With the hundreds, if not thousands of information technology providers around the nation, how do you choose the right partner that will provide a high quality of service that you can rely on?

Here is an overview of the top ten key features you should be looking for in your IT Managed Services provider (MSP):

1. They act like a partner, not a vendor.
A good IT services provider will not try to sell you a product, but build you a solution that solves more than one problem.  If they are truly interested in serving you as a partner, they care about the longevity of your business and will help you consider ideas that you might not have previously considered.  They won’t be afraid to lose a sale if they don’t recommend a certain technology or product for your type of business.

2. They have switched their business model from break-fix to managed services.
Any IT services provider should be able to answer the question: Is your service model break-fix or managed services?  You will save a lot more money in the long run with a managed services provider that is proactive in fixing problems before they turn into large company-wide disasters.  An IT company that still waits for problems to arise before taking action will more likely spend more time (and therefore cost you more money) fixing each issue as it arises.

3. They review problems, solutions and recommendations with you on a regular basis.
Your IT Managed Services provider should have a solid plan of action for providing you with regular reviews of your network.  A good expectation would be to receive monthly reports on the work that has been performed and quarterly consultation reviews to go over areas that could be improved and technologies that could fix recurring problems.

4. They provide you with complete visibility and transparency to the problems in your network.
Can your IT provider pull a report on a moment’s notice of which servers installed the latest security patches?  Can they guarantee that each of your workstations is up-to-date its virus protection scans?  Do you know which servers are close to running out of disk space?  If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to find a new IT Managed Services provider.  A quality MSP focused on providing top quality customer service and will always be proactive in letting you know when to expect a problem, not struggling to patchwork an issue that they never saw coming.  Be sure to partner with an provider that will help you understand what is going on with your environment at all times.

5. They offer monitoring tools and resources to stay proactive on network issues.
Your MSP should utilize a number of different tools and resources for monitoring the activity of your servers, protecting the health of your employee’s workstations, remotely connecting to your systems and reporting on the problems that were fixed.  Be sure to ask about any integrated anti-virus, anti-spam and BDR (backup & disaster recovery) solutions that can help keep your environment in check.

6. Their IT expertise includes more than just desktop support.
Be sure to choose a Managed Services provider that has a wide range of expertise levels in their staff.  Don’t be afraid to ask about their engineers’ certification levels, knowledge of certain technologies, or years on the field.  A good MSP will cover a range of different expertise levels so that they can task the most efficient resource to solve your problem.  At a minimum, look for a company that has all of the above: desktop support technicians, Active Directory and Exchange Server experts, Business Analysts, Virtualization specialists, Server Administrators and more.   This way, when it comes to needing a company to work on your separate IT projects, you’re able to get everything you need all from one place.

7. They are able to provide a clear method for you to manage your annual IT budget.
ROI is an important factor for businesses to evaluate when trying to decide which is more cost effective – hiring internal resources or outsourcing your needs to a specialized firm.  Your Managed Services provider should be able to provide you a package with all the support you need for one fixed monthly price.  The days are over where you should wait in anxiety until the end of the month when you receive a higher-than-expected bill from your IT provider.

8. They have clients of all different sizes.
There’s nothing wrong for a company to have a specific target audience or a niche industry or company size they service.  But, think twice about hiring an IT provider who only deals with one avenue of business as that typically means they are not as well-versed in knowing what technologies work best for different types of businesses.  If an IT provider deals only with small business clients under 50 employees, what happens when you grow above that benchmark?   Will they be able to recommend the appropriate technologies to fit your growing business?  Likewise, if an IT provider deals only with large enterprise clients, will they be able to meet the budget and flexibility needs of a small to midsize company?  Look for a company that has a portfolio with a mix of small, midsize and enterprise clients.  Chances are they will be much more knowledgeable about what technologies will suit your current and future business needs.

9. They understand that your business is unique.
No two businesses are alike.  Your MSP should be able to understand your business model, the way you work and the way you communicate with employees and customers.  Each business has unique short-term needs and long-term goals including: connectivity, security, data storage, disaster recovery and more.  Don’t follow a company that tries to sell you blocks of hours of service at an hourly rate.   No two companies are alike and it’s hard to know how much or how little support you will need.  Instead, find a Managed Services provider that will provide you a fixed monthly price based on the number of users in your company.  This way, you no longer have to spend time each week calculating how many hours you have left in your service package, holding off requests for help because you’re afraid of being overbilled, etc. 

