Best Practices for Managing Your IT Help Desk

Best Practices for Managing Your IT Help Desk [34:43]

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Video Transcript

Alrighty, good afternoon, everybody. Once again, this is Brandon Shopp. I'm a Director of Product Management here at SolarWinds. And this afternoon we're going to discuss best practices for managing your IT help desk. So let's go ahead and jump right in and move to the next slide.

So, first off, do your users like you? Do they love you? So first off, what is the role of help desk? Why are you there? You're there, fundamentally, to solve technical problems. But you're not there just to solve only technical problems. You're there to make sure your users are happy, whether it's an externally-facing customers or it's people within your own company. That's your ultimate end goal is to make their experience be as pleasurable as possible in interacting with the IT help desk. It saves the organization money, from a best practice standpoint. It allows people to see what they're doing.

So how do you interact with users, with the help desk? You can use tickets if you have an IT help desk system. You could email. That could be direct email and want you to bypass your internal processes and they email the IT person directly, which is definitely something you don't want to have happen. But they may just get on the phone and call, and call directly to that person, which, again, is definitely, you want to have some processes and procedures built in around how to manage your IT help desk tickets. And then obviously you have walk-ups and drive-bys. People who are just coming there and they have a specific problem; they walk by and ask questions.

I mentioned walk-ups and drive-bys, so they come by your desk with their laptop and say, "Hey, this application doesn't work," or, "My laptop crashed." So they're not following procedures and opening a ticket appropriately. And then, obviously, you have remote support, so more and more, you're going to have remote users. And so with remote users, you're going to need to be able to access them and interact with them, whether that be via chat, via voice, and via screen share and screen control, be able to see what they're seeing so they can show you the problem that's going on specifically.

So why do you have a help desk system then? So first off, you have it for ticketing, things like asset management, and a subsection of that is purchase order management or PO management. Change management or probably as everybody knows them, change approval boards. Reporting, you want to be able to obviously report upon the things like SLAs and ticket open and close rates and on your assets, et cetera, within the system. Customer service and managing your customer's expectations.

So let's talk through these here a little bit. You have a work tracking system, which is going to help you dictate what you do during the day. Ticketing is basically a task system. You have a ticket come in; based upon the rules you've set up within your help desk system, it'll define the priorities. It'll define not just the priorities, but also when you need to get things done, what are the SLAs on various tickets that come in based upon those prioritizations. It's really a task system to help you organize your day and what order you need to get things done. Does an asset have a historical issue? So as I mention here, you get a ticket from a user, you should be able, for that user, then go and look at what assets they have associated with them.

So, for example, I open a ticket, I have my laptop. Maybe I'm not the first user of this laptop. Maybe before me there were two other users of this laptop that were at the company previously. Did they have and did they report issues that are similar to my problem? Maybe it's something that’s systemic with the machine or with the hardware that I'm using, and it's not necessarily specific to my specific scenario. Maybe it's something that's longer term and I need a laptop replacement or a hardware replacement. So having the ability to see, from an asset tying to ticket, having that historical view as well, is also very important, but also to look at things like, ‘Has the warranty expired?’ If I have a fan die on my laptop, can I call Dell or HP or whomever and have them come out and replace it? So where does the warranty stand at on your asset? When did I buy it? And how do I depreciate its value over time? Depending on how you do that within your environment, so when you can do hardware refreshes and things along those lines, those are all key, important things that you need to and want to know when you're looking, not just at handling a ticket, but also looking at the assets in your system.

Nobody in IT likes change management, let's just be honest there, but it's a necessary evil. There's going to be certain requests that come in that need to follow certain workflows in order to adhere to SLAs, but also to adhere to internal processes and procedures. If I submit a request that I want a new laptop, it should go to my boss for approval, because it's most likely going to come out of his or her budget for that laptop. You need to have the ability to have some set of accountability and management around those types of things, for those types of requests. For a simple request--like my email doesn't work or I'd like to request this application be installed on my machine or I'd like to request access to this hardware--those don't necessarily need to go through change management or change approval board, but having that capability is very critical and important to have when you're dealing with an IT help desk system.

The utopic change management one is one that manages all change and it doesn't cause the IT personnel any more work. If we go down and talk more about reporting here, how do I know if my people are doing a good job? How do I know if my customers are happy? Different data is important to different people within the organization. So depending on if it's your management or your executives or if you're doing charge back within your environment to different departments to provide your IT service, providing reports to their management, to show how quickly you've been responding to tickets for folks in their departments, and to be able for them to justify the expense out of their budget to fund the IT department, to fund the IT staff. Having a flexible and a strong reporting engine is very important when you look at an IT asset management system.

