Picture this: a father shows up at his daughter's wedding, sick with a bad cold, walks up to the bride and says, "sorry I'm taking a sick day." This was the premise of a pretty successful ad campaign by Vick's showing how parents simply don't take sick days.
Similarly, neither does IT support. When business-critical resources underperform or flat out fail, business productivity is dependent on IT to get on the case, whether the resource is managed in house or not.
But how do you find the root cause of those IT issues quickly, maybe even proactively, before it leads to lost productivity? Is it possible to have a self-healing help desk?
To answer this, first we must understand why we care to provide excellent IT support over, say, 80% availability.
The cost of downtime
It’s the middle of the work week and 100 employees at your organization are complaining about a “slow” computer. As far as you’re concerned, this could be impacting at the very least that group of users.
Now, beyond the obvious employee dissatisfaction with their underperforming workspaces, what is really the impact of a group of users not experiencing 99.9% availability?
To calculate this impact, we can use a simple equation. In a CIO article by Mike Sisco, he outlines a simple formula for the cost of downtime, which he introduces as a key tool for helping project owners quantify the risk implications of not investing in a given IT project. It reads:
Cost of Downtime = (Impacted Employees) X (Productivity Factor %) X (Average Hourly Salary)
Naturally, a number of stipulations go into this equation, including assuming that the forgone time being productive would, in fact, be used in productive time, the availability and accuracy of basic information like the average hourly salary, and a ballpark productivity factor that might not be easily calculated, unless you use SysTrack.
But, all that said, going back to our example, let’s assume the average the sample organization pays its employees is $35 per hour. Let’s agree that the productivity impact factor of a “slow” computer, similar to the one the group of users described is experiencing, is of 30%, so seemingly minimal. If we use Sisco’s equation:
Cost of Downtime = (100 Impacted Employees) X (30% Productivity Factor) X ($35 Average Hourly Salary)
Cost of Downtime = $1,050/hour
That’s $1,050 every hour forgone due to decreased productivity caused by a minimal “slowness” experienced by 100 employees! And those are only the ones complaining. For every 100 employees complaining, there might be more trying to fix the issue themselves.
Of course, depending on the size of the organization, the productivity factor of the issue in question, and the average salary, these numbers can vary greatly. In fact, Gartner cites that the average cost of network downtime is around $5,600/minute.
Similarly, the Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC) group who every year issues an independent web-based survey gathered that “over 98% of large enterprises with more than 1,000 employees say that on average, a single hour of downtime per year costs their company over $100K.”
So, yes, the impact of IT downtime or subpar performance may vary (drastically) from enterprise to enterprise but one thing is constant: it has its consequences on productivity.
Then what is a self-healing help desk and how can it help you?
Now that we have made the case for why it matters to have availability as close to 100% as possible, how can we further augment our ITSM capabilities to get to that level of availability? Enter the self-healing help desk.
A self-healing help desk is one that uses quality data to intelligently help IT anticipate issues fast and even before they impact end users and their productivity. The key to a self-healing help desk is to move ITSM workflows from reactive to proactive where instead of waiting for a ticket to be filed or a user to call the help desk, the issue is already on the team's radar and en-route to being resolved. The main characteristics your help desk needs to adopt a proactive support approach include:
Alarming: Built-in mechanisms identifying and alerting the help desk of concerning activities in the environment facilitate the move from reactive to proactive. These can include: Higher than average CPU usage, high disk time percentage, a low calculated end-user experience score, and any other endpoint metric that may be impacting the productivity of an end user. Additionally, having the ability to set automated remediation actions based on predictable, well-known scenarios can help facilitate more proactive workflows.
Drill down: Key to a more proactive approach to IT support is the ability to identify a symptom like a “slow” computer and drill into performance and usage system data to find the root cause of that symptom. For this, quality endpoint data regarding the system in question is critical. Without it, help desk agents, as they usually do, rely heavily on symptom and basic device information provided by the user. This drill down capability helps IT help desks 1) identify the issue 2) find the root cause and 3) fix it. This in turn can help minimize the length of engagement with the user and reduce time to resolution.
Integration: When we talk integration, we’re referring to integrating quality endpoint data and insight with the help desk’s ticket system. Why? Having key insights into the systems and problems they are looking to remediate directly in the support ticket at the time an endpoint exhibits an issue, helps the agent solve issues quickly, or even before end users have a chance to file a ticket.
Endpoint-level visibility: Real-time, contextual data into what is happening at the endpoint is a capability we have been specializing in at Lakeside for many years now. In the context of the help desk agent, having access to not only real-time contextual data into what was happening when the user filed a complaint, but also into the historical details of that system’s past performance, is essential when looking for the root cause of an issue and avoiding it from happening again in the future. Furthermore, if the agent has visibility into the entire estate, they can also determine if any given issue can be impacting a group of users and remediate it. With that level of visibility, the help desk can:
- Find the root cause of issues faster
- Better determine the appropriate level of support early
- Reduce (or eliminate in some instances) involvement with the end user
- Proactively solve similar issues occurring to other users
A self-healing help desk in practice: SysTrack + ServiceNow
Having been in the EUC space for 20 years now, Lakeside has found that one of the biggest issues facing ITSM teams has long been the ability to gain the right level of endpoint visibility for fast and precise troubleshooting and analysis. That is why we have been helping IT teams build their own self-healing help desks via our integration with ServiceNow.
ServiceNow has developed, and continues to develop, an exceptional ticketing system with relevant information that help desk agents around the world use to support end users. Now, we’ve coupled that technology with SysTrack’s ability to monitor, analyze, and optimize end-user experience directly from the endpoint. Out of our continued partnership, you can now enjoy two applications available in the ServiceNow app store:
SysTrack Workspace Analytics: Provides inbuilt functionality to call SysTrack's powerful Resolve tool and take a snapshot of user and system activity when an incident is logged. This provides full visibility into the source of end user experience impacting issues, providing immediate ability to understand and resolve user concerns.
SysTrack Asset Optimization: Gathers and adds meaningful endpoint data into ServiceNow records. With this connector, system identification and configuration data is automatically imported into the ServiceNow CMDB, eliminating the need to manually create records that identify each system. ServiceNow users can then use this robust set of data from each endpoint to improve time-to-resolution and end-user experience.
So the next time the business-critical resources in your environment underperform or fail, make sure you have a self-healing help desk that doesn't take sick leave!
Patricia Diaz is the Head of Product Marketing at Lakeside.