As campuses (and industry) moves more towards bring-your-own-device, and the "consumerization" of technology, many in IT often wonder how to support the increasing variety of devices entering the network. Where some IT professionals worry about the security implications, and other bemoan the support issues, the reality is that more of our users will bring in more of these personal devices. And they will expect to connect them to our network. That's the future trend, and IT needs to be ready to respond to it.
In this month's CIO Magazine, Gartner analyst Jarod Greene discussed the future of the helpdesk in the face of this "BYOD" trend ("Entering the Age of Tech Self-Help"). But rather than complain about the support challenges, Greene instead proposes that BYOD will hasten change in the traditional helpdesk. Greene suggests that by 2016, we'll see 25-30% drop in user-initiated support volumes. That's not to say that technology will suddenly become easier, but that your user base will look to each other to resolve problems and answer questions. In another context, look to how sites like StackOverflow.com have replaced support materials (manuals and online help) traditionally provided by vendors. It's another example of an increasingly tech-savvy workforce that looks to all venues for help.
This suggests that if the helpdesk wants to remain relevant, we need to adapt to survive. Greene suggests building a "new face" for IT support: "enterprise Genius Bars and enterprise Geek Squads."
Greene's article stops there, just short of more constructive observations. I will add that a helpdesk that offers 24x7 support would add huge benefits to higher ed. Most institutions' helpdesks operate in "office hours," or 8:00-5:00. That's fine if you are supporting on-campus staff and faculty, but it's not a great support model for students who often stay up to late hours while working on homework and projects.
The helpdesk is the most visible technology support function. Students, faculty, and staff look to the helpdesk for all kinds of technology support. The helpdesk needs to be continuously available to everyone on campus in order to be most effective.