Product review: FootPrints, a help desk tool

How this help desk call-tracking software works and its features

When evaluating help desk call-tracking software, you should consider your organization's practices and procedures, how your agents would use such a system, call queuing, routing and escalation, system integration points, and the program's reporting and adaptability. With these criteria in mind, let's examine FootPrints, a completely Web-based help desk solution from Unipress Software.

Call-tracking software evaluation toolkit
To help you evaluate call-tracking software and choose the best product for your help desk, I've developed a simple needs analysis checklist and product comparison spreadsheet. You can download this call-tracking software evaluation toolkit by following this link or by clicking on the Downloads link in the navigation bar to the left.
The call-tracking software evaluation toolkit contains both a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet. To increase download speed, we've zipped these two files together into one file. You'll need an unzip utility, such as WinZip or PKZIP, to expand the zipped file. You'll also need Microsoft Word and Excel.

Agent use and call logging
Upon login, help desk agents are greeted with a list of their open call tickets and a summary board of open call Counts, as shown in Figure A. Agents can easily access all areas of Footprints via the navigation links on the left of the screen. Overall, the screen is well organized and provides an excellent starting point.

Figure A
FootPrints home page for help desk agents

The new call ticket screen, shown in Figure B, is well organized, but long, and requires extensive scrolling. This is particularly true if your help desk adds many custom fields. UniPress could improve this screen by adding some "jump" navigation to allow you to move quickly to the desired area of the call ticket.

The length issue aside, FootPrints has all the call logging features a help desk might require. Call templates for frequent calls can be created as Quick Calls. Agents can also create global issues for widespread problems and then link individual incidents to the global issue. Closing the global issue closes all linked tickets. FootPrints maintains an uneditable audit trail of actions and each update to the call description is tracked. The caller's complete call history is just one click away. Call ticket attachments are also supported.

Figure B
FootPrints Call Ticket screen

If I could change one thing about Footprint's call tracking, it would be the description area. Each time a FootPrints ticket is edited, the description memo field is blank. To view the past notes added, you must click a button to view a pop-up window. It also seems strange that there is no separation of problem and resolution. While custom fields could be added, it is the default description field that integrates with the knowledge base.

Call queuing, routing, and escalation
Of the help desk solutions I've reviewed, FootPrints offers some of the best call queuing, routing, and escalation features. FootPrints supports workgroups, called teams, and allows the assignment of tickets to a team for any member of the team. Included with the system is a sophisticated monitoring tool for auto-notifications and escalations.

Since FootPrints allows customers to submit new requests via the Web, it routes these to a special queue for processing. The number of calls in the new queue are easily identified on FootPrints' home page. In addition, rules—based on problem type—can be created to assign newly submitted requests to appropriate teams or individuals.

Read our other help desk software reviews
For more information on other help desk solutions, check out these additional TechRepublic articles by Janice Ward:

Each time a call ticket is updated or closed, FootPrints can be configured to e-mail the agent to whom the call ticket is assigned and/or the customer. An e-mail integration tool is available to turn incoming e-mails into new requests. UniPress has taken e-mail ticket logging a step further. E-mail sent from the system is identified in the subject line in a way that links it to the original call ticket and any replies sent back automatically update that ticket. Agents and customers can exchange multiple e-mails regarding an issue, each of which is automatically added to the call ticket.

An interesting feature of FootPrints is the ability to create separate projects. Having a project is almost like having a completely separate installation of your call tracking system, except you can allow users to cross projects and even set up the ability to transfer a ticket from one project to another. Cross project reporting is also possible. Each project can be fully customized and have its own administrator. Projects can have a wide range of applications. Perhaps the help desk acts as a single point of contact reporting on system problems. Those problems that are determined to be enhancement requests or bug fixes could be transferred to a different project used for tracking those items.

Perhaps a non-IT area of your organization would like to track service requests. A separate project could be created allowing them to do this, but only one installation is required. The idea of mini-systems (i.e., projects) within your call tracking system might solve any number of problems your organization faces when it comes to logging and tracking service requests. Since licensing for FootPrints is based on the number of users, you can have an unlimited number of projects and pay only for licenses based on the number of users needed.

Integration with other systems and add-on modules
Looking for a call tracking system that will link to your internal Active Directory or Exchange server? FootPrints supports LDAP connections to both and the contacts within the system are then linked to this information, eliminating the need for a separate contact list. An add-on for FootPrints supports full asset management and lookup. This third party product, Centennial, can be integrated with FootPrints, or SMS users can use the add-on to integrate with their SMS database.

FootPrints contains a solid knowledge base (KB) and allows KB articles to be applied as solutions to call tickets or for call tickets to create new solutions easily. A strange twist on the KB integration is the fact that each new article is actually assigned the next sequential issue number. It appears a little odd at first but doesn't affect the system reporting or call statistics in any way. You can also require certain agents to have their knowledge base submissions reviewed before they are made public as well as create separate public and internal knowledge bases.

A basic instant messaging tool for agent chat and an integrated VNC for desktop remote control are included. More robust products for these features are available as integrated items at an additional charge.

Reporting and adaptability
FootPrints offers both a standard set of reports and the ability to create custom reports that are amazingly full-featured for a Web-based environment. Graphs, text exports, and custom criteria can all be used. My favorite report is an aging report, shown in Figure C, which compares call statistics between months, quarters, or years. This is a great comparison of activity from time period to time period. I was particularly impressed with the system's ability to create custom reports without needing to know one bit about the database structure or code.

Figure C
Time Tracking aging report

FootPrints also offers strong customization abilities without ever writing a line of code or modifying the source directly. You can rename fields, add new fields, create dependencies between fields, and turn on or off a wide range of options, as shown in Figure D. Upon the creation of a new project, a wizard allows you to select from several standard templates that will begin the customization process for you.

Figure D
Field creation customization screen

System requirements and licensing
The system requirements for the server vary widely depending on anticipated use and whether the database and application will be located on the same server. Requirements start at a Pentium 4-based processor with 512 MB RAM, and go up. Windows NT, 2000, or 2003 is required; an IIS server, SQL, Access, or a FootPrints proprietary database are standard options, but Unipress has recently introduced options for Oracle and other server configurations. You can view all of the technical requirements in their online PDF brochure.

Pricing can be based on fixed licensing (one per created user) or concurrent users. Fixed licenses start at $1,000 per user and are concurrent at $2,500. Volume price discounts are available, as are government GSA and educational pricing. Site licenses with unlimited users are also available. Asset management add-ins with Centennial start at $25 per seat, or SMS integration is available for $1,000 to $2,000. LDAP integration runs $2,000 to $3,000 depending on size. All purchases come with 90 days of maintenance included and maintenance runs 18 percent of list price per year. You can find more details about system options, features, and pricing on the UniPress Web site.

Unipress has created an impressive system in FootPrints and has positioned itself as a strong contender in the midmarket arena. I felt that it solidly performed in every major area of consideration. The company provides online walk-through demos, hosted demos, and downloadable trials for you to give the product a try.

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