Land O'Lakes turns to cloud for service desk

A well-run IT help desk is key to reputation

Many IT organizations have neglected their help or service desks for years. But Land O'Lakes Inc. is going in a different direction, moving its help desk to ServiceNow, a cloud-based service.

ORLANDO -- Many IT organizations have neglected their help or service desks for years. But that's not the case at Land O'Lakes Inc., a company whose products include butter.

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When Barry Libenson, the CIO at Land O'Lakes Inc., a cooperative with 9,000 employees, took his job several years ago, one of things he found was a service desk nobody really liked. The help desk used an old Lotus Notes application to keep track of issues. The core team believed the tools were terrible and there was a backlog of 3,000 open tickets that could take days to weeks to resolve.

The system made no sense to Libenson, especially considering the money that Land O'Lakes was investing in a new ERP system.

"You wouldn't take a Ferrari to get repaired by the corner mechanic," he said, explaining the help desk mismatch he found.

Libenson switched his help desk to ServiceNow, a cloud-based service, and reduced the backlog to about 200 open tickets and response time from days to hours. "We really felt that this was the ideal application environment to put in the cloud," said Libenson.

The company has been using the service for the past year. About 40% of the applications used by Land O'Lakes are now delivered via the cloud.

Gartner analyst David Cappuccio, in a report released at the at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here, said that despite the emergence of best practices over two decades, "IT service desks still struggle to provide adequate IT support."

The tolerance for poor support is declining with the diversity of tools in businesses and the use of consumer-based applications and services. "Business user demand for customer satisfaction is far outstripping the IT support organizations supply," said Cappuccio.

Libenson was on a ServiceNow-sponsored panel that considered the changing role of service desks in an organization. Similar to Salesforce, ServiceNow offers a type of service that growing numbers of users feel comfortable getting as a software-as-a-service. While important, it is not as critical as something like logistics planning, he said.

ServiceNow is not the only company offering cloud-based service desk. Hewlett-Packard this week, for instance, announced a new cloud-based service desk.

The fact that this market appears to be growing, speaks to the underlying point made by Gartner analysts: Upgraded help desks are needed to meet the demand created by the consumerization of IT. It's a point with which Libenson agreed.

Three years ago, "I never would have predicted that I would have had 1,000 iPads out in the field" used by sales, he said.

Kim Liston, the senior director of service delivery at Omnicare, a pharmaceutical provider and another ServiceNow adopter, said a well-run service desk is essential to the perception that the business has of an IT department.

"I believe that the reputation of an IT organization starts at the service desk," said Liston.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Land O'Lakes turns to cloud for service desk" was originally published by Computerworld.

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