But the overall and overarching goal and theme here is customer service. You have to have all the above bullets in order to keep your customers happy, which is ultimately your end goal. We all have SLAs that we need to make sure that we achieve and stay on top of. You want to definitely make sure that they're effective and that they're reasonable. You don't want to set up unrealistic and unreasonable expectations to where you can't fulfill them, and you're constantly failing those SLAs and it's just going to look poor. But at the same time, you don't want to set up SLAs that don't meet your customer's expectation. So you need to constantly talk with your customers and it shouldn't be just a one-way dialogue where they're only opening tickets with you. Go by periodically and just walk by and check with them and see how things are going and is there anything that you can do from an IT management perspective, an IT help desk perspective, to provide them a better experience going forward? Make sure you're satisfying their requirements and what they're expecting from the IT help desk.

Like I said, make sure to set your expectations with the customers as well. If you have that clear line of communication, back and forth between your SLAs, but also with your customers, then they know what to expect, based upon the different severity levels, how quickly I can expect a response back. Is it going to 24 hours? Is it going to be an hour? Is it going to be 48 hours? Depending on the type of request and the type of ticket. I just talked about all these great things, so how do you get to this mythical land? The first thing here is you need to determine and set up ticket assignment logic. So, when a ticket comes in based upon selection, it gets auto assigned to a specific IT engineer, and then also ticket coordination or ticket coordinator. If you look at it, bullet down, it sounds very cliché, but happy customer equals happy management, which allows you ultimately to manage cost. Develop escalation paths.

So as I talked about before, on the last slide, set SLAs based on realistic targets within your environment. If you're able to show both your management and other key stakeholders within the organization that you're meeting your goals, obviously, it's going to reflect well upon you as an IT person providing the help and the service, but it's also going to reflect well upon your management as well. Like I said, you need to make sure that they're realistic targets for within your environment that meet both the expectations of the business, but also of your customers. Empower key business users. What do I mean by this? These are basically your end users. They're your customers or the stakeholders in your help desk. Things they're going to want to know, things like how quickly are your tickets getting closed, that they're getting assigned, et cetera. So you're going to want to have a, if you're working with different departments, a common person that you constantly interact with to make sure that this key business user, you have a clear line of communication back and forth and you're able to set those expectations back and forth around SLAs, et cetera, that we've been discussing.

So if we go here to slide five, and discuss measuring success. So you think now you're in this utopic state. How do you measure the fact that you are in this utopic state and that you are, everything's coming along very well and everything's a well-oiled machine? How do you prove that? You have a lot of this data, but how do you ensure you can prove this? The first thing is customer satisfaction surveys. A lot of times, people don't want to, if you get a disgruntled user or user that had a bad experience, some people may want to avoid those persons and those people, because you don't want to have that confrontation. But the key thing here actually is no, you do want to follow up with those disgruntled users. Find out why they're disgruntled. It could be that there's a missed expectation as far as response time, things along those lines, and if you have an open and honest conversation and relationship with your end users, you may turn that disgruntled user into one of your biggest champions. And so a lot of it is just by having an open dialogue both ways, as I mentioned earlier. It can't just be one way and people opening tickets to the IT help desk. Obviously, that's going to be a big part of it, but you need to make sure you have two-way communication and customer surveys and following up with folks is one way to do that.

Develop key performance indicators. What is the number of tickets per tech, the average time open, the time to first contact? Talk with your end users and find out what their biggest pain points are with the help desk. And then, obviously, you can tweak and develop these KPIs based upon that. Web Help Desk, which is a product we'll talk about here shortly that we offer here at SolarWinds. It has a great dashboard view, which can give you great visibility into a lot of these KPIs. But you may also want reports emailed to you and your management and also those other business stakeholders that I mentioned in the previous slide to define the accountability and display the value for the IT department, as I mentioned, depending on if you're doing chargeback or not.

So we just talked about here reporting. As I mentioned, billing may or may not apply, depending on your organization or your specific situation. From an internal IT perspective, what does this mean? Chargeback scenarios are different to different departments. You need to assign a value to your asset, parts and people, and how you bill back to different departments. Having clear, defined reporting around that and being able to show the value of that is very key and critical.

