Bob Kay of Vistex expedited problem resolution by deploying a new help desk system that offers self-service.
Nov 16 2012

Finding the Right Help Desk Solution for Your Business

With proper upfront planning, companies can gain quick bottom-line value from help desk software.

A help desk solution that company staff avoids using because it’s too hard to submit trouble tickets is not very helpful — just ask Vistex.

A SAP solutions provider based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., Vistex has a help desk team of 10 that supports a far-flung cadre of office-based employees, remote users and outside consultants. The first hosted help desk system the company used didn’t provide the customization and self-service capabilities that it needed.

“It was very difficult to route tickets based on priority,” says Bob Kay, IT network and operations manager for Vistex. He added that the first help desk solution was also expensive to operate and maintain. “It was such a daunting task for an end user to put a ticket in that they would just suffer through it or have to get other people involved.”

This miserable experience had a silver lining, however: It gave Kay and his team a firm handle on their specific requirements. They ultimately found a more closely tailored solution in Quest Software’s Help Desk Authority. Although targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, the solution offers advanced capabilities such as end-user self-service for ticket entry and a searchable knowledgebase.

The software also offers priority mapping and an intuitive ability to design and brand the screen layout, format help desk ticket data and generate various types of queries and reports.

“The sky’s the limit in terms of what you can do with customizing the software,” says Kay. “And you can get granular with categorizing issues and users, which really helps in getting the ticket to the right person to handle the problem as quickly as possible.”

Since deploying the new help desk solution, Vistex has enjoyed speedier ticket resolution, greater productivity and reduced stress and frustration in both help desk employees and end users. “It just makes for a more efficient operation within the department and to the benefit of the company as a whole,” Kay states. “The faster people can get their problems resolved or get the information they need to resolve the problem on their own, the faster they can get back to work.”

The Right Fit

Vistex is not alone in its experience. Many companies are challenged in their efforts to identify the right help desk solution for their unique requirements, says Jeffrey M. Brooks, research director for Gartner. Most often it’s because they choose a product based on what they assume they need or what the tool promises to accomplish rather than aligning it with their specific needs and the maturity of their help desk operation.

“It’s not really about the size of the organization. You could be small or medium and be highly mature in your processes, and so you may need something a little more extensive,” Brooks says. “But if it’s a company at a low maturity level and the help desk buys something that’s way above what they can use, they’ll spend too much time and money trying to get it working right and then just end up replacing it and starting again from scratch.”

This type of mismatch in need and capability is what led South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative (SCRTC) to replace its original help desk system.

“The system we had was not flexible, not efficient and it made it too difficult to run reports, so our reporting needs were not met,” explains Ryan Pace, data and business solutions supervisor at SCRTC, which provides voice, video and DSL services to 30,000 customers in and around Munfordville and Glasgow, Ky. “The experience, though, did help us lay out our requirements more effectively.”

What is the key reason for investing in automated help desk software?

41% Automatic logging and tracking of help desk requests
31% Efficient use of limited IT resources
15% Self-service capabilities for users
6% Better support for remote and mobile users
4% Faster resolution of maintenance requests
3% Self-help functionality, including FAQs and trend reporting

SOURCE: CDW poll of 351 BizTech readers

Pace and his team opted for FrontRange Solutions’ HEAT help desk software, a product that offers more flexibility in workflow configuration, including employee setup, ticketing, change and escalation processes, and is able to build granular, customized reports in minutes rather than hours or days.

The new solution was also easily integrated with the company’s existing midrange server and back-end processes, making all required information immediately available to the help desk on a single screen.

Pace says the new system was more expensive than other options, but its snug fit with organizational requirements has provided a return on investment high enough to justify the additional cost.

With the new system, for example, the SCRTC help desk call length has dropped by 40 percent because personnel don’t have to wade through as many as seven systems to get all the information they need to help a customer. That has enabled the company to cut its number of help desk technicians from eight to seven while handling a 40 percent higher call volume.

“Before, we had a rollover system down in Tennessee to supplement the help desk when the volume of calls became so large that we couldn’t answer them in a certain amount of time,” Pace notes. “Today, with our new system, we don’t have to do that. So that’s another cost savings.”

Achieving Real Value

The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation (VFBF), an advocacy group that provides insurance and other financial services to 150,000 members in 88 Virginia counties, also switched its help desk solution recently, having initially purchased a large, industrial-strength tool. “It was kind of like we bought a Boeing 747 when all we needed to do was fly across town,” says Steve Villalpando, manager of IT governance and service delivery for VFBF, which has three full-time help desk personnel.

Recognizing that it needed a program that was simple to use, was easily managed without scripting and conformed to the ITIL process model, VFBF chose CA Nimsoft Service Desk, a software as a service (SaaS) solution.

“This is so user-friendly that it’s like going to a website where you don’t need instructions; you can figure it out just by clicking through,” Villalpando says, noting that the SaaS model helps significantly to ensure business continuity during a dis aster. “With our previous solution, we always had to provide trainers to our serv ice people.”

Although implementing the SaaS solution was more complicated and took longer to complete than Villalpando and his team had originally expected, the switch almost immediately began showing bottom-line benefits. For example, VFBF’s annual help desk costs have dropped from $125,000 to $35,000 in licensing fees, operation and maintenance, and training time.

Moreover, the fully automated solution has eliminated nearly all manual labor needed to create, investigate, troubleshoot and close tickets, which increases visibility into the ticketing system and makes for faster and more cost-effective auditing. Within the year, VFBF will take advantage of the solution’s self-service capability by adding a web link that end users can click to open their own tickets — a step that will speed the process even more.

“Every once in a while in the IT business, you make a really good decision,” Villalpando says. “Making the decision to switch to a help desk solution that fits our needs has been a really good one for us.”

Todd Winters

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