Today, too few functions are “structured”.
By that I don’t mean they have no organisation or processes. Of course, they have. By “structured” I mean key process workflows which are controlled, measured, and reportable. Let’s follow a request from A and follow it through two routes:
A calls a contact B (known of referred) in another function to request X.
B makes the right noises and A assumes their request will be met.
Already, there is no record of the request, it is not necessarily the case that B will execute the task or pass it on to C, and there is certainly no formal audit trail initiated for this activity. Further, the wider business has no idea whether the request is a one-off or the 100th such request during the day.
A calls the Service Desk in functional area of B and logs a request X.
The Service Desk raises the job ticket and allocates to the appropriate agent/executor(s). The Service Desk is primed to inform the supervisor if any tickets are not responded to within a set period. The volume of traffic by activity type is constantly recorded. The activity levels of all agents is known.
Let’s continue the story…
The task X could be a simple enquiry or a complex analysis. Even relatively simple requests may require input from other sources – “hand-offs”. These introduce the potential for delays. Again, the service desk application can track hand-offs and alert the agent when either a set time limit is reached, or a response has been received.
If an agent is unexpectedly out-of-office, then their activities are accessible and the status evident from within the service desk workflows.
Overall, you can see that a lot of management information is accruing. Volumes of tasks by type, elapsed time to complete, bottleneck hand-offs, breakdowns when contacts change and are not recorded. Resource planning and scheduling is easier in this scenario.
Further, the workflows associated with particular tasks are defined. That helps new joiners and reduces operational risk. Good Service Desk products also allow you to integrate documentation or a knowledgebase which will help your people or make it easier to help themselves.
Do teams like working this way? Those who have, don’t want to go back. Those that have not are reticent, it is true. There is an initial reluctance – a sense of being over-transparent, perhaps. Your people will come to appreciate that a large proportion of the daily tasks are baked-in: automated requests, reminders and reports. They can focus on the critical outputs.
A Service Desk approach can be applied to many data-centric functions; investor reporting, investment structures data maintenance, portfolio company monitoring, ESG data collection and curation… Not forgetting enterprise functions; HR, Finance, Compliance…
All those cited activities require input or review by multiple stakeholders. A Service Desk approach helps break down the hidden barriers of silo working. There is no hierarchy in the processes – even 4-eyes approval is a work-step. All stakeholders are contributing to a tangible outcome. The Service Desk is a facilitation tool.
Technology is doing the repetitive and audit trail work here, releasing staff for the more challenging work of scrutinising the data and servicing their stakeholders. The Service Desk team are comfortable with the technology: both the workflow management and the end-point data repository they are curating. Along the way, unseen in the background, the business benefits from the accumulation of transaction information built up by the team. Further, when things should happen to go awry, the workflow process should be able to present an audit trail which will help understand where things fell short.
The Service Desk approach has been used effectively in IT Service Management for many years. Many of the same tools deployed for the IT team work just as effectively when configured for other Support functions. As indicated above, many activities in a Private Markets enterprise can be viewed as Support functions.