How Does Your Helpdesk Solution Contribute To The Health Of Your Overall IT Infrastructure?

4504031924_790b6af945_zGiven everyone’s reliance on technology, a helpdesk solution is an integral part of your organization’s IT infrastructure. Naturally, with a helpdesk you picture skilled IT technicians assisting end-users with workstation issues. While this might be the main purpose of a helpdesk, it goes beyond IT support tasks and actually helps you oversee the health of all your IT resources. In essence, your helpdesk can be a panacea for all your IT ills.

In a recent report commissioned by Emulex Corporation, the research team at Forrester surveyed 158 IT professionals regarding how they manage business-critical IT applications. The results offered insight into some of the key challenges IT professionals face in their day-to-day operations. Here are some key points from the survey:

  • 56% of those surveyed cited that 25% of their critical performance issues cannot be resolved within 24 hours.
  • IT pros spend the majority of their time troubleshooting network and security issues.
  • Network visibility is vital for resolving most IT issues.

The lack of network visibility impedes your ability to identify the root cause of IT issues. This impacts first-call resolution rates as well as cost-per-incident effectiveness.

Tips

Here are some tips for using your helpdesk solution to identify and remedy network issues:

  • Use helpdesk solution that integrates well with a network monitoring solution and lets you configure helpdesk alert filtering rules.
  • Configure your network monitoring tool to share its alerts with your helpdesk software.
  • Incorporate a standby server to back up your data. A failover server is helpful for switching over the data.
  • Set up your helpdesk solution to receive and assimilate alert data and automatically assign tickets to specific technicians.
  • Use a helpdesk solution that automatically triggers new alerts and notes updates on existing tickets according to changes within the network parameters.
  • Configure alert variables to filter alerts based on severity and location. (This can provide information about your operating system, machine type, IP address, DNS, total memory, system name, location, alert type, etc.)

Just like you, all IT pros need to accomplish more with smaller IT budgets and less resources. A helpdesk solution that effectively integrates with your network monitoring tool and quickly identifies network issues can be a panacea for all your IT ills.

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IT Maturity: Chasing rainbows?

ITSM Maturity

It is surprising just how many organisations do NOT monitor their IT maturity. Where are we? Is it going up, or down? In fact an even more basic question is: exactly what is IT Maturity and is it an integer, percentage, score or grade?

It’s difficult to put a finger on what it looks like, and what the final output ‘Score’ is.  It reminds me of the famous book and film ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’…. Where after several years, the Mega computer that was tasked with finding the answer to ‘Life the Universe and Everything’, came up with the answer 42……Thank you – Very helpful.

IT Maturity is less about the answer, but more about the trend

There are many models that can be used from various analyst or consulting firms, and all use the same fundamentals (but scored differently, so don’t compare). I would point out that a lot of this is common sense and a great way to get IT properly connected with the business.

The building blocks centre on your PEOPLE, PROCESSES, TECHNOLOGY and MISSION; more on these foundations later.

However, the fact is, although it might be an interesting way to spend an afternoon, doing an IT maturity benchmark against other organisations (either in your sector or not) isn’t really relevant. There really isn’t an apples-for-apples comparison.  It may be close, but building a maturity model where you can score yourself-against-yourself (over time) will prove significantly more valuable and will be a whole lot easier to realize.

IT Maturity Model

There is no standard maturity model that works really well at outputting a set of actions that will deliver improvement for a particular business – and there never will be. There are too many variables to be considered. An accurate IT maturity assessment model would be far too complex and impractical – to build, or to use.

At the other end of the spectrum, too basic and irrelevant. Maturity models are either too loose (and have too few inputs to be useful), or they are too tight and require a whole heap of numbers you just don’t have to hand. Even the most simple of questions, like “do you have a service catalogue?” are rarely simple in the real world. Owning a service catalogue doesn’t indicate what it does or the value it delivers. Is it integrated with a service request system to manage execution, or is it just a front-end for the service desk? Are all of your services listed, or just some? IT is complex by nature and each question tends to spark a dozen deeper questions.

So, if general IT maturity models and assessments are questionable, how should you evaluate your own IT maturity? It turns out that the models that are out there can be of some use – as a starting point for your own custom maturity model. A model that can help you steer your own vision of IT and business harmony. When approached from a critical standpoint, you can get some good ideas on questions you can ask within your own organization to evaluate IT maturity in a way that is relevant to your business. When asking introspective questions about the status quo, things tend to fall into a natural path. When you boil it down, it can hardly fail to fall into the trusty old improvement model.

If you’re asking “What is our IT maturity level?” you’re really asking “Where are we now?” If you’re asking “What does the next level look like?” you’re actually asking “Where do we want to get to?” The whole thing starts to look suspiciously like an improvement roadmap.

The Glue

It occurs to me that the Service Management methodologies and tools play a critical role in the IT Maturity journey. The foundations of PEOPLE, PROCESSES, TECHNOLOGY AND MISSION all (or should) touch this common platform. ITSM could be the conductor of total IT maturity. Often relegated to the role of IT Help Desk, in fact you probably already have the tool that could transform your business, life and career.

ITSM pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…..

Utilizing your toolset and ITSM best practices in a business and IT maturity context can transform IT, the business and the ability to compete and react to business challenges.

Mission

What type of IT and business does the organization want?

What is the role of IT in the organization? Is it merely to provide compute, network and  applications to the business in a secure and compliant fashion, or perhaps, IT is the business (or needs to be the business, if your business for example is in payroll printing systems, but the vision is to become on e-billing and Payroll Company).

