Using the Shift Left Approach to Improve IT Service Desk Support
Today it is difficult—if not impossible—to use strategies from the past to provide effective support to end users.
The rapid pace of digital transformation and advancing technology is making the job of support desks and IT more difficult and costly. Or is it more of a case of trying to shoehorn in a strategy that no longer works?
A recent Gartner report summarized the problem succinctly: “To address the demands of digital business, IT service desks must reduce the number of simple and repeatable incidents and service requests they process manually. I&O leaders must learn how to ‘shift left’ incidents and service requests using an eliminate, automate or leverage approach.”
To specifically define, shift left means to move support from a centralized, service desk-oriented model to a self-service approach. This doesn’t eliminate the need for IT support and service desks, but rather enhances the quality and speed of support for your users.
The Importance of Shift Left and Optimizing Service
The days of being able to standardize based on a single type of equipment and set of applications are long gone. As businesses transform, initiatives such as Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) and the constant need to update with newer technology while still maintaining legacy systems means your help desk will be supporting an increasingly wide variety of hardware, operating systems and software. Your users will demand help with everything from company-provided desktops to the newest iPhone to a decades old laptop running an ancient version of the operating system, as well as a plethora of applications.
Many IT and support staff also spend a frequent amount of time answering and solving relatively simple support requests. Take password changes, for example; new security standards require these to be complex, long and changed every 30 to 90 days. It also seems that every manufacturer implements a different and often unfriendly approach to making this simple change.
To make matters more complex, a user requiring help with a password change is essentially unable to perform part or all their tasks until the service desk responds. You can be sure they are frustrated by this and any number of other IT-related problems that get in the way of them being able to do their job.
The responsibility of addressing errors and problems, no matter how simple, lands squarely on the shoulders of support. Unfortunately, basic IT support is expensive, time-consuming, and often delivers a lower than optimal solution to the end-users. Support tickets tend to pile up when even the simplest tasks, such as changing passwords, require the time of trained support desk personnel to be addressed.
How Shifting Left Addresses the Problem
The importance of optimizing the productivity of the people who use applications and services cannot be emphasized enough. Nothing can torpedo the success of IT faster than delivering sub-optimal support to those who depend on technology to achieve their day-to-day tasks.
How do you address the ever-increasing mix of devices, operating systems and applications support without training your service desk staff on everything? By implementing a shift left approach, which means moving support closer to the user when it’s appropriate.
This essentially switches from the usual labor-intensive service model to more of a self-service and automated approach. The most expensive support method is to send an IT person out to directly address user issues. This is extraordinarily time- and labor-intensive, and results in long ticket queues and dissatisfied users.
Shifting left on the scale, the next most expensive approach, is to provide remote support for end users. This means they call the support desk, wait in a queue or leave a message, and receive their help remotely. Shifting further left, email and chat can also be used to improve efficiency and reduce wait times.
Finally, furthest to the left, is a full self-service model with FAQs and self-service knowledge base articles and/or videos. Users enter a description of their problem into an entry form or speak to a chatbot and receive instructions on what they need to do to resolve the issue themselves. For many problems, automated scripts or well-defined instructions can resolve whatever is happening without any intervention from IT or support personnel.
A survey from MetricNet summarizes the general costs of support:
- Preventing problems has the lowest support cost, since no support is needed.
- Self-help (a complete shift left) costs around $2/ticket.
- Level 1 phone support from a support desk runs $22/ticket.
- Desktop support shoots up to $69 per ticket.
- And Level 2/3 phone support skyrockets to an average of $104.
Not only does a shift left reduce costs—it also increases user satisfaction and greatly reduces the amount of time needed to resolve problems. This leads to improved user productivity due to reduced wait times help tickets to be resolved. MetricNet’s survey also highlights a dramatic decrease in the average hours of productivity lost per employee per year as the burden of support shifts to the left. In other words, the more the service desk can be automated or put under user control, the greater the increase in user productivity and satisfaction.
Use Shift Left to Improve Support
Given the trends in digital transformation, providing effective and timely support can be difficult and time consuming. Using traditional support methods, such as remote service desks, leads to long queues, aged tickets, frustrated users, high costs and a loss of productivity throughout the business.
However, it can be difficult to determine the best shift left opportunities and then create the content needed by users. The task of analyzing the environment, understanding which problems need to be addressed and how they are solved, setting priorities, and testing the resulting solutions can be complex and requires a variety of skills.
Outsourcing your service desk is a worthwhile option to consider. Quality IT managed service providers understand how to work with your organization to implement and manage a shift left. By engaging with outsourced experts, organizations give their users the ability to resolve common problems quickly and efficiently without hiring additional service desk staff. This provides businesses with the flexibility to meet their goals of digital transformation by resolving the issues associated with supporting new and complex systems.
Interested in learning more about how we utilize the shift left methodology to resolve our customer’s IT incidents more efficiently? Contact us today.