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Better together: ITIL® and the HDI Support Centre White Paper

White Paper

Better together: ITIL® and the HDI Support Centre White Paper

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • Customer needs
  • Service management
  • Customer engagement
  • ITIL

Author  Axelos

January 30, 2016 |

 25 min read

  • White Paper
  • Customer needs
  • Service management
  • Customer engagement
  • ITIL

The Landscape for Service Providers is Shifting

The shift to cloud-based services is causing business and technology services to be less platform-centric. Adoption of mobile devices far exceeds the deployment of traditional PCs, and business customers are carrying out more of their work using apps, rather than traditional applications running in a client-server environment. Agile development and DevOps practices are increasingly being adopted, resulting in more frequent changes to the customer environment. The trend toward outsourcing continues, with more ‘substitute’ service providers becoming available for technology support. Is it any wonder that customer expectations of excellent service are on the rise?

A Higher Level of Customer and User Support

In light of these trends, forward-looking support managers must consider how they will meet the following challenges:

  • IT organizations will continue to provide support for more remote and mobile workers - those using personal devices (Bring Your Own Device) - as more and more cloud-based apps enter the mix
  • Social media will continue to displace traditional email and phone communications, and social media will play an ever-increasing role in support. Organizations must find ways to deliver support through support communities, rather than through a hierarchical command and control structure
  • Due to an increasingly competitive and global environment, organizations will move to a continuous deployment model. Organizations must be able to effectively support the continuous deployment of new and improved technology through a continual learning approach and via more powerful knowledge management systems and process
  • Organizations will need to be able to handle multiple technologies in multiple environments, and there will be an even greater need for enhanced communication, troubleshooting, and relationship management skills. These skills will be the key to the success of support centres in the near future. In addition, effective knowledge management will enable support organizations to act more effectively and efficiently, reusing solutions, expediting issue handling, and empowering users
  • Organizations will continue to move into the global economy, with an increasing volume of services being delivered over the web and an increasing percentage of products and services being purchased over the internet. Competitors are only a click away, and thus improving the level of customer and user satisfaction with services is an increasingly important differentiator. None of this has escaped the notice of executives, an increasing number of whom are actively looking for ways to improve the customer experience. What better place to start than the service desk or support centre?

For general guidance in meeting these challenges, thousands of technical support organizations have chosen ITIL® -, and rightly so. The ITIL framework is the most widely accepted global framework for carrying out the practice of service management. Organizations around the globe have improved productivity, lowered operational costs, and optimized the quality of their services by adopting the ITIL framework. The core ITIL books provide proven guidance for setting up and implementing a service desk that is the single point of contact for all product or service users, handling incidents, fulfilling service requests, and communicating with the user community on a continuing basis.

But given these latest trends and challenges to service provisioning, is there a complementary source of guidance that can add specific value to help technical support organizations meet these challenges? One of the outstanding characteristics of the ITIL framework is that it can be integrated with other industry standards, philosophies or frameworks, such as COBIT®, Six Sigma, Agile, and the HDI Support Center Standard.

These challenges mean that the support centre (service desk, help desk) is becoming more (not less) crucial. Are there any other standards or frameworks that could be combined with ITIL to help a service
provider meet these challenges in order to help transform an ordinary support centre into a high performance
support centre?


Complementary Support Centre - Specific Guidance

Given the challenges discussed, and given ITIL’s ability to integrate with other forms of complementary Best Practice guidance, it makes sense to complement ITIL with a proven, well-established standard of Best Practices for support centres.

That complementary guidance is the HDI Support Center Standard. The ITIL framework and the HDI Support Center Standard are simply better together. For support organizations, ITIL defines the service desk and emphasizes the importance of positioning the service desk as the single point of contact for end users and customers. It provides crucial guidance on core processes, such as event, incident, and problem management. It also provides guidance on how to plan for and manage escalations, how to maintain a high level of communication across support teams, and how to define the right set of metrics and reporting so that goals and objectives can be met and performance optimized.

The HDI Support Center Standard complements ITIL’s core guidance but it goes further by providing support centre-specific guidance on how ITIL Best Practices apply to and can be applied in support centres.

