We put the IT in city®

CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Michael Chihlas, Account Manager
Michael Chihlas

The idea of an “IT guy” as a repairperson to fix your servers and computers is obsolete and, in today’s cyberworld, very risky. Even with cities that use a more sophisticated helpdesk through a vendor, these helpdesks can be frustrating, reactive, expensive, and staffed with unknowledgeable engineers who know little about municipal environments. In a recent case study with Forrest City, Arkansas, we noted that “challenges arose with things such as printing issues and employees needing help accessing their computers. The city’s technology support had trouble even completing such simple requests.”

With IT support, you need a sophisticated group of IT engineers who can handle the simple stuff, the complex stuff, and what’s unique to municipalities. How do you know if you’re getting it? Take this 5-question assessment to see if your IT support is helping—or hindering—your city.

1. When you call, are you hearing an awkward script or someone actually helping you diagnose your problem?

You know the feeling. You’ve got a specific problem, and you’ve called IT support many times. Yet, you can clearly hear a nervous entry-level or junior-level Tier 1 support person awkwardly stumble through a script full of obvious questions. You want to scream at them, “Stop with the script, listen to me, and help me now—or get me someone who can!”

A well-trained IT helpdesk works like a team. First, there are no junior-level Tier 1 support people. A team puts the experienced starters out on the court, not the green newbies. When you contact IT support, you expect an experienced engineer who is ready to address your issue. The person on the phone should help diagnose your problem in a specific, helpful way—troubleshooting, collecting useful information, and eliminating any obvious problems. Then, either they fix the problem or escalate the issue to another team member who has more experience with your issue.

In other words, when you contact IT support you are engaging not a call service or a junior engineer but someone who can help and address your issue.

2. How long does it take for your IT helpdesk to respond?

During our conversations with cities over many years, we’re often appalled by the amount of time it took previous IT support vendors to get back to cities. Days, sometimes weeks. Why are you paying for IT support if they don’t get back to you? Taking too much time to return a phone call or email can be the difference between your city functioning or not functioning that day.

Your IT helpdesk needs to respond in a timely, consistent, and predictable fashion. In other words, you know they will get back to you in a reasonable amount of time. That way, you address problems quickly. Going days or weeks without a response is unacceptable.

3. How many people are a part of the IT helpdesk?

A small IT vendor faces similar challenges that a city sees when it hires an in-house IT person such as:

  • What happens when they are helping someone else?
  • What happens when they get sick?
  • What happens when they are on vacation?
  • What happens when they leave?

You need a helpdesk with enough people to provide staffing redundancy so that resources are always there and ready to help when you call.

4. Is there continuity of service from your IT helpdesk?

In other words, when a member of your IT helpdesk ends their shift or 5 p.m. hits, is there seamless continuity with a different person the minute you pick up the phone? Even if you talk to a different person, are they up to speed on your problem because they have your notes and status right in front of them?

Some cities struggle with IT helpdesks where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. After working on a problem, you shouldn’t have to explain the entire problem again to a next person who has no idea what’s going on. Continuity means your IT helpdesk seamlessly supports you and resolves problems as a team.

5. If you call after hours, are you interrupting dinner or waking up your helpdesk?

If you’re interrupting dinner or waking up your helpdesk after hours, it’s not a proper helpdesk. Relying on an “IT guy” or repairperson who may or may not answer the phone after hours puts your city at risk. Just think about public safety—a department that runs 24/7—to consider the risk of relying on someone who might be asleep when a server crashes.

To serve a city, your helpdesk needs to operate 24/7 with fully staffed, knowledgeable engineers as ready to solve a problem for you at 1 a.m.. as they are at 1 p.m.


Because of cybersecurity risks, modern citizen service demands, and increased legal requirements and scrutiny for cities, it’s essential to rely on an experienced IT helpdesk that serves municipalities 24/7. That includes addressing any IT issue both remote and onsite—ASAP.

Need to reassess your IT helpdesk? Reach out to us today.