10.  They are responsive, highly available, and quick to resolve issues.
Your Managed Services provider should have an SLA agreement that guarantees certain levels of response times for standard ticket requests, ticket resolutions and emergency issues.  Your MSP should have some type of automated ticketing system or customer portal that provides you access to a historical record of your ongoing service requests. They should have the tools available to connect remotely to any system in a matter of seconds, not billing you for travel time all the way to and from your location.

 

This article is located at: http://www.infinitconsulting.com/166

 

The world is powered by technology today. We all know that. In business, technology, used skillfully, increases the value your IT department brings to the business—and your IT help desk. Not surprisingly, so does the quality of your IT help desk’s knowledge base (KB) and your technicians’ skill sets.

The IT help desk plays an integral role in how a company completes projects and impacts the bottom line, particularly when customer complaints are involved. The trend, more and more, is to use automation and help desk software that encourages customers to take on some of the more common problems for themselves, freeing up IT to handle high-level technical difficulties.

“Support departments have always been overworked. They can make life easier for themselves by implementing self-service customer support—as long as they don’t take things too far,” says Danny Bradbury, writing for ComputerWeekly.com.

End users are becoming increasingly self-sufficient, thanks to the KBs in help desk tools. Fixing problems fast is what gives the most productive businesses the edge. And while a solid knowledge base that end users can access is a start, your technicians should continually work to increase their skill sets so they can provide the solutions when answers are out of reach for end users. Let’s explore why your knowledge base is so important and what you can do ensure that your technicians skill set moves to the next level.

Refine Your Skill Set

The natural question becomes, “What skills should IT specialists work on to be most useful?” This is a tricky question to answer because technology advances more quickly with each passing year. Each industry has unique considerations. When refining your knowledge base, keep a few questions in the back of your mind:

  • What issues can employees now resolve on their own?
  • What current technologies do employees struggle with? For example, BYOD and the Internet of things (IoT) can still cause confusion without a centralized company policy.
  • What are your colleagues’ specialties?

The last point deserves some elaboration. While it’s good to diversify your department’s offerings as much as possible, it can also be beneficial to have some cross training within the department. If for example, your department only has one expert in an industry-specific piece of technology, what happens when they go on vacation? If they become ill? If they leave the company? Let the answer guide your decision.

Get Started

Assessing your answers to the questions above will help guide you to broaden your own skill sets and to provide direction for the techs in your help desk department. Remember to pay attention to current trends in the workplace, and those that are forecast to be strong in the coming year. Gartner has predicted three overarching themes in the digital landscape of tomorrow: intelligence, digital, and mesh. Having an overview of each can prepare your technicians for what is coming next.

Intelligence

In the coming year, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to build its role in daily business operations, and we don’t mean in a Hollywood movie sort of way. Advanced machine learning will make our businesses more efficient. Chatbots will help customers through common inquiries using natural language processing and deep learning, while predictive technologies will help pinpoint fraud.

Intelligent apps will also be popular. Virtual assistants will help workers with menial tasks like sorting through and prioritizing emails. Lastly, intelligent objects like drones and autonomous vehicles will usher in the next wave of IoT.

Digital

The term “digital” is a bit broad, and we’ve been in the midst of digital transformation for some time now. Digital is still trending (and evolving) as the lines between our physical, and digital worlds continue to blur. Virtual and augmented reality will become more commonplace in business, as companies leverage this technology to conduct training and create immersive customer experiences.

Also, gaining traction in 2017 is the notion of the digital twin. “A digital twin is a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system that relies on sensor data to understand its state, respond to changes, improve operations and add value,” according to Gartner. The research firm predicts that within the next three to five years, there will be billions of these digital twins, which will be used to create simulations and improve business operations.

Mesh

Lastly, the digital mesh that binds us all will continue to weave an intricate web. The concept of mesh refers to the idea that our people, processes, and products can combine through intelligent digital systems. The evolution of the mesh will fundamentally change the user experience, both for employees and customers. Adaptive security architecture for businesses is an example of what we can expect in just a few short years.

