I recently spoke with HP Product Marketing Manager, David D'Agostino, about the help desk software industry. Most recently, in April 2007, HP announced HP Service Desk, an outsourced, single-point-of-contact end-user Help desk solution delivered through HP Services. HP's ServiceCenter product is due out soon with version 7 that will add new features and functionality. I wondered about the effect of Microsoft's imminent entry into the Help desk arena with its Systems Center Service Desk offering.
      Added to this mix of transforming factors in the Help desk industry is the increased adoption by larger businesses of Help desk best practices as set forth by IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standards. HP integrates its products with ITIL (in fact, several thousand ITIL-certified consultants are part of HP), and many other well-known Help desk software companies integrate at least a portion of ITIL best practices in their solutions.

      D'Agostino, like many other Help desk industry insiders I've recently spoken to, felt that the field is a logical place for Microsoft to enter. The Help desk software industry has matured greatly, but there's still room for growth. The question many insiders have is simply how will Microsoft do it—via bundling the solution with server components or offering it through resellers.

      As D'Agostino says about today's Help desk solutions: "Everyone has incident management, but what you surround it with is what matters. You need incident and change management and real workflow, and also the right kind of approval process. You need a flexible, definable engine to manage workflow and approval strategy."

      Today, he says, Help desk tools are focused on the here and now: "Once changes are made, people forget about the change, and organizations don't have a chance to learn from the history of a problem." He added that HP plans to change that with a feature called Decision Center that will deal with the here and now but also sweep information into a data warehouse and use it for trend analysis. "A logical step from trend analysis is to ask 'what-if' questions. Decision Center lets you see the impact on the business from actions you might take."

      The future is all about "breaking down the walls between the silos," he says. "Taking a service approach, shifting from process to service and how its applied to business—you end up with a continual improvement cycle."