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Gartner: 'Days of the Manual Service Desk Are Numbered'

The best managed workplace services providers are automating the heck out of their service desks, Gartner analysts argue in a recent Magic Quadrant report.

"In this environment, the days of the manual service desk are numbered," analysts Daniel Barros, Mark Ray, Stephanie Stoudt-Hansen and Tobi Bet write in "Magic Quadrant for Managed Workplace Services, North America."

The report focuses on managed workplace services (MWS), which Gartner classifies as a subset of the IT outsourcing market. "MWS includes traditional end-user outsourcing (EUO) as well as new digital workplace services to provide cloud-first, automated and integrated support to end users," the report explains. "The goal is to boost employee engagement and agility through a more consumerized work environment, while optimizing costs."

Gartner identifies four major trends driving the current provider landscape. First, a digital workplace program has become a business-continuity issue, rather than a nice-to-have, since pandemic lockdowns went into effect in March 2020. Second, there's been a big jump in transformational deals, with large and midsize North American clients moving away from "technology-centric, cost-led MWS contracts" to engagements that are more sweeping. Third is an emerging focus on employee productivity and business outcomes.

The other major trend among the four involves what Gartner describes as a digital channel shift on the service desk. This is where Gartner is detecting major movement away from manual service desk involvement.

"Across the 255 million annual contacts reported by providers in this research, 10% are now intercepted by analytics, 15% are dealt with through user self-service, and 14% are handled by various forms of automation, including chatbots and virtual assistants," the report notes. "As a result, manual resolution is now just 60% of overall contacts, down from 65% in 2018. However, this digital shift is spread unevenly, and five providers in this Magic Quadrant are already resolving over 50% of contacts for their clients without manual intervention, and for individual accounts this can exceed 70%."

The leaders among the 20 vendors featured in the late-February Magic Quadrant are Wipro, HCL Technologies, TCS, NTT DATA, Unisys, Atos and Cognizant. Unisys is one of the vendors making the report available at this link.

Among those in the leader quadrant, Gartner reports:

  • Most report high current levels of automation in their service desks. TCS is resolving 70 percent of "how-to" queries through self-service. Wipro is delivering 60 percent and Cognizant is addressing 47 percent of total reported contacts through self-service, self-heal and automation. HCL is handling 50 percent of contacts through nonhuman channels. Unisys has ramped up contacts delivered through automation, self-heal and self-service by 10 percentage points to 44 percent.
  • Most are cutting service desk staff. Unisys reports a 20 percent reduction, Atos a 10-to-20-percent reduction and TCS a 3 percent reduction. NTT DATA had a 33 percent reduction in the broader category of field services staff.
  • Several expressed very ambitious goals for service-desk automation, including Atos, which is working to move 100 percent of all first contacts to nonhuman methods.

In practical terms for the broader service provider community, Gartner notes that the traditional IT service desk is becoming fully digital at Level 1 and remaining staff is relocated into Level 2 teams. The report says the trend will "require a higher level of business-facing skills in resolver staff to deal with the higher-value, nonautomatable incidents that remain, making those roles more senior and harder to recruit."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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