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A great IT service desk manager needn't be the best technician in the team. They just need to be good at the many things in their domain. They are the jack of all trades in IT.

While having superb IT knowledge helps, the role demands subtle qualities in a person such as good people skills and conflict management. So here's a look at what a service desk manager does, their responsibilities, their contributions, and why they are critical to any business.

What is the role of an IT service desk manager?

Service desk manager roles and responsibilities

Service delivery manager, ITS administrator, support manager, or even digital overlord–whatever the title an organization chooses, if an individual takes care of the following activities, they have the role of a service desk manager.

1) Know how everything should work

A person should have experience in working on all facets of IT service delivery before taking up the role of an IT service desk manager. The role is hybrid in nature, involving customer support, resource management, relationship building, and sales negotiations.

A qualified IT service desk manager will have working knowledge of the organization's network, database, infrastructure, security and privacy, software that employees use, and more. This working knowledge helps to proactively identify the impact of any major issue and allows for innovative solutions.

2) Identify the relevant service management frameworks for the service desk

The service desk manager ensures the IT service desk is in compliance with industry best practices. Aligning to a service framework ensures that there is robust IT governance and helps to meet the industry-sector requirements. With the relevant framework in place, the IT service desk manager can easily achieve increased consistency and accountability in services and demonstrate a commitment to service quality.

3) Build and train a team

IT service desk managers work with human resources to find the right people for their teams. As they're responsible for the quality of an organization's ITSM, service desk managers develop team guidelines to set the standard for support agents, technicians, engineers, and others on the IT team.

For continued training, service desk managers often attend industry events and later share their learnings with the team.

4) Bridge between senior management and IT staff

The IT service desk manager is in constant touch with senior management to understand the strategy and the direction of the business. The service desk manager then aligns the service desk tactically to aid the business and its goals.

When organizations had to work from home suddenly in 2020, it put a new strain on IT service desks. Responsive desks set up automated workflows and knowledge article recommendations to manage the influx of recurring incidents and queries. This ensured a good service experience for all employees as they navigated remote work.

Business goals can range from supporting the infrastructure for a new product launch to a cultural change that prioritizes employee experience. An adept service desk manager knows how to translate such business goals into a step-by-step plan for their team.

5) Keep track of IT costs

When it comes to the IT service desk, the service desk manager is tasked with balancing the quality of services delivered versus the costs incurred.

Typically, service desk managers are aware of the running costs of the service desk and often make data-driven decisions when managing their budgets and adopting new tasks. They can also justify their spend by keeping track of the ROI for all initiatives.

Choosing the right ITSM platform
can ease an IT service desk managers' work.

What are the skills required to be a service desk manager?

Service desk manager skills

1) Knowledge of relevant IT service management practices and frameworks:

Typically, the IT service desk manager needs to be qualified with relevant service management frameworks. Apart from the general service request and incident management practices, they should have a working knowledge of supplementary ITSM practices including problem management, change management, and asset and configuration management. The SDM should be able to meet the user needs and desires with the IT service desk's resources, to bring about a meaningful improvement in the organization's service experience.

2) Highly effective communication:

The SDM communicates daily with groups that are external and internal to an organization. They must be adept at conveying, understanding, and relaying any incident, event, or information, to and from the service desk. The SDM manages four levels of communication for day-to-day operations:

  • Between the organization leadership and the service desk regarding strategy and tactical execution.
  • Between the service desk and other business functions of the organization regarding service requirements and quality.
  • Between external entities and the service desk regarding suppliers and contracts.
  • Among team members within the service desk to foster a positive work environment.

Keen listening and articulation skills are essential for a great service desk manager.

3) Astute analytical skills:

Service desk managers have to roll up their sleeves for any high-impact incidents such as infrastructure issues. They must have the technical skills to visualize the issue, gather data, and resolve it.

