Help desk for beginners

What is a help desk? What functions does a help desk perform? What are the advantages of a help desk? Why bother with help desks?…Surely the answers to these questions are obvious?

Well, no, not necessarily for those who are new to the market or for those who have no experience of help desks. That’s why we have created ‘help desk for beginners’



On a very broad and basic level the help desk can be defined as:

A support system designed to assist end users with technical & functional questions & problems.

This definition supports the basic function of the help desk – the ability to support end users. A member of staff with a malfunctioning keyboard or a flickering monitor can call or email the help desk in order to raise the fault and begin the process of getting the problem fixed as quickly as possible. The help desk can be internally based or external, completely dependent upon the company involved.


ITSM defined

A more commonly used description for the help desk market is now the acronym ITSM. (Information Technology Service Management) Rather than a reactive, passive help desk, ITSM refers to a more recently-favoured proactive approach whereby incidents can be avoided in the first place, where processes are put into place, where processes are automated if possible, and where the remit is broader than just IT support.



Products have generally moved on from the basic call logging, standard solutions to more customer-orientated solutions. Using the flickering monitor as an example, help desk software is now not just simply about assisting with managing the initial call from the frustrated end user whose excel sheet is jumping up and down. It is about delivering best service solutions from the initial incident being raised to the correct replacement monitor being ordered right through to the end user being able to work effectively again.

An example of someone using a product to affect the whole business can be taken from the use of Sunrise’s Sostenuto by The Schools ICT Unit (SICT) at Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council.

Here, Sostenuto goes beyond the standard remit of IT solutions by offering answers to non-ITSM functions including contracts, purchasing, ordering and quotations. What was traditionally a help desk product has developed and is now used across the business, showing the very real development of this kind of software, and Sostenuto in particular.


Want to Learn More?

There are several ways to learn more about help desks:

ITSMF (The IT service Management Forum) is the not-for-profit organisation that is a prominent player in the on-going development and promotion of IT Service Management “best practice”. The ITSMF has been developing best practice, standards and qualifications since 1991.

HDI (The Help Desk Institute) The Help Desk Institute’s (HDI’s) mission is to lead the help desk and IT support profession worldwide. Established in 1988 in the UK and globally thereafter, HDI is one of the leading authorities on help desk and IT support related issues.


Want to Stay Informed?

ITSM News The email newsletter designed to represent the ITSM market. ITSM News includes the latest news, features, event details and white papers in every issue.


Useful Terms

  • SLA Service Level Agreement: A timeframe specified by the IT department/help desk to respond to and then to resolve an end user problem. It is designed to ensure that standards are maintained.
  • ITIL Information Technology Information Library: A set of books that describe a series of core processes in the production and management of IT systems and associated user support. Effectively a model for governance within IT.
  • ITSM Information Technology Service Management: ITSM is the popular acronym for the Information Technology Service Management market. (see above for more)

Sostenuto: The new-generation product from Sunrise Software. Sostenuto is the product that much of the IT and customer service market are talking about.