George Washington University Explores IT Support Centralization

Consolidating the help desk could allow the university to support all students and staff equally.

Getting bounced from rep to rep in search of an answer is frustrating for everyone, students included. Officials at George Washington University are sensitive to that frustration as they strategize how to centralize help desk functions to improve the user experience.

“We’re realizing that there’s fragmentation of the student experience as a result of having a central IT help center and a number of others run by various departments,” says deputy CIO Ed Martin.

Consolidated support could mean faster answers for students and faculty, and more collaboration among departments, Martin says.

“Staff may become more intrinsically wired for interdepartmental help,” he says. “For now, that may be aspirational, but if we focus on the first goal, better collaboration may become a side benefit.”

Achieving a balance between a ­consolidated help desk, which delivers efficiencies, and department-based serv­ices, which offer specialized support, can be tricky, says Malcolm Brown, director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

“The needs of a first-year undergraduate and someone going for a master’s or doctorate are quite different,” he points out.

“Service reps in a central IT call center can only go so far in supporting differentiated resources, such as the sophisticated statistics programs used in engineering and sciences professional schools.”

Obtaining input from multiple ­stakeholders is the best way to identify the ideal level of centralization, says Martin: “The IT department can be the engine that drives discussions with the administration and faculty, but for widespread buy-in, help desk consolidation can’t be seen as an IT project.”

For more on how help desks are changing, read our magazine feature, “​Colleges Revamp the Help Desk to Streamline the Customer Service Experience.”

Nov 01 2017