IT Pro

Computer problem? Go help yourself

Help desks and user frustration have traditionally gone hand in hand, but BMC Software is banking on a self-service system to improve end-user productivity and reduce the angst associated with seeking IT support.

Accessible via desktops, laptops and mobile devices, the forthcoming MyIT application allows users to fix many of their own problems, track service requests and locate nearby printers and service facilities.

Other features include the broadcasting of outages, and a facility for staff to book appointments with IT support staff at specific times.

BMC is the leading service desk software vendor, ahead of rivals including CA Technologies and FrontRange Solutions, with a 36 per cent share of the $1.2 billion global business, according to 2010 research from Gartner. It has about 50,000 customers for its Remedy system.

Industry analysts say IT departments have been buckling under the pressure of supporting a plethora of mobile devices, on top of the traditional desktop, and tempering the expectations of users who expect instant fixes for every glitch.

Bring-your-own-device policies, which have found widespread acceptance in recent times, have compounded the issue by forcing IT staff to support a grab-bag of products and systems, on top of their standard corporate issue.

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BMC chief executive Bob Beauchamp said the consumerisation of ICT, driven by the relentless spread of the smartphone, had created a cohort of users who expected real-time self-service technology when they stepped into the office.

“Devices in private lives have been transformational,” Beauchamp said. “In their personal life people can order anything, they can buy a coffee … and they can do it from a handheld device … When they walk into the business, they feel like they go back in time, dealing with the old ways where you call the help desk and wait for a call back. It's been dealt with the same way for many years.”

Help desk staff handled an average of 472 contacts a month in 2007, compared with 449 four years later, but first-contact resolution rates dropped from 66 per cent to 63 per cent over the same period, according to Gartner research.

BMC chief technology officer Kia Behnia said the average knowledge worker made between 15 and 25 calls a year to the help desk, many of them dealing with the same simple issues. Rather than taking a ticket and waiting on the line to have a password reset or to learn the whereabouts of the nearest printer, workers could resolve these problems for themselves, using MyIT's automated configuration and trouble-shooting features, he said.

Getting them to do so without human intervention carries the promise of significant economic savings.

The price of a service call ranged from $25 to $50, “just for the help desk to pick up the phone”, Behnia said.

Forrester Research analyst Eveline Oehrlich said BMC had significant dominance in the service support sector and MyIT would make the vendor an attractive option for companies considering an overhaul.

“It is a new and modern way to support mobile people who want to consume IT as a service – meaning they are empowered by IT to consume, act and behave their way,” Oehrlich said.

MyIT is in beta testing phase and is scheduled to hit the market in April 2013. Pricing is not finalised but Beauchamp said customers could expect to pay between $10 and $15 a user; less than the cost of one help desk call.

The system is suitable for organisations with 100 or more users but was expected to do best with firms that had more than 2000 staff and a mobile workforce, he said.

Help desk headaches in your office? Have today's users become too demanding? Will self-service help solve the problem?

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