January 05, 2011, 9:07 AM — At a time when IT is supposed to be getting simpler, less complex and easier to manage, more people are calling help desks for assistance than ever before, according to a new study.
That's one of the findings that HDI, formerly known as the Help Desk Institute, uncovered in its recently released 2010 study of help desk trends.
What HDI found is that the number of incidents reported to help desks via chat, e-mail, telephone, self-help systems, social media, the Web and walk-ins is rising, with 67% of all help desk operations experiencing increases in 2010. That's roughly the same percentage who reported an increase in 2009.
There's no single explanation for the growing number of support requests.
In recent years, many organizations have moved to centralize their help desk operations and establish a single point of contact for workers, said Roy Atkinson, an analyst at HDI, whose members represent a help desk community of about 50,000 people.
Those centralization efforts have improved incident data collection, which helps to explain the spike in reports. Moreover, creating a single point of contact -- and offering multiple ways for people to reach the help desk -- encourages users to seek assistance, Atkinson said.
While centralization and better record-keeping may explain much of the increase in reported calls, it doesn't completely explain it. Atkinson said another part of the explanation could be the fact that IT complexity is actually increasing, especially as users seek to connect multiple devices , including mobile phones, tablets and laptops to corporate networks.
"There is the trend to being able to work anywhere and anytime," Atkinson said. And that "requires more support, so the environment as a whole is probably more complex."
Earl Begley, who heads HDI's desktop advisory board and is an IT project manager at the University of Kentucky, said incident volumes for the university's healthcare help desk, which serves the UK hospital, have increased by 15% to 20% a year. Part of this increase can be attributed to the use of new technology in the healthcare industry, he said.
Begley is working to reduce call volumes by leading an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) implementation at the university, which has the long-range goal of improving IT efficiency .