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Service Desk – Shift Left! And Then Again!

Service desk

Service Desk 360 recently conducted a  survey with the purpose being to collect different views and wants across the IT department; from the IT Director to first-line technician, then to compare those views in a helpful and constructive way.

In response to the survey question ‘If I only had one wish…….’ the overall responses from the Service Desk Analyst, Service Desk Manager and IT Director were as follows:

  • Service Desk Analyst: ‘I wish were given the opportunity to do more than just fix problems and take IT requests’
  • Service Desk Manager: ‘I wish the service desk was held in higher regard within the IT department’
  • IT Director: ‘I wish the service desk provided more proactive and preventative support’

My response to all of those wishes is Shift Left.

This is not a new concept but one that many Service Desks are struggling to achieve, this is supported by the results of the Service Desk 360 survey.

Shift left means moving issue resolution to the front line, or as close to the customer as possible. Rather than having to escalate to the right – to the next levels of support, resolution occurs at the Service Desk or even closer to the customer via self-help.

As can be seen from the diagram below, as issue resolution moves to the left, the support costs decrease and issue impact decreases, thus increasing business productivity. In the diagram, I have only shown 3 levels of support but it could be extended to the right, to higher levels including field support and vendor support – all increasing costs of issue resolution.


Whilst the shift-left concept may not be suitable for all organisations, such as emergency services where a triage (tick and flick) approach is what is most needed, for most it is a strategy that should be considered.

So what is needed to Shift Left.

Reams could be written about how to move from right-to-left, but for the intent of this post I am going to précis what is required.


The Service Desk people need to be empowered, equipped with the necessary technology and knowledge to resolve issues.

The Service Desk needs to work with other levels of support to gain the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to resolve escalated issues at the Service Desk.

Support teams should also investigate repetitive issues that are escalated to them that could be resolved at the Service Desk or via self-help.

Support teams should be given the incentive to move issue resolution from right to left such as freeing them up to do more ‘interesting’ work like as projects and avoiding continual disruption.

Knowledge Management

The Service Desk needs access to an up-to-date, comprehensive, and easily accessible and searchable knowledge to aid issue resolution. A Knowledge Management process needs to ensure that knowledge is usable and that unusable knowledge is retired or updated.


The supporting IT Service Management technology must effectively capture and categorise data so that frequently escalated issues can be identified and become candidates for a move from right-to-left. It should be possible to prevent problems or provide guidance for issue resolution through data mining of support-related information that delivers frequently asked questions (FAQs) and top-ten questions to the end-user.


End-users should be provided with self-service technologies whereby they can follow a simple support path from checking news and alerts, frequently asked questions, to searching a knowledge base, to ticket initiation, to chat etc. before calling the Service Desk. Self-service should also allow end users to track their own tickets and get status reports without having to call the Service Desk.


Problem Management will be key in the removal of recurring issues whilst other key processes will be Request Fulfilment, Knowledge Management, Access Management and Service Level Management.


Measurements will be critical in demonstrating the benefits of a Shift Left strategy. These will include first call resolution, knowledge base utilisation, customer satisfaction, mean time to resolve, total call volume (reduced status calls) etc.

The increasing Shift-Left will not only reduce costs but will also increase customer satisfaction.

The Service Desk will be undertaking continual service improvement by identifying issue candidates that can be shifted left to them, and then shifted left again into self-help. Other levels of support will have more time available to spend on Problem Management.

Therefore the Service Desk becomes more proactive, the regard for the Service Desk within IT increases, and the work becomes more interesting and satisfying. Thus, meeting the needs of the analyst, manager and IT director.

Start thinking about applying a Shift Left strategy in your organisation.

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