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Central Computing Helpdesk - a Front-line Service
Computing Helpdesk, an out-sourced service in IT,
is a front-line to many support lines and services.
We already tried to clarify in some past CNLs (e.g. "Central
Computing Helpdesk - Outlines and Strategy" in
CERN-CNL-2000-001) what users can expect from the Computing
Helpdesk, which is, today, completely out-sourced.
However, as new support lines (e.g.
In order to optimize human resources, and trying to avoid the shortage of these becomes a problem in the coming years, the IT policy is that ALL computer-related problems pass through the Computing Helpdesk at least as a registration process. Total weekly problem input to the helpdesk is between 600 and 700 requests. The majority of these problems, after being registered in the Problem Report Management System (PRMS) that is used by the helpdesk, are re-assigned elsewhere, both in IT or within the Desktop Support contract (with outsourced staff). The task of the desk (through their Service Level Agreement or SLA) - within working hours - is that problems sent by e-mail have a 1 hour deadline and, as you would expect, those transmitted by phone are treated immediately. This does not mean that problems can be solved immediately! In this respect we would like users to understand that non-urgent and "over-complicated" problems should be preferably described by e-mail (with as much detail as possible), such that the phone lines are dedicated to more urgent queries.
The User Support Group in IT is looking after helpdesk matters with the team leader of the outsourced staff. IT policy imposes to them that the Helpdesk hides support lines and there is no direct access to IT experts from general CERN user questions. This policy is also related to the staff situation: it is no longer possible to "disturb" the services and "interrupt" support staff at any time, and the Computing Helpdesk personnel (a service contract, with staff on rotation) have not been trained to understand and know all of the support lines with people names and phone numbers. A drawback of this policy is that, when the support line fails to provide an answer in an acceptable time for the user, then users wrongly blame the Helpdesk.
Users must understand that the Computing Helpdesk
is only a front-line to reception queries. Only straightforward
or quickly solvable
queries such as "password reset" can be handled directly by them,
whereas all other queries will just be registered and passed to the
2nd or 3rd level of support, depending on the expertize and
privileges that are needed. Users will always be assigned
a ticket number for their queries and they should systematically
refer to this number in further communications regarding
their problem. Various support
lines such as
This is a logical step towards the idea to provide a unique
number and central point to users for all kinds of
computing-related issues. This should be transparent to users who
can fully explain their problem: the Helpdesk will listen to the
query and pass it immediately to the appropriate person responsible
for that service. In case you notice some breakdown in the
procedure, and especially some unacceptable delay in the treatment
of your query, then please let us know, to
About the author(s): Nicole Crémel and Roger Woolnough are members of the User Support group in IT, and are the CERN responsible for the supervision of operations of the Computing Helpdesk.