Bandage Management

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

It’s the nature of technology that sometimes things go wrong and the helpdesk needs to step in to try and fix the user’s problems. This can be a challenging role--the issues are likely to be widely varied and unpredictable, and you are dealing with users at times of frustration and stress. However, it is also a role that is vital in identifying where problems exist within systems and initiating the processes to address those problems.

In many cases, issues can be traced back to a user error or a misunderstanding on how functionality is supposed to work. But the helpdesk is also the frontline when it comes to communication of real issues, and that’s where I want to start this article. I have worked with many organizations over the years, and one of the recurring themes is that when a helpdesk agent flags a real issue that has been brought to them the organizational focus is on relieving the symptoms, not necessarily solving the problem. The culture of those organizations is that as long as the user problems can be fixed, then the issue is “solved”. Not only is that inaccurate, it’s inefficient and risky.

The problem
Let’s start with some brief ITSM theory around this. When the helpdesk or support function receives a report of a user problem, then they are technically dealing with an “incident”--to quote ITIL, an …

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