Part 3: What are the critical differences between a Service Desk and a Help Desk?

Having previously discussed the individual functions of Service Desks and Help Desks, perhaps you’ll find that they share the similar feature of being involved in IT management. There is, however, a distinct difference between the two, which was only defined in the third version of the Information Technology International Library (ITIL) in June 2007.

Changes of ITIL v3

Prior to the release of ITIL v3, Help Desks and Service Desks were used interchangeably, noting no clear difference between the two. In the latest update, the line was finally drawn.

Service Desks were described as a management component in the overall IT process, while Help Desks were defined as a component to Service Desks, one that is primarily focused on the needs of the end user.

Service Desks: Corporate Strategy

Serving as the single point of contact (SPOC), between IT users and the IT management, Service Desks handle the process of delivering information through defined software processes. When users have inquiries that are related to IT, Service Desks are the first to be contacted.

ITIL practices for Service Desks primarily emphasize in precisely defining the step-by-step process of handling the IT system and function lifecycles, which is a crucial factor in improving the corporate strategy of the enterprise.

Help Desks: Needs of the End Users

Managing error reports and providing concise solutions, Help Desks primarily focus on satisfying the needs and demands of the end users. Among the many functions that Help Desks must be able to perform, include the logging of incident reports, tracking the cause of reported errors, and providing a clear resolution to the problem.

By managing the IT database, a Help Desk grants the end users full-time access to a skilled group of workers that can efficiently deliver information and aid related to IT software and systems, allowing for a quick resolution of whatever issue the end user may have.

Additional functions of Help Desks include:

  1. Serving as the consultation system for computer or software-related issues
  2. Managing the changes and configuration within the bounds of the IT system
  3. Having a systematic process that prevents the problem from escalating
  4. Having a systematic process that provides a concrete solution to the problem
  5. Serving as the single point of contact (SPOC) for issues regarding IT interruptions
  6. Clarifying the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with clients through a service catalogue
  7. Having a clear understanding of the potential consequences of the interruptions

A Help Desk is a Subset of a Service Desk

With the details above in mind, it becomes much clearer: a Help Desk is merely a component of the Service Desk. The functions of Help Desks support the overall purpose of Service Desks, wherein the former aids the latter by feeding information through the use of software hooks.

Written in the ITIL core service lifecycles, it is stated that Help Desks must contribute to the Event Management, Incident Management, Request Management, Problem Management, and Access Management in the field of IT.

Lifecycle Management

Apart from those stated above, the ITIL v3 also wrote guidelines that stated the involvement of the Help Desk in the lifecycle management processes (service strategy, service design, service transition, and continual service improvement).

In short, a Help Desk must be able to perform any kind of service transition to ensure that the end users are not negatively affected, at least not for long.

Many companies use a Help Desk but not a Service Desk.

Some instances, the Service Desk offers a wide variety of processes that may be unnecessary in ensuring the continued IT service management of the company. Instances of these prompt companies to stick with Help Desks instead. In doing so, they are able to cover the IT needs of end users, all while following a concrete and less complex process.

In this specific instance wherein Help Desks are used, and Service Desks are not, the functions available to a Help Desk are considered enough to meet the needs of the end users and the enterprise, which is primarily centered on the ability to immediately provide help to minimize the downtime in the IT field.

Few companies use a Service Desk but not a Help Desk.

A Service Desk, being involved in overall IT processes, would definitely be needed by companies that have their IT system as the core of their service.

Encompassing control over the specific components involved in the software and processes used in IT, Service Desks must be able to handle end user inquiries and error reports, which could be made easier through the support of a Help Desk.

In order to improve corporate strategy, a Service Desk has to ensure that all IT functions are in good working condition. This can only be achieved by making sure that the demands and needs of end users are met, which is why the support of a Help Desk is considered efficient and effective.

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