Be the ghost on the machine. Earlier, one of the last bullets I showed on slide two was remote administration. More and more these days, you're coming to environments where users aren't necessarily going to be in the same building as you. You can't just walk down a floor to go and talk to that user or work with that user. You don't want to necessarily remote desktop in to that machine, because you're going to then take over control of that machine and the user can't show you the problem that they were seeing or they're experiencing and show you how they got to that issue or that error or how they were able to reproduce that. You need to be able to be the ghost in the machine. You need something that allows sharing of screens, sharing of control back and forth to the screen, the ability to chat.

Maybe you're working with a user; let's say it's a salesperson who's in a hotel. Maybe they don't have voice access. You still need to be able to communicate with them. They've opened a ticket via email, but let's say, for example, your corporate chat client, it's not working for them, so you can't chat with them that way. They don't have a phone, so they can't call you and you can't call them, so having the ability to chat with them within a remote session. The ability to do file transfers. Maybe you need to transfer over some logs from an application or you want to transfer over an installer over to a user's desktop or machine. Things along those lines. So it allows for out-of-band management. So whether you're across the world or just across town. So I'm going to go ahead and actually start to build up the supply here. Remote administration doesn't equal remote desktop. You definitely also need to look at out-of-band management.

A lot of laptops and machines these days ship with Intel's vPro and so user calls and says that their machine, their laptop won't boot. So you can't remote desktop into there, because obviously, the OS is not up and running, it's not booted up. However, if you have the Intel vPro enabled, you can go ahead and connect into that machine and do some diagnostics remotely. Other things like Wake-on-LAN. This is more of an edge case, but still it's good to have. Management, let's say an executive or manager they flew to another office or another location. They're getting ready to do a sales presentation and they forget something on their machine that they left at the office, and their machine is in a hibernating state. So, you can use Wake-on-LAN to go ahead and wake up the machine, grab the file, and email that off to him or FTP that over to that user. And then now they have access to it. So being able to do things like that. And that machine necessarily may not be there in the same physical location with you. As I mentioned before, chat. Having the ability integrated within the remote sharing application chat, having the ability to have a conversation back and forth.

Actually, let me go back here and build this out again. So, this last slide here, in this last product I'm talking about, this is separate from Web Help Desk. This is actually a product that... The reason I brought this up is because I believe it goes hand-in-hand with having a solid IT help desk solution. It's another product we offer from our DameWare brand of products. This one is Mini Remote Control. So we have remote desktop support and Mini Remote Control, which allows you to perform remote management. So, the way I look at them is this is the peanut butter to the jelly of Web Help Desk. These things go together hand-in-hand and so, to be able to provide that ultimate end-to-end user experience that you want your users to have, you need to have all these different processes and a well-established, solid help desk system in place. But also, the policies and procedures in place, setting up your escalation paths, your expectations of your customers, your assets defined in there, but also, and same here, the ability to work with your users to remotely troubleshoot these problems.

What I'm going to do now, actually, is switch over here and jump into a demo, and let's actually walk through our specific product, which is Web Help Desk. Let me go ahead here and...

(All right, so hopefully everyone can see my web browser, and if you can't, please let me know. Just waiting on a few folks here, to make sure that the web browser's coming through properly. And if you can't see my web browser, please let me know via the Q&A chat panel as well.)

I mentioned early in the slides, Web Help Desk provides a terrific, out-of-the-box dashboard to allow you to view things and view those SLAs and those metrics and those metrics I was talking about earlier. So being able to look at ticket activity, ticket by status, by priority, and as I scroll down here, you can look at other things; know if they're open, via alert condition. You can look at various conditions around, and you can set up these dashboards and customize them. But I can then, also, drill down into my specific set of tickets that have been assigned to me.

Let's say I'm a manager of the IT help desk. I'm not immune; I've got to take tickets myself. Some of these tickets may be part of change approval that I need to go in there and review and approve. So I can go in there and go ahead and look at my tickets. What are the current status of those tickets? What level prioritization? And I can drill in to give a ticket. So I drill in to this given ticket here, I can go ahead and view all the detailed information around it, and I can add additional notes as well around it.

So I can see here that the user submitted a ticket. The location, department, the tech that it was assigned to, and what type of request. So, here it's a software support email repair request and they're saying they can't add large attachment to messages, please help me. In this instance, I went ahead and replied back that we have a corporate policy that you can only attach up to 5 MB attachments. I've got a user here that actually is not able to see my browser, so let me double check here.

(First thing is, real quickly, if you can't see my browser, if you're not in Internet Explorer, if you can, please try to join the session in Internet Explorer and see if that'll help out. If you're using Firefox or if you're using Chrome and see if that helps out. And if not, also see if it popped up in another browser window that's sitting behind the current active browser. And if that doesn't help, please go back to the Q&A chat panel and let me know.)

