Buyer's Handbook: Use IT help desk tools to resolve and prevent IT incidents Article 3 of 5

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Resolve problems right with a help desk management system

Help desk management tools keep employees working after problems and outages occur. Discover the extensive benefits the right platform can provide.

A help desk management system has immeasurable value regardless of the size of an organization, whether it's a global enterprise or an SMB.

Good help desk software can enable organizations to streamline customer support, reduce manual intervention in the resolution process, manage costs and gather information from the data to drive product improvements. It is the key component that can get a critical system back online because it provides a link between the person having the problem on site and the support technician.

Help desk software manages this comprehensive process while providing important business benefits in communication, ticket management, service-level agreement (SLA) measurement, reporting and analytics, and knowledge management.

Facilitate communication

In the service ticket lifecycle, the user who logs the service request is the person most familiar with the issue. The support technician is the expert -- internal or external -- who works to resolve the issue. The support technician may need to engage other resources, including third-party personnel, or they may escalate the problem to a higher support level internally.

When the case closes, the system creates a report in a problem/resolution format and files it in a knowledge database. A help desk management system manages this interaction to ensure a smooth resolution.

The event management process flowing through a help desk system

Oversee ticket management

Help desk software is a valuable resource to manage incident tickets. Incidents can come from various sources, such as by phone, web service and even text. A help desk management system can receive input from various sources, as well as store information.

Help desk software manages this comprehensive process while providing important business benefits in communication, ticket management, service-level agreement measurement, reporting and analytics, and knowledge management.

A help desk management system can also log and track incident progress. IT pros may have trouble resolving problems quickly if they don't have access to the software or hardware parts they need to address the issue. Help desk software must track the status of management updates, especially for critical systems.

It can also manage software patches which take on a life of their own because they may involve a third party and all the details that come with that, including a support contract, PIN and account number.

Help desk software also helps IT administrators oversee the end-to-end nature of incident management. It would be extremely difficult to provide this service manually or through an ad hoc set of tools, especially while servicing several calls at once.

Provide SLA performance measurement

SLAs define the criteria for servicing desktop computers. Vendors often define SLAs for performance reasons.

A support vendor is contractually liable to provide incident resolution in a certain period of time. Help desk software tracks the notes and communication, as well as the elapsed time of a call.

Desktop computers typically will not have an SLA metric attached unless the device is business-critical, such as hardware that is part of laboratory equipment or endpoints that belong to executives.

Typical SLAs include:

  • 9/5 -- next day
  • 24/7 -- four-hour response
  • 24/7 -- eight-hour response
  • 24/7 -- next-day response
  • 24/7 -- six-hour call to repair

Response SLAs typically indicate the time it takes between the service provider receiving the call and when the provider makes contact with the customer. A repair option indicates that the system must return to service within a specific time period.

Help desk software, using data input by the support technician, will track important data to evaluate SLA compliance. That data includes:

  • when the provider receives the call;
  • when the support technician is contacted;
  • when the problem is resolved;
  • when the case closes; and
  • the technician's notes.

When defining problem resolution time for an SLA in a help desk application, make sure the help desk software tracks the time between when the case is opened and when it is resolved. The support engineer is responsible for these entries, and they must be accurate to provide correct performance data. There is often lag time between when engineers solve an issue, enter the report and close the call, which can result in inaccurate data.

Editor's note

Using extensive research into help desk management software, TechTarget editors focused on vendors with internal-facing products as opposed to customer-facing products. Our research included Gartner and TechTarget surveys.

Provide reporting and analytics

Without software applications, providing reporting and analytics is prohibitive. With the data fields the software defines, IT admins can produce custom reports to provide information specific to various requirements, such as:

  • Incident number
  • Date
  • Duration
  • When contact with the caller was made
  • When the incident was resolved
  • How long it took to resolve
  • What patch was used
  • Cause and resolution
  • Parts required
  • Whether the SLA was met or not
  • Technical notes

By recording this type of data in a simple spreadsheet, IT admins can easily manipulate the data to provide specific reports and can even define custom fields for specific reporting needs. They can then use these reports to support analytics to determine:

  • the percentage of SLA success and failures;
  • the average problem resolution time;
  • what types of problems are occurring -- hardware failures vs. software failures;
  • what percentage of problems patches resolved and which patches resolved these problems; and
  • which devices are logging frequent calls and may require replacement.

For accurate reporting, a help desk management system should also include the ability to manage many sources of input, including email, web requests, tweets and texts, as well as the ability to store photos and videos. These capabilities will require personnel to manage the systems that receive this input.

Create knowledge management

Perhaps the most important advantage a help desk management system provides is the ability to develop and store a customized knowledge base. Buyers should note that this requires far more than simply storing data.

A knowledge base is a collection of user-supplied data. One notable example is Microsoft's Knowledge Base where Microsoft engineers, customers and the general public can submit entries when they discover a way to fix a problem that may benefit others. IT admins using the knowledge base can search for specific keywords and senior-level technicians can review articles for accuracy. This is a classic example of how preventing repetitive problems can, over time, dramatically reduce call resolution time and downtime and improve user satisfaction.

Many organizations provide incentives for employees who contribute to a knowledge base. The more information the database contains, the more value the organization gets from it.

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