IT Service Desk Manager Science

The Science of an IT Service Desk Manager

The role of an IT service desk manager is an important one within IT service management (ITSM) but it isn’t a role that’s suitable to just anyone. IT service desk managers have an incredibly important and varied job, which requires a diverse skill set whereby missing just one of these skills can be detrimental (due to the nature of the role).

As an IT service desk manager, you’ll find yourself managing people and processes, supporting customers, writing business communications, resolving technical issues, marketing your service desk, reporting on metrics, building relationships, and perhaps even getting involved in sales and budget planning (phew, is it only me that needs to lie down?). As you can see, there’s a lot going on in the service desk manager role and this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list.

So, what are the key skills required of an IT service desk manager?

Listed below are eight important skills that I believe an IT service desk manager needs, along with why they’re necessary. Without these skills, you’re likely to struggle in this position (and trust me I know – I’m an IT guy after all).

Here @Joe_the_IT_Guy lists eight important skills that he believes an IT #servicedesk manager needs, along with why they’re necessary. Click To Tweet

1. Communication skills

As an IT service desk manager, you’ll be communicating with a lot of different groups of people throughout the day. You’ll speak to:

  • Customers about their IT issues who might also provide feedback about the service desk
  • Suppliers who provide the services that your service desk supports
  • Senior management from your organization – about escalations and satisfaction with IT support within the business
  • Other IT teams that provide Level 2 support and assist with major incident management
  • Your own team.

All of these groups will require very different communication styles and you’ll need to be able to switch between these effortlessly on a daily basis.

You’ll also be required to write and send communications to key stakeholders, and sometimes to the entire organization. This might be to alert them of upcoming IT maintenance, communicate major incident updates, or simply to share news from the IT department.

Whatever the reason, you’re going to need top written and verbal communication skills for this role.

2. People management skills

As an IT service desk manager, you’ve got a tough job when it comes to managing your people. Why? Because your team will deal with negativity on a daily basis, and this is likely to impact them.

You’ll need to be able to motivate your staff, particularly during difficult periods on the IT service desk, and you’ll need to be adept at leading through change due to the fast-paced, changing nature of both the business and IT.

Coaching, mentoring, development, and driving results are all people-related skills that you need to possess to be a successful IT service desk manager. It’ll also be essential that you can show your team how they fit into the organization – their daily work is often repetitive and can get monotonous and if they lose sight of why they’re doing what they do you’ll potentially face an unmotivated and unhappy team.

Coaching, mentoring, development, and driving results are all people-related skills that you need to possess to be a successful IT #servicedesk manager. Click To Tweet

3. Patience

I believe this is probably one of the most critical skills required on the IT service desk – whether you’re a service desk agent, second-line engineer, team leader, or an IT service desk manager. To work in IT support, you definitely need to have a superior level of patience.

Whether it’s dealing with non-technical customers, half-delivered projects, broken processes, or angry staff members, your patience will be tested on a regular basis. And a manager that cannot handle these kinds of demands, and regularly “flips their lid” isn’t going to last long in the position.

4. Relationship building skills

You’ll need to work with a lot of different people and you’ll undoubtedly find times where you’re simply just unable to give them what they want. In these situations, having solid relationships (with each group of people you work with) will really help.

For example, you’ll need a great relationship with your team if you want them to deliver the best results. You’ll have to negotiate with suppliers. You’ll need to be diplomatic and understanding with your customers. You might even find yourself as a mediator when it comes to managing expectations between IT and the rest of the business.

Building good relationships with each of these groups will thus be critical to the success of your organization’s IT department, the IT service desk, and your own role.

Blog: What makes a super service desk manager?

5. Flexibility

As you might have worked out by now, as an IT service desk manager you’re going to have a lot on your plate. You’ll need to be flexible, so as to keep up with demands and to ensure relevant tasks are completed on time. Often, this will mean dropping what you’re focused on to help out elsewhere, perhaps managing an escalation to avoid breaching a service level agreement (SLA).

If you’re unwilling to deviate from tasks, or unable to remember what was dropped, you’re likely to become overwhelmed. Plus, being too rigid in your demands and expectations from people you interact with is likely to gain you a bad reputation too.

6. Organizational and prioritization skills

As an IT service desk manager, you’ll often be faced with conflicting priorities. You’ll need to work out: how to complete multiple tasks, where to delegate when necessary, what needs to be actioned first, and what can wait.

Being organized is one of the best skills to possess in this role – and your organizational abilities will definitely help you to relieve stress when things stack up against you. You’ll know exactly where you are, where to fit in new demands, and when you’ll be able to complete your outstanding workload.

7. The ability to understand metrics and their implications

It’s not enough to be good with people, you also need to have some level of ability with (and preferably enjoyment for) statistics. In particular, understanding metrics such that you know what you should be measuring, how to measure, and how to drive the performance required to achieve these metrics.

As an IT service desk manager, you’ll also be expected to report on IT performance within the business, how IT is being utilized by the organization, and the performance of your own team. Without the ability to understand and present these statistics, IT service desk output might diminish – as you measure the wrong data – and key stakeholders could lose faith in IT, let alone you in the service desk manager role.

8. Technical skills and knowledge

You’ll be no good at running an IT service desk without some semblance of technical knowledge. This is where an existing background working on the IT service desk will help you out immensely – because you’ll have some demonstrated experience.

If you haven’t come from an IT background, it’ll be imperative that you can show a love for IT and an ability to fix basic IT issues. Without any technical skills and knowledge, it will probably be difficult to understand certain situations – when all around you are deep in the detail of what went wrong. Your team probably won’t be too impressed either if you can’t show at least a basic understanding of IT, and your customers might lose confidence in your service desk if you personally know little about the technology they employ.

So, are you ready?

As you can see, being an IT service desk manager is no easy feat (don’t be fooled just because a puppet can do it). If you’re the kind of person who loves helping others, dealing with customers, building relationships, handling statistics, being technical when needed, and getting involved within your organization, then it might just be the job for you.

Which other skills or qualifications do you think IT service desk managers could benefit from? Please let me know in the comments.

Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).

2 thoughts on “The Science of an IT Service Desk Manager”

  1. Avatar Wayne Schlicht

    Great post to help Service Desk managers. One area managers should focus on is designing support center ticket categories to lower support ticket cost, improve first contact resolution (FCR), and improve reporting. Keep up the great work Joe, providing superior knowledge.


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