Ace Traits From the Tennis Court for IT Service Desk Pros

The different styles of play in ITSMClose to midnight on January 29, 2012, Novak Djokovic was down and out at the Australian Open at the soldout Rod Laver Arena. Rafael Nadal had just seized all momentum from him and was on the verge of closing out the final set, with one hand already on the first major trophy of the year. The duration of the match had already exceeded the record for the longest match in a men’s major final, and for Djokovic, this came on the heels of another five hour semifinal a couple nights before. With his back against the wall, his endurance severely tested and his skills diminishing at the same rate as his energy, Djokovic saw a ray of hope after Nadal made an uncharacteristic error. He regrouped and in an amazing display of grit, he went on to win five out of the next six games to defend his Australian Open title. He possessed traits – ones that set champions apart – that could bail him out of stress, despair and adversity, and take him immediately to the pedestal of glory.

The battling of nerves takes place not just on the tennis court, but also in IT environments where service management teams race against time to battle it out against incidents like those that take down 785,000 websites at CloudFlare, or cost you $1,104 in net sales per second at Amazon.  The CloudFlare case saw routers crashing due to a rule change. This impacted 23 datacenters in 14 countries, effectively pulling websites that it was supposed to speed up and protect off the internet. When you deal with an outage on such a massive scale for over an hour and several hundreds of thousands of customers are breathing down on you, it takes precision, grit and a level-head to bring your company and your customers out of a crisis. To bring them back so convincingly that you continue making 3,500 new customers a day after the outage is quite a feat.

IT service desk professionals have many of the same traits that tennis professionals bring to the court. In the case of emergencies described above, IT service desk technicians across companies both big and small, relentlessly deal with major incidents that pop up now and then. Just like the “serve and volley attackers” in tennis, they never shy away from a challenge and handle business-critical outages with pace and aggression. Not afraid to make a mistake, they try to fix the switch causing the network outage, or deal with the worm that has compromised security. They understand how IT infrastructure impacts itself, and they keep plugging holes with a constant volley of activity to prevent the issue from spreading, and hopefully eliminate it at its source. When the world around them melts down in a frenzy, these cooler heads come out swinging, with their skills and attitude winning the match for everyone that day.

In addition to attacking, IT technicians bring in other traits to help create a winning service desk environment.

Take incident managers, for example. Just like the baseliners, they are found all across the spectrum of the IT organization. These technical and functional specialists are indispensable in everyday IT. They tackle every incident that comes their way, firming up the IT department one resolution at a time. Both consistent and logical, these technicians are so well-versed with repeated patterns of incidents that it is rare for any issue to actually get out of hand under their watch. They can apply knowledge to anticipate and deal with new situations. Whether it’s applications, networks, servers or databases, these are people that are  constantly ready to put out fires, both big and small, in an effort to weed out disruptions and restore services. In a ‘hard court’ IT infrastructure, which is new and lacks maturity, you can count on these guys to keep those incidents at bay. 

When it comes to dealing with problems and uncovering the root cause, the counterpunch attitude helps.Tenacious and lacking patience for workarounds, problem managers only look to fix the issue for good. Being analytical problem solvers with a questioning mindset, they probe and delve into the issue until the root of the problem is discovered. With their accurate root cause analysis, they facilitate fixes, ensuring that those issues do not repeat themselves. With surgical precision, problem managers plug holes in the IT infrastructure, effectively stopping the recurrence and spread of incidents.  This frivolous breed of IT managers helps sound the death bell for the biggest problems that plague an IT infrastructures.

Smooth implementation of changes is ensured by change managers who play the “all court” style of tennis.Touching all points in the IT infrastructure, they use their deep understanding of systems to negate the impact of risks by keeping unauthorized changes in check. These change managers play to create a stable IT infrastructure with a combination of varied skills such as handling conflicts, assigning priorities and allocating resources to changes. Working with CABs and other parties, they facilitate participation and awareness in the change management process.

Having a knack for handling the unpredictable, desktop support engineers tackle their work with the “junk ball” style of play. Whether it’s installation, operation, configuration, customization, investigation, diagnosis or solution, they are the lynchpins that tirelessly resolve the most common hardware, system and application requests. With an unorthodox, but results-oriented style, they are the game changers everyday.

When it comes to creating a “winning service desk” in IT, it takes people with the right traits to battle against odds and snatch victory from the opponent. Tennis players have long been admired for the strengths they bring to the court. IT service desk professionals carry much of the same DNA in them, even though they aren’t as celebrated as those on the tennis court. With a combination of IT professionals that carry the “ace tennis player” traits,  CIOs can rest assured that their IT operations are in winning hands.

If you’re one of these players looking for the right IT service desk tool, check out ServiceDesk Plus, the ITIL ready software from ManageEngine. With Incidents, Problems, Changes and Assets in addition to Project Management and advanced analytics, it could be your perfect partner in play!

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About the Author: Shannon Lewis

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