Friday, January 10, 2014

Help Desks

This post isn't security oriented, or technical. It's just what I'm working on most recently. At work a management decision recently blended our Network Infrastructure and Security Teams together and I was asked to run a project melding the two "on call responsibilities" and figure out a single point of contact or help desk setup so people would know how to contact us.

Help desks are tricky things. The ideal (most expensive) solution is to have happy, highly intelligent people on call 24 hours a day so that when the phone rings, someone who can immediately answer the question is available immediately.

helpdesk.jpg (648×427)

But it isn't cost effective to have your software engineers sitting on the phone all day doing nothing but waiting for a call, so you start having them do project work and and watch the phone too. But then, their project work takes priority and they can't answer the phone so you hire a less qualified person that you can pay less to watch the phone the time the engineer can't be available and have the engineer write documentation for the less qualified person to cover whatever they don't know.

That solution sounds good. The less qualified person answers the phone, finds the documentation or script they need and can answer the question. But engineers write documentation for engineers. When you have someone with less experience or education than an engineer reading it, the call usually turns into this on one end or the other:

I don't think there's a good way to convince engineers to get excited about answering phone calls. Maybe donuts every Monday or something. Really, help desks are just difficult. And you do the best you can with the people and skills you have.