ITIL Service Operations - Functions Tutorial

Welcome to the twelfth chapter of the ITIL Foundation tutorial (part of the ITIL® Foundation Certification Training). This lesson provides an overview of the functions associated with service operations.

Objectives

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain the purpose and objective of the service desk function

  • Describe the types of service desk functions

  • Identify the purpose, objective and role of functions such as technical management, application management, and IT operations management

Service Desk-Overview

A service desk is a functional unit that includes a dedicated staff responsible for dealing with a variety of service events.

These service events can be requests, incidents or information calls often made via telephone calls. Other service events are emails, web interfaces, or automatically reported infrastructure events.

Let us understand the purpose and objective of the service desk.

Purpose

The purpose of service desk is to:

  • Provide better IT services for customers.

  • Make IT services easily accessible through a single point of communication, and minimize the negative impact on the business.

  • Provide a faster turnaround of customer or user IT requests.

  • Give enhanced focus and a proactive approach to IT service provisioning.

  • Generate meaningful management information for decision support.

  • Improve teamwork and communication among the IT staff.

  • Improve the usage of IT support resources to increase the productivity of business personnel.

Objective

The objective of service desk is to:

  • Restore normal service to users as quickly as possible. This is done by coordinating the resolution processes that include incident and problem management processes.

  • Operate as a single point of contact for incident management and request fulfillment that includes logging calls and investigating issues to resolve them.

  • Manage user communication as well as technical and hierarchical escalations.

  • Conduct customer and user satisfaction surveys.

Local Service Desk

Let us now focus on the types of service desk functions.

We will start with the local service desk.

When the physical location of the service desk is close to the users it serves, for example, the service desk is in the same building as the users, it is called local service desk. This is typically found in small- to medium-sized organizations.

The benefit of having a localized service desk is that it helps in communication and gives a clearly visible presence to the user community. But the downside to a local service desk is that it may be inefficient and expensive to resource due to low call volumes.

However, a local service desk is essential for the following reasons:

  • There may be cultural, linguistic and political differences between user communities, for example, one user community may be German and the other may be French.

  • The user communities may operate in various time zones such as that of Japan and the UK.

  • There are specialized user communities such as one working on Apple computers whereas others working on Windows.

  • There are organizations that need a dedicated service desk for the corporate headquarters and another for their field offices.

local service desk

The image given above illustrates a local service desk.

Centralized Service Desk

We will now discuss the centralized service desk.

The centralized service desk is one that serves a community of users in different locations. In this structure, service desks are merged into one or fewer locations.

Let us discuss the benefits of the centralized service desk.

The centralized service desk reduces the total number of service desks utilized. This makes a centralized service desk cost-effective and efficient. So a fewer number of staff is needed to handle a high volume of calls.

Sometimes, it is essential to maintain a local presence for handling physical support requirements. The centralized service desk can control and deploy such staff.

centralized service desk

The image given above illustrates a centralized service desk.

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Virtual Service Desk

We will now focus on the virtual service desk.

The virtual service desk gives the impression of one centralized service desk being at work, whereas the service desk personnel may be located across a number of geographical areas or structural locations.

Through a single email, contact phone number or ticket management system, the service desk personnel may appear to be located at the same geographical or structural location to the user.

The Interactive Voice Response or IVR in banking and telecommunication serves as a virtual service desk. It provides various options to users to access information, after which they use a special code to connect to the staff they want to talk to.

The organization offering the virtual service desk introduces multiple options such as home working, outsourcing or offshoring and secondary support groups to satisfy user requirements.

Safeguards are required to make sure that service quality is consistent all throughout.

virtual service desk

The image given above illustrates a virtual service desk.

Follow The Sun Service Desk

Let us now discuss the follow-the-sun service desk.

The follow-the-sun service desk includes two or more service desks located at different geographical areas, which provide 24-hour service to users.

For example, a service desk located in Asia-Pacific region may handle customer calls in the daytime. It may hand over the responsibility to its counterpart in Europe for the rest of the day.

The European service desk then handles these calls apart from managing calls that come during its standard day. It may hand over the responsibility to a US-based service desk which then hands over the responsibility to the Asia-pacific desk. This completes the cycle.

In this way, a virtual service desk can operate for 24 hours at a low cost because no desk needs to work for a single shift.

Specialized Service Desk

We will now focus on the specialized service desk. The specialized service desk is created by forming specialist groups within the service desk framework. This is to ensure that incidents associated with a certain IT service can be handed over to the specialist group.

This can be done via a web-based interface or any other means. Such routing of incidents helps in faster resolution because the specialist group is trained in handling such issues on a daily basis.

For example, an Admin helpdesk that handles administration related queries or a Payroll department that takes care of payroll related queries is a specialized service desk. The specialized service desk caters to only a small group of key services.

Users looking for support from a specialized service desk will first get to hear a message such as “If your call is related to Y service, please press 2, else please hold for a service desk analyst”.

Service Desk Staffing

Now we will discuss service desk staffing.

The correct number of staff with the required qualification is made available to ensure that a service desk is effective.

Service desk staffing is based on the following criteria:

Customer expectations

When planning for a service desk, the customer expectations from the service desk should be understood. This can be found out from the call response time that tells how responsive the customer wants the service desk to be.

For example, if the customer wants their call to be responded to within ten seconds, the organization may need ten service desk personnel. But based on the budget, the organization may afford to hire four staff members at their service desk.

So both the customer expectation and the business budget need to be considered for service desk staffing.

Number of users

The number of service desk staff is calculated based on the number of users and the language and culture of the user community. This is to avoid a scenario where an English speaking service desk has to support a German-speaking user community.

