Joining the helpdesk software revolution could cut costs as users help themselves
by Steve Broadhead, Tuesday 26 July 2005
Software for running helpdesks is becoming more accessible by any type of user and can be installed on laptops and mobile devices to help remote workers
It was Sunrise’s Sostenuto ITSM that really announced the arrival of a new breed of helpdesk product: a pure, browser-based application. Revised in v2.0, Sunrise has made the product web services-based, so elements such as integrated e-mail have now fully embraced the internet. This, in turn, creates a far more flexible range of deployment options, as well as a single interface for all users and no overhead on the users’ PCs.
Until now, helpdesk systems tended to be rigid in format, so the business had to apply itself to the software rather than the other way round. With Sostenuto, companies can configure the software to fit their business, such as controlling screen navigation via the workflows within the company, creating rules that react to real events and programmed schedules and lifecycles that model the services within an organisation.
An integrated business rules engine enables Sostenuto to react to events and programme schedules so field updates, operations and notifications can be performed automatically.
This flexibility means users can go beyond traditional helpdesk routines and integrate their ITSM firmly within their businesses.
One Sostenuto user, Aftab Hussain of the Schools ICT Unit (Sict) for Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council, which supplies IT support to all 130 local schools, highlighted how the product goes beyond the standard remit of helpdesk systems. Sict has been able to create modules that manage non-ITSM functions including contracts, quotations, ordering and purchasing.
“We want to make it easy for the schools, the local education authority or our own support staff to get their hands on the right information quickly and in any location,” he says.
Using its Chameleon interface, Sostenuto is PDA/Pocket PC-friendly, so Sict now has mobile support staff logging on and updating incidents while on the move or from home.
The centralised, multi-function approach to IT services pioneered by Sict has already caught the eye of others. The technical teams based at each school are looking closely at Sostenuto’s impact, as are Rochdale and Lancashire education authorities, keen to replicate the cost savings and efficiency improvements already realised in Bolton.
This revolution in helpdesk technology can perform as an enabler, allowing users to work from home and call on support as if they were in the office. Better still, some self-help is available as a first line of support.
Noel Bruton is an independent consultant who advises companies about improving their helpdesk and IT user support services. He says the time taken to resolve a call is from about four minutes for 60% of all incoming requests for help, but can increase to an average of 37 minutes of actual effort if there is no immediate resolution.
That time may be spread across days of an open helpdesk call, so a single call could cost a company 20. Multiply that by several thousand users and the costs look alarming.
Steve Broadhead runs Broadband-Testing Labs, a spin-off from independent test organisation the NSS Group. Author of DSL and Metro Ethernet reports, Broadhead is now involved in several projects in the broadband, mobile, network management and wireless Lan areas, from product testing to service design and implementation.