I spent some time over the past few weeks peering into help desks as part of an ITIL assessment. I have been a manager over help desks but have never been a “help desk manager”. There’s a lot going on with help desks that gets short shrift because of a perception that they are entry-level IT positions. And while they *can* be a career path in that regard, that perception is very misleading. Help desks are the “face of IT” that the customer sees, and as many large companies who have off-shored this function are finding out, that is not a trivial responsibility.
There are many facets to the help desk function, including an entire body of knowledge that is presided over by HDI (formerly the Help Desk Institute, but now just HDI) and the itSMF. There is training, certifications, conferences, local interests groups, etc. and a vibrant community.
My particular object in my assessment endeavors was to look at the help desk function as it pertains to IT service management, particularly ITIL. In the ITIL world, the help desk is recast as The Service Desk. In this framework the Service Desk is the primary point of contact between IT and its customers. It also, in effect, runs the incident management process, which feeds all of the other ITIL processes, particularly in ITILv2. The Service Desk, which is an actual function and most often a select group, always seems be listed first whenever one discusses the ITIL core processes.