An overview of ITIL and the HDI Support Centre Standard


The histories of ITIL and the HDI Support Center Standard share many similarities. ITIL was developed in the 1980s to ensure that the UK government’s IT services were providing value and that IT resources were being allocated in a fiscally responsible manner. The ITIL framework addressed the management of these resources without addressing any particular technologies, and it could be applied in many ways in any service provider organization: executive management, planning and development, testing and deployment, operations, workforce management, etc. In 2007, ITIL evolved into the current lifecycle approach and was updated in 2011 to clarify the lifecycle approach and evolve the framework based on the lessons learned by practicing organizations.

The latest version of ITIL provides comprehensive guidance on five service management practices: strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual improvement.

  • Service strategy: Provides guidance on strategic processes
  • Service design: Outlines how IT should design all aspects of a service, so that the strategy can be successful when the service is transitioned into live operation
  • Service transition: Provides guidance on transitioning a service into live operation and delivering the value the customer seeks
  • Service operation: Defines operational support processes, along with functions like the service desk and other support groups
  • Continual service improvement: Identifies opportunities for continuous improvement, as well as internal alignment and alignment with the business.

ITIL identifies the service desk as a critically important function for support organizations; one that can make up for shortcomings in other areas of an organization.

HDI Support Centre Standard

HDI defines a support centre as a service desk or a help desk that provides support to customers and users, whether they are internal (i.e. employees of the organization) or external (i.e. users that purchased a product or service). While the ITIL framework provides general guidance on Best Practices, the HDI Support Center Standard was designed to complement the Best Practices found in various global frameworks (e.g., ITIL), standards (e.g., ISO 20000), and methodologies (e.g. Knowledge-Centered Support [KCS}), in order to provide specific guidance for support centres.

The HDI Support Center Standard was developed in 2000 as a basis for assessing and certifying a support centre’s adoption of and compliance with industry Best Practices. However, the value of the standard has been proven to extend far beyond certification. The standard has evolved over the past 15 years to address the latest Best Practices in the support industry. ITIL has evolved but also the European Framework for Quality Management (EFQM), the International Standards Organization (ISO), Total Quality Management (TQM), and Knowledge Centered Support.

The HDI Support Center Standard comprises 68 activities distributed across eight elements, including five enabling elements; leadership, strategy and policy, people management, resources, and processes and procedures; and three result elements: people satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and performance results. When a support centre excels in each of the enablers, it will experience excellent results.

Three reasons why ITIL and the HDI Support Centre Standard are better together

They Are Naturally Complementary:

Both ITIL and the HDI Support Centre Standard are global, vendor-neutral, well-accepted and highly adopted industry Best Practices. Both sprang from the expertise and experience of industry practitioners. And both have been the subject of continual improvement, each having undergone several revisions based on the collective work and experience of industry experts and practitioners.

Both ITIL and the HDI Support Centre Standard are flexible and adaptable. Thus, both are applicable to and can be used by:

  • for profit and non-profit organizations;
  • public and private enterprises;
  • internal and external service providers;
  • organizations of all sizes.

Just as organizations may assess their service management practices against the ITIL framework, they may also assess their support centre practices against the elements and activities in the HDI Support Centre Standard.

The HDI Support Centre Standard aligns with ITIL’s process guidance:

The HDI Support Centre Standard is particularly complementary to ITIL in the area of process guidance. In fact, the ITIL service lifecycle stages, and the processes within these stages, can be mapped to the elements and activities in the standard.

The HDI Support Centre Standard provides extended guidance across the lifecycle:

ITIL provides the necessary core guidance for what constitutes a quality service desk. The HDI Support Centre Standard references this core guidance, and provides guidance specific to support centres, across the service lifecycle to extend this specifically to the help/service desk, enabling what the HDI Support Centre Standard calls the ‘high-performance support centre.’

Specific guidance for leadership, policy, and strategy

ITIL stresses the importance of establishing a strategy, vision, mission, and goals for your service organization. The HDI Support Centre Standard affirms the need for a clear, well-articulated, and well- communicated purpose for the support centre. Both emphasize the need for strategic, tactical, and operational goals, as well as a well-planned and well-executed set of metrics for assessing the quality of support operations and identifying opportunities for improvement.

