IT Policies

Help Desk Implementation Diary: Week 1

Jay Rollins takes you step by step as he spearheads the implementation of his company's new help desk system. In this part, he talks about choosing the best software.

Jay Rollins takes you step by step as he spearheads the implementation of his company's new help desk system. In this part, he talks about choosing the best software.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote some posts about help desk software and what to look for (see Help desk post 1 and post 2). Recently, the company I'm working for decided to replace their help desk system. I thought it would be helpful to readers to offer a play-by-play of the new system's implementation.

So let's set the stage. The company is a mid-sized healthcare company with 925 users and 58 physical sites spanning the EST and CST time zones. It's a Citrix Xen Server and Microsoft shop with support hours Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST with 24x7 on call support. The support group is comprised of two level 1 resources and three level 2 resources.

Requirements:

  1. Issue tracking: Basic issue tracking to be entered via a self-help portal, e-mail, or a help desk support staff.
  2. Service Level Management: The ability to set and tweak service levels to find the optimal mix of response times an staffing.
  3. Problem management: The ability to assign work orders and mini-projects that stem from issues or tickets. Basically, these problems derive from determining root cause solutions and associating them to the original issue, but without impacting service levels.
  4. Knowledge base: The ability to create user friendly FAQ's for a self-help portal and internal support documentation that is easy to get to, manage, create, and edit.
  5. Asset management: The ability to centrally store and report on the various IT assets within the company and associate inbound tickets or issues with hardware profiles.
  6. Process management: The ability to track maintenance tasks and support contracts.
  7. Rules engine: The system needs to have the flexibility to allow internal support staff to create multiple tiers of "If this, then do that" rules throughout the various modules.
  8. Non-proprietary flexibility: Basically, the application is web-based and can be added to with external PHP or ASP pages created internally. Back end database is open enough to allow us to perform integrations with other applications such as project management databases or work flow management systems such as MS SharePoint.

Nice to have's:

  1. Purchase management: The ability to have purchase order work flow with approvals and tie them to a problem or issue.
  2. Workflow engine: The company invested in SharePoint for work flow management, but a small management engine would be nice for small tasks associated with a maintenance plan or something along those lines.
  3. Network and systems monitoring: The ability to proactively manage or troubleshoot network or systems issues at the remote sites would be a plus.
  4. ITIL or COBIT framework integration

After looking through the various suggestions posted throughout TechRepublic, recommendations from peers and experience of the existing IT staff, we selected two systems to compare side by side. Numara Software Footprints and Manage Engine's Service Desk Plus Enterprise edition.

They both had a robust feature set that met our requirements and many of our "Nice to have's." After going through the various application webinars our initial impressions were:

Numara Software Footprints

Very nice interface with tightly integrated ITIL support. The ITIL features were certified by Pink Elephant. The moderator was very easy to understand and progressed at a decent pace to touch on all the various features. The webinar was not very interactive. It was scheduled for a bunch of companies, so the one-on-one piece was missing. The rules engine looked very easy to manage. Phone support for the product was performed in Tampa Bay, FL. Definitely our first choice.

Manage Engine Service Desk Plus

The interface was pretty intuitive, but not as good as the Numara product. The overall system looked to be very flexible allowing the addition of new fields and was supported in a Microsoft or Linux flavor with relatively open back end database integration. The moderators were from India, and although they were very enthusiastic about the product, they were difficult to understand. Support was free with maintenance and 24x7. We were assured that if we needed a feature that wasn't there, they could write it and turn it around pretty quickly. However, support was also off-shore in India.

Next week will be when we install the evaluation versions of the products. We will be testing each function as deep as we can while testing out the support groups as well.

12 comments
rglauser
rglauser

It would have been interesting to compare client / server vs. SaaS, legacy vs. modern, old vs. new. Of course, SaaS would have made for a really short diary as there wouldn't have been much of an implementation to document. I'd suggest TechRepublic compare enterprise service desk products. Pit Service-now.com vs. BMC Remedy. Rhett Service-now.com

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

ITSM is build on the ITIL ITSM framework. It uses Incident, Problem, Change, Release, and has Inventory Management as well as Configuration Management. With PC Life Cycle Maintenance (PCLM), you have the ability to manage your II by installing OSs, installing application, removing applications, and giving users a shop to choose applications that they need. Also, with our discovery tool, we have an add on license manager piece. "8. Non-proprietary flexibility" ITSM is highly configurable and customizable. It is not open source, but we do allow modification to css, some asp, and the ability to use external wsdls. It is also possible to connect to external data sources. * I work for FrontRange.

jermainemason
jermainemason

It would be nice to know what list of packages you discarded to reach the 2 you are comparing side-by-side. There are so many packages available at various price levels, what made you select these two?

AndyKaz
AndyKaz

We currently use Alloy Navigator, and I love it. Was it considered before Numara and Manage Engine were selected as the finalists?

gr8britton
gr8britton

I wholeheartedly recommend IssueTrak. I know it may be too late, but you should add that to your tests.

kingmail53
kingmail53

You may want to consider USU AG's Valuemation and KnowledgeCenter. It has all the elements you require. And, it has three of four of your "nice to haves" - particularly workflow and procurement. For the fourth Network and Systems Monitoring, you would have to get a separate product and then integrate it into the main product, Valuemation. Additionally, Valuemation supports service catalog and service request management. Valuemation is ideal for SMBs that don't want to spend their time and energy keeping multiple products integrated, even when from the same vendor (but often acquired separately).

slkwyld
slkwyld

Spiceworks. Even with its bugs its a hell of a helpdesk/Asset Management System. Not to mention its FREE.

ajohansson
ajohansson

Both implementations were for small businesses. I used Numara Track It! I loved it. I currently use Manage Engine, also good, and less expensive. Both were pretty simple to implement. I prefer the Numara asset management over the Manage Engine. Good luck!

Jay Rollins
Jay Rollins

FrontRange did not make the initial cut because I couldn't get a clear idea what was included versus not included and it seemed voice centric. The CTI integration is way-overkill for what we were looking for. It looked like there were a ton of modules but no pricing data on the website and the descriptions and demos were not very informative (more brochure-ware than functionality demo). All together with the limited information I had and assumptions I made, the product appeared way out of our price range. Looks like a slick product, but the lack of information prevented it from getting into the starting gate. Hope you can use the feedback.

Jay Rollins
Jay Rollins

You are correct that there are a ton of help desk products. I compiled a list of products from the feedback on this blog for other help desk software applications plus I asked around my network as to what was being used that folks liked. I also included packages that the current employees have used in the past. Numara and ManageEngine appeared several times in the lists, so that helped narrow it down a bit. Several applications offered some of the functionality and others were way over priced. I had about $15k to buy and imnplement.

Jay Rollins
Jay Rollins

Unfortunately no. It never made it on the list. In my search, your comment here was the first I had seen or heard of the product. Unfortunately, it is too late because we have already made the purchase. Look for the Week 3 diary entry next week to find out..

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

That's good feedback, and to be honest somewhat surprising. While we have a VoIP component, it's a small piece of what we do. So it's good to know that's what you took away from the website!! I don't deal with pricing, so I've no idea what your price points might be.....