Dear Bob ...
I'm a developer, and our help desk is driving me nuts. And it isn't just me -- just about everyone else in the department is on the receiving end of the nonsense.
Here's what's happening: The new help desk manager is the CIO's darling, metaphorically speaking. Why, you ask? Because unlike all the other managers around here, she's completely metrics-driven. She has established time to first response and time to resolution as her key metrics, and (no surprise) both have improved dramatically since she started charting them six months ago.
Here's how: Her analysts fall all over themselves to answer the phone quickly, log the problem, "decide" the problem can't be handled on the call, and escalate it to one of us.
Then our help desk system automatically badgers us regarding our increasing queue of open tickets until we close them. The CIO stands behind the help desk manager on this (he cites you, by the way, since you've been known to say, "Fix the help desk first.") Which means everyone else in IT lets other work drop -- like the development assignments I have for three different projects -- in order to close our tickets as fast as we can.
The help desk analysts openly laugh about how they're gaming the system (they even log a hang-up as an open-and-closed ticket). We can't get our real work done. And our manager is helpless (or maybe hapless -- I like the guy, but he's been entirely ineffective in dealing with the politics).
Any thoughts about what I can do?
Dear Coping ...
Sure. This one's easy. Your management has given you clear instructions: Closing tickets from the help desk is your highest priority.
Don't argue. Instead, practice malicious obedience. Keep your queue clear and your sense of humor strong. And keep accurate track of where your time goes. Presumably, the help desk system will be your friend in this, giving you a precise way to log the time you spend on each ticket you work on.
On your projects, when your task assignments inevitably slip, inform the project managers that excessive demand from the help desk is interfering with your ability to perform your project tasks, and since management has established that as the higher priority, the only recourse is to modify the project schedule. Document that you're doing this in an e-mail to each project manager and cc: your reporting manager.
Presumably, your colleagues will pursue a similar course of action.