cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

How To Fence Off Time for a Help Desk Project

Level 10

8020-rule.jpgAs we wrap up the fourth installment of my Help Desk Adventure Series (I'm going to trademark that), I've described the journey from building out a help desk, defining SLAs, and incorporating workflow automation. Looking back, I think the one resource that was left out from this discussion was time. This resource is finite, difficult to find, and often buried in other daily tasks. Ever hear of the 80/20 rule? It's a slightly modified idea taken from the Pareto Principle: that we as IT professionals spend 80% of our time on trivial tasks, and 20% innovating (and providing some real impact). In some of my positions, it might as well be the 99/1 rule (or the 100/20 rule, in which I spent nights and weekends on the innovation part).

How did my team and I get the time to build out a new help desk system? I made a few "bold statements" to management to help get this off the ground and created some daily team exercises. Again - support from the upper echelons is critical!

  • The help desk, and related SLA and workflow creation, was considered an IT project with time allotments. We could budget team time towards the help desk and could give it priority in the queue.
  • The team would cover for one another when other issues arose. For example, I would spend time working issues on the call center floor so that a member of the team could focus on building a workflow. Broken concentration kills innovation.
  • I used the term "technical debt" quite often: this means that if we put off a help desk now, we pay for it with more work later. We wanted to pay off our operational debt quickly and efficiently.
  • A morning "red zone" meeting would be held at the start of the day. We'd review the backlog of work to complete and determine what we wanted to get done that day. It was also a great time to figure out how we could best help each other with various daily tasks, and communicate progress.

Knowing that it's very difficult to carve out time for any new work, I'm curious if you have any other tips to add to my list? How have you managed to free up time for your help desk creation, updates, workflows, or just general tasks that make your help desk better?

25 Comments
Jfrazier
Level 18

Excellent stuff here.  I use the 80/20 rule with regards to monitoring and alerting on a regular basis.

It helps to keep things simplified and scalable.  

SLA's are so important between what the business expects and what the infrastructure side delivers and how the NOC or Help Desk interprets events.

clubjuggle
Level 13

wow. I wish we got 20% of our time to innovate.

Jfrazier
Level 18

Agreed !!

mharvey
Level 17

In the times I've had to implement something new, I was able to propose it similar as you did but also added in ROI based on ease of use being a factor in more quickly resolving issues.  The time taken to have to figure out a ticketing system (if the current one is tedious) increases MTR.  Using this helps occasionally

aaswi
Level 12

in the past I have been involved in such task.  at that time we actually would keep track of projects with our helpdesk application.  of which were also assigned priority just as normal tickets. 

jspanitz
Level 14

It's nice to see someone running a helpdesk who seems to have a good grasp on what they are doing.  Excellent information.

byrona
Level 21

No kidding.  Our company just recently launched an R&D initiative and they keep wondering why the folks on my team aren't showing a high level of participation; I guess they think magic and fairy dust keeps things up and running. 

tcbene
Level 11

Pretty good when you can get people to work 80% of the time.

cfwalker8
Level 9

This is great information. Finding that 20% of time can be very tricky sometimes.

lfaulkner
Level 9

Another option is to have a project team outside of the help desk build the system, with input from the help desk staff. Although 20% seems a low number, a busy help desk most likely doesn't have 20% of their time to allocate. Using a separate team to build also speeds up the turnaround.

crwchief6
Level 11

Our helpdesk consists of 3 full time, one part time and 5 backup personnel to help with calls for over 1000 people in our state. The 3 full time folks do a really great job handling the volume of call we get so they defiantly work above 80%. They spend most of there free time entering tickets into the system. The rest of us come up with workflows, updates etc. so our system works pretty well.

_stump
Level 12

WARNING: this is probably bad advice. I am not responsible for its use (or misuse).

The best way to find time for this at work is to not tell anyone that you're spending time on innovation, creative thinking, and critical analysis. Really. Small-minded management types will see these endeavors as incredible wastes of time with no value to the organization. You'll never win an argument with these types; they say things like, "we don't have time to do it the right way!" and "we're too busy to plan!" and you'll lose brain cells trying to understand these concepts.

Success rewards those who take risks, or something. Right?

aaron.j.denning
Level 12

good stuff here we use the 80/20 rule as well.

network_defender
Level 14

I have to agree with michael stump.  Sometimes management doesn't value the 20% and you need to be creative to allot that time.

byrona
Level 21

I love the disclaimer and sadly I would agree with the advice as well.

goodzhere
Level 14

Schedule an annual downtime period to implement improvements, but that still doesn't get you the time to come up with them.  During weekly meetings with team leads (If you are a big enough help desk to have them) would be a good start.

cahunt
Level 17

Not so well received when put into place after Parkinson's Law.

       Parkinson's law is the adage that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion".

I'd rather just spend time trying to slow the Earth's rotation to make our day's 35 hours. That should give me the extra 20% that I need.

Some places I have been refer to the law, and have high hopes that you don't get burnt out while trying to remember to innovate.

mchenry2677
Level 9

great information

theflyingwombat
Level 9

Never heard of the 80/20 rule. Will definitely be reading more about it.

jkump
Level 15

I happen to be part of a project that is just starting down this road to replace its antiquated help desk system.  Finding the 20% seems to be the most difficult.  Everyone agrees it needs to be done, yet finding time is the biggest hurdle.  Glad to read we are not alone in this quest.

cahunt
Level 17

Indeed if this was not a problem for you; I would be applying to where ever it is you are employed.

Best option with this 80/20 is make it 1 out of 5 ... one day a week put up a sign that reads (and adhere to this)

"This is a figment of your imagination, regardless of what you see,

  I am not present today. If you need assistance please send an

  email or call me at ext 12345.  If you require immediate assistance

  please call the service desk at 4-HELP. If this is an emergency

  please leave my intimidate vicinity before dropping on the floor and

  asking someone else to dial 911."

cahunt
Level 17

oh yeah, make sure you have your 'Send-Calls' button activated (if using Avaya Phones), or whatever button that makes your calls ring straight to VM.

jay.perry
Level 11

Very helpful.     

tcbene
Level 11

Weekly meetings that sounds like a good idea.

blsanner
Level 12

I agree 100% with the adage that "Broken concentration kills innovation".  I would even go so far as to generalize it to say that broken concentration kills any type of productivity.

About the Author
I'm a data center engineer who likes to virtualize things. You can find out more about me by visiting my blog.