What is the Difference between Help Desk vs. Service Desk

Spend an afternoon in nearly any office setting and invariably you’ll hear one employee tell another to call the help desk to assist with a network issue. Walk to another floor, and you’ll hear a different employee tell their coworker to call the service desk to handle an issue they are having with Microsoft PowerPoint. Help desk and service desk are often used interchangeably by employees who need technical support to help with computer issues. However, the two desks are actually quite different from one another, and understanding those distinctions are important for IT teams. More importantly, it’s important that you recognize the difference between the two while you evaluate which of the two you need for your organization.

Getting Inside the Help Desk

Help Desks are internal teams that help users fix problems. It’s a reactive service that handles simple service requests. Help desks often help with misconfigured computer settings, ensuring software is installed properly, or upgrading and fixing computer hardware. The Help Desk is highly tactical. It answers immediate needs, often using a ticketing system to manage Help Desk requests.

The Role of the Service Desk

In contrast to the tactical role of the Help Desk, the Service Desk’s mission is far more strategic. It looks at the organization’s overall strategic IT needs and is a critical in managing the company’s IT footprint. It is integrated into other IT service management processes and, for ITIL organizations, is a key part of the five core ITIL processes. The Service Desk plays a role in evaluating existing service offerings and introducing new ones to enable growth. It smooths transition periods when new services are being phased out or added, and continuously monitors service delivery across the company. The Service Desk also analyzes processes and looks for opportunities to improve IT functions and processes.

Service desk vs help desk

Service Desk vs Help Desk – Which One Do You Need?

As organizations evolve and expand, their IT and service needs change. Smaller companies may have their needs fulfilled by a Help Desk that focuses on incident management. The tactical approach ensures that problems that come up are handled and resolved in a timely manner. Effective Help Desk offerings include built-in SLA management tools. They use automation elements through a service catalog to speed up fulfilment while freeing Help Desk team members to work on more complex issues. Additionally, they have knowledge management components that empower employees to resolve issues on their own Help Desk systems provide agents with full visibility into all incidents, providing the team with insights that can help them manage incidents. If your operating teams can function with that level of Help Desk functionality, you may not need to fully invest in the Service Desk. As mentioned earlier, Service Desks are far more strategic, and its role extends far beyond keeping your network online and your computers humming. ITIL-compliant services desks support the core ITIL processes. Rather than focusing on solving technical problems, the Service Desk supports people and the overall business. They review the overall IT processes and functions within an organization with the intent to drive continual IT improvement. For larger businesses, having an effective Service Desk in place can deliver ROI through strategic process improvements and upgrades, an effective automation strategy, transition management, and services strategy. The Service Desk integrates with other ITIL services as well, such as change management, incident management, asset management and the service catalog. Businesses that unsure whether they need a Help Desk or Service Desk in place should evaluate their existing IT footprint and needs. If they feel their IT needs are best met through reactive problem resolution, then the Help Desk is their best option. However, if they have grown beyond a reactive approach, and are looking for a comprehensive ITIL-favored solution, adopting and integrating a Service Desk into company operations makes the most sense. Do You Need a Help Desk or Service Desk?

Help Desk Service Desk
  • Provide software assistance
  • Fix computer hardware issues
  • Troubleshoot network issues
  • Answer technology questions
  • Focus

Help desks are focused on fixing an immediate problem

  • Supports overall IT service delivery
  • Develops corporate IT strategy
  • Align IT and business processes
  • Create automated processes
  • Encompasses ITSM activities
  • Creates strategies to avoid technical problems

Service Desks are focused on long-term, corporate- wide IT and service strategies

As businesses grow, they often need to transition from a limited help desk to a more all-encompassing service desk.