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Planning Projects in the IT Helpdesk Environment

By Anna Halstead, PMP
People working on an IT Helpdesk

In the IT Support domain, Helpdesks frequently have to make preparations to provide support for a new tool, application, technology or product that is being rolled out to their end-users. Although these types of projects are typically small and non-complex, all Helpdesk projects require proper planning and need to follow a project framework, in order to maintain customer satisfaction and to ensure that any changes in the supported environment do not negatively impact on the service that the Helpdesk is providing. After all, one of the key aims of a Helpdesk in its day to day operations has to be ensuring customer satisfaction by consistently providing the service that is expected. This can be at risk when support for a new technology, tool, application or product is introduced and the customer becomes unhappy with the service.

What types of project are we talking about? The project could be, for example, rolling out a new company-wide business application, migrating end-users to a different mail client or rolling out an updated version of an existing application or technology already in use. If this is the case, chances are that setting up the Helpdesk support is one part of a larger, cross-departmental project. This is often where issues can begin if the PM of that project is not fully aware of the role that the Helpdesk will play or assumes that little planning is needed. In these circumstances, Helpdesk readiness can be overlooked, which is extremely frustrating for Helpdesk personnel and customers alike! If you are a Helpdesk project manager try to ensure that the wider IT organisation is aware of what the call centre does and the role it plays in providing end-user support in general.

Ask Questions From the Start

As the Helpdesk project manager, you need information to be able assess the scope of the project and the impact that it's going to have on Helpdesk staff and its end-users. Here are some suggestions of what you may need to know:

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • When will the new support be required?
  • What is the expected support scope?
  • Are there any known risks at this point?
  • What will be the specific Helpdesk objectives for this project?
  • What lead time will be required for implementation?

In cases where this is part of a wider cross-departmental project, ensure that the overall Project Manager is aware of these timings and in agreement.

As with many projects, the key to Helpdesk project success is planning. If this stage is rushed, crucial tasks may be missed and the project is more likely to fail. As ever, a detailed, accurate project plan is a key tool in ensuring project success in the Helpdesk environment.

As you begin your project planning, it is essential that all requirements for support are fully understood. This may include the topics below, expanding on the information that was gathered initially.

  • User base: how many users will the application have? Where will they be located? Which languages are required? What support hours are required?
  • Support scope: what is expected? Basic troubleshooting, more in depth support or simple "catch and dispatch?" Who will be the 2nd level escalation contacts? What will be in scope and out of support scope? Who will handle how-to queries and training? The above questions will apply to both the migration period support and ongoing support.
  • Telephony: does this new support require any menu changes? Are new options or new numbers required?
  • Support medium: does the customer require support to be provided via telephone, chat tools, e-mail or a mixture?
  • Volumes: what is the expected call volume month by month? Will additional staff be required and how will this impact the time needed to roll out support?
  • Agent training: who will provide this and how long will it take? Who will provide agent knowledge documentation and how long will this take? How many agents will need to be trained?

All of this information should be taken in to account and used in your project plan. As you create your project plan, you may wish to consider:

  • Team setup. Be clear which members of the Helpdesk team will be involved in the project and ensure a plan is in place to keep them informed and to allow them to provide their feedback.
  • Task list, activities and WBS.
  • Critical Path and schedule.
  • Budget. Remember that if new Helpdesk staff are needed, items such as phone equipment and PCs may be required.
  • Quality metrics, and what your process improvement and action plans may look like.
  • Communications. This will include when you will hold meetings with your project team or provide communications to your stakeholders.
  • Risks and Issue log. Ensure that mitigation is in place for any risks or issues that have already been identified.

As soon as you have determined the critical path, share it! All stakeholders need to know when they can expect support to be in place so that everyone's expectations of what the Helpdesk can do and when are realistic.

All that is left to do now is review and finalise the plan, gain approval and hold a kick-off meeting to move into the Execution phase. With good planning behind you, you can be confident that you have given yourself the best chance of ensuring that the rest of the project runs smoothly!

Anna Halstead is a PMP certified project manager, and has worked for several years within the IT Services industry.

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