It amazes me how things seem to come full circle in IT. Back in 1992, I started my first full-time IT job. The company I worked for had a mainframe-based e-mail system that had no connectivity to the outside world. E-mail communications were available only between employees in the company’s various offices. Today, even the smallest organizations require some sort of Internet-based e-mail system.
Of course, global connectivity is a mixed blessing. In exchange for instant communication, we have to contend with such things as e-mail viruses and spam. In response to e-mail security concerns, a company named TrackLogix is producing a closed Web-based mail system as an alternative to traditional e-mail.
While this solution will indeed prevent e-mail viruses, I must express my reservations about using such a system. The biggest concern I have is TrackLogix's assumption that businesses do not need to communicate with the outside world. Nonetheless, I want members to be able to make up their own minds about the software and its suitability for their organization. Therefore, the rest of this article will focus on the way the software works.
How does TrackLogix work?
The TrackLogix software was initially designed for help desk operations. However, the company has recently attempted to market the software as an alternative to e-mail. The original idea behind TrackLogix is that it can act as a central repository and task management center for help desk requests.
If a help desk isn’t running specialized software, an end user typically e-mails a request for support to the help desk. The help desk then e-mails the person back to confirm receipt and then forwards the user’s original e-mail message to the technician who will be assisting the troubled user.
The TrackLogix approach works differently. When TrackLogix is implemented, a user opens a service request application. This application is running on a remote server so that it is centrally contained and accessible to all of the users. Once the request is submitted, TrackLogix uses a notification module to notify the help desk, the user’s manager, and anyone else who needs to be involved with the user’s problem. Notification may be issued by phone, Internet, or pager.
When the support request is issued to the technician, the technician fixes the problem and then remotely accesses the TrackLogix application to pull up the user’s original request. The request is updated with notes about how the user’s machine was fixed. Once again, TrackLogix issues a notification to everyone involved, informing them of the status of the user’s request. Once TrackLogix is able to confirm delivery to all parties, it closes the user’s trouble ticket.
TrackLogix includes a very helpful reporting mechanism called a heat map—named so because it’s based on the colors red (hot) and blue (cold). The software creates a report of the number of trouble tickets each technician has closed on a given day. The heat map displays the names of each technician down the left side of the report. The top of the report is divided into columns that represent the last six days, allowing you to see how many trouble tickets each employee closed on those days. If a manager is in a hurry, he or she can simply look at the colors instead of the numbers to see who has closed out the most trouble tickets. If an employee has a lot of red in a row, the manager will know at an instant that this technician has closed a large number of trouble tickets.
When I first saw this report, I thought it was a neat idea but was a little unfair to some help desk employees. After all, who is working harder—the employee who, in one day, closes out a hundred trouble tickets that were all related to password resets, or the employee who spends the entire day fixing one extremely difficult problem? As it turns out, though, a manager viewing the report can drill down and see exactly which trouble tickets an employee has closed out on a particular day. That way, an employee doesn’t necessarily look bad for closing only a couple of trouble tickets.
Heat maps are also used to show the total number of requests on a given day. This allows managers to see not only which days are the busiest but also why an employee might have completed just a few easy tasks on a given day. There's even a heat map used to show the backlog of trouble tickets waiting to be serviced. This is a valuable tool for anyone trying to justify hiring additional help desk employees, because it shows managers just how backlogged the help desk is during certain time periods.
Use at your own risk
Replacing your entire e-mail system with TrackLogix is a risky proposition. However, it's a decent solution for help desk or sales departments needing to eliminate the chances of having an e-mail virus disrupt their job functions. Nonetheless, at some point, those departments undoubtedly will need a full-blown e-mail account, once again subjecting themselves to the possibility of receiving an e-mail virus. And once again, you've come full circle.