As part of our Professional Development Programme, AXELOS has outlined the skills and competencies needed in a wide range of roles across IT service management and project and programme management.
In this blog post, Pauline Brown – Service Operations Manager at the University of St Andrews – considers what it takes to be a service desk technician.
The University of St Andrews IT Service Desk provides support 7 days a week to more than 10,000 customers (staff and students), about 45% of whom are international students The university embraces Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as many students bring three to four devices with them, which are all connected to the university’s network. Between 4,500 - 8,000 calls are logged with the IT Service Desk each month.
It is the only (at time of writing) and therefore the first university in the world with 4-star SDI (Service Desk Institute) Certification.
At what point in their career in IT does someone become a service desk technician?
We have analysts who have been in the role for more than 25 years, but we also recruit IT apprentices with no previous qualifications or experience in IT. Over a two year period, we train them to be IT service desk analysts.
Young people joining the workforce in our apprenticeship roles tend to be more tech savvy and have good interpersonal skills and empathy with our customers, 80% of whom are students. In this role people need to think quickly and problem solve but the main thing is having the right attitude and customer care skills
I encourage my staff to identify what aspects of IT they’re interested in and we look to invest in furthering their skills, for example, developing into other areas such as cyber security.
What are the particular challenges and rewards of the role?
The principal challenge is providing support over the phone, email and face-to-face with more than 10,000 customers! As a research intensive university, our staff and students are using every flavour of device which can generate a wide variety of queries every day. But that also creates a lot of learning that technicians can share with colleagues. It means asking the right questions plus listening skills to identify the problem and the right solution.
The rewards for service desk technicians include working in a customer-facing environment: the service desk is on the front line in helping people who are often very stressed, for example, they have lost work on a laptop and the technicians are solving their problems in a calm, professional manner – they become heroes! Technology can be complicated and our staff take great pride in helping people who often have limited technical knowledge. Excellent inter-personal skills are vital!
AXELOS has outlined the skills and abilities of this role as part of its Professional Development Programme. Which do you think are essential for a successful practitioner?
As outlined in AXELOS’ position profile for a service desk technicians, I agree that questioning and active listening skills are hugely important. Technicians need to be inquisitive, work as a team and be in tune to what’s going on.
Equally, identifying opportunities for continual service improvement is hugely important. That involves sharing information, questioning why we do things, raising concerns and developing relationships with second line colleagues in teams like systems, desktops and networking. That way, our ideas for improving processes and tools have a better chance of being realized.
And with incident management it’s very important to be able to identify and classify the call; someone reporting a problem doesn’t always know why it’s happening, and if it’s happening to others. The technician needs to identify the problem quickly and act appropriately to reduce the risk of it becoming a wider incident impacting multiple customers.
Having the right skills among service desk technicians enhances the wider perception of IT in the organization. The service desk is IT’s shop window and what we do affects its broader reputation.
How can Continuing Professional Development (CPD) help to improve the most important skills needed for the job?
There are many opportunities for service desk technicians to improve their skills: from qualifications such as ITIL® Foundation to learning from people in other organizations; for example, our staff have visited Microsoft and Apple to witness new technology and customer interaction. It has to be the right mix of formal training and qualifications, as well as creating opportunities to learn from other people (both inside and outside your organization).
Why do people keep doing the job? They love helping people and the team spirit that comes with that – and that includes helping staff, students and IT apprentices.
Being a service desk technician can be a stepping stone also, for example to becoming web developers, application developers and entering cyber security roles. With the right support, I believe IT service desk technicians can be mentored into any area of IT if they wish.
For more information see our Professional Development Programme section.
More AXELOS Blogs on capabilities required for additional professional roles
How to be the driver of excellence: four key skills every Project Office Manager needs
The Incident Manager: five vital skills for success
Could you be a Business Relationship Manager?
Have you found undertaking CPD activity has helped you develop skills in your industry and take the next step into another role within your profession? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.