While the service desk manager is involved with any high-priority incidents, the IT service desk still has to continually handle all levels of tickets. The service desk manager should be able to assess the technicians needed to resolve a critical issue, without disrupting the day-to-day ticket management.

The IT service desk manager is also responsible for improving the performance of the service desk by steering their operations based on real-time metrics and data. ITSM dashboards convey a lot of information, and the service desk managers should be able to discern the data and connect it to daily technician activities and behaviors, lest it lead to the watermelon effect: the metrics appear healthy and green but the true state of operations is emergency red.

4) Team-building and mentoring ability:

Every organization's IT service desk can cultivate its own micro-culture, built on a positive environment and a stable, long-term team. Its the IT service desk manager's job to build a sustainable team and promote a friendly atmosphere among peers.

With service desk managers maintaining a line of communication with the business leaders, they can better position the IT service desk to help achieve business goals. They need to build and foster a team based on those strategic needs.

What defines a successful IT service desk manager?

Tips for successful service desk manager

IT service desk managers who are a good fit for their role have a highly streamlined service desk functioning under them. An IT service desk under a successful manager should display the following characteristics:

Industry-best ITSM standards:

The IT service desk is consistent in the practices followed by the team. Ideally, the IT service desk manager is certified in the knowledge of different service management frameworks and has experience in implementing them to bring an IT environment up to industry-best standards.

Happy support agents:

The IT technicians look forward to their day of work. There is good camaraderie among the service desk peers. This includes managing workloads efficiently, with proper capacity planning in place.

Happy end-users:

Customer satisfaction surveys are regularly sent out to gauge the service experience and continually improve the service delivery. This fosters a strong relationship between the IT service desk and its end users.

Quantifiable performance:

The service desk performance is judged on relevant metrics gathered during the service delivery process. The improvement plans are based on the service desk's conformance to KPIs, incurred costs, and other operational metrics. Typically, the IT service desk KPIs include Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR), cost per incident, and first response time.

Valuable unit in the business chain:

The service desk as a unit is acknowledged for its role in assisting the business operations. Employees of the organization understand the IT service desk functions as a credible and critical component of the business.

Important skills of a service desk manager

The importance of an adept IT service desk manager.

Establish ITSM best practices effortlessly with ServiceDesk Plus

Does your
organization need a
service desk manager?

Hire a service desk manager in organization

Its always a good practice to have an individual responsible for the service desk performance. Often in small and medium organizations, the IT teams are small and every engineer two-times as a support agent, handling the tickets pertaining to their core responsibility. Generally, the senior technician takes the role of a service desk manager, while also being hands on with ticket management. However, it's best to assess if your organization needs an official service desk manager.

Here are three factors when deciding whether your organization needs a dedicated service desk manager:

1) The size of the teams:

If your organization is growing consistently, there could be enough requests and incidents to warrant a dedicated service desk manager.

2) The complexity of the services offered:

Employees might knock on IT's door often if your business uses applications with a steep learning curve. With more tickets to manage, a dedicated role to manage the service quality makes it easier for both the technicians and the end users.

3) The people management:

The people factor is an important aspect to consider for small to medium organizations. Customer service can be overwhelming, and it can drain engineers who handle support tickets as well. An IT service desk manager can motivate the technicians and manage the expectations of customers.

The value of an IT service desk manager

Value of a service desk manager

The role of an IT service desk manager is not an easy one to master. Successful service desk managers have multi-varied skills to manage the technical, business, and people aspects of the IT service desk. They truly are IT's jack of all trades.

If you are a person who can juggle multiple roles-handling data, getting hands-on with the tickets, building teams, and fostering relationships - this could be a rewarding role for you!


Author's bio:

Zephan is the product marketing analyst for ManageEngine's ESM suite of products. He loves to create resources that educates IT service desk folks on the best practices for making the most of ITSM. He also helps ServiceDesk Plus customers reach their IT goals by conducting engaging live sessions on using the platform to its full potential. When he is not focusing on ITSM, you can find him fervently discussing MotoGP.

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