While many people refer to the IT Help Desk and IT Service Desk interchangeably, ITIL best practices differentiate the roles played by each. According to ITIL, the IT Help Desk is a tactical function that operates within the broader strategic IT Service Desk. When you consider the goal of ITIL, which is to ensure that IT is aligned with business strategy, then the roles of the IT Help Desk and Service Desk become clearer. The IT Help Desk is a conduit to the end user and the IT Service desk a conduit to business strategy. However, the IT Service Desk remains the single point of contact (SPOC) for all IT customers—end users and the IT business alike.
Problem-solving vs. Process-driven IT Service Management
Although IT Help Desk is a problem solving function that keeps end users up and running as quickly as possible, the Help Desk is integral to the Service Desk in terms of ensuring end user need is considered in overall IT service management strategy. For example, IT monitoring data, including the Configuration Management Database (CMDB), change management and incident management systems, not only point to the effectiveness of the IT Help Desk, but also indicate where a service management policy or process change may be in order. In addition, when a change is implemented, it can’t be completed without first engaging = front line support, whose close association with end users is essential to ensure a smooth transition.
Who’s responsible . . . IT Help Desk or Service Desk
Just because the service desk is focused on processes and meeting business strategy, doesn’t mean that it is not accountable to the end user. Under ITILv3, the Service Desk remains the single point of contact between end users and the IT service provider. The idea behind ITIL is that the service desk is the overarching function responsible for the needs of both the business and the end user. The IT Service Desk is comprised of specialized functions including the Help Desk. The bottom line is this . . . the help desk fixes problems and the service desk makes sure the processes and services are in place to enable the help desk to do so.
Not all organizations have a Service Desk in the true sense of the ITIL definition of Service Desk. For many smaller organizations, the IT Help Desk does it all. However, as an organization grows, the strategic implications of meeting the needs of the business and keeping end users operational become more apparent.