The HDI Support Centre Standard affirms ITIL’s definition of the support centre as the single point of contact for all users. In that capacity, the support centre coordinates the resolution of all incidents and requests related to supported services and technology, and it operates as the communication hub for all users. Here, the standard provides extended guidance on optimizing inbound and outbound support centre communications.

People resources and management guidance

ITIL emphasizes the importance of workload analysis, which ensures the service desk is staffed properly. The HDI Support Centre Standard complements this guidance by recommending the use of staffing models or methods for workload analysis, as well as by providing guidance on how to optimize staffing and scheduling. Training is a key consideration in ITIL, and the HDI Support Centre Standard provides specific guidance for initial and ongoing training plans.

ITIL notes that, in addition to technical skills, people and communication skills are especially important for service desk professionals. The HDI Support Centre Standard extends this guidance by providing an inventory of desirable soft skills that should be in place in high-performing support centres.

Support centre metrics and reporting

HDI’s guidance for optimized support centre metrics is compatible with industry Best Practice frameworks such as ITIL, but tailored to the support centre. For example, ITIL provides guidance for service desk functional metrics, but also for each of the key support centre operational processes (e.g., incident management, request fulfilment). Those metrics are aligned with roles (a service desk manager, one or more supervisors, level 1 and 2 support analysts) as needs dictate. The HDI Support Centre Standard goes further by providing an optimized scorecard of support centre metrics, one that includes the most common support centre key performance indicators for people, process, and technology.

In summary, the HDI Support Centre Standard enables a support centre not only to adapt ITIL and other best practice guidance more effectively but also to extend these general approaches with specific guidance. The result is a support centre that can meet the challenges of modern service management and beyond, and go from ordinary to extraordinary performance.

ITIL Processes referenced by the HDI Support Centre StandardSupport-specific Guidance in the HDI Support Centre Standard
Service Strategy
Strategy Management

Alignment with the organization
Integration with the support model
Resource allocation and alignment
Promoting teamwork and the optimal distribution of information

Strategy and Policy:
The purpose of the support centre
Support Centre goals and objectives
Support Centre strategic, tactical and operational plans
Resources: Support Centre Financial Management

Resources: Support Centre Financial Management

Service Design
Service Catalogue Management

Strategy and Policy: Defining Support Centre services 

Service Level Management 

Service Catalogue Management

Information Security ManagementResources: security of systems and information related to the Support Centre 
Service Transition Change ManagementProcess and Procedure: Change Management 
Service Asset and Configuration Management 

Process and Procedure: Service Asset and Configuration Management

Knowledge ManagementResources:
Knowledge Management tool/system
Knowledge  Resources

Service Operation

Event ManagementProcess and Procedure: Event Management for the Support Centre
Resources: Incident Management, reporting tools /systems
Incident ManagementProcess and Procedure:
Specific guidance for incident management
Logging of incidents/request
Categorization of incidents/requests
Prioritization of incidents/requests
Status levels of incidents/requests
Initial investigation and diagnosis
Escalation of incidents/requests
Resolutions of incidents
Closure of incidents
Reopening of incidents
Investigation and diagnosis resources
Service management team
Workforce management system
Remote support tools 
Request FulfilmentProcess and Procedure: Service request fulfilment
Problem Management

Process and Procedure: problem management 

Continual Service ImprovementThe Seven-Step Improvement process Strategy and Policy:
Support Centre goals and objectives 
Operational Plans
Support Centre service improvement plans

How the HDI Support Centre Standard complements the full ITIL lifecycle

The HDI Support Centre Standard aligns with ITIL across the full lifecycle, clearly indicating how ITIL processes across the service lifecycle are integrated with and supported by high-performing support centres.

Service Strategy

Strategy management establishes a connection between the support centre and the support organization’s overall vision, mission and goals. This, in turn, guides support centre management in developing and deploying the ongoing strategy for the support centre.

