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You’re Still Using Email to Manage IT Support? Why?

Is your company still using email, or a home-grown help desk solution, to manage IT support issues?

There’s no doubt that using email for support works, but is it suboptimal? Why walk when you can “use the car” – with the car the equivalent of a fit-for-purpose IT service desk or IT service management (ITSM) tool?

And before you shout “Walking is good for you, and the environment!” at your screen, what I’mmetaphorically talking about here is the IT-support equivalent of walking all day, every day. And I’m sure that most of us would love to spend less time “walking”; with the time saved spent on moreproductive professional and personal activities, including morefamily time and sleeping.


If you are still using email for IT support…

…Then you are not alone.

HDI – aprofessional association for the technical support industry – reports that a good proportion of their members, from companies of all sizes, are still not using a fit-for-purpose service desk or ITSM tool:

Source: HDI “Service Management: Not Just for IT Anymore”

Note – HDI takes the view that end users, or employees, are customers of IT support and thus this diagram uses the term “customers” to denote “those supported”.


So what does this diagram tell us?

In some ways the stats are to be expected – particularly that the red bars, i.e. the companies that are using an ITSM solution such as ServiceNow, increase from small to large companies. The larger the organisation, the greater the need for standardized processes, workflow and automation, and economies of scale. Plus, they probably have deeper pocket in terms of IT support budgets and a higher level of IT management and ITSM maturity.

However, what’s less expected is the percentage of companies that have no plans to invest in a service desk or ITSM tool – for instance, that 1 in 20 large organisations don’t have such a tool. Then there’s the size of the blue bars – with 16-30% of companies, across the company-size spectrum, currently implementing, or planning to implement, an ITSM solution.


So how are the companies in the grey and blue segments doing IT support?

It’s definitely a mixed bag – ranging from post-it notes, spreadsheets, Lotus Notes databases, through to home-grown help desk solutions that might use all manner of different technologies. However, a common element of all these methods, and a method in its own right, is email – thateither personal email accounts, or one or more communal email accounts, are used to collect IT issues and requests from customers or end users.

As stated at the start of this blog, it works; but how well does it really work?

  • Is there duplication of effort as information is copied into other applications such as Excel to provide management information?
  • How are telephone calls captured? Are they put straight into Excel, or similar, or written on a post-it note? Or maybe not documented at all?
  • Do end user issues and requests get lost – either in the inbox or during transfer between technologies?
  • How quickly are issues and requests dealt with? Is there prioritisation based on business importance and are solutions being delivered in a timely manner?


Ultimately, what’s the business impact of all this (and other issues with using email) and do you know how well your IT support is faring?


For me, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using personal productivity technology for group-based, and often business-critical, activities. Plus, there has been no mention of knowledge management, self-service, and other time-saving and service-improving capabilities now used for both internal and external IT support. So is email still a good way to manage IT support?

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