There are plenty of opportunities for IT help desk teams to further develop their skill sets. Innovations in technology surround us, which not only encourage productivity, but drive further experimentation, development, and investment in technology to build the future of business. KBs help end users navigate common problems—but there are always more on the horizon. Encourage your teams to broaden their skill sets to be prepared for whatever happens next.

This article is located at: https://logicalread.com/encourage-constant-improvement-in-help-desk-tech-skill-sets/#.W2-rM_ZFyM8

Do your job applicants for the IT help desk look like carbon copies of one another? Do you get cross-eyed looking at the heaps of resumes with the same listed qualifications? If you are looking for new ways to separate the good candidates from the great ones, this list could be invaluable to you. Here are some skills that make for a great IT worker, but don’t fall into the normal expectations for a tech geek’s resume.

1. The Power of a Positive Attitude

In a field that lives and dies by hard skills like computer science, attitude isn’t always the main focus when seeking a candidate. But it should be. Candidates that truly believe they can tackle any problem, those who can think outside the box, and the ones who can negotiate with the best hard-noses make great help desk workers. These applicants will forge good relationships with both users and management, while finding unique and innovative ways to solve problems that have plagued your organization for eons. Look for the upbeat interviewee who doesn’t break a sweat when you pop off those tough questions.

2. The Ability to Speak a Foreign Language

Now that the entire world is online, even the smallest businesses find a need for multilingual speakers at the help desk. You never know when you need to communicate with a vendor in Brazil or a consultant in Germany, or a user in French Quebec. Even if you believe you have no use for the particular language skills a candidate possesses, the act of learning a new language improves a worker’s ability to communicate with others effectively and learn new things. This means they pick up quickly on new processes and how to use your ITSM software.

3. Musical Talent and Skill

Study upon study shows a correlation between musical abilities and success in math and science. Students of music have a better grasp of mathematical concepts (think whole note, half note, quarter note) and tend to be strong computer programmers. Musical skills are also a good indication of the ability to use logic.

4. A Background in Library Sciences

Library science, like music, requires a certain set of skills that translates well into IT work. Candidates with these skills have strong research abilities, which is inherently important on the help desk. Library science also teaches the ability to aggregate data and view data sets in unique ways — meaning they are excellent job prospects in environments dealing with big data.

5. Strong Communication Skills, Both Written and Oral

An ongoing problem has existed between the tech workers and the other business staffers since the innovation of computers in the 1960’s. Tech workers speak tech and nobody else understands them. An applicant with a proven ability to speak to average users in plain, simple language is invaluable on the help desk. Written skills are also important if the job involves writing and developing presentations, such as proposals for executives to consider when drafting the IT budget for the year. Good communicators can “Keep it simple, Stupid.”

6. Knowledge and Experience with Mainframe Computers

Mainframes are not dead. This is just an ugly Internet rumor made up to get more people to read tech blogs instead of watching cat videos at work. Mainframes are still responsible for about 60 percent of all enterprise transactions, and most of the programmers with mainframe knowledge and expertise are Baby Boomers getting ready to retire. It’s crucial to get some younger workers into the business who can help maintain systems, write code, develop patches, and generally keep the business running after all those gold watches are given away.

Look for these skills among your job applicants, and score the hidden gems your competitors ignorantly pass by.

This article is located at: https://blog.samanage.com/it-service-management/6-unexpected-skills-that-make-the-best-it-help-desk-workers/

 

Support roles are dynamic. No two days are the same. Your day-to-day tasks on an internal support team are entirely contingent on what everyone else is doing—and struggling to do.

Your fellow employees rely on you to get their own jobs done. The problems on the plates of your coworkers are your problems, too. You field questions that can’t wait for answers, handle problems that only you have the tools to resolve.

It’s a lot of pressure, so it takes a very particular set of qualities and skills to succeed in a support role. When hiring support staff—or working to improve the service you provide—use these 15 help desk skills to define stellar support in the workplace.

1. Empathy for coworkers and their concerns

One coworker is dealing with a tech issue that’s preventing him from finishing an important project. Another is struggling with newly implemented software, and a third doesn’t understand the specifics of a new IT policy.