The HDI Support Centre Standard adds value to ITIL by providing specific strategy management guidelines for support centres. Consistent with ITIL, the standard includes several activities that assess the degree of alignment between the support organization and its customers, as well as guidance for improving alignment by, for example, drafting strategy statements (vision and mission) that support the business’ overall vision and mission. The HDI Support Centre Standard mandates that support centres have an “established, documented, and communicated” purpose.

Consistent with ITIL’s strategy management process, the HDI Support Centre Standard requires support centres to define and adopt specific goals and objectives that align with the organization and its customers’ needs. The support centre’s strategic (long term), tactical (mid term), and operational (short term) goals should be clearly documented and communicated, as well as assessed on a regular (periodic) basis to make course corrections, defer plans (if necessary), or apply additional resources.

The HDI Support Centre Standard also promotes the importance of teamwork. Across all levels, support teams must work together effectively to respond to events and resolve incidents quickly. Targeted internal and external communications ensure that internal teams are aware of and stay informed of progress on strategic and tactical projects. The standard also provides guidance on marketing and promoting the support centre to the organization, customers, and users, so all parties know what to expect from the support centre in terms of service and value.

Financial management provides guidance for budgeting for the design, development, testing, deployment, and support for all services in live operation. The HDI Support Centre Standard provides additional value by requiring the support centre to have a defined financial management process that results in a budget that supports training, staffing, tools, and other resources necessary to achieve the support centre’s stated goals and targets.

Business relationship management (BRM) is responsible for defining needs, managing the customer relationship, and ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction. The HDI Support Centre Standard complements BRM by stressing the importance of including a representative from the support centre in regular service review meetings. This individual can apprise the support centre of changing customer support needs, as well as engage stakeholders (account managers, customers, users, management) in the development of the support centre’s strategic plans.

Service Design

Since service design processes are responsible for designing all aspects of a service, it is critical that support is built in, rather than added on during the transition phase or after it has already gone live. The support centre can provide valuable insight and subject matter expertise for the design team, with particular regard to the support infrastructure and its capabilities, the extent of support resources, the capabilities of the support staff and the users, and the tools and systems that are in place to support new/changed services. By involving support centre staff in the design process, supportability will increase and overall support costs will decrease.

The HDI Support Centre Standard extends service catalogue management to the support centre, by advising that the support centre provide input to this process for defining and documenting the list of services the support centre provides, including descriptions, target response and resolution times, and contact methods. This information should be clearly communicated to customers and users, such that the catalogue becomes a comprehensive reference for customer and user support.

The HDI Support Centre Standard also includes support-specific activities for the service level management process. These activities include setting service level targets for the services the support centre provides (e.g. response and resolution targets for incidents, fulfilment targets for service requests) and operating-level objectives between the support centre and other support groups to facilitate working relationships and ensure target timeframes are met. Finally, the support centre should send a representative to service review meetings with customers and the service level manager, to review performance to targets and take customer feedback back to the support centre.

The ITIL framework is further enhanced by the recommendation that availability and capacity management plans be designed, developed, and maintained to ensure that the support centre is equipped with sufficient technology and people resources. The HDI Support Centre Standard also requires support centres to have event management processes in place to monitor the delivery of supported services, technology, and products, and advise the support centre of any events detected by operations management.

With regard to service continuity management, the HDI Support Centre Standard recommends that support centres have their own documented continuity plans, given that in most organizations this function is critical, especially during major disruptions. The support centre’s continuity plan should address various scenarios, making provisions for critical systems and resources in each scenario.

Finally, the HDI Support Centre Standard provides specific guidelines for information security management, to ensure the safeguarding of organizational, customer, and personal information collected by the support centre. The HDI Support Centre Standard recognizes the key role the support centre plays in the communication of information security policies across all operational support groups, as well as the role support teams play in enforcing information security management policies. The standard further prescribes that monitoring systems and tools be put in place to secure support centre facilities, protect personal and organizational information, and secure supporting systems.

Service Transition

The HDI Support Centre Standard, support centres should be involved with and support the service transition processes in several key areas.

The HDI Support Centre Standard recommends that support centres participate in the change management process by fielding representatives to the change advisory board (CAB) so they have visibility into changes under review and input into the decision to approve, reject, or defer proposed service changes. The support centre is also frequently responsible for implementing standard changes is also reflected in the guidance provided for request fulfilment.

