This is part 3 of a 3 part series exploring the value (and even necessity) of a professionally managed Help Desk. The author has over 30 years working as an IT leader with some of the best run companies in the world. He has worked both sides of the fence – as a company IT employee and for outsource providers. He’s seen successful engagements and failures. This experience informs this series.
My intent in writing this series of blog articles is to review the value of a professionally managed IT Help Desk for a small business – the role it plays in business success. In this month’s installment, Part 3, I’ll review the value of ‘ticket’ data and other types of tickets other than problem requests.
Professionally managed help desks use an issue-tracking database to collect information on customer requests. This database exists as an application specifically designed to support world class customer response. The best products in this class have a web interface. That interface can allow the customer to not only enter their requests, but also allows the customer to track the process and status of that request. In the most basic situation, a ‘ticket’ is a recorded entry, made either by the customer or by the call desk technician (in the event of a customer phone call) that logs the customer issue, customer name and location, time and date stamps it, allows for a priority to be set, and is then saved so other relevant individuals can edit and review the record. Each customer issue is assigned a unique number by the system. This unique number with accompanying data is called a ‘ticket.’
Each ticket can have an associated entry or entries, made by either the customer or other qualified technicians. The ticket is considered open while the issue persists. Once the issue is complete or resolved based on customer approval, the ticket is then changed to a ‘closed’ state. Open tickets are reviewed multiple times per day to ensure the right resources are acting on the ticket based on its priority and resource requirements. Generally, open tickets are viewed in a ‘dashboard’ type view so they stay up front and visible to the managed service technicians who are assigned to them and to managed services management to ensure they are being worked with the appropriate level of urgency. Once a ticket is closed, it falls off the dashboard, but its data is stored for later analysis.
Stored ticket data is important for a number of reasons. First, the customer might request information from the managed service provider regarding historical work on an issue. It’s easy for the managed service management to query the help desk data base based on date, or time, or ticket number, or type of problem, or priority, or any number of other variables. That query will pull up all the entries associated with a particular problem to review and discuss. Second, time to resolve based on priority is usually a contractual obligation. When the managed service firm meets with the customer, the effectiveness of help desk support is discussed in terms of meeting these contractual guidelines. The data provides a concrete basis for this discussion. Third, by tracking issues over time, the managed services firm can provide solid feedback or recommendations on IT spending that will address those issues and improve performance long term. Fourth, the managed services leadership wants to know how their staff is doing regarding time to resolve issues. The data can inform them on additional training opportunities to improve the service process so that over time, they can get better and better at supporting their customers.
Problems are oftentimes similar between customers. When a technician updates and closes a ticket, s/he makes notes as to the root cause and solution. Other technicians can query the help desk data when confronted by a particularly perplexing issue and possibly find a solution in the closed ticket data. This can sometimes make a dramatic improvement in time to resolve. Furthermore, the help desk data base can hold documents, links, images, and videos etc. that define best practices so that technicians take a coordinated and shared approach to configuration and problem resolution. This shared database, or information repository, is a best practice to ensure continuity and efficiency for each customer.
Problems aren’t the only tickets created. Scheduled IT maintenance is also logged and assigned as a ticket, usually with low priority. It’s created and assigned so it doesn’t get missed. A managed service firm with hundreds of customers is liable for ensuring patches are applied in a timely manner, that technology is updated, software is kept up to date, bandwidth is measured, hardware is upgraded, etc. By planning using help desk software, setting timelines, assigning resources, and then regularly managing this task list, managed services firms can ensure that they maintain an up to date, current, efficient, and effective IT environment for their customers. Using this tool, allows managed services leadership to efficiently manage their workload to the benefit of their customer base.
The difference between a professionally managed help desk and a couple of IT guys working in a back office can be dramatic, especially for customers who need to professionally manage their business. Small and medium sized businesses can have a world class help desk that competes with the best run companies in the world by engaging a managed service firm to manage their IT support.
Contact Orion Group today to get started on the right managed IT support for your business.