don’t use service desks as a means of collaboration inside of an organization.


Service, or Help Desks are a system that have been in use since the beginning of the internet. We often see companies that deliver software to large user bases have a help desk that is ran by a support team. This brings the company numerous benefits including:

  • Cost effective support for confused consumers.
  • Better understanding of the software to its consumers.
  • Problems with the software can be found by consumers and bubbled up to developers if it a fundamental problem or bug.

These are some really significant benefits, and when done well there are minimum downsides (see Apple).

There are some important communal effects of a service desk. A service desk is a square hole that is meant to fit all of its user’s problems into, and nothing more. If a problem gets raised that doesn’t fit within in the scope of the service desk it gets dropped, and forgotten.
Having a service desk also acts as a large barrier placed between its users and its operators. For the context of a company’s support team and the consumers of the application, this barrier is actually ideal in order to keep things professional.

However, like most things in tech we must make sure we are using these systems, not abusing them.


When a company grows, so does the amount of collaboration required for the many moving parts of the organization. The company expands the scope of its product, and it also expands the teams working on these new products and features.

An engineering manager may see an increase of inter-organization requests coming in for help, collaboration, and questions about their domain during this growth. Existing culture and practices may not seem to work anymore, especially if existing collaboration was lax and unstructured. Managers who see themselves getting overwhelmed may look to systems to solve this problem, such as a Jira service desk.

Since engineering teams don’t interact directly with consumers of their software (it’s usually proxied through product managers and the like), this would be intra-company interactions such as dev <> product, dev <> dev, dev <> data, and so on. Particularly they might look to using tools such as Jira’s service desk to manage handling the requests that come their way.

In the context of intraorganization collaboration, and communication, service desks are absolutely harmful. They hide important operational information, slow down collaboration, and builds walls between different parts of the organization.

Information Hiding

A business is a group of people trying to deliver value to a consumer base by solving some problem in the world. Since everyone is working together on solving this problem, the better the entire group understands the problem, the more effective your group’s solution is going to be. If important context gained from collaboration is held behind the closed doors of a service desk the quality of the group’s solution is going to drop dramatically. You hired smart people so why not utilize them to the fullest extent?

Innovation cannot happen within an organization without dissemination of information.

Slowing Down

It is often the case that some people have already solved a problem that you are currently facing. If the only collaboration that happens is behind the closed doors of a service desk the people who have solved your problem can’t help you. The people who have the solution are left out in the cold, unable to help. This will directly slow you down, as well as anyone who solves problems in your organization.

Innovation cannot happen if people cannot rely on each other

Building Walls

Whether its directly or indirectly, we look to how people interact so that we can identify whether or not a person is toxic or normal. It’s human nature for people to want to build friendships with the people around them. Having fun, and being comfortable around your coworkers will encourage collaboration, and will make the people inside of your organization happier. All of which should build a stronger, more effective organization. People become more willing to take risks on innovative ideas. If you didn’t want people to be innovative you probably would want to build walls in your organization, lock down information, and cut down on collaboration. Having a service desk as your primary source of interaction will be a great way to do that.

Innovation cannot happen if people are uncomfortable.

Conclusion

The first listed tenet of the agile manifesto is “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. Implementing a service desk meant to handle intraorganization communication and collaboration clearly violates this tenet of the agile manifesto and the consequences of allowing such a practice in your organization are things such as hidden information, slowing down innovation, and the isolation of the people inside of the organization.