The CRM and Support Services 2000 Conference and Expo, Spring 2000, officially began Wednesday, March 1st, and I spent three days in our nation’s capital to learn about and discuss the challenges facing today’s help desks.

I attended for two reasons. First, I was invited to speak at this conference based on “Seven rules for being a great help desk analyst,” an article I wrote for TechRepublic. The second reason is, of course, TechRepublic needed someone to cover the conference. I love killing two birds with one stone! Here’s my report.

The emphasis on “E”
The speakers ranged from the highest-tech CEO to the lowest-tech college professor—and everyone in between. While the presentations they offered covered all you would expect, one subject clearly dominated. I’m referring, of course, to E—that is, e-business, e-marketing, e-support, e-you-fill-in-the-blank. I counted no fewer than 13 presentation titles containing “E,” “Web” or “Internet.”

It might seem a bit like overkill, but the reason so many speakers chose “E” as their subject is that most people attending the conference have a real interest in Internet-based support and training. Some of the session titles included:

  • Web Portals: Gateways to Corporate Knowledge
  • CRM and E-Business Solutions for the Mid-Market
  • E-Business Applications—On Internet Time

The most interesting of the “E” presentations were those dealing with real companies that we all know. For example, Diane Harrington, director of client computer services for Kmart Corporation, gave a joint presentation with Steve Semelsberger of Motive Communications, Inc., on “E-Support at Kmart: Going Portal.” It might be hard to think of Kmart as a high-tech company, but the company is doing some fun stuff.

Dell Services’ Robert Riazzi delivered “The Future of E-Support.” Everyone thinking of implementing some sort of e-support attended this presentation. In return, they learned about security, pitfalls, and many of the challenges Dell faced in offering e-support to its customers.

Training and inspiring
While “E” seemed to be the most popular topic among the speakers, the most crowded presentations were those that had to do with training or inspiring employees. Jeff Brown, Executive Vice President of HIS Help Desk Service, gave the first session I attended. The title was “Creating a Help Desk Analyst Training Program.”

Fortunately, I showed up early, because it was standing room only. It was clear the audience was excited about the subject from all the questions and note-taking going on.

Even my own presentation drew more people than we had chairs. Frankly, this surprised me, so I asked a few members of the audience why they were interested in my topic. The answer: They are interested in anything that will help them make their employees better help desk analysts. It’s hard, if not impossible, to get really good people in this job market. Help desk managers are looking in every direction for new ways to keep and improve current employees.

Mixed networks
For me, the most useful presentation was “NT vs. Linux: Strengths, Weaknesses and Interoperability Opportunities.” Let’s face it—most companies are no longer choosing between server operating systems. Nearly everyone has a mixed network. Today, admin folks have to know a bit about all systems and how they work together. Mark Minasi gave this presentation, and it was great. In fact, I’m ordering Red Hat the moment I get home.

Most conferences are a lot of fun and pretty informative. CRM & Support Services 2000 Conference & Expo, Spring 2000, was that and more. It’s great just being with a lot of other people who understand your daily demands. Sharing problems and—even more important—solutions, makes the travel and scheduling all worthwhile. I can’t wait for the next conference! Mark your calendars now for Oct. 22-26 in San Francisco.
Pat Vickers is an MCSE currently with Sprint. To comment on this article, please post your remarks below or follow this link to writeto Pat .