Our expectations for user experience are shaped by the huge consumer platforms such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, and also the devices that we access them with such as iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, and the PCs or Macs we use at home.

When we use these consumer devices and services, there’s no help desk for issues that come up, but in general there’s also no need for a help desk because the devices “just work.” That’s the type of user experience organisations strive for on their journey to digital.

However, in creating digital organisations with these new consumer technologies, companies and government agencies are challenged by deciding which tools integrate best with their legacy technology. They can’t abandon existing systems because that’s where the mission-critical business data lives. Those systems are essential, but they are also fragile and unwieldy.

That’s where the help desk becomes necessary: to help fix legacy machines when they break and understand IT issues when they’re not obvious. But many of us have had miserable experiences calling on traditional help desks. It’s often called the “hell desk” because we expect the help desk to waste our time with long waits, confusion over the problem and difficulty finding the right expert to diagnose a solution. The experience differs greatly from working with consumer cloud apps and modern tech appliances that “just work” and don’t require a help desk.

Making the help desk more like a consumer service

So how can we make the help desk more like a consumer service? It turns out that the answer has much in common with the DevOps and analytics movement running through IT. We start with data to see where the help desk spends its time and why it’s taking so long to resolve issues, especially the most frequent ones. Then we look at processes end-to-end (from ask to outcome) to see how we can streamline them. A big part of the problem stems from the division of labour into IT specialisations. When IT jobs are based around specialties like networking, security and storage, the work gets passed from one place to another and inevitably gets stuck in the queue. The smaller, cross-functional teams that work in a DevOps format can get answers back to users more swiftly and efficiently.

Finally, we automate as much as possible, looking for ways users can resolve an issue via self-service, so they never need to call the help desk. How do we do this? By understanding the cause of issues and making sure they’re engineered out of the environment, for example: Deploy a self-service password reset so that somebody who’s having password problems (the No. 1 reason for calling a help desk) can fix it for themselves.

Going digital and delivering IT that “just works” requires a change in mindset. Corporate and government organisations can get there with the right IT leaders who can set goals and define a clear vision.