets increasing, companies would be wise to invest in a help desk solution. The trends of increasing call volume, the need to be more strategic, and the need to accomplish more with less show no signs of going away.

By implementing best practices and automating problem management, IT staffs can perform more strategically and lower overall support costs. By thinking strategically, SMBs can begin to close the two-to-three-year technology gap that exists between them and their larger enterprise cousins.

Carlos Hidalgo is the senior manager of product marketing for BMC Software's Magic product suite. In this role, Hidalgo is responsible for all aspects of marketing and customer relations for the Magic suite of products including creation of strategic messaging, management of all customer communications and demand generation activities.

Since joining BMC Software's service management business unit in February of 2004, Hidalgo has played a major role in positioning the Magic technology as a solution that extends beyond the IT service desk infrastructure. He is a thought leader in the service management industry and is a frequent speaker at industry forums and conferences. Hidalgo has also played an important role in the launch of HelpDeskIQ, the business unit's first help desk solution specifically designed for the small business.

Prior to his role at Remedy, Hidalgo held a similar role at Network Associates. He has also held various positions at Staffware, a business process management company, and Bertram, McKee & Associates, an independent marketing firm, and was instrumental in delivering strategic marketing programs for Microsoft, IBM, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Avnet.

Hidalgo received a bachelor's degree in business communications from Cedarville University in Ohio.

1IDC: Craft a Winning Strategy for the SMB Market (and Avoid the Losers)- Raymond L. Boggs, 2004
2Sources: IDC, 2003 (IDC 2002 IT System Management Software Strategies Survey, and obtained directly from Fred Broussard, Research Director @ IDC)
3Gartner Report: What si the Right IT Service Desk Staff Size & Structure - K. Brittain
4Help Desk Institute 2003 Practices Survey




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