To you, these issues may seem like minor annoyances. But what seems like a minor annoyance to one person may be a huge burden for someone else.

An empathetic support employee is reassuring. She doesn’t belittle coworkers or make them feel embarrassed for needing help. She expresses an understanding for coworkers’ problems, provides support and guidance, and leaves people feeling happy that they asked for help.

2. An approachable personality

It pays to be a people person in an internal support role. That doesn’t mean you have to sit at your desk and smile all week, but it does mean coworkers should feel comfortable coming to you with concerns.

The more approachable a company’s help desk staff, the more likely employees will come forward with problems before they snowball out of control.

3. Patience for problems, questions, and the unexpected

Patience isn’t just helpful for support staff; it’s crucial. You’re constantly being bombarded with questions—questions you’ve probably answered a million times before. And you’re dealing with people who are stressed and frustrated, so it’s important not to let their heightened emotional states impact your calm and collected approach to finding a resolution.

4. Active listening skills

Being a good listener is another crucial help desk skill. First, you need to fully understand the problem before you can solve it. Doing so requires that you take in and understand exactly what issue is being reported, what problems it’s causing, and how to help.

But it’s not enough for support personnel to be good listeners. They need to be active listeners.

There are two ways that people listen to others. The first is passively. When we listen to people passively, we’re already formulating a response in our heads. We’re not really focused on the substance of their messages.

On the flip side, active listening involves taking in every word, reflecting on what you’ve been told, and relaying it back to someone. This sort of listening results in meaningful dialogue and a complete understanding.

Whether it’s a call, face-to-face conversation, or service ticket, coworkers deserve the undivided attention of the help desk employees they’re working with.

5. Willingness to work as part of a team

Help desks are integral to the success of all departments. A willingness to work across teams not only makes your job easier, it also ensures that every department reaches its goals.

Team players thrive in help desk roles because they embrace collaboration, which results in more closed tickets and resolved issues.

6. Respect for coworkers’ time

According to Gallup, most employees don’t feel that their coworkers value their time. But valuing other people’s time is crucial for help desk employees because timing is everything.

Phenomenal support employees strive to be efficient not only for their own sake, but also because they value their coworkers’ time. Responding to a ticket in a timely manner signals respect and is a sign of proactive worker.

Being a help desk speedster isn’t a surefire sign of a great support, though.

“There is definitely a connection between quality and speed, in that quality service cannot be slow or inefficient,” notes HelpScout’s Gregory Ciotti. “However, correlation does not equal causation—just because service is fast doesn’t mean it is good, as it overlooks customers’ feelings on how well they were cared for.”

While timing matters, so does empathy.

7. A positive attitude

Some of your colleagues might feel embarrassed at the idea of approaching a help desk. They might even be afraid that their concerns will be met with apathy or annoyance.

Reassure your coworkers that it’s okay to bother you by responding to them positively. Just because something’s wrong with their equipment doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them.

8. Grace under pressure

The degree to which today’s workers are bogged down is staggering. According to the American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers cite their jobs as “extremely” stressful and 26% are on the verge of burnout.

And since help desks essentially absorb the problems of their coworkers, stress becomes a two-way street. Not are only are you worried about your own responsibilities, but also the stress of anyone who comes to you with an issue.

That’s why grace under pressure is among the most important help desk skills. A well-staffed help desk essentially works behind the scenes to make sure problems don’t spiral out of control.

9. The ability to juggle multiple tasks

Rarely do complaints, concerns, or tickets come one-at-a-time. And supporting other employees may not be your only responsibility. Many IT personnel not only provide support, they also perform evaluation, implementation, maintenance, and repair of technology infrastructure to keep their companies running smoothly.

Juggling your own responsibilities with your coworkers’ needs can be daunting, but it comes with the territory. The ability for support personnel to find a reasonable balance is essential.

10. Knowing how to prioritize

Not all workplace requests are created equal. From the number of people impacted by a problem to the severity of the issue itself, support employees must practice proper judgement when it comes to deciding which issues are critical and which can wait.

Prioritize tickets based on urgency and business impact.

11. Flawless communication

As part of a help desk, you’re expected to be accessible. How you respond to coworkers should not only reaffirm that you’ve heard their concerns, but also that you’ll also keep them in the loop regarding what happens next.

