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5 ways that BYOD is shaking up tech support

By Mary Brandel, Network World
November 05, 2013 06:39 AM ET

Network World - Amid the clamor of "bring your own device" (BYOD), a question lurks in the background: "What happens to technical service and support?" Concerns for the tech support function encompass the extremes, from agents being overwhelmed with calls, to their becoming inhabitants of a help desk ghost town.

On the one hand, it’s easy to imagine a flood of calls as employees attempt to access wireless networks or synch their e-mail, especially in companies that permit the use of any device type. At the same time, as more people own smartphones, they are increasingly accustomed to resolving issues independently, through online forums, communities and other means of self-support.

By 2016, says Gartner analyst Jarod Greene, help desks will see a 25% to 30% drop in user-initiated call volume, as BYOD drives a companion trend of BYOS, or “bring your own support.”

So far, with more companies embracing BYOD, no clear answer has emerged. According to an iPass/MobileIron study, 81% of companies now allow personal devices to be used in the office, and 54% have formalized BYOD policies.

What is increasingly clear, however, is that demand for tech support is still strong. In Computerworld’s 2014 Forecast survey, help desk/technical support was No. 2 on the list of in-demand skills, with 37% of respondents planning to hire for this skill.

[ALSO: A sampling of BYOD user policies]

Similarly, Modis, a leading provider of IT staffing, placed help desk at No. 3 in its list of hot jobs in IT, after software developer (including mobile development) and business/data analyst.

Meanwhile, HDI – a professional association and certification body for the technical service and support industry – says two-thirds of support centers it recently surveyed are seeing rising volumes of support tickets year over year.

Here are five ways that BYOD is changing the way tech support interacts with end users:

1. Technical skills become secondary

Research from Robert Half Technology and HDI found companies struggling to identify qualified candidates across three levels of technical service and support: frontline/help desk, levels 2 and 3, and management. The skills that were highest in demand were customer service, problem-solving/troubleshooting and communication skills, according to Roy Atkinson, senior writer and analyst at HDI.

In fact, technical skills were not among the top five skills necessary for frontline/help desk professionals, and they were ranked lower than problem-solving/troubleshooting for levels 2 and 3 support staff in the report. Further, less than one-quarter of organizations surveyed by HDI have made staff adjustments to handle mobile device questions, Atkinson says.

When the BYOD concept arrived a few years ago, people in the support arena were pretty frightened of it.

“When the BYOD concept arrived a few years ago, people in the support arena were pretty frightened of it,” Atkinson says, particularly the idea of having to come up to speed with an array of device types and a potentially more complex technology infrastructure. In fact, though, the increased demand has been more centered around basic communication with clients.

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