The New Year can bring many challenges. Resolutions need to be kept, plans need to be made and targets need to be met. The IT team will often face a large number of service and support queries from users back from their festive break. Some will be minor issues: some will be huge annoyances: but all will need to be dealt with.

After speaking with my customers who serve thousands of IT users across wide areas, they gave me the following top 5 IT issues that the New Year brings – as well as a few tips on how to deal with them.

#1 – Passwords

Passwords are often the greatest bugbear of IT users, and cause around 30% of all IT helpdesk calls. Whether a user has been locked out of their profile, or simply wants a more secure password as part of a New Year resolution, they won’t be able to start work until their password is in their hands. To cope with this, the IT department should automate procedures as much as possible. If users can reset passwords automatically, at any time, not only can they be up and running sooner: the service desk will also free up a huge amount of time to concentrate on other, higher importance issues.

#2 – Connections

In this day and age, more and more IT users are working remotely. As a result, if workers suffer connection issues over the holidays or are unable to log in remotely on their first day back at the “office”, the IT service team is sure to hear about it. Firstly, if there are times when connection failures are likely the service team should make sure all users are pre-warned.

Second, in many cases a connection issue can be self-diagnosed and solved by a user if they are pointed in the right direction. IT departments should set up knowledge bases of common connection issues that users can access, edit and share. Using these “self-service” capabilities, users with some technical knowledge should be able to resolve minor connectivity problems, while the service team can instead concentrate on those users with more severe issues or less IT know-how.

#3 – Information

Often calls to the IT service team will be simple requests for information: how to perform a certain task, where to find a particular tool or what has happened to the desktop layout. Here, an in-depth knowledge base can again be a godsend. By making the knowledge base interactive and expandable, users can add their own insights and suggestions meaning that as more requests are made, more answers appear. The most important task for the service team is making users aware of self-service capabilities: otherwise, they’ll still be responding to relatively minor issues.

#4 – External issues

Often users will contact the IT department with a complaint that is beyond its capabilities. For example, power failures at external sites can disrupt network access for many users. These issues are even more likely in the New Year as organisations providing services the business relies on will have been operating under reduced staff over the holidays. In these cases, the most important asset for the IT department is information: as soon as it learns of something that may disrupt IT services, it should inform users as quickly as possible so that they are prepared. After all, there is a big difference between planned and unplanned downtime for users.

#5 – Fresh blood

Lastly, in January many organisations will receive a fresh intake of employees. Each of these will need to be set up on the IT system. However, a large number of new users can create a bottleneck: meaning a slow introduction for the new workers and the IT service team’s time being tied up while other issues are ignored. Again, automation and self-service can be a huge help. While the IT team will still need to involve itself, automating the simpler parts of the introduction process and making sure that new users can deal with any common teething troubles themselves will make things simpler for both sides.

Essentially, the secret for a happy new year is a combination of planning and of empowering users. If automation is used intelligently, users are given the tools to service themselves and information and knowledge is shared responsibly, the IT service team will be able to do a lot more in 2012 and beyond for a lot less effort.