Help desk employees need to articulate the solution, provide expectations on how the problem will be handled, and let people know when to expect follow-up communications.

Clear communication skills make providing support easier and assure coworkers that they’re being taken care of.

12. Keen critical thinking and problem-solving

Sometimes, coworkers’ problems can be solved by following a script. You’ve seen the issue before. You know exactly how to fix it.

Other times, problems will be new, bizarre, or difficult to recreate. There may not be a pre-existing solution. In these situations, it’s crucial for support staff to be able to lean on their natural critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to provide the support coworkers need.

13. Attention to detail

As noted by Kent Blake, many IT help desks are plagued by an “obsession with zero.” Blake asserts that placing excessive emphasis on the metric of closed tickets, businesses put too much pressure on their IT staff. This results in tickets being prematurely closed and issues ultimately going unresolved.

“Don’t obsess over zero,” Blake notes. “Generally speaking, better productivity results from focusing on authentic, realistic metrics and recognizing your technicians for their achievements.”

Help desks should take a “quality over quantity” approach to addressing coworkers’ concerns. Give those concerns the attention they deserve rather than risk rushing them.

14. Decisiveness

Between support requests, meetings, and other responsibilities, time can be scarce. While support staff shouldn’t sacrifice the quality of their work for the sake of time, they should also strive for efficiency.

This means making decisions and sticking to them. Achieving this level of confidence might take some time, but it’s the sign of a true leader in the office.

15. Persistence to see a task through

A good support employee always sees their tasks through to the end.

This means not closing tickets until every aspect of a request is completed. This means not only resolving a problem, but also following up later to make sure the problem stayed resolved.

As part of a help desk, your role has a direct impact on how well others can do their jobs. The more invested you are in providing the best support possible, the more your company will benefit.

Building the skills that define exceptional support staff

Help desks are critical to making sure a company runs like a well-oiled machine. When your support roles are filled with people who have the skills outlined above, the entire company is set up for success.

And bear in mind that each of these skills can be learned and refined over time, too. Even if you haven’t mastered all of these skills already, it’s never too late to learn, grow, and improve.

This article is located at: https://www.askspoke.com/blog/support/help-desk-skills/

 

On MSN the other day, I noticed an article called "75 skills every man should master." It included some skills I have and some I don't. For example, I can tie a knot and hammer a nail, but frankly I can't recite a poem from memory, and bow ties still confuse me.

It was an interesting read and made me realize I could be more well-rounded than I am. To be honest, we all could be.

So in the spirit of personal growth, I developed a list of skills every IT person should have.

1. Be able to fix basic PC issues. These can be how to map a printer, back up files, or add a network card. You don't need to be an expert and understand how to overclock a CPU or hack the registry, but if you work in IT, people expect you to be able to do some things.

2. Work the help desk. Everyone, from the CIO to the senior architect, should be able to sit down at the help desk and answer the phones. Not only will you gain a new appreciation for the folks on the phones, but you will also teach them more about your process and avoid escalations in the future.

3. Do public speaking. At least once, you should present a topic to your peers. It can be as simple as a five-minute tutorial on how IM works, but being able to explain something and being comfortable enough to talk in front of a crowd is a skill you need to have. If you are nervous, partner with someone who is good at it, or do a roundtable. This way, if you get flustered, someone is there to cover for you.

4. Train someone. The best way to learn is to teach.

5. Listen more than you speak. I very rarely say something I didn't already know, but I often hear other people say things and think, "Darn, I wish I knew that last week."

6. Know basic networking. Whether you are a network engineer, a help desk technician, a business analyst, or a system administrator, you need to understand how networks work and simple troubleshooting. You should understand DNS and how to check it, as well as how to ping and trace-route machines.

7. Know basic system administration. Understand file permissions, access levels, and why machines talk to the domain controllers. You don't need to be an expert, but knowing the basics will avoid many headaches down the road.

8. Know how to take a network trace. Everyone in IT should be able to fire up wireshark, netmon, snoop, or some basic network capturing tool. You don't need to understand everything in it, but you should be able to capture it to send to a network engineer to examine.

