Pat Delany was leading a portfolio of enterprise Business Intelligence projects with a large company recently and encountered a very counterproductive approach to IT incident management.
Pat Delany managed and turned around a large IT help desk before starting his current position, and therefore has some perspective on IT best practices.
Pat Delany (and any other IT expert) will tell you that the goal of any IT support organization is to prevent as many incidents as possible and to resolve any incidents that do occur as quickly and inexpensively as possible. This is the role of the help or service desk. The service desk should be the face and voice of the IT department, and all production issues should be processed through it. The Service Desk should be provided the tools and training necessary to resolve almost all user-reported incidents. For incidents that are affecting multiple users or are otherwise outside the scope of the service desk, the service desk needs to make sure each incident is prioritized appropriately and escalated to the right team to resolve the incident.
Pat Delany would explain those facts to anyone who asked for a brief description of a service desk’s responsibilities. Ideally, the service desk should be able to resolve over 90% of reported incidents. When this is done, the company saves money, because paying a service desk analyst costs significantly less than paying a network or software engineer to do the same job. It is also better customer service to resolve the issue immediately when it is first reported. It has been Mr. Delany’s experience that no matter how long a customer is put on hold, he or she is generally more satisfied to have the issue resolved with one call than to be forced to make multiple calls.
Pat Delany would recommend this strategy. However, when he was leading the portfolio of Business Intelligence projects, he encountered a very different scenario. The help desk manager did not want the team to route their calls to the Service Desk because she was afraid the added volume would dilute her resolution rate. Her bonus was based in part on the resolution rate—a misleading metric if there ever was one. The net result was that highly paid consultants performed the role of entry-level help desk analysts to prevent the resolution statistics from being diluted in the ramp-up process.
The moral of the story is that senior management should consider what dysfunctional behaviors their bonus structures may create and the resultant costs to their organization. By focusing on the correct metrics, a company will thrive, but emphasizing the wrong ones will lead to counter-intuitive business practices.