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We’re glad you asked! Because while help desk and service desk may seem interchangeable in ITSM (IT Service Management) terms, they aren’t. With a broad range of opinions across the industry and different implementation approaches, it can be challenging to navigate.

Murky nature of these ITSM terms aside, they can have a much deeper impact on your organization’s IT approach and strategy, ability to achieve business goals and priorities, and ultimately, the satisfaction of your end users.

Why is this important? Because the expectations of end users are constantly increasing, especially since the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, precipitating the abundance of smart mobile devices and the rise of social networks.

In the minds of end users, the distinction between the service desk and the help desk is moot, but for organizations like yours the difference can make a serious impact on business goals.


So, what exactly is a help desk?


The main goal of a help desk is to efficiently and quickly resolve the immediate needs, technical issues and incidents of end users. Your help desk should be more of a tactical, break-fix solution to tackle day-to-day problems instead of a resource for long-term planning.

Your IT help desk can either be a separate, standalone department or part of a larger service desk operation.

Here are some of the key features of the help desk:

  • Distributes self-service options as well as basic incident and problem management capabilities to end users.
  • Delivers process-based applications by leveraging SLA (Service Level Agreements) management, automation and workflows.
  • Integrates on a limited level with ITService Management Processes.
  • Acts as the SPOC (single point of contact) for IT Support.
  • Uses a tracking solution for all inbound incidents.
  • Sends automated emails, routing and ticket tracking notifications.
  • Provides level 1 and level 2 support for problem resolution and escalation procedures in cases when escalation is needed.


What’s a service desk?


ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) defines the service desk as the single point of contact between users and their service providers. Known for resulting from “the evolution of the traditional help desk,” the IT service desk is basically a help desk in an ITIL infrastructure, using a more strategic, long-term approach to issue resolution.

The services desk is tasked with managing service requests, incidents and communication with end users. Because service desks are focused on improving the efficiency of business and IT processes across the entire organization for long-term impact, the IT service desk has a much broader impact on business needs.

Some key features of the service desk include:

  • Provides necessary tools for IT staff to achieve their objective in addition to supporting end users with additional help and technical support.
  • Integrates completely with ITSM processes.
  • Addresses all-around customer service.
  • Acts as the SPOC for all business, applications and IT processes.
  • Integrates with and disseminates information from change management, release management, problem management and configuration management.
  • Supports Service Level Management agreement compliance.
  • Integrates with asset management, asset discovery and CMDB (Configuration Management Database).


Which is the right fit for your organization?


It depends on your organization’s unique needs and day-to-day goals. There are many instances when organizations do not require the broader scope or service offerings of a service desk—if you have large IT, Information security and development teams on site they may already be addressing these long-term initiatives internally. In situations like this one, a help desk is adequate for meeting short-term tactical needs to keep your employees focused on more strategic initiatives and innovation.

The help desk provides an initial point of contact where business users can go to have specific IT issues resolved. The major goal here is to reduce wait times and speed up resolution of issues so that users can continue working and for unchallenged productivity.


What’s your long-term service desk strategy?



A service desk looks at the individual components and overall IT processes across your entire organization and how they interact and function with each other at both the process and software levels. The service desk usually focuses on long-term corporate strategies—ensuring both IT functions and end users are up and running now and moving forward.

Because of this, a service desk must have a help desk functionality embedded in its infrastructure, or at least the capability of linking help desk service offerings to end users.

Ultimately, your organization size, culture, products, goals, ITSM maturity and level of IT support and complexity required will help you decide whether a help desk or service desk is the right fit.

No matter which solution your organization decides to use, the bottom line is making sure you can manage and resolve specific end-user issues and problems. In addition to a help and/or service desk deployment, your organization should consider the automation of business processes to help drive greater standardization, efficiency and responsiveness in service management operations.


Ready to get started?

If you’re considering outsourcing your IT service management capabilities, MicroAge can help. Learn how we can support your organization in navigating and managing the challenges of delivering effective service in a fast-moving and always evolving business environment. Contact our experts by emailing or call us at (800) 544-8877.

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At MicroAge, whether you’re evaluating a help desk or service desk—or looking to enlist additional IT resources to support your internal team—we can help.

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