Many long term IT professionals grew up in an IT Help Desk environment. But as organizations move towards IT Service Management (ITSM) environments, the focus has shifted to providing an IT Service Desk for customers and employees rather than a Help Desk. Which leaves many IT professionals questioning what an IT Service Desk is and how does it differ from a traditional IT Help Desk?

Given that, here’s my humble opinion on what the difference is between an IT Help Desk and an IT Service Desk.

What traditional IT Help Desks do
Traditional IT Help Desks are centered around break/fix activities and basic provisioning services, such as user profile creation, network authority management, termination activities, and email administration. They support the deployment of new IT technology and services. IT Help Desks mostly support internal users with some support provided to external customers, as needed. They function as a single point of contact (SPOC) for IT Support activities.

An IT Help Desk is reactive. It solves day-to-day problems such as resetting passwords, fixing printers, and helping people deal with device issues. Many people refer to IT Help Desk support as tactical support that focuses on IT strategy, both in deploying new initiatives and in providing help to keep those initiatives running. An IT Help Desk generally uses a tracking system such as BMC Track-IT! software, that provides automated ticket recording and routing, self-service options, and a knowledge base. Ticket reporting capabilities also help IT Support adhere to key Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Traditional IT Help Desks perform a subset of ITSM and Service Desk capabilities, mostly in the areas of incident management, problem management, knowledge management, and some IT fulfillment and provisioning. A Help Desk can exist without a corresponding Service Desk, but an IT Service Desk almost always incorporates Help Desk responsibilities and capabilities into its functioning.