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IT Help Desk vs. Service Desk vs. ITSM - what's different

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IT as a field itself is full of jargon. When you hear two people from your organisation's IT department conversing, it may seem like they are talking a completely different language altogether. Similarly, ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) has a language of its own. For a layman, it can be extremely confusing.

You might have often heard the terms Help Desk and Service Desk being used by your IT personnel. Add the term ITSM and its confusion compounded. More often than not people think these three are the same. It is little or no difference between them and one is just the glorified version of the other.

It has also happened that these terms have been used interchangeably even in magazines and articles that talk about ITSM. A conversation about the service desk may mean something completely different than one on the help desk. ITSM tools have a 'service desk' associated with them when their offerings exceed the capabilities to support an average IT service desk. A corporate organisation may call its IT support as a service desk but it may so happen that its employees refer to the same as the help desk.

It is important to use the right term when you are conversing. You may end up underselling or overselling yourself if you are not aware of what each of these terms really means.

What is the difference between help desk and service desk

These two terms have been used interchangeably for many years now. You can differentiate between these two IT support terms by looking at their origins.

The IT help desk was first used in the late 1980s. It essentially was a support feature which came into being to fix IT issues. It stayed focused more on the IT than on the end customer. It adhered to no targets. Immediate solutions by them were also not too frequent.

The IT service desk is nothing but an evolved version of the IT helpdesk. This came into being from the best practice framework of the ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) and viz ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). This looked at managing IT as a service.

ITIL defines the service desk as a single point of contact between the end users and the service provider. A service desk usually looks after incident management, service requests and also manages communication with the users.

Let us look at some of the main differences between them.

A help desk is IT-centric looking mainly at technology and mainframe computing while a service desk is IT service-centric looking at the management of IT as a service.

As the name suggests the help desk provides help while the service desk offers service with a focus to deliver the best to end customers. It leans towards customer service while the help desk is all about solving problems that are given to them.

The primary function of a help desk is considered to be that of fixing problems, essentially what is known as incident management in ITSM terms. However, a service desk goes beyond that. It not only fixes problems but also offers other services. It can help give your customer information on new services and also help them out with other requested information (How to do something) etc. There is no specific reason why a help desk cannot do all of these. It is just that the nomenclature given to both of them signifies specific functions for them respectively.

A help desk was introduced as an add-on to support the existing IT endeavours. A service desk was introduced as an integral part of the service-based ITSM software. The entire IT ecosystem was built around the service lifecycle. This is why the service desk was used more than the help desk in ITIL. Those who are well versed with the ITSM tools may also argue that a help desk is tactical while a service desk is more strategic in nature. But this depends completely on the organization and how they function.

A help desk may also be considered as a subset of service desk or a service desk is considered as an evolution of the help desk. A help desk is often considered old-fashioned by those who follow the modern ITSM framework. A service desk is considered more modern.

At the end of the day, it all depends on your organization and your employees. While one person may call it a help desk, another person may call it a service desk. Your organization may call it something else altogether. The name given to it does not matter. How the team functions, what services it offers, what problems it solves etc are what matter. It is vital that the features and functions are understood clearly especially when you are in the service business. No matter what you call it, you should be able to explain the features and functions clearly while conversing else there is a risk of underselling or overselling yourself. There should be no discrepancy between what is told and what is understood. Otherwise, as Shakespeare says - "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" and similarly no matter what you choose to call it, as long as you know the features, nothing else matters!

This post first appeared on The Edge Search, please read the originial post: here

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IT Help Desk vs. Service Desk vs. ITSM - what's different


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