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HELP DESK VS. SERVICE DESK

The debate on the definition of a service desk versus a help desk has been ongoing, and companies find themselves asking questions around IT desk nomenclature, strategies and scalability. Although determining the difference between terms “help desk” and “service desk” seems like a crucial first step, what might be even more important is considering the type of service desk you want to be.

graphic with itsm at top service desk in the middle and help desk at the bottom

Before we explain why this is important, let’s clear up some of the confusion surrounding the terms “help desk” and “service desk.” In short, think of the service desk as an ecosystem and the help desk as a piece of that ecosystem (a square is a rhombus, right?). A help desk may consist of a smaller team with a primary objective to resolve specific incidents (a broken printer, for example), software and hardware glitches, and ticket management–all of which service desks do, too. Help desks are point solutions and typically reactive.

A service desk, however, is more business-centric and built on core ITIL principles and the five stages of the service lifecycle, which are:

  1. Service Strategy: design, develop, and implement strategy and business goals of ITSM
  2. Service Design: create design and develop processes that support service strategies
  3. Service Transition: transition services from development to operation
  4. Service Operation: review and deliver services
  5. Continual Service Improvement: review, assess and improve strategies to provide better service

This means service desks often tackle strategic business needs, provide service request solutions and a knowledge base to end users, and oversee incident and change management and IT processes and functions.

Some features commonly found within a Help Desk software typically include:

  • Ticket Routing and Management
  • Limited Automation
  • Asset Management

Some features commonly found within a Service Desk software typically include:

  • Change and Release Management
  • Self-Service Portals
  • Knowledge Base


WHY IT MATTERS

The reason it’s important to determine the kind of service desk you want to be is because you should invest in a system you can grow into, not out of.

Some smaller companies implement a help desk SaaS solution that focuses only on being IT-centric instead of IT service-centric, which may be all they need.

But other companies often outgrow the platform’s limitations and soon after look to upgrade, which can be time-consuming, expensive and require additional resources and training than originally planned for. And, given that service management solutions aren’t just for IT departments anymore, the need to expand your ITSM solution is common.


THE (IT) SOLUTION

To avoid outgrowing your software solution, consider the capabilities of the platform from the start. Does it offer typical help desk features as well as service desk management, such as a self-service portal, a knowledge base and automation? Does it follow ITIL processes? Be diligent in your research of your future service platform to ensure it–and your business–can succeed.

Lauren Saalmuller

by Lauren Saalmuller

Lauren joined the Vivantio marketing team as a content specialist in 2019 and has a background in marketing, content creation, and journalism.