22/02/2023 |

What is an IT Service Desk?

What is a service desk and how does it differ from a help desk? What advantages does it offer, what tasks does it have, and how does service desk software provide support?

IT Service Desk

What is a Service Desk?

For many, the term service desk is still just another name for a help desk. For quite some time, this was true. Now, however, or more specifically since the publication of ITIL v3 (i.e., the third version of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library), there is a clear distinction between these two terms.

A service desk provides support or assistance to customers and employees with technical problems or service requests. It is usually the first point of contact for customers and, when identifying the need for additional help, the team that forwards the tasks to the appropriate department.

A service desk is operated either by the company itself or by external service providers.

A service desk uses a variety of communication channels. In addition to e-mail and the telephone, the online portal is now the most frequently used communication channel for customers. In most cases, a ticketing system is also connected to the portal so that requests and resulting tasks can be tracked.

Nevertheless, companies still confusingly use the terms “help desk,” “service desk,” or even “call center” synonymously. While there are commonalities, there are also clear distinctions that manifest themselves primarily in the scope of services offered. But more about this, the exact definition, tasks and benefits of an IT service desk and what service desk software is all about, follow in this blog post.

What is meant by an IT service desk?

The name itself already says what the term “IT service desk” is based on, namely the claim of managing IT as a service.

An IT service desk is a central point of contact or “single point of contact” for users requesting help and support with IT-related problems. It is responsible for handling a wide range of tasks, from simple password resets to more complex technical troubleshooting.

There are firmly defined service level agreements in place that outline the work to be done between the service desk and its customers.

The IT Service Desk is an integral part of IT Service Management and plays a critical role in ensuring that IT services are delivered to users efficiently and effectively. The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a widely used framework that provides best practices and guidelines for IT service management. As a function, the IT Service Desk is aligned with the ITIL framework and follows its processes and procedures.

What are the benefits of an IT service desk?

The benefits of an IT service desk include increased productivity, better user satisfaction and greater efficiency.

By providing a central location where users can request help, they no longer have to contact different departments or individuals. This saves time and reduces the risk of problems being overlooked. In addition, by standardizing processes for handling IT-related issues, the IT service desk can improve the quality and speed of service.

An optimally functioning service desk can cover the bulk of routine IT work. This saves costs that would be incurred if engineering teams and subject matter experts were deployed. It is the link between users, processes and services.

With continuous monitoring, companies gain important insights into user satisfaction and assessments of the usefulness and quality of functions.

What are the responsibilities of the IT Service Desk?

ITIL defines the IT Service Desk as the central point of contact for users to report incidents, request service and support, and access information and knowledge. It is responsible for managing and resolving incidents and requests and for supporting users throughout the lifecycle of their service requests.

The IT Service Desk is also responsible for providing first line support to users and escalating more complex issues to higher level support teams when required.

The main objective of an IT Service Desk is to provide the best possible IT services in a given timeframe within a service level agreement (SLA). A service desk has a holistic approach and is focused on customer needs. The processes include handling service requests as well as classifying and analyzing incidents.

The tasks that an IT service desk performs can vary from company to company.

Some common tasks at a glance:

  • Resetting passwords and locking profiles.
  • Basic troubleshooting and support for general IT issues, such as software and hardware problems
  • Escalate more complex issues to higher level support teams
  • Manage and track open service tickets
  • Training and documentation for end users
The main objective of an IT service desk is to provide the best possible IT services within a certain timeframe and within service level agreements. A service desk has a holistic approach and is oriented towards customer needs.

From hotlines to service desk – the evolution and the differences

Companies still use the terms service desk, help desk and call center synonymously. Although there are overlaps or similarities, there are also clear differences. These are primarily in the scope of the functions or services.

A service desk differs from a help desk in that it focuses on providing a wide range of services, not just troubleshooting and support. While a help desk focuses on solving immediate problems, a service desk takes a more holistic approach by looking at the entire IT environment and working to improve processes and services to better meet the needs of the business.

The activities of a help desk are usually clearly limited to a single IT service management area, such as troubleshooting.

However, the help desk can be equipped with functions of a service desk. For example, 1st-level support can be supported by customer service software or a ticket system with self-help functions. This enables users to search for a solution to their problem themselves as a first step, possibly saving time.

The road to the service desk took an evolution. Let’s take a look at it:

It started with hotlines

They were the first means of contact for customers. This service offered was primarily about telephone exchanges. However, this soon reached its limits, and it became clear that more was needed to really address customer concerns.


Hotlines manage customer contacts and transactions in various areas. In hotlines, employees interact with users by telephone.

The next level: the help desk

The Help Desk was launched. This already significantly expanded the support offering. It was not only possible to talk to employees on the phone, but also to get in touch via e-mail. In addition, solutions could be found directly with the help of remote sessions, without the need for an employee to be on site with the customer.

A help desk provides customers with the information they need and offers support for processes, products and services. Customers here are both ex- and internal. A help desk focuses on solving end-user problems. Help desks can also be deployed throughout the enterprise, not just in IT departments.

Help desk support uses various channels such as branch offices, telephone, websites, instant messaging or e-mail.

The Service Desk of Today

Over time, and due to the ever-increasing volume of inquiries and customer concerns, the help desk required further professionalization. Processes were organized, a service catalog was created, certain areas were outsourced and more services were offered. Today’s service desk came into being and was also influenced by the developments of the ITIL standard.

Service desks not only provide support for IT services, but also perform routine tasks such as resource provisioning, access management, etc. Service desks also focus on a long-term strategy and work on the continuous improvement of IT services. Service desks can be branch offices, but also remote operations, such as a call center.

And where do we go in the future?

For us at OTRS Group, this is very clear. We believe in a developing a solution culture, because only real solutions can meet the now highly individual customer needs and requests while being sustainably helpful. That is why we develop OTRS with exactly these aspects in mind. With our software, and especially the preconfigured solutions we now offer, your company’s service desk, which may be getting a bit long in the tooth, becomes a solution desk —offering you more efficiency, time and cost savings.

How does service desk software support teams?

Service desk software is a software application that can automate and streamline the process of managing and delivering IT services. It provides a centralized location where users can request support, track open service tickets, and access documentation.

This software has many features, such as

To align the IT service desk with the ITIL framework and ensure compliance with it, organizations can implement ITIL-compliant service desk software.

In summary, the IT Service Desk is a critical function within an organization’s IT Service Management strategy. Aligning the IT service desk with the ITIL framework helps ensure that IT services are delivered in a consistent and standardized manner, improving service quality and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the IT service desk. Implementing ITIL-compliant service desk software can automate and streamline the process of managing and delivering IT services while ensuring compliance with the ITIL framework.


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