Helping Users Help Themselves

September, 2009

As with every other area of IT management, IT service desk (help desk) managers are being asked to do more with less. By most accounts, service desk resources are being frozen or scaled back at the same time that demands are escalating. It makes sense, then, that an important trend is to enable end users, through technology, to help themselves. As a result, the use of service desk self-support tools is gaining adherents because it is cost-effective and enhances productivity.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Adoption Rising for Service Desk Self-Support Tools.

Software tools that allow service desk customers to perform support functions for themselves are a subset of the wider service desk automation software market. Self-help tools range from simple FAQ lists to self-diagnostic and self-healing systems. While self-help tools can be acquired on a stand-alone basis, they are very often sold as part of an integrated suite of service desk management tools. Also, as service desk software follows the utility computing model that is influencing every aspect of the software industry, self-help tools have become part of the suite of services offered by Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors.

Despite reservations by some organizations, interest in the use of self-help tools is definitely growing. Our survey of more than 200 IT organizations indicates about 85% of organizations are involved with help-desk self-help tools in some way, from piloting and testing to increasing the investment they already have in these systems, as shown in Figure 1.

More than one-fifth of organizations (22%) are in the process of implementing self-support tools now, while more than a quarter (26%) are researching or piloting them. And while 17% are standing pat with their current implementation of self-help tools, 19% are looking to expand their investment in these systems.

Self Support Tools Fig1 - Helping Users Help Themselves

The full version of this report examines trends in IT service desk adoption of self-support tools. It looks at adoption trends for the composite sample, organization size, and sector. It assesses the return on investment (ROI) experience of those organizations that have adopted these technologies, as well as the risk as measured by the percentage of organizations that exceed budgeted amounts for total cost of ownership (TCO), defined as the cost of implementing and maintaining these systems.

The use of self-support tools in the IT service desk environment is an important trend for several reasons. The potential for lowering IT service desk support costs is certainly a major incentive for adopting these tools, but improving service levels, user satisfaction, and user productivity may be even more compelling motivations.

Moreover, as these tools develop, users become more savvy, and systems become smarter, self-help systems will not only become more powerful and accessible, but users will become more vocal in demanding them. It is important that service desk managers explore where self-support tools fit in their organizations and where they can best use them to increase productivity and lower service desk costs.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Adoption Rising for Service Desk Self-Support Tools. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).

Attention Help Desk Managers: this report is included in our special publication, Read more and download the first few pages of the report, free.