When evaluating help desk call-tracking software, you should always consider your organization’s current 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 look at Track-It! from Intuit, Inc.

Track-It! comes in Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition. The Enterprise Edition offers the same functionality as the Standard Edition, but uses a more robust database engine running on Microsoft SQL Server 7.0/2000 or Oracle 8i/9i. It includes several enhanced features, such as a spell checker, a systemwide and holiday work schedule for work order escalation, and the ability to manage service level agreements (SLAs).

For this review, I looked at Version 5.0 of the Standard Edition. Both products, however, offer two features that I think stand out among help desk call-tracking systems: a tightly integrated inventory tracking system and a wide array of add-on modules that you can use to create a customized solution for your organization. As of this article’s writing, Version 6.0 is in beta and will be released sometime in the near future.

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 at the top of this page. My call-tracking software evaluation toolkit contains both a Word document and Excel spreadsheet. To increase download speed, we’ve zipped these two files together into one file. You will need an unzip utility such as WinZip or PKZIP to expand the zipped file. You will also need Microsoft Word and Excel.

Agent use and call logging
After signing on to the system, the agent can select from one of five standard modules to begin work. The work environment resembles the Windows XP user interface with shortcut tasks located in the panel on the left side. A search box allows the agent to search by several key fields. Training on Track-It! should be minimal; every screen has a How Do I button that offers information on common tasks relevant to a particular screen. In version 6.0, a new home page will provide technicians with quick access to information and a technician message board.

After opening the help desk module, the user sees a list of currently open work orders, shown in Figure A. Each work order lists requestor information on the left with details on the right. A tabbed interface gives easy access to past history and custom data. The user selects the requestor by using a pull-down list or by beginning to type the last name. Its lack of extensive search capabilities to select a client for the ticket may prove cumbersome in an environment with a large number of clients.

Figure A

Help tickets also lack the ability to add individually recorded progress notes. A record of reassignments and call changes is also not provided; only a general description and resolution field is available for free-form notes. This could pose a serious tracking problem for organizations where multiple agents work on the same call or a high level of detail on a call’s progress is required. Version 6.0 allows for the creation of separately assigned subtasks, but these tasks are predetermined in nature.

If your environment seems to duplicate a lot of work orders, Track-It! provides a simple Copy Work Order command, which replicates the call ticket and then allows for modifications. This is a very speedy utility when taking many similar requests.

Solutions are built into a tree hierarchy by topic, which enables easy drill-down-type browsing. A search feature is also available. Solutions can be copied to work orders and new resolutions can be copied from the work order to solutions. The Enterprise Edition allows agents to add file attachments and create multipart work orders.

Call queuing, routing, and escalation
No general queues exist in Track-It!, and calls must be assigned to specific technicians. If you have large numbers of technicians and lots of open call tickets, it may be difficult to review calls in the queue since there is no division of technicians by workgroup. You can, however, drag any field on Track-It’s list screens up to a grouping bar and have the list sorted into expandable groups. This allows for custom viewing of all record lists. Figure B shows a work order list sorted by technician.

Figure B

Both the Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition allow you to manually notify a technician of new, overdue, or seriously overdue work orders directly from the work order screen. But the Enterprise Edition automates this process through the Track-It! Agent add-on module. Both editions support notification through e-mail, pager, and text messaging.

Unfortunately Track-It!’s escalation system leaves a little to be desired. While it is easy to reassign work orders to different technicians, the software keeps no escalation record; only the currently assigned tech is shown on a work order. I don’t consider this a true escalation system.

Integration with other systems and add-on modules
Track-It! offers one of the widest selections of add-on modules available among help desk call-tracking software packages, plus it contains several unique modules included in the base package. A simple training database included with both the Standard and Enterprise Editions can be used to track IT training courses that end users have completed. Library functions allow IT departments to track lending of their reference materials, and purchase orders can be tracked and processed in the Purchasing module. None of these are as robust as software programs designed specifically for their respective purposes, but they should suit the needs of smaller organizations quite well.

Also among the base modules is an extensive Inventory system, and this is where Track-It! really shines. Users can have a variety of items associated with them, and each item contains purchase, warranty, and other relevant information. Complete workstation details can also be maintained. Figure C shows an end user who has both hardware and software associated with him.

Figure C
Track-It! can associate a variety of equipment and software with each end user.

Figure D shows a list of all the software Track-It! is currently auditing.

Figure D
Track-It! can easily track software.

If used with the Track-It! Audit add-on module, inventory information will contain detailed reports of both hardware and software installed on the workstation. Track-lt! can access and copy configuration files during audits. A Macintosh Audit add-on is also available. Track-It! does such an excellent job at auditing and tracking inventory that some organizations use Track-It! strictly for this purpose.

A Web add-on allows staff or clients to access call records. The staff module is amazingly similar to the desktop software, so switching between the two should pose no problem. The installation of several ActiveX modules is required for the staff interface. The client Web interface allows you to add new calls and track open tickets. You can also purchase a self-service module that allows users to search the solutions database from the Web. Source code is included with the purchase of the Web interfaces to allow for customization.

There are several other add-ons available that you can review on Track-It!’s Web site.

Reporting and adaptability
Track-It! has a large number of included reports with details on inventory, audit results, and work orders. Canned reports also provide an analysis of computers not ready for Windows 2000 or Office XP. All reports are in Crystal Reports format, and additional custom reports can be created. The license for the Enterprise Edition includes Crystal Reports. Besides text reports, the system offers graph reports that allow the user to control several aspects of their look.

Track-It! contains many user-defined fields in numeric, date/time, and text formats. The number of these customizable fields is fixed, but there should be plenty for most needs. Lookup lists can be customized as well, and any field label can be modified.

System requirements and licensing
Requirements for the Standard Edition are relatively light. Track-lt! runs on any 150-Mhz machine with 64 MB of RAM and Microsoft Access 2000. Client workstations will need the same, except Access 2000 isn’t required. Web components require IIS 4.0 or later with IE 5.0 or later on the desktop. Enterprise Editions will require a server with either SQL 7.0 or later or Oracle 8i. Client requirements remain the same. More details on requirements are available in the online product documentation.

A five-seat license of the Standard Edition costs $995 and can be used to audit the hardware and software on 100 workstations. The five-seat Enterprise Edition runs $3,495 and can also be used only to audit 100 workstations. It is important to note that these are named seats, not concurrent licenses. Each person who needs to use Track-It! will need an individual seat. For example, 10 technicians can’t share a five-seat license, even if only five technicians use the application simultaneously.

The Track-It! MacAudit module runs $295 for 25 audits, and the Web interface for the Standard Edition costs $695; Staff Web interface is included with the Enterprise Edition.

Help desks requiring detailed call tracking and queuing may not find all they are looking for with Track-lt!, but those help desks seeking a basic work-order tracking system with integrated asset management capabilities should definitely check it out.