9. Know the difference between latency and bandwidth. Latency is the amount of time to get a packet back and forth; bandwidth is the maximum amount of data a link can carry. They are related, but different. A link with high-bandwidth utilization can cause latency to go higher, but if the link isn't full, adding more bandwidth can't reduce latency.

10. Script. Everyone should be able to throw a script together to get quick results. That doesn't mean you're a programmer. Real programmers put in error messages, look for abnormal behavior, and document. You don't need to do that, but you should be able to put something together to remove lines, send e-mail, or copy files.

11. Back up. Before you do anything, for your own sake, back it up.

12. Test backups. If you haven't tested restoring it, it isn't really there. Trust me.

13. Document. None of the rest of us wants to have to figure out what you did. Write it down and put it in a location everyone can find. Even if it's obvious what you did or why you did it, write it down.

14. Read "The Cuckoo's Egg." I don't get a cut from Cliff Stoll (the author), but this is probably the best security book there is -- not because it is so technical, but because it isn't.

15. Work all night on a team project. No one likes to do this, but it's part of IT. Working through a hell project that requires an all-nighter to resolve stinks, but it builds very useful camaraderie by the time it is done.

16. Run cable. It looks easy, but it isn't. Plus, you will understand why installing a new server doesn't really take five minutes -- unless, of course, you just plug in both ends and let the cable fall all over the place. Don't do that -- do it right. Label all the cables (yes, both ends), and dress them nice and neat. This will save time when there's a problem because you'll be able to see what goes where.

17. You should know some energy rules of thumb. For example: A device consuming 3.5kW of electricity requires a ton of cooling to compensate for the heat. And I really do mean a ton, not merely "a lot." Note that 3.5kW is roughly what 15 to 20 fairly new 1U and 2U servers consume. One ton of cooling requires three 10-inch-round ducts to handle the air; 30 tons of air requires a duct measuring 80 by 20 inches. Thirty tons of air is a considerable amount.

18. Manage at least one project. This way, the next time the project manager asks you for a status, you'll understand why. Ideally, you will have already sent the status report because you knew it would be asked for.

19. Understand operating costs versus capital projects. Operating costs are the costs to run the business. Capital equipment is made of assets that can have their cost spread over a time period -- say, 36 months. Operating costs are sometimes better, sometimes worse. Know which one is better -- it can make a difference between a yes and no.

20. Learn the business processes. Being able to spot improvements in the way the business is run is a great technique for gaining points. You don't need to use fancy tools; just asking a few questions and using common sense will serve you well.

21. Don't be afraid to debate something you know is wrong. But also know when to stop arguing. It's a fine line between having a good idea and being a pain in the ass.

22. If you have to go to your boss with a problem, make sure you have at least one solution.

23. There is no such thing as a dumb question, so ask it ... once. Then write down the answer so that you don't have to ask it again. If you ask the same person the same question more than twice, you're an idiot (in their eyes).

24. Even if it takes you twice as long to figure something out on your own versus asking someone else, take the time to do it yourself. You'll remember it longer. If it takes more than twice as long, ask.

25. Learn how to speak without using acronyms.

26. IT managers: Listen to your people. They know more than you. If not, get rid of them and hire smarter people. If you think you are the smartest one, resign.

27. IT managers: If you know the answer, ask the right questions for someone else to get the solution; don't just give the answer. This is hard when you know what will bring the system back up quickly and everyone in the company is waiting for it, but it will pay off in the long run. After all, you won't always be available.

28. IT managers: The first time someone does something wrong, it's not a mistake -- it's a learning experience. The next time, though, give them hell. And remember: Every day is a chance for an employee to learn something else. Make sure they learn something valuable versus learning there's a better job out there.

29. IT managers: Always give people more work than you think they can handle. People will say you are unrealistic, but everyone needs something to complain about anyway, so make it easy. Plus, there's nothing worse than looking at the clock at 2 p.m. and thinking, "I've got nothing to do, but can't leave." This way, your employees won't have that dilemma.

30. IT managers: Square pegs go in square holes. If someone works well in a team but not so effectively on their own, keep them as part of a team.

This article is located at: https://www.infoworld.com/article/2652081/it-careers/techology-business-the-30-skills-every-it-person-should-have.html