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.


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 24×7 on call support. The support group is comprised of two level 1 resources and three level 2 resources.


  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 24×7. 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.