Back in the distant days of the 1990’s Information Technology was beginning to emerge as being the primary industry of our modern world. It was in about 1995 that the public became increasingly interested with computing, and the social benefits of participating with the ‘Net’, but the places they worked in also began to implement computer networks and systems, they were called on to learn new ways of keeping records, accounting, producing documents and even corresponding.
The computer networks became more sophisticated, and the software likewise became more detailed and demanding from the people who were compelled to use it.
The desktop computer became ubiquitous on every desk, mobile laptops were being adopted by executives, and then mobile phones also became the default standard tools of modern business.
These increasingly complex computer networks could not simply be installed, and then used: networks require constant monitoring, adjustment, configuration, repair, updating, patching, added-to, in short the ‘IT’ industry matured into becoming the largest service industry in human history.
The enormous numbers of business computer users generated a huge demand for ‘Support’, people each have a different level of ‘digital literacy’ and computer savvy, plus the devices and environments they have to work with also demand constant support and maintenance.
All of this has meant that ‘IT Support’ has developed into becoming a computer specialisation; department managers and business owners now have to set aside a considerable budget for this; if your staff cannot use their technology then production comes to a halt and no revenue is coming in.
Today we are understanding that ‘Support’ involves many different skill sets, not all of these are technical in nature, the accomplished IT Support operator has to be socially switched on, sensitive to the specific demands of the environment they operate with, they have to be able to account for many different levels of digital literacy and responses to technology in addition to being proficient with the technology being employed.
The simple truth about Information Technology is that ‘Support’ is the most critical skill set, we can always obtain back-end skills and engineering chops from outsourced sources, but the on-site and specific support is usually best if locally available, the correct language and cultural context is the most successful.
Next we have the confusion about ‘Help Desk’ & ‘Service Desk’, this has arisen from the implementation of “ITIL methodology in support organizations over the past 20 years or so.
Way back when I first began working in the industry, all large network sites put together a Help Desk, these were usually Ad Hoc, and not taken very seriously by ‘serious IT professionals’, the system programmers, network engineers, software developers, and network architects viewed the Help Desk as being a nursery area, where raw IT recruits and aspiring network administrators gained their start; the idea that you would wish to work on the Help Desk as a career was unthinkable!
As time went on, and the world of business networking became increasingly critical to business outcomes IT managers began to see just how essential the relationship between their department and the user community truly was.
Information Technology Information Library, or ‘ITIL’ had its genesis in the U.K.
The British government departments experienced a crisis of efficiency in the early 2000’s.
It was discovered that IT departments were bleeding money, and service duplication and wasteful redundancy were resulting in poor service outcomes.
Meetings were held, heads were rolled, positions terminated and created, strong language was employed: the results of this became ‘ITIL’, information technology as a service was born!
Instead of viewing computer users as being inept, struggling victims of the IT network, they became ‘Clients’, or more generically: Customers.
IT departments transformed seemingly overnight, each section of the operations were given a title, specialists proliferated.
The IT Servicedesk views the network as being the provider of many different services, each work team and department being the customer of these services. While the Help Desk spoke of ‘putting out fires’, the Service desk adopts a much broader outlook, and oversees the macro dimension of their network: enabling a much more intelligent management of the network, and predicting where ‘fires’ may be prevented in the first place, providing training resources and reviews of systems, as one example.
The influence of ITIL has been profound, but not absolute, however the need to revise, and reinvent ‘Technical Support’ as being a definite specialty area has resulted.
Today, those businesses who appreciate the contribution of technical support services are seen to be doing very much better than their counterparts who persist with the older ‘Help Desk’ models. If your staff can work without impediments, and with swift attention to their nuanced requirements, then your business is going to prosper; it really has become this simple.
Gaining a good, general skill set with information technology has never been more important, while our need for accomplished specialists is always recognised, the ability to know something of all areas is equally valued, and this is where the technical support specialist enters; modern Service desk operations have become very valuable to their parent businesses, and this is why you should pursue a career in IT Support.