But I can also come in here and add additional new notes. Let's just say for this user I went ahead and their management, so I can come in here and say, for you, I have increased your attachment size to 10 MB. And so I can go in here and specify whether or not this is visible to the client. Let's say, if I'm solving a problem, I can go ahead and create a link to an FAQ. Let's say I've already solved this problem. I can set up a billing rate. If I'm doing chargeback, and how long this is going to take me in work time, and the status of it, and go ahead and save that. It'll now go ahead and send an email to the end user, stating that I've updated their attachment size to 10 MB.

Let me go ahead and actually go back to my ticket status here. Let's say I'm working this given ticket and I don't want to drill down in there, I want to go ahead and strictly in line place and add a new note, so I can do that directly inline as well here. And so go ahead and define those various attributes and those various values, just as I did when drilled into the ticket before. But if I go back down into a ticket that I was in before, I can also go in here and see client information about the specific user. What tickets have they opened in the past? Have they been a problem user in the past? Have they been repeatedly reporting the same problem over and over and over? That way I get a better idea of this user's history and their experiences with us in the past.

I can see where they're located, their phone number. I can see assets that are associated to this user. So I can see this person has an Apple iMac with serial number 12375, and I can also then look and see that it is running version 9.0.3. The IP address, the CPU is an Intel CPU, a 2.4 speed, and any notes. I can look at other client assets. They have a Dell Dimension as well. Even inline, I can do searches for other assets potentially. And also I have in here to where I can do launch directly into, via screen sharing, like I mentioned, manage a remote user. Being able to directly from here to launch into a screen share to help troubleshoot that user and assist that user.

But you can also, then, directly within ticket, go over to parts and billing. And let's say I am going to order a new laptop, or they need a new hard drive, because their hard drive failed or they need a bigger hard drive. I can go in here and specify all the PO information and generate that PO and submit that PO accordingly, and export that to PDF and submit that up my chain for approval.

Now, if I go over, like I said earlier, maybe I'm a manager, so I want to see how my team's doing. So I can go in here and sort on status, just by clicking on the header and see what are the current escalation levels, the alert levels, according to on the priorities, across my team and all the tickets that are currently in the queue and then going on, and where they're at within there. Also, you can flag tickets. Let's say I go in here and group tickets, I see that our CEO opened a ticket. It's not assigned to me, but I want to keep an eye on it. So I can go ahead and click here and flag it that even though this is not my ticket, I want to watch it. And I want to pay attention to this ticket, even though it's not directly assigned to me. So I then go to my flag tickets, I now see ticket show up here and so I can follow along with this ticket and see specifically how the tech has been handling it and where it's at in the process.

You can also go in here and set up things within a calendar. I can go look at techs and tech groups within here. So let's say I have a tech going on vacation, I can see their schedule within here for any given tech, as defined within here. It actually integrates with iSubscribe, so if you use Outlook or Outlook calendars or using a Google calendar, as long as it supports iSubscription, you can go ahead and integrate directly within there.

I can go in and look at specific clients. Let's say I'm looking for a specific user and I want to look at their asset information. I can go ahead and enter any of this information in here, but I'll just go ahead and specify, search everybody. But here I can drill into Laura Bell, and I can see all the information about Laura Bell, where she's located, all of her phone number, security permissions, email addresses, any assigned tickets that are currently assigned to this person, and also ticket history for Laura as well. So you can go and search across through your clients, which are basically your end users.

Same with assets. If I want to go and do a search on assets in my environment and be able to look at a given specific asset, I can quickly come here and look for, based upon location, if I want to look across just my Atlanta locations, what assets are there? This will show me just assets in Atlanta. And then I can drill, just same here, I can drill, this is a printer, drill down into this printer, see where it's associated to, asset details, history, et cetera, associated with that asset.

I can go look at purchase orders that are in the system that are defined. I can create new purchase orders. So here, you can see I have a purchase order for an Apple computer. I can see the cost associated with it. I can go back and create a new purchase order as well. So, it's not just IT ticketing, but also integrating with IT purchasing. Being able to set up reservations.

Let's say you're a school district. You have TVs, you have projectors, you have DVD players, whatever it may be, that you can't put one in every classroom, so you have a pool that needs to be reserved. I want to go over here and go ahead and specify that I want to go ahead and reserve this specific asset. So I plan on showing, as a teacher, I plan on showing this movie to my class tomorrow on this specific topic, and so I need to reserