A pleasure to greet you; my name is Gilberto Acuña, and I have worked in the IT area for more than 25 years, both in Mexico and the United States, in different industries, mainly beverages, and food, but in the energy industry.
You’ve probably seen or worked at an IT help desk before. Perhaps you have asked yourself, what activities does a Technical Support area usually carry out? How can a Technical Support area be structured appropriately?
So today, we will talk about how an Information Technology Technical Support department can be organized.
A good structure of a technical support area or help desk can significantly help the company to provide good customer service to users to solve their technical problems.
The Technical Support area of an Information Technology department is mainly responsible for meeting all the needs of end users ranging from computer failures, cell phones, desktop landlines, and voice and data networks to failures in systems, email, and productivity software or applications.
We will discuss below the different Tiers of escalation that an IT department can have to provide better support. It is common practice to structure the Technical Support area into additional escalation Tiers, so let’s start with a brief explanation of each.
Usually, many companies use three Tiers to offer Technical Support to users: Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III.
Surely you must already know that the IT department involves many technical aspects of the organization. Therefore, its administration and organization are not easy at all.
Information Technology departments can work with Technical Support and Coding Engineers, Technology Architects, Network and Server Engineers, and Information Security Specialists, not to mention Project or Process Managers.
Then, organizing the Information Technology department is difficult; according to this technical support model, we will discuss how a Technical Support area can be structured at different service Tiers, such as Tiers I, II, and III.
Specifically, we refer to the personnel who collaborate in the Technical Support area or help desk and provide technical support to the rest of the organization.
We will find System Administrators, Technical Support Engineers, and Network and Server Engineers in this structure.
Of course, other models exist, but the Tier I, II, and III models are expected in organizations. Tier I is the most basic, Tier II intermediate and Tier III is the most advanced or specialized.
People working on Tier III may have started at Tier I and transitioned to Tier II.
It is possible in this structure that the people who collaborate in Tier I, as they gain more experience, can go to Tier II and Tier III. However, it is also likely that they will remain in the same Tier for a long time or perhaps permanently.
Let’s start with the Tier I position of Technical Support, where it is common to find people with little experience in Technical Support or those who just recently graduated from college, with the primary function of solving fundamental technical problems.
These Engineers can solve simple technical problems as they master the logic behind solving technical issues.
They have basic knowledge of protocols and technological standards, but that does not rule out that they may also have a more advanced understanding of these topics.
His main task is to solve technical problems that are not very complex, which could even be solved remotely from his desk without going to the end user’s desk. However, it is also possible that he can attend to them directly at their workplaces as well.
For example, we discuss software installation, adding and removing email accounts, active directory maintenance, etc.
Generally, in a technical support area, requests for attention are handled through a ticket system. End users can create their ticket through a web page or through a telephone call in which it is also being made the ticket.
This request is typically assigned to Tier I, who will try to resolve the issue in the first instance. If they fix the problem, they will close the ticket, documenting the solution.
If they cannot solve the problem, the case will be escalated to the next Tier, Tier II.
In other words, the Tier I Technical Support engineer only requires basic knowledge to solve these problems, which must be very complex.
From Tier I, these technicians can progress to a Tier II position and may be able to resolve requests such as resetting someone’s password who has forgotten it.
We are talking about not very complex problems, such as resetting a password, installing applications, or drivers for printers, creating email accounts, etc.
They may have some basic knowledge of operating a tool called Microsoft Active Directory and restoring access to an account from there.
They require basic knowledge of the administration of other tools like Microsoft Exchange or Google Workspace, from where they can log in, create or delete a user, etc.
As we already said, if the problem is more complex and they cannot solve it themselves, they will escalate it to the next Tier, Tier II.
At Tier II, more advanced technical knowledge is required about each technology in general.
Tier II Help Desk Engineers may be able to remotely connect to a server using RDP and troubleshoot some issues that are not very hard to solve.
Here we are talking about engineers with more knowledge to solve slightly more complex problems related to user software and failures in some systems at an intermediate Tier.
They can install software and hardware and solve many other problems such as phones, computers, laptops, meeting rooms, lighting issues, adding or replacing parts, etc.
As already discussed, typically, Tier I is the first point of contact. Still, the Tier II Help Desk Engineer may also work directly with end users on more advanced technical issues.
The Tier II Technical Support Engineer may have started with the company at Tier I.
It is essential to clarify that Tier II Technical Support is an intermediate Tier. If not solved, it can still be escalated to the next Tier. Tier III requires more technical knowledge than Tier I and can interact directly with the end user if necessary, as we already mentioned.
Now we move on to Tier III, the most advanced specialization and Technical Support tier. It is possible that the Tier III Engineer started at Tier I and later moved to Tier II.
Tier III engineers have highly specialized technical knowledge and often have little to no interaction with the end user.
Tier III is generally not directly involved with desktop support but can sometimes help.
If the problem has reached Tier II and you have not been able to resolve it, it can be escalated to Tier III.
For example, if a computer or software problem cannot be resolved in Tier II or Tier I, Tier III comes into play.
However, most issues are expected to be resolved at either Tier I or II.
A Tier II person is highly skilled, and their job is much more related to technical issues of servers, data centers, switches, firewalls, routers, telephone switches, etc.
They are also in charge of maintaining the WAN network, which connects the different offices or locations of the organization.
A Tier III person is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the network infrastructure at the highest tier without having much interaction with the end user.
We have often found that end users do not even know what happens in a data center or the network infrastructure, which is a critical area for the company.
In this network infrastructure, we find equipment such as switches, routers, firewalls, and other equipment, and this is generally the job of a Tier III Engineer.
Tier III can include people like a System Administrator Engineer, a Network Engineer, a Storage Engineer, Data Security Personnel, and a few other positions or roles.
A Tier III Engineer generally has to be much more advanced in their skill set than Tier II and much more than Tier I.
Tier III may also have some certificates, in addition to a college degree, that allow them to have deep knowledge in any specific technology, such as a certificate in Microsoft Windows Server or Cisco Networks, which is one of the most critical technology companies manufacturing routers, switches, access points, and firewalls.
These certifications have a significant curricular value and can be compared with a postgraduate degree in Technology.
So, in addition to their existing bachelor’s or master’s degree, a Tier III Support Engineer may have a few additional certifications, making their skill set much more advanced.
A Tier III Help Desk Engineer may be specialized in a specific area, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have diverse skills across multiple technologies.
That is, it may be that an Engineer specialized in Servers can also specialize in Networks and solve complex problems in this area.
However, the most convenient would be that they specialize in a single area to exploit all their capabilities.
In other words, a Server Engineer is preferably only dedicated to managing Microsoft Windows servers or, if necessary, working with a tool such as Microsoft Active Directory containing users and network resources.
It may also be the case that a specialized Network Engineer only manages the network, switches, or routers. Still, again, this depends a lot on the size of the company and the tier of specialization that is required.
Another case may be that of an Engineer specialized in Information Security, who deals with all security, protects against cyber intruders, secures the perimeter, performs penetration tests to check that firewalls are correctly configured, and make sure there are no intrusions on the corporate network, always taking care of updating to the latest software and firmware versions.
Now, all this depends on the size of the company, since in a small company, there will be times when the same person is in charge of Technical Support Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III simultaneously.
In a medium-sized company, there may already be a specific Tier of specialization without necessarily having the 3 Tiers of support mentioned.
In a large company, it is possible to organize the IT department and the Technical Support area specifically with the three Tiers we have mentioned.
In a large company, in the same way, there is an adequate specialization not only in Technical Support but in other areas, in which, for example, there are Engineers who are only dedicated to code programming.
Similarly, in large companies, Database Architects may be responsible for Database Administration and require highly specialized skills.
Finally, in large companies, specialized positions, such as Project Managers and Process Managers, but again, it all depends on the company.
With a good tier of organization and preparation, a company can establish a suitable plan for IT support.
It is important to have a structure so that when problems arise, you have an adequate system to solve the technical problems that users have.
By having an escalation plan, the company will be able to handle any IT situation that arises.
In addition, having multiple escalation tiers makes it easier for users to have a specialized area to address their problems.
The department should clearly define who is in charge of which tasks.
This breakdown of the 3 tiers of escalation explains how a Technical Support area can be managed in the way that best suits the needs of the company and the person requesting technical help.
By using this process, you can be sure that no support ticket will go unanswered, and all of your customers will be greeted with the same tier of respect.
In this model of Technical Support, Tier I is responsible for solving simple problems and performing basic tasks that do not require deep technical knowledge.
Then Tier II, which is more advanced, is responsible for solving more complex technical problems, and can even solve some basic aspects of the server.
Tier III is the most advanced and they care more about the back-end infrastructure, the things that a lot of people don’t even know exist, and it’s the most advanced Tier of Technical Support there is.
Please feel free to comment below, it would be helpful to know what your opinion is, or if you would like to add something to this conversation.
Thanks for your attention.