Help yourself

Help desk software is becoming proactive. Though designed to respond to requests for assistance, the programs also can lower the cost of running your network, simplify change and prevent problems.

Help desk software is becoming proactive. Though designed to respond to requests for assistance, the programs also can lower the cost of running your network, simplify change and prevent problems.The latest features in help desk software include the ability to diagnose and solve problems remotely, via Internet or wirelessly.In its simplest form, help desk software tracks problems from the time they’re reported by users to the time they’re fixed. But these days, the programs are taking on new roles, incorporating new technologies and satisfying new demands.Government IT is in a tough position, facing more burdens—from complex applications, mobile and Internet access, and security requirements—with tighter budgets and fewer personnel.In the worst case, technology support could outweigh technology benefit. Help desk software can help restore the balance.Some tasks can be shifted back to the users, while other tasks can be automated. When external users—customers or constituents—are involved, the applications could involve customer relationship management components. Asset management also is a part of the solution.An obvious development in help desk software is the expanded use of the Internet. Many products are already Web-enabled, so users can submit requests via browser, which solves many cross-platform difficulties.Studies have consistently shown that Internet channels are less expensive than phone calls. IT departments also can respond to users via Web or e-mail, and even remotely investigate problems anywhere via the Internet.Rather than install and run help desk software on their own machines, many agencies are choosing hosted online applications. In this case, a vendor or service provider takes care of all the implementation details, while users tap into a browser to interact with the system.User self-help is another emerging approach. Some agencies have reduced or eliminated user training from their budgets, with the result that IT departments must field what should be trivial questions. Help desk software can provide users with some of the answers and techniques that more traditional training used to supply.In fact, many users tired of waiting for tech support would prefer to handle problems themselves and gain expertise that will prevent the need for additional support.Some programs have self-healing capabilities—they scan machines for known problems, such as security vulnerabilities, and either automatically initiate fixes or offer the fixes to users.Help desk software is in a unique position to gather information about machines and applications. Managers can put that information to use when making decisions about upgrading agency resources. Some products also monitor software license compliance, both to ensure that the agency is not violating software agreements and to save money on unused licenses.Because help desk software often includes a workflow component—routing requests to the most appropriate staff members for resolution—this can become the hub of more complex activities that cross lines of responsibility. For example, when a new employee is hired, it is not surprising that the task “provide computer” might trigger a number of subtasks, such as acquiring a machine, installing applications and supplying network access.Help desk software might allow more general tasks like “new-hire,” which include cross-departmental subtasks like initiating benefits, granting building access and providing a computer. In this sense, the help desk software becomes a primary interface between the agency and its employees.While remote control and remote management have long been a part of IT capabilities, they are moving to new platforms. Why be limited to a desktop machine to handle help requests? Some products support interaction via a variety of handheld wireless devices.Agencies have many considerations when choosing an appropriate help desk program.A good place to start, as always, is by defining your needs. Don’t buy products you don’t need—comprehensive packages can load you down with unnecessary features. Modular packages give you the option of choosing the features you want and avoiding the ones you don’t.Ease of use is a primary concern: The last thing you want is a help desk program that requires help itself. IT personnel should be able to install, configure, customize and maintain the system without formal training; users should have a simple and intuitive means to report problems. Consider if there are any existing systems—such as inventory or human resources—that the help desk application needs to connect with.Web access is growing in importance, as agencies expand geographically. Standard browsers make for a simple and familiar user interface. But there could be good reasons, such as security, for avoiding the Web and sticking to a network deployment. If workflow capability is important to you, make sure the software can adapt to your processes, not force you to adapt to it.IT departments might want a zero-calls approach, where self-service is the strategy. But what do users want? If users are not willing or able to help themselves, it’s time for Plan B. Even if you do aim for self-service, be prepared to provide staff help.And remember that the goal is to provide assistance with minimal staff involvement. If your users don’t use the system, the system won’t work. You might need to sell your users on self-help to ensure success.Several trends in help desk software could become significant. These systems can be a gold mine of information, which some vendors are starting to make available. Data mining this information can help you make decisions about staffing, products, vendors and other issues.Emerging technologies such as Extensible Markup Language and Web services can simplify interfaces between help desk software and other systems, including HR, inventory and purchasing. Web access will grow more widespread, except in cases where security and confidentiality are paramount.
Help desk software goes from problem solver to problem hunter















Web-hosted helpers



















Know your needs





















Edmund X. DeJesus of Norwood, Mass., writes about IT.

NEXT STORY: Dell does AF server consolidation

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.