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Justin Roux | August 30, 2017

Calculating the ROI of Your IT Self-Service Portal

Self-service continues to be promoted as the white knight for time- and cash-strapped IT departments and their service desks. And it makes so much sense, whether it’s part of a shift-left strategy – commonly to improve speed of resolution and to reduce costs – or it’s an initiative to improve the end-user experience and customer satisfaction.

These three things are the oft-quoted, high-level benefits of self-service; but please read on for more on the wider spectrum of self-service benefits, the associated return on investment (ROI), and how best to achieve them.

Realizing the benefits of self-service

Much has already been written about the potential benefits of having a self-service portal, for instance:

1. Cost savings and increased efficiency. This is IT reducing costs and speeding up resolution by letting the end user do what the service desk previously did through self-help automation. See the shift-left image below.

2. Delivering an improved, consumer-like, customer experience. Thanks to employees’ personal-life experiences with technology, they have certain expectations of access and expanding number of communication channels available for DIY support. The bottom line for IT departments is that employees now expect consumer-grade self-service capabilities in the workplace, including issue logging, service request catalogs, and knowledge availability for self-help. Plus, anytime, anyplace, any device access to these.

3. Greater support availability. The HDI 2016 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report states that 72% of support centers are not staffed 24/7, i.e. around the clock. Thus, self-service can be employed to provide 24/7 support, even if just for issues that can be resolved through self-help. Plus, self-service technology can also provide support for multiple languages and time-zones at a far-lower cost than employing native-language speakers.

4. Easing the pressure on overworked service desks. A self-service portal deflects calls away from the telephone channel, which can have a significant effect on service desk workloads, so that support staff are able to work on self-service-created tickets at less-busy times of the day (priority levels and service level targets permitting). This potentially also adds to the financial savings, as staffing needs will “smooth out,” i.e. there will be fewer ticket-volume peaks and troughs.

All these benefits positively affect the IT service desk, end users, and the business as a whole. However, it’s important to understand that these benefits will only accrue if, and only if, employee self-service usage is high enough to make a tangible difference to current operations.

Realizing the ROI of self-service

In the past, achieving the desired ROI on self-service has been a challenge due to how it was implemented. Today, the industry and individual companies are finally understanding the need for:

  • A sufficient investment in organizational change management to help effect what’s ultimately a change in the way of working
  • A targeted self-service marketing campaign to encourage and facilitate end-user adoption
  • More consumer-like ITSM-tool self-service capabilities

Once an organization focuses on the key elements for building an effective self-service initiative, the ROI can be achieved.

Calculating the ROI of self-service

Importantly, self-service success is definitely there to be had – and companies are investing further in self-service success. For example, the 2017 SDI report “A View from the Frontline,” asked:

“During the next twelve months, which of the following do you expect to see?

With the joint-top response “Greater use of self-service and self-help” at 73% of respondents.

So, there’s definitely a belief that self-service will play a big part in the future of IT support – but how can your company justify its initial investment, or additional investment, in it? While all of the above benefits are important, most business cases will focus on what can be tangibly measured, i.e. the quantitative rather than the qualitative benefits with an emphasis on financial gains.

The easiest way to do this is to calculate the gross monthly savings by using a simple multiplier of the number of tickets expected to be deflected multiplied by the average saving for each. Is it an exact science? No. But it can at least be indicative of the potential monthly savings that can then be matched to the upfront and ongoing costs of self-service to help calculate ROI (plus, a payback-period analysis can be done if needed, too).

ROI Formula:

self service portal formula

For this, you’ll need:

1. The total number of tickets your service desk handles each month.

2. A prudent estimation of what percentage can be deflected by self-service. Many organizations have reported the ability to deflect up to 30% of tier 1 tickets with an effective self-service initiative that includes the right awareness, technologies, and work pattern reinforcements.

3. Your unit ticket handling costs (or use the averages below if you feel them relevant to your organization).

4. The known upfront and day-to-day self-service costs. Note: Since self-service capabilities already exist in most modern ITSM platforms, some costs can be attributed to the optimization of your ITSM investment.

2017 industry average ticket cost data from MetricNet shows that the cost of self-service is less than 10% of the Level 1 service desk cost:

  • Self-help (Level 0) – US$ 2
  • Service desk (Level 1) – US$ 22
  • Desktop support – US$ 69
  • IT support (Level 2) – US$ 104

Thus, the more tickets (and the associated support effort) that can be “moved to the left,” the cheaper they are to resolve (or provision against). For example, a US$ 22 Level 1 “human” password reset vs. a US$ 2 Level 0 automated reset. The ultimate goal of self-service is to shift the engagement model to the left (see chart below).

self service portal chart

Hopefully this blog has helped explain the basis of calculating the ROI of self-service and providing you some insights on getting started.  In addition to the obvious financial benefits of self-service, there are also the productivity and end-user satisfaction benefits that should not be discounted.  Having a happy and productive workforce is important for every organization and self-service plays a pivotal role!


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Justin Roux

Justin has over 10 years of experience in the IT industry including roles in IT support, IT operations and technology sales and marketing. He has spent the last several years in the ITSM field developing expertise in Service and Asset Management, among other passion subjects such as Agile Methodology and Software Integrations. Outside of work, Justin spends all of his time with his family, improving his golf game and rooting for his favorite college and professional sports teams.