Another Day In The Data Mine

As every good help desk professional knows – and perhaps even some of the not so good ones – manning a help desk can be interesting. Most calls are fairly standard. My computer isn’t working. (Have you tried turning it off and on again?) I forgot my password. And so on. Every now and again, though, there’s the call that goes on for hours and then days and then – yes, there’s that open ticket that lingers seemingly forever waiting for a third party or some other magic to make the problem go away.

Easy but Not Simple

One of the key issues facing help desk personnel: what may look simple and easy on the surface often includes multiple layers of complexity. For example, (hopefully) easy but not simple: restoring a user’s access after they locked themselves out for trying several different wrong passwords, having changed their password in celebration of World Password Day. Come now, who hasn’t had that ironic moment of realizing their attempt to make things easier and more secure has in fact backfired? For users operating in a typical single-sign on enterprise environment, the end user never needs to know – or care – about authentication processes and group memberships and all the various systems that exchange tokens and other data. All they want is to be able to get back to work so they can tell the client where the latest shipment is. Without the right tech solutions, however, even something as “simple” as changing a password, well that can become a nightmare.

Then again, sometimes a simple hardware fix really is a simple hardware fix, a matter of getting a tech out to replace that mouse or keyboard. Except, where is the closest tech and spare keyboard again? In either case, software such as SysAid’s it asset management software can help keep the simple things as simple as humanly possible.

Finding Gold in the Data Mine

In order to do their job, help desk workers (even if your help desk worker is you) must be able to access everything – even if they’re not sure what to do with it at the time. Network down? Is your network really down or is it you? Hardware or software? Maybe it’s actually bandwidth issues due to that conference room full of visiting execs. Is the whole Internet down? Because things like that do happen. These are the kinds of actual scripts and step by step play books a typical help desk worker must have on hand at all times.

In many ways, working help desk really is like working in a living, breathing data mine, where usually the problem is somewhere inside, in the midst of all those rocks and tunnels, but every now and again someone needs to pop their head out and see if – yes, okay – this time it is not just us. It’s the whole world. All of those variables and data sets can be overwhelming, taking precious time to sort through various possible options – and with help desk there is always a deadline. In many ways, working help desk can be like mining for gold while constantly being asked, “Have you found gold yet? What about now?” After all, the answers have to be in there somewhere.

The Oncoming Future of IT

The time is coming and is even now here, when end users expect simple solutions to (seemingly) simple problems, to be able to ask questions like, “Siri, where is the nearest steakhouse” and get a meaningful answer from a machine. That is where IT is going – and where it is right now. Automated software designed to think like people, to intelligently assess common problems and respond with helpful answers, it is already here. People expect it to be here, and frankly the time is rapidly approaching when they will rightly expect it to be, because IT has become ubiquitous and because automated help desk software is also becoming ubiquitous, part of the standard package one expects, like being able to use a credit card to pay for groceries.

Yes, there will always be times when the valiant help desk worker and technician must put on their hard hats and delve down deep to find the issues, but even then, especially then – the end user is going to expect regular status updates, preferably automated, because – well – that makes life easier for everyone. And, ultimately, that’s what computers are there to do.

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