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Happy Labor Day -- will a bot take your help desk job?

Patrick Thibodeau | Sept. 2, 2014
Competing forces are affecting people who work on help or service desks. One is improving automation tools, which advocates say can replace level 1 and 2 support staff. At the same time, the number of help desk tickets is rising each year, which puts more demand on the service desk.

One IT manager using IPsoft's automation technology and services to support his firm's infrastructure — including its network, servers and laptops — is Marcel Chiriac, the CIO of Rompetrol Group, a Romania-based oil industry firm with 7,000 employees serving Europe and Asia.

"Without the automation, we would have to pay a lot more" for IT support, said Chiriac.

The cost savings arise from automatic repairs and routine maintenance that might otherwise be neglected, said Chiriac.

If he weren't using autonomic tools, Chiriac said he would have to hire more people for a similar level of service. But he can't easily estimate the impact on staff because of the firm's IT history. (Rompetrol Group outsourced its 140 IT staff, ended that relationship, then rebuilt an internal IT staff with about two dozen fewer workers; it also uses outsourcing as a supplement.)

Nonetheless, Chiriac doesn't believe that infrastructure automation will necessarily eliminate IT jobs, though it may shift them to other IT areas. "In IT, we're not going to run out of work for the next two generations," said Chiriac.

The work that help or service desks are asked to take on is increasing. Two-thirds of 1,200 organizations surveyed by HDI reported that the number of tickets, either to fix something broken or to outfit a new hire or change permissions, for instance, os increasing annually by more than 60%.

The top five reasons for this increase, according to HDI's survey, is an increase in the number of customers at surveyed firms, a rising number of applications, changes in infrastructure, increases in the scope of services, and the need to support different types of equipment and more devices. That latter could reflect BYOD use.

At the same time, support is being transformed in new ways. Service desks may, for instance, now act as a liaison for all service providers, including cloud and mobile carriers, said Atkinson.

"I think a lot of people have been predicting the death of support for a number of years, and it hasn't happened," said Atkinson.

 

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