deciding on software choice
Not all organization require the entire feature set some service desk offerings provide. Consider a help desk solution if your needs are not too complex.

What is the difference between Service Desk and Help Desk?

Are these terms interchangeable? Knowing the difference, as you search for your next solution, could save you time, money and improve success. In this article, I’ll clarify the main objective of a help desk and service desk, and I’ll list the primary differences between them.

Service Desk

The Service Desk is core to an IT Department. It helps the group design and achieves IT strategy. Its purpose is to support management of all aspects of IT. A Service Desk system includes aspects of Help Desk; namely Incident Management and Problem Management.

By using a Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB), Service Desk can track the assets of the organization from cradle to grave along with their configurations. Service Desk also includes reporting tools to help manage the Service Desk activities.

Per the Information Technology Infrastructure Library the following are components of a Service Desk:

  • Incident management (help desk)
  • Problem management (help desk)
  • Configuration management
  • Change management
  • Release management
  • Service-level management
  • Availability management
  • Capacity management
  • Financial management
  • IT service continuity management
  • Security management

Benefits of Service Desk to IT

  1. Service Catalog:
    The ability to create a Service Catalog for assets and services like new computers, connections, phones, access to software applications, etc. means the IT department can commoditize their products and services.Formalizing these services into a Service Catalog includes thoroughly documenting the installation and servicing processes thus raising customer satisfaction and organizational capacity.                                                                                                                   
  2. Customers notice.
    With a Service Desk here becomes a single point of contact for service related issues and service requests. (see 7 Steps to Gain Resource Clarity in Project Management and Help Desk)Customers know that they can send an email to the address, and create their tickets. Typically the client can monitor a service request themselves in a self-service portal and add additional information as it’s required. A self-service portal raises the confidence level the customer has in IT; they know they have some control over the service request process.                                          
  3. Management reporting:
    IT Managers benefit by having the detail necessary to support their resource load and cost to the company. When the IT Manager goes to the board looking for additional resources, they can back their request up with real data and statistics.                                                                                       
  4. IT Strategy Achievement:
    What can be better than having a tool that will help to achieve an IT Strategy?  Service Desk covers such a broad range of IT and organizational aspects that it will actually help you to plan, execute, monitor and achieve  your IT Strategies.

Challenges of Service Desk to IT

  1. Adoption of the Tools and Processes:
    A common problem with IT projects, especially to Service Desk and Help Desk projects, is the lack of adoption of the tools. The usual refrain is, “We don’t track our IT work.” This lack of adoption can be the death knell of any IT solution. Confront this challenge up front and develop a strategy to solve it.                                                                                                                                           
  2. IT Organization Maturity Level:
    Service Desk is heavily dependent upon skills in ITIL® and ITSM. Like Project Management, Service Desk is heavily process driven. Adopting these processes, in whole or part is critical to overall success. Adoption matures the IT organization and processes to aid in the achievement of Service Desk success. Hire an additional resource or charter a consultant to help increase maturity and develop the right culture.                                                                                                            
  3. CMDB workload:
    A CMDB is a fantastic idea in principle but in practice, it can be a bear to manage and keep up to date. The CMDB is a heavy resource load on an organization, and you’ll need to weigh its benefits against its costs. Confront this up front as it will be a determining factor in the adoption of a service desk solution.

When evaluating a service desk solution consider the following:

  1. The resource budget:
    How much resource time are you able to invest in the startup and maintenance of a Service Desk system? Resource availability will dictate to you how many of the features of a service desk your organization can support. In particular, evaluate: 

    • Documentation of processes and services
    • Development of the service catalog
    • Population of the CMDB
    • Maturing your organization with new hires or consultants                                                                                       
  2. Your culture:
    Your Service Desk goal and what you achieve depend upon the culture of your IT group and your business. Can the culture of your organization adapt to change and will they shift and mature into a Service Desk style team? You can mitigate your cultural issues by: 

    • Treating your Service Desk rollout like a real project
    • Creating a Risk Register and Risk Mitigation Plan
    • Creating an onboarding ramp for each of the staff
    • Allocate resources to support the processes, systems and reporting

Download our Free ITSM Readiness Toolkit

With this toolkit you will receive a multi-page integrated spreadsheet survey and analysis tool that will provide you with:

  • The list of the questions you need to ask your IT team
  • The spreadsheet you need to tabulate the results
  • The graphs required to for analyzing your data
  • Presentation graphics to help you communicate your findings




A Service Desk is an IT Management solution meant for IT and IT users. Get a demo to see how TeamHeadquarters can help your IT department and customers.