Booming city sets up help desk
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 03, 2002
It used to be that colleagues would stop Dale Wishner and his technology
staff members in the halls or leave notes asking for help with computers
or phones. But, with Ontario, Calif., rapidly growing in size, officials
realized there had to be a better way to help the city's 23 departments
and 1,100 employees.
Over the past two years, the information services department — which
itself has grown from three people in 1998 to a current 22 — tested several
help-desk systems to centralize assistance. It finally settled on a Web-based
system called FootPrints, developed by UniPress Software Inc.
Such a Web-based system is critical because as the southern California
city (www.ci.ontario.ca.us) grows in population — proposed development
on 8,200 acres could add 100,000 residents to the current population of
162,000 — more services will be required.
As newer technologies, systems and applications are implemented to support
city services, surely questions, problems and complaints will rise as well,
said Wishner, Ontario's Information Systems Department technology supervisor.
By tracking and prioritizing such issues, the bottom line is better public
service, he said.
FootPrints, he said, is more flexible, scalable and affordable than
other help-desk applications and also enables users to build a "knowledge
base" of solutions to help fix a problem.
Since installing the system, the city has recorded 5,000 "tickets" —
that is, questions or problems raised by city staff — in a centralized
database, Wishner said. Such tickets range from replacing toner cartridges
to a server going down to public safety system problems, he said. Staff
members can type their request directly through the city intranet, send
an e-mail or place a call to technicians, who handle about 30 requests a
The staff has created a knowledge base of about 200 solutions, or frequently
asked questions, that IT staff members can refer to, especially if there
is a recurring problem. "It keeps the next person from spinning their wheels,"
The application also prioritizes and tracks activity and makes the staff
more accountable for solving problems. Wishner said the application also
could make it easier to argue for hiring more staff, if needed.
FootPrints has a self-service component for employees to look up solutions
to problems themselves, but it's not used much, he said.
The city paid an initial $11,000 licensing fee for the help-desk
package, and maintenance runs about $3,000 a year.