The HDI Support Centre Standard provides specific guidance for service asset and configuration management (SACM) by requiring that the support centre have access to relevant asset and configuration data to facilitate troubleshooting during the incident management process. The standard also mandates the documentation of staff responsibilities, processes, and procedures to enable the support centre to respond correctly when inconsistencies are detected between the configuration in the live environment and the defined configuration in the CMS.

Change evaluation is a process that is triggered by change management, in the case of new or major changes to services. In these cases, the change evaluation manager will often engage support centre teams to provide more comprehensive feedback on the performance of new or changed services. The HDI Support Centre Standard provides guidance for incident and request reporting, in order to determine whether target services levels were met in the areas of availability, response to incidents/requests submitted, and resolution/fulfilment times. Feedback from first- and second-line support teams may also be provided, in order to assess the supportability of the new or changed service.

The support centre should be fully integrated into the support model that is engaged when new or changed services go live, via the release and deployment management process. The HDI Support Centre Standard stresses the importance of the involvement of support centre resources in release and control processes (e.g. change management, release and deployment).

Finally, the HDI Support Centre Standard provides extended guidance for the support centre in the knowledge management process by specifying that support centres deploy knowledge management systems and tools to capture, store, and share knowledge effectively. Knowledge resources should be in place to add to the knowledge base on a regular basis, and knowledge engineers should be appointed to review and validate that knowledge.

Service Operation

During service operation, the support centre is the primary function that carries out incident management and request fulfilment, and routinely communicates with customers and users.

The HDI Support Centre Standard includes several activities for developing and maturing a high- performing incident management process. For example, the standard recommends documenting logging procedures and logging incidents consistently. It also stresses the importance of a documented ticket categorization and prioritization scheme that is followed and improved upon. The HDI Support Centre Standard adopts the ITIL approach, that an incident’s priority level should be based on both urgency and impact. It is important to allow for controlled priority changes, and, as with ticket categorization, the process of prioritizing should be consistently followed and improved upon. Finally, with regard to status level reporting, the HDI Support Centre Standard mandates that status level descriptions should be clearly defined and documented, updated in a timely manner, and communicated on a regular basis to internal support groups, as well as to customers and users. All stakeholders should have a clear and current understanding of incidents in progress so they can set expectations accordingly.

The ITIL framework outlines general processes and activities for the optimal handling of service requests. The HDI Support Centre Standard extends this guidance by prescribing that documented procedures for request handling be in place and followed consistently. Customers should be notified when a request is completed, and, to that end, service requests should be properly logged to distinguish them from incidents, categorize them correctly, prioritize them based on impact and urgency, and track their status.

Problem management supports, and is supported by, the support centre in several ways. While ITIL provides foundational guidance for service providers, the HDI Support Centre Standard goes further by requiring the documentation of the role of support centre staff within the process. The HDI standard also stresses that the process provide timely access to an informative and helpful known error database of reported problems, workarounds, and solutions, and that the support centre materially participate in problem management activities.

The HDI Support Centre Standard specifies that the support centre function should be tightly integrated with the operations function (i.e., the command centre or network operations centre [NOC]), so that they may be informed in a timely manner by event management in the case of a significant event, particularly those that are likely to trigger incidents. The support centre should be involved in the continual review and improvement of event management, and its role should be clearly communicated to all support staff.

Continual Service Improvement

The HDI Support Centre Standard assumes that the support centre is the function that gathers feedback via surveys from users and customers about the perceived quality of IT services, providing valuable input to continual service improvement (CSI) activities with regard to potential improvement opportunities (e.g. processes, supporting technologies, individual services). The HDI Support Centre Standard provides specific guidance about the types of surveys and feedback processes the support centre should carry out on a regular basis. To gather comprehensive, regular feedback, the support centre should plan, administer, and report the results of:

  • Periodic customer satisfaction surveys
  • Ongoing event-based surveys
  • Other channels of feedback.

