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How IT Service Desk Pros Can Support the New Reality of Work From Home

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the impact that the COVID-19 virus has had on businesses around the world. The unusual circumstances have forced organizational leaders to prepare and respond quickly. For almost any organization where remote work is possible, “work from home” is the new reality for the foreseeable future. Day-to-day operations depend on IT, and the service desk is defending the front lines. Remote employees need support, perhaps now more than ever. They need access to software, applications, and an unfamiliar technology infrastructure (their home). In many cases, they need equipment from quarantined buildings, they are installing brand new equipment, or they are connecting to older equipment in their homes. What goes into IT’s preparation? How are they adjusting to these challenges? What surprises are service providers encountering? A few of our SolarWinds Service Desk customers were kind enough to share some of their experiences to date.

Response is short-term; preparation is long-term

If you’ve spent recent weeks procuring equipment, testing networks, and responding directly to users, you’re not alone. But much of the important preparation happens organically, over a long period of time. Though no one predicted this pandemic specifically, plenty of IT and business leaders have prioritized a shift toward digital flexibility, which is helping to offset the risk of lost productivity for many forward-thinking organizations. “Though there are certainly short term measures you can take for something like this, the versatility is years in the making,” adds Jason Thompson, IT Desktop Manager for the Town of Gilbert, Arizona. “The backing from senior leadership is crucial in prioritizing technology in your workforce, and I’m grateful that we’ve received that support.” “If there’s a strategic update that you think is important, prioritize it,” says Azunna Anyanwu, IT Director for Aronson LLC. Just a few months ago, Anyanwu and his team doubled Aronson’s bandwidth to support the employees’ growing dependence on digital tools. “Now we’re glad we did, because we have not encountered any issues with over 250 people suddenly on VPN,” he says. “When your organization understands the value of technology and how to use technology, it makes your workforce so much more powerful,” says Eugene Mejia, Deputy CTO for the Town of Gilbert. “In our case, when IT made everything available remotely, our other departments were ready to go.”

Managing the influx of tickets

Thompson’s IT support team typically averages about 1200 tickets per month for Town of Gilbert employees, but they responded to over 500 in one day during the early stages of remote work. In this case, the Town of Gilbert took unique steps to collect the data it needed to work through requests quickly. “We were able to spin up some new forms and workflows, which allowed us to quickly deploy resources and people to remote locations,” Thompson explains. “We’re extremely busy preparing laptops, helping people get connected, and answering help desk tickets, so the new forms give us an efficient way to prioritize and work through all of the demand.” The influx has been typical for help desks all over the world, especially in organizations shifting suddenly to remote work. And, while it may seem obvious, it’s worth noting that a single portal for IT tickets is crucial, especially in the unique circumstances presented by sudden remote work. “It’s so important that we have one place to direct everyone,” says Chris Sanchez, Senior Manager of End User Support at Zoro. “Let’s get it all in one place so we can prioritize and escalate. There’s bound to be a huge influx of pop-up issues because everything is suddenly different, but this helps us work through them efficiently.” Responding to tickets is easier with more context—be it from the requesters or from the asset data within your ITSM tool. One key for Anyanwu’s team at Aronson is the ability to quickly pull up inventory and contracts within the platform. “The inventory and contracts section of the tool helped me respond,” he explains. “It’s critical for me to know right where everything is, and who I should contact if our people need access to something they don’t have.”

“Be the Solution”

All of the IT leaders we spoke with urged poise, patience, and empathy for workforces adjusting to the new normal. “We have a huge group of people that have never worked from home before, and IT needs to play a role in making them comfortable,” Sanchez adds. “They have distractions. They have kids at home. Not to mention they might have no idea how technology works when they leave the building—and that’s okay. We need to lean into that and be a solution for them.” “We are working very hard on the customer experience,” says Thompson. “We need to be consistently available, and we need to respond with some type of value in whatever they’re dealing with.” And frankly, what they’re dealing with is not always a familiar issue for IT. “We know that we’ll continue to see tickets that we wouldn’t normally see,” says Anyanwu. “People have never connected business tools to their home WiFi or their home printer, so we’re making some exceptions on the types of things we normally support.” Above all, these IT leaders stressed that this is a cooperative effort, within their organizations and beyond. “I don’t want to miss the point that we’ve been working closely with other municipalities to share ideas,” says Mejia. “We’re all in a unique scenario right now, and all of us in IT have an opportunity to keep people working at full capacity.” To hear more from Azunna Anyanwu, Chris Sanchez, and Jason Thompson, join our upcoming webcast panel, “How Service Desk Pros Can Support Our New ‘Work From Home’ Reality.”
Chris McManus
Chris McManus is a multimedia content producer at SolarWinds. He works with Service Desk customers on case studies and video stories, and he’s the go-to…
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