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Central Computing Helpdesk - a Front-line Service

Nicole Crémel and Roger Woolnough , IT/User Support


The Computing Helpdesk, an out-sourced service in IT, is a front-line to many support lines and services. Printer.Support has been recently diverted to the Helpdesk and it is not anymore a dedicated support line with specialists answering on the phone.

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. Printer.Support) are being progressively diverted to the Helpdesk, it seems that some users are now contacting the Helpdesk without being completely aware of the change in procedure they should expect.

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 Printer.Support are progressively hosted by the Helpdesk. This means that users sending queries to those lines will not anymore talk directly to the "specialists", but to someone who will just take note and transmit the problem.

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 We will try to understand exactly where the procedure has failed, in order to improve it for the future.

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.

For matters related to this article please contact the author.

Vol. XXXV, issue no 3

Last Updated on Mon Dec 18 13:51:01 GMT+03:30 2000.
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