The HDI Support Centre Standard also supports the practice of reporting on performance to service level goals and targets, the results of customer and user satisfaction surveys, and other feedback received from customers and users. Such reporting enables management to identify key opportunities for improvement. The HDI standard also identifies the most common performance metrics used in most support centres, providing specific guidance for establishing a balanced and complete set of metrics and KPIs with which to measure and assess support centre performance.

Additional guidance for high-performing support centres

In addition to extending ITIL’s guidance in support-specific areas, the HDI Support Center Standard provides additional guidance in the following areas:

  • Effective distribution and communication of information: That management facilitate the timely distribution of performance information to support centre staff
  • Effective reporting systems and tools: That a reporting system is in place to collect and process data and information from a variety of sources, incorporate goals/targets, and enable management to assess actual performance to goals/targets
  • Effective job descriptions: That all support positions have clear, documented job descriptions, with assigned roles and responsibilities, that are readily accessible and accurately reflect the work being done
  • Orientation training plans: That orientation training plans are mandatory, so that new team members can be brought up to speed quickly and effectively
  • Ongoing training programme for continued staff development: That the support centre has an ongoing training programme that includes a skill inventory and requires that a skills-gap analysis be performed periodically to evaluate and improve team skills
  • Workforce management for optimal staffing: That a staffing model is in place to manage scheduling, taking into account the need to achieve target service levels
  • Measures for ensuring staff satisfaction: That a support centre maintain an adequate level of staff satisfaction, to ensure optimal performance, low costs, and high user and customer satisfaction
  • Rewards and recognitions: That a support centre maintain a programme for acknowledging the contributions of individuals and teams
  • Attention to the physical environment and ergonomics: That the physical support centre meet employees’ physical and ergonomic needs, with particular regard to seating, desktop display stations, and phone equipment; that the facility support the delivery of support services; that the facility is conducive to the interaction of teams; and that the facility allows for personalization
  • Providing for an incoming communications distribution system: That a distribution system is in place for each incoming communication channel, and that the system allow for automated routing, has a means of displaying the volume of activity, displays alerts, and is integrated with the incident and request ticketing system
  • Provisions for investigation and diagnostic resources: That support staff have quick and easy access to support documentation, along with access to common support systems for the purposes of replicating, if need be, reported incidents
  • A service management system (SMS): That an SMS is in place to track and manage all incidents and requests; that all support groups use the same system; that it is extended to users; and that it has the capability to proactively notify users
  • Remote support tools to speed incident and request handling: That a remote support tool is in place to enable staff to view remote workstations and components and take control, if necessary, to effect support.

Better together: adopt ITIL with the HDI Standard and meet today’s challenges

To meet future challenges, service organizations should adopt ITIL to lay a foundation of industry Best Practices in service management. Then, service organizations should integrate the complementary HDI Support Centre Standard, availing themselves of proven support-specific guidance for planning, implementing, and maintaining a high-performing support centre.

It is clear that ITIL and the HDI Support Centre Standard are better together. Combined, they deliver an integrated framework for a service management practice that is positioned to:

  • support an increasingly remote and mobile workforce through the use of monitoring systems, remote support tools, and a skilled support staff;
  • support customers and users through multiple channels, enabling service providers to move from a command-and-control support structure to a true community support model;
  • support the continuous deployment of service releases, through the application of continuous training, integrating the support centre into release and control processes, and optimized knowledge management;
  • exercise strong communication, troubleshooting, and relationship management skills, in the support of services comprised of multiple technologies in multiple customer environments;
  • develop and optimize both user and customer satisfaction, through the use of effective communications skills, feedback processes, and metrics focused on ensuring high levels of staff, user, and customer satisfaction.

A combined and integrated approach, using ITIL for general foundational guidance and the HDI Support Centre Standard as special guidance for the support centre, is the best solution, one that will enable service organizations to meet the critical challenges that are already upon us.

About HDI

HDI is the professional association and certification body for the technical service and support industry. Facilitating collaboration and networking, HDI hosts acclaimed conferences and events, produces renowned publications and research, and certifies and trains thousands of professionals each year. HDI also connects solution providers with practitioners through industry partnerships and marketing services.

Guided by an international panel of industry experts and practitioners, HDI is the premier resource for best practices and emerging trends.

HDI is a division of UBM Americas, a part of UBM plc.