IT is full of jargon. It can be hard lớn keep track of all the relevant processes, frameworks, tools, và acronyms. With all the obscure IT terms floating around in the world, there are three important terms related to lớn IT tư vấn that we often see conflated, confused or misused:

Service desk (or “IT service desk”) Help desk (or “IT help desk”) ITSM (“IT service management”)

Does it matter if you use the term help desk, service desk, or ITSM to lớn describe IT support? It does – as you might be underselling or overselling capabilities (either to yourself or others) including your IT support technology.

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IT service management -- often referred lớn as ITSM -- is simply how IT teams manage the end-to-end delivery of IT services to customers. This includes all the processes và activities lớn design, create, deliver, and tư vấn IT services. The vi xử lý core concept of ITSM is the belief that IT should be delivered as a service. 

Due to their day-to-day interactions with IT, people often misconstrue ITSM as basic IT support. On the contrary, ITSM teams oversee all kinds of workplace technology, ranging from laptops, to servers, to business-critical software applications. 

ITSM generally consists of several vi xử lý core processes, as defined by ITIL - the most widely accepted framework for or approach khổng lồ ITSM. Here are just a few of those processes:

You’ll notice that some of these processes - lượt thích IT asset management, problem management, và change management - fall outside of the scope of basic IT support. That’s because ITSM encompasses all of the activities involved in delivering IT to the business. While the scope of ITSM is broad, service desks và help desks are much more narrowly defined, và only represent smaller pieces of ITSM.


ITIL’s definition of a service desk is as follows: “The single point of tương tác between the service provider và the users. A typical service desk manages incidents and service requests, & also handles communication with the users.”

That definition may seem a little formal & vague, so here’s a simpler way of putting it: A service desk is a communications center where customers (e.g. Employees or other stakeholders) can find help from their IT service providers. As the ITIL service desk definition states, this help may take the khung of incident resolution or service request fulfillment, but regardless of what type of help is being provided, the goal of a service desk is to lớn deliver high-quality service to customers in a timely manner.

Service desks often also include multiple ITSM activities. For example, a service desk usually encompasses ITSM activities that include service request management, incident management, knowledge management, self-service, and reporting. There are also usually strong links to problem & change management processes.

An IT service desk assists customers with incident resolution or service request management, it creates & manages departmental knowledge, it offers self-service for customers who want khổng lồ resolve incidents quickly và independently, và it provides metrics on the team and the tool’s effectiveness. Service desks may include more or less than this, but the point is that they are a robust, service-focused, và customer-centric way of delivering help from IT lớn customers.


As defined by Merriam-Webster, a help desk is “a group of people who provide help và information usually for electronic or computer problems.” Given this definition, it may seem at first glance lượt thích there is little difference between help desks và service desks, but the key word that’s missing here is “customer.” While the main focus of a help desk is simply fixing issues, a service desk’s main focus is delivering service lớn its customers or users. There’s a certain emphasis on service delivery and customer-centricity in service desks that’s missing in help desks.

And while help desks are often limited lớn a single ITSM activity (in particular, incident management or the break-fix process), service desks cover the wider range of activities that were mentioned above. So in a sense, help desks are a subset of service desks.

If you’re still confused about the differences between a service desk và a help desk, don’t fret. It’s true that the distinction can feel a little nitpicky, so we’ve tried khổng lồ make it clearer by walking through all of the differences between them below.


The service desk was an evolution of the help desk, born out of ITSM best practice framework ITIL (formerly known as the IT Infrastructure Library), và based on the underlying concept of “managing IT as a service.” A help desk was born of IT-centricity (mainframe computing), whereas a service desk was born of IT service-centricity (the above-mentioned ITIL-espoused approach to lớn delivering IT as a service). It might seem petty, but many will say that a help desk provides help, whereas a service desk provides service, i.e. With a service desk there’s a focus on delivering a service to over users with some semblance of customer service. A help desk is considered lớn be focused on break-fix (what ITIL calls incident management), whereas a service desk is there khổng lồ assist with not only break-fix but also with service requests (requests for new services) & requests for information (such as “how vày I bởi vì X?”). Although there’s no reason why a help desk can’t also offer these additional capabilities (other than IT terminology trends). A help desk was an địa chỉ cửa hàng on to existing IT activities, whereas the service desk is part of a service-based IT service delivery và IT support ecosystem built around something called “the service lifecycle.” Probably a big reason why the term service desk was used over help desk in ITIL. Those versed in ITIL will state that a help desk is tactical, whereas a service desk is strategic. This will, of course, differ across organizations. A help desk might be considered as offering a subset of service desk capabilities by some, or be qualified as limited in scope by statements such as “the evolution of help desk khổng lồ the service desk.”

But of course, one person"s help desk is another person"s service desk – organizations will gọi their IT support capability what they want as evidenced by the following HDI research:


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We see 41% of help desks và service desks are called something else. Plus, there’s no guarantee that the service desks & help desks reported in this HDI survey align khổng lồ our descriptions above.

Some would argue that help desk and service desk aren’t that different and, looking into history, the terms were often used interchangeably throughout the 2000s. But the important thing to remember is this: for most, a "service desk" is an evolved version of a help desk created in an ITIL mold. 


If your team takes the service desk approach, choosing the right service desk software for your organization is critical, as it is a foundation of ITSM. The service desk serves as the interface between customers và the IT team. Of course, features like knowledge management & reporting are critical in a service desk solution, but you’ll also want a service desk that"s easy lớn use and set up, enables collaboration, và adapts to lớn your needs. That way, your IT team can deliver excellent support - & value to the business - quickly.

And even if your team takes the help desk approach, having a tool that helps you keep track of what issues come up and who is solving them is crucial. With a dedicated help desk tool, your IT team can be more transparent, collaborative, và efficient.


The evolution in both terminology & practice from help desk khổng lồ service desk illustrates the growing focus on service and strategy in IT. To lớn make that shift to IT as a service, your team needs both the right practices as well as the right tools.

Learn more about how Jira Service Management can support your ITSM needs


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