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Prioritising the Help Desk: The Need for Early Inclusion in Software Releases and Project Planning

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

The advent of a new software release or a project going live is a thrilling time for any organisation. It signifies progress, innovation, and the exciting promise of enhanced operations. However, amidst the frenzy of anticipation, one critical team often gets overlooked until the eleventh hour: the help desk.


From my experience, I can attest that this last-minute inclusion of the help desk can lead to many problems, from low staff morale and ineffective end-user support to products that don't function in real-world circumstances, which the help desk would have identified. I advocate for a shift in perspective, and here's why it's critical to bring the help desk to the forefront of project planning.


Understanding the Product Inside Out

Help desk staff must be familiar with the product to support end-users effectively. They gain deep insights into the functionality, potential issues, and workarounds when included from the onset. This makes them more competent in troubleshooting and assisting users. But when thrown in at the last moment, their understanding is superficial at best, leading to ineffective support and frustrated users. Including them early can even identify show-stopping issues. Nobody knows the pitfalls of a product and what the customer needs like the help desk.


Preventing Morale Decay

Being thrust into the spotlight without adequate preparation can lead to stress and low morale among help desk staff. They might feel underappreciated and sidelined, leading to decreased motivation and performance. Early inclusion gives them ample preparation time and communicates that their role is valued and crucial to the organisation's success.


A woman addressing a meeting

Shaping End-User Perception

The help desk is the face of your organisation to end users. If they're well-prepared, they project competence and confidence, shaping a positive perception of your organisation. On the other hand, being unprepared can lead to an image of disorganisation and inefficiency.

To address this, I propose developing a set of acceptance criteria that the help desk can use whenever they engage with a project team. These criteria outline critical information the help desk team needs before a product launch or project go-live, ensuring they're adequately prepared to support end users. Here's a glimpse of what these criteria could include:

  1. Training: Help desk staff must receive comprehensive training on the new software or project. This should be theoretical and practical to ensure a complete system understanding.

  2. Documentation: All necessary user manuals, troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and other supportive documents should be readily available.

  3. Test Environment Access: Help desk staff should have access to a test environment to familiarise themselves with the system and try their hands on troubleshooting common issues. I'd encourage them even to be part of User Acceptance Testing.

  4. Early Notification: Project teams must notify help desk staff well in advance about the impending go-live date to ensure adequate preparation time.

  5. Contact Points: Clear communication lines should be established between the help desk and the project team for any issues or queries.

By implementing these acceptance criteria, we can ensure that our help desk staff are well-prepared, confident, and ready to provide excellent support from day one. Let's redefine our approach and recognise the pivotal role that our help desk plays in ensuring the success of our projects. It's time to put them at the forefront, right where they belong.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Alan, and have been working within the IT sector for over 30 years.

For the last 15 years, I've focused on IT Governance, Information Security, Projects and Service Management across various styles of organisations and markets.

I hold a degree in Information Systems, ITIL Expert certificate, PRINCE2 Practitioner and CISMP (Information Security Management).

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