In order to build your own custom maturity model/roadmap, you really need a good understanding of the business KPIs and what factors influence them (both up and down). From this, you should be able to map out the IT capabilities that are most influential on those KPIs. When put in this context – one that is highly relevant to your own business – the concept of IT maturity is considerably more valuable. When you can say to the business “We are here…and this is what it means to the business. We want to get here…and this is what it will mean to the business” and they agree, then you know you’re heading in the right direction.

So Mission needs to define key business metrics, Governance, financial, planning, supply & sourcing.

People

Based on the mission, do we have the right people and skills?

This should score key skills and the quantity required (capacity to do the job), training, culture, organizational alignment and people management. Empowerment needs to be considered, do we centrally give the tools and services, or do we empower the staff/organizations to build what they need themselves?

Technology

Do we get value, quality, flexibility and interoperability that is secure?

Too often this topic is the sole focus, and typically scores quite well. It’s our heritage and passion, but recent development are clearly challenging sub topics such as Efficiency, Service Quality, Standards and Integration and the overall technology management capabilities. Don’t forget IT maturity does not necessarily provide you with the agility needed to redesign and deliver the services the business wants. In fact many organisations with cumbersome legacy solutions would score highly for IT maturity but have the turning circle of an oil tanker.

Processes

How digitized, efficient, automated and controlled are our processes?

Typically the lowest score in any IT maturity model score. Consider IT process. Consider non-IT process. Consider cross platform process integration. Best practice model alignment, process management and entire process lifecycle and where possible link all process scores to $$$$ metrics (staff cost, stock, license, and in the case of non-IT process, labor gains and efficiency gains)

Finally

I would recommend you build some simple BVD (Business Value dashboards) that link commercial data with IT data for your exec teams to see just how well IT is doing, improving and delivering real value to the business.

Oh look…. It’s raining and the suns out…..

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ManageEngine: The ITSM market needs more disruption (Video)

In this video, Barclay Rae interviews David Howell, European Director at ManageEngine about their recent move to offer the IT helpdesk module of their ITSM offering free of charge to companies of all sizes.

In Summary

In addition to explaining the reasons behind the decision, David discusses:

  • How free users will be supported
  • Installation timeframes
  • What it means for existing customers
  • How they expect the decision to be viewed in the market

 

 

Introducing Aprill

Aprill Allen, 'Knowledgebird'

I am very pleased to announce that Aprill Allen is joining The ITSM Review.

Aprill is passionate about Knowledge Management: capturing corporate knowledge and sharing it effectively.

She has 13 years of helpdesk experience under her belt; working in tier 1, tier 2 and tier 2.5 roles for ISPs, Telco’s and financial institutions and has written an award winning eBook (A Simple Guide to Creating a Knowledge Base).

Social Media and Community Management

Our goal is to be the number one online destination for news, reviews and resources for worldwide ITSM professionals.

Aprill will be helping us with this goal by engaging with our readers, ensuring our content remains on-topic and encouraging conversations around key ITSM industry issues.

Aprill will also be helping with Twitter (@itsmreview) and the new ITSM Review LinkedIn Group. Things are a little bit quiet in the LinkedIn Group at the moment, but if discussions in the ITAM Review LinkedIn Group are anything to go by it will soon be filling up with good stuff (without the spam!).

Welcome Aprill!

Twelve IT Helpdesks For Under $1,000

Say What You See

ITSM folklore states that the helpdesk software market is heavily oversaturated. Companies don’t suddenly discover the need for an IT helpdesk – it is a replacement market.

That may be the case for large enterprises, but this overlooks the enormous market of small and growing businesses.

In the UK for example the Federation of Small Businesses claims that 99% of UK business activity stems from small and medium size companies.

The UK has 4.5 million SME companies that account for 58.8% of all private sector employment in the UK and 48.8% of private sector turnover (source).

I have used UK figures here but my bet is that the vast majority of countries have a similar balance – perhaps even more so in developing countries.

Similarly, teams or divisions within larger organizations are breaking free of the shackles of prehistoric software and taking IT support provision into their own hands.

With this is mind I have compiled a short list of companies offering IT helpdesk software offering an entry level for under a grand. All the offerings below are web-based (do start ups and small companies buy servers?).

Conditions of inclusion

  • Under US$1,000 per year per user
  • Pricing is readily available on their website
  • Delivered via the Web
  • The website is not scary

If I have missed any companies that meet the criteria above please leave a comment below. Thanks in advance for your help.

Company Marketing Blurb… Pricing (Named user / agent per month from…)
1 Beetil “Adopt best practices the easy way” $39
2 BMC RemedyForce “A simpler, more affordable IT helpdesk in the cloud” $79
3 Desk (Salesforce, formerly Assistly) “The simple, social, mobile, affordable Customer Support Help Desk” $49
4 Freshdesk “Deliver a refreshing customer support experience through email, your website, phone, your communities and even Facebook and Twitter. Take your support to where your customers are” $9
5 ITRP “Make IT service management work for you. Your customers will thank you.” $30
6 ITSmartDesk “Social IT Service Management” ~$80 (for whole company not per named user)
7 Kayako “Helpdesk Evolved. Never miss a beat. Manage your email, live chat, calls, remote support and self-service, all in one place.” $29
8 My Service Desk (Hornbill) “Best Practice ITSM that delivers in Days not Weeks” $59
9 SAManage “Thousands of people around the world use SAManage, the leading online IT Service Desk and IT Asset Management tool.” $800 per year
10 Web Help Desk “Powerful Software for Technical Support” $75
11 ZenDesk “The fastest way to great customer support” $24
12 Zoho “Great Customer Support Quick and Easy” $12