The perception of IT support has dramatically improved thanks to the successful response of service desks to the pandemic, lockdowns and working from home, according to new research from the Service Desk Institute (SDI), sponsored by Sunrise Software.
The research found that 65% of organizations said that the overall business now has a more positive view of IT support, with just 4% seeing a decline in satisfaction. This rose to 72% in public sector organizations, where only 2% say perceptions had worsened.
Emphasizing the importance of keeping organizations operational, 61% of respondents in the research had supported key workers during the crisis, increasing to 83% in the public sector.
The research shows that the challenges of the pandemic acted as a catalyst for wide-ranging, deep changes in IT support which are expected to be maintained at pace. It led to accelerated digital transformation, greater use of collaboration tools and new, more agile ways of working that provide a platform for continuing change.
The increasingly positive view of IT support extended to users, who now rely on service desks to support them when working from home in a hybrid working environment. Respondents to the survey said that 62% of end users now have an improved perception of IT support, with a further 22% reporting that satisfaction was already high pre-pandemic and remained so.
Over 9 in 10 (92%) of those surveyed said their organization had adapted very or reasonably well to home working, underpinned by the assistance delivered by IT support teams. This was down to careful planning — 70% said they were well prepared for the switch to remote working for both users and IT support staff alike, although 32% would have liked to have tested plans more. 91% of respondents said that IT service staff had adapted well to the transition, despite previously being used to working together in the same physical office.
"The pandemic caused immense disruption and suffering across the world, but also forced traditionally planning-driven IT service desks to push out transformation almost overnight," said Tessa Troubridge, Managing Director, Service Desk Institute. "The switch to different ways of working removed barriers and meant that the pace of change and adoption of new practices was turbo-charged. Thanks to this, IT service management is now recognized as business-critical by both management and users alike. Moving forward, keeping this proactive focus is vital as organizations become more digital and reliant on IT in a fast-changing world."
Post-COVID organizations are using the momentum to drive their strategies to meet changing needs. 47% of all organizations (and 59% of the public sector) are focusing on "shift left," enabling more efficient use of resources as end users solve basic or common issues themselves through access to knowledge and automated processes.
In turn, the service desk team can then re-prioritize, focusing on more complex issues or strategic areas. Nearly half (46%) said they will continue to move forward at the same pace and be more agile in how they operate after the pandemic.
The research also found a direct correlation between the flexibility and level of configuration of the IT service management (ITSM) tools respondents used and their success at supporting users during the pandemic. Of those that had significantly tailored their ITSM software to meet their individual needs, 86% said it met their requirements during the transition to homeworking and beyond. In comparison, just 60% of those with difficult to configure tools said they met their ongoing requirements. Given the high possibility of future disruption, ensuring ITSM tools are configured to meet needs and easily adapted is therefore business-critical.
"As a supplier to service desks across the UK we saw how IT stepped up to the challenge of the pandemic, pushed sometimes untried processes to the fore and effectively enabled every key worker and employee with their own personal digital transformation," said Geoff Rees, Director of Sales & Operations, Sunrise Software. "Mobile technology, collaboration tools, self-service, automation and flexibility (not to mention solid Wi-Fi) all became part of day to day working, and it seems a lot of it is here to stay. As an industry, IT support learnt a lot and should be proud of the part teams continue to play in supporting organizations as we move out of lockdowns and into the future."
As part of the research, respondents were asked for their insights into how the pandemic affected the service desk. Comments included:
■ "Digital adoption took off and security needs were heightened."
■ "Priorities were to retain as close to a business as usual support as possible — and then capitalize on this to improve as we learned and adapted."
■ "It reaffirmed a 'cloud first' strategy, the focus on core services and also increased the reliance on self-service for end users."
■ "The pandemic pushed the need for self-service and for internal customers to take more ownership."
■ "We started using chat bots, automated more processes and stimulated the use of self-service within the user community."
■ "What the pandemic has done is to accelerate how quickly we moved to homeworking and change people's perceptions of it. We are likely a few years ahead of where we would have been."
■ "We learnt to be open to innovation and creativity, always seek out new ways of working."
Methodology: The Changing Priorities: The Recovery and Regeneration of IT Service Management report is based on an online survey of 190 IT service desk/IT staff. 56% were in the private sector, 35% in the public sector and 9% were within the third sector (charities, social enterprises and not-for-profit organizations).
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