Coverage period of the service desk

This refers to the duration for which the service desk facility is available. This means deciding upon the service desk staffing based on whether the service desk works 24X7 or is available only during working hours, out-of-hours and so on.

Processes followed

Service desk staffing is also based on whether the service desk knows how to handle escalations, how the shifts are managed and so on.

Service Desk-Skills Required

Let us now focus on the abilities of the service desk staff.

The service desk staff needs to have abilities such as:

  • Communication skills to ensure that they are able to satisfy customers by giving them a positive perception of their IT services;

  • Technical skills such as typing and underlying IT skills for diagnosis and issue resolution; and

  • Business understanding of prioritization of issues.

The most important of these abilities is communication skills. This is because the primary role of the service desk is to provide a single point of contact between the users and the IT organization.

Service Desk Metrics

Now we will discuss service desk metrics. Since service desk is a critical function, there should be a periodic evaluation of health, efficiency, effectiveness, and maturity of the function and its activities.

This will help to find out opportunities for improvement. The periodic evaluation is done by measuring certain Key Performance Indicators or KPIs, which are also called metrics.

The metrics should be realistic and carefully chosen. For example, the metrics of the total number of calls do not indicate anything about the functioning of the service desk.

The metrics for service desk function are:

  • First-line resolution rate, that is, how many issues were resolved by the service desk during the first call rather than escalating to higher functional teams.

  • The average time that is taken to resolve and/or escalate any incident, which indicates how responsive the service desk is.

  • The ratio of total cost for the period to the total call duration expressed in minutes, which indicates how cost-effective the service desk interaction is.

  • The number of calls broken by the time and the day of the week, along with the average call time.

  • Customer or user satisfaction surveys that indicate how satisfied the user community is at the service desk.

Technical Management-Overview

We will now focus on an overview of the technical management function.

Technical management includes the department that provides technical expertise and manages the overall IT infrastructure.

Let us understand the purpose, objective and role of technical management.

Purpose

The purpose of technical management is to:

  • Plan, implement and maintain the technical infrastructure supporting the business processes.

  • Provide hands-on skills supporting the IT infrastructure.

Objective

The objective of technical management is to:

  • Provide an infrastructure configuration that is well-designed, cost-effective and resilient.

  • Use technical skills and infrastructure to detect and resolve technical failures.

Role

The role of technical management is to:

  • Act as the custodian of technical expertise required for managing the IT infrastructure.

  • Provide resources that can support the activities in the IT Service Management lifecycle.

  • Make sure that the resources get proper training to design, build, operate and improve the technology required for delivering and supporting IT services.

Application Management-Overview

Let us focus on an overview of application management. Application management performs the same role as technical management performs for IT infrastructure.

Let us understand the purpose, objective and role of application management.

Purpose

The purpose of application management is to:

  • Manage applications for their lifecycle.

  • Decide whether to buy or build an application.

Objective

The objective of application management is to:

  • Identify functional and manageability requirements for the application software that supports the business processes.

  • Provide ongoing support for maintaining and improving applications.

Role

The role of application management is to:

  • Act as the custodian of technical knowledge for managing applications that are purchased or developed by the organization.

  • Provide resources that can support the service lifecycle.

  • Guide the IT operations team on the operational management of applications.

  • Integrate the application management lifecycle into the service lifecycle.

Application Management vs. Application Development

The table below provides a comparison between application management and application development.

Application management

Application development

On-going set of activities performed to oversee and manage applications throughout their lifecycle.

One-time set of activities performed to design and construct application solutions.

Performed for all applications that are purchased or developed by the organization.

Performed for applications developed by the organization.

Focusses on both utility and warranty.

Focusses only on utility.

Focusses on both functionality and delivery procedure of the final product.

Focusses on building functionality for customers.

Deals with the manageability aspects of an application.

Deals with the functions of the application rather than how it is operated.

IT Operations Management-Overview

Now we will focus on the IT operations management function.

IT operations management is the function in charge of on-going maintenance and management of IT infrastructure in an organization. It ensures that the agreed level of IT services is delivered to the business.

Let us understand the purpose, objective and role of IT operations management.

Purpose

The purpose of IT operations management is to:

  • Perform actions repeatedly and consistently at the right qualitative level to ensure the success of business operations; and

  • Measure the actual value of the services delivered by the organization.

Objective

The objective of IT operations management function is to:

  • Maintain the as-is infrastructure and procedures so that there is stability in the organization’s daily activities and processes.

  • Scrutinise daily and improve services at a low cost while maintaining stability.

  • Apply operational skills to detect and resolve failures in IT operations.

Role

The role of IT operations management is to control operations.

This involves monitoring the execution of operational activities related to the IT infrastructure. Taking care of console management, print and output management, and backup and restore are other roles of IT operations management.

Job scheduling and maintenance tasks on behalf of the application and technical management teams are also included in operations control.

The IT operations management function manages the data center, recovery sites, computer rooms and other areas of the physical IT environment. It also takes care of the power and cooling equipment.

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Summary

Let us summarize what we have learned in this lesson:

  • A service desk is a functional unit that deals with service events such as incidents, requests, and information calls.

  • Some of the service desk functions are local, centralized, virtual and so on.

  • Technical management maintains the technical infrastructure supporting the business processes.

  • Application management provides consistent support for maintaining and improving applications throughout their lifecycle.

  • IT operations management detects and resolves the failures in IT operations.

Conclusion

Next, we will focus on the thirteenth chapter which is Continual Service Improvement.

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