When should I use a Service Desk versus A Help Desk?

This is the fourth and final article in the four-part series “What is a Help Desk and why is it relevant to your business”. In this article, I will discuss the reasons why a Help Desk may be the correct choice for your organisation and when it is advisable for the organisation to select the more robust Service Desk option.


The previous posts in the series discussed the fundamental characteristics of a Service Desk and Help Desk. During this post the focus changes, and we ask the question, “Should you use a Service Desk or a Help Desk in your organisation, or a combination of the two?”  This article attempts to shed some light on the question by discussing the merits of both solutions.

The four-part series

The four-part series of articles address the questions listed below. Each article can be read separately. However, to get a clear understanding of the subject, I do recommend that you start with the first article and work your way through to the fourth. To view the first three articles in the series, select the appropriate hyperlink and a new window will open and display the relevant article.

Can an organisation survive using only a Help Desk?help desk

In some cases, an organisation will cope very well using the more IT focused, reactive Help Desk solution. They may not be ready for, or need the processes and service offerings available from a sophisticated Service Desk. In cases like this, the Help Desk will suffice and is more than capable of managing IT issues for the end-users. The goal here is to have an initial point of contact that end-users can go to whenever an IT related problem is experienced.

Technically focussed Help Desk

The primary role is to assist end-users in solving IT related technical issues encountered while using the organisations Information Technology (IT) infrastructure. Common problems may include but are not limited to the following:

  • User account management
  • Desktop and hardware support
  • Office and network infrastructure
  • Application and system change requests

Defining the scope of operation for your Help Desk is important. If this is not done, the probability exists that it will eventually become swamped with increasing support activities without the required increase in resources. However you define the scope, the Help Desk provides the end-user with a single point of contact to report all IT related issues. It must be noted that the efficiency of the entire organisation is judged by the professionalism and effectiveness of the Help Desk agent’s response. To ensure that all issues are responded to immediately, management must make sure that the agents are technically trained in the appropriate technologies.

Customer focussed Service Desk

As mentioned in the earlier articles, the primary goal of the Service Desk is to support the agreed IT and non-IT services by ensuring the accessibility and availability of services required by the organisation, and by performing various supporting activities. Other objectives include:

  • Acting as a single point of contact for all user incidents, requests and general communications.
  • Restoring “normal service operation” as quickly as possible after a disruption.
  • Improve user awareness of organisational/departmental issues and to promote appropriate use of IT services and resources.
  • Managing user communication and escalating incidents and requests using pre-defined business procedures.

Benefits of using both a Help Desk and a Service Desk

There will be situations where it is impractical to use both applications, for example, in the case of a small business where a Help Desk will address all the end-user requirements. However, in the event of organisations that have a large user-base, a centralised IT Help Desk that exclusively manages technical issues is a definite need. The management of non-IT related requests will then be administered by the Service Desk. By segregating the functions, the organisation re-directs expensive IT resources to focus on solving the technical issues of the users.


In many cases, an organisation will cope very well using the more IT focused, reactive Help Desk solution. They may not be ready for, or need the processes and service offerings available from a sophisticated Service Desk. However, larger organisations will benefit from the extended functionality offered by a Service Desk that has hooks into the IT Help Desk solution.

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