It’s Time for Your IT Service Desk Strategies to Refocus from Cost to Business Value

Has the focus on IT support cost reduction really been the best option for CIOs and their senior management teams? 


Has the focus on IT support cost reduction really been the best option for CIOs and their senior management teams? 

There has been a long-held view that the IT service desk is a “cost of quality,” i.e. it’s an additional and unnecessary cost that’s caused by a lack of quality in certain parts of the IT value chain. With IT issues – or “incidents” to use ITIL terminology – something that can be managed away by better IT service design, transition, and delivery practices.

This cost-of-quality view has caused many organisations to consistently drive down the cost of their IT service desk and the available budgets. This might have involved fewer, lower-paid staff or it might have involved the outsourcing of the service desk function in pursuit of lower costs (through economies of scale), higher quality (through best practice capabilities), and increased innovation – it’s the common outsourcing promise, or at least the customer expectation of outsourcing.

But Is This Really in the Best Interest of the Business?

Has the focus on IT support cost reduction really been the best option for CIOs and their senior management teams? After all, surely the cost of the lost employee due to longer resolution times, and potentially failed resolutions, far outweighs the cost of handling a ticket?

This blog thus looks at the need to refocus IT service desk strategies from cost to improving the business value of IT support – with this including the ability of all employees to do what they need to do, when they need to do it. With IT support needing to improve the level of employee productivity or – viewed through an IT service desk lens – to reduce the loss of productivity caused by delays and other failures in incident handling.

Why Is the IT-Support Cost-Reduction Focus Consistently Seen as Good?

As to why there has been so much focus on reducing IT support costs, your guess is as good as mine.

There are many possibilities, including that:

  • IT support was a rapidly increasing cost as more and more technology was introduced to business operations
  • The IT service desk is viewed as a negative thing – the aforementioned “cost of quality”
  • Support is still seen as a labor- and thus cost-intensive IT activity
  • The (perceived) quality of the support service is not be seen as commensurate with the cost
  • IT support is bundled in with the “keeping the lights on” costs that most IT organisations have been repeatedly told to minimise in favour of spending more of the annual IT budget on innovation-focused activities.

I’m sure that you can think of others too.

But consider this – if you chop 33% from the cost of handling an incident ticket, you’ll save approximately 5 Euros (according to our research). However, how does this reduction in capabilities impact the business? Your cost-cutting might have cost the business so much more than the 5 Euros that’s just been “saved.” In fact, we know it does!

Sadly, it’s highly-suboptimal thinking and action.

“But What If We Completely Remove the Need for IT Support?”

It seems a sensible argument and ambition, but there are a number of barriers to this.

Firstly, the IT service desk also covers service requests and requests for information-based help (in addition to incidents), so it’s not just a cost of quality. Here you might think “We’ll simply use self-service and self-help for these – which will reduce the handling costs for such service requests.”

But please think again after looking at the following employee experience data – which shows the productivity currently lost by employees using self-service portal (based on 298,339 feedback responses in Q4 2019) – employees are losing an extra 1h 30m in lost productivity compared to a phone channel.

Screenshot 2020-01-23 at 10.00.24


Then secondly, not every incident can be blamed on “the technology” – in fact, if you’ve ever worked on an IT service desk, you’ll appreciate that many incidents will have end-user mistakes and/or knowledge gaps as the root cause.

Finally, trying to banish all incidents can be viewed as analogous to managing credit card fraud – where, for financial institutions, the cost of totally removing fraud is more than the cost of accepting a certain level of fraud. And similarly, the cost of totally removing both technology and people-based IT issues is likely to be prohibitive – with reduction more sensible than elimination.

Thus, instead, there’s a need to optimise your IT support in a way that delivers the best outcomes for your organisation. And, contrary to the IT industry’s historic focus on costs, this might involve spending more on IT support rather than the decade-old strategy of reducing support costs.

Using Employee Experience to Drive Up Employee Productivity

Most organisations are measuring some form of customer satisfaction (CSAT) or employee satisfaction, or whatever they wish to call the measurement, but we believe that most organisations need greater insight into both the employee experience and the associated level of lost employee productivity to really get the change started. Where, through better understanding and improving the employee experience, our customers are reducing the business impact of incidents and making their people and operations more effective.

There’s a definite need in 2019 for IT organisations, and IT service desks, to move on from “delivering more with less” strategies to invest in strategies that are more aligned with a “better, faster, cheaper” approach. Importantly, approaches that are measured by better business outcomes rather than cost savings.

Leveraging Employee Experience Data to Better Meet Your CIO-Role Priorities

If your 2019 priorities are similar to those of other CIOs, then you’ll likely be focused on some or all of the following:

  • Improving change leadership and management
  • Enabling organisation and strategy alignment
  • Increasing customer engagement through improved CX
  • Becoming critical to the enterprise
  • Getting managers onboard with data
  • Increasingly customer focused internally and externally

The full list (at has nine CIO priorities, but for the list above we selected those that are directly linked to measuring employee experience and running your service development, delivery, and support from a business-value perspective.

Creating the Business Case for Employee Experience Management

Our customers have already done this. They looked at the aggregated employee experience data that we’ve collected and published during the last three years before justifying doing the same internally. Recognising the gulf between what an incident costs to handle and the cost of the lost productivity associated with poor employee experience.




Then, through better understanding the causes of employee unhappiness and the unnecessarily lost productivity, they’re able to improve operations such that happiness increases and the lost productivity drops. With the employees served by the best-run IT support organisations now only losing an hour of productivity versus the average of three hours.

Importantly, this potential two-hour saving far outweighs any additional IT support spend incurred in delivering the better employee experience – it’s the financial backbone of the business case for the refocus on employee experience strategies for your IT service desk.

If you would like to find out more about how employee experience management will deliver both happier end users and better business outcomes for your organisation, then please contact our team for a chat. You can also book a meeting with us directly using this link.



Related content

6 minute read


The Real Cost of Reassigning IT Service Desk Tickets

The IT Service Management (ITSM) and IT support communities are quite rightly increasingly focused on employee or ...

Read more >
5 minute read


What is the total cost of a ticket in your IT Service Desk?

What is the difference between an incident and a ticket? On the surface, this feels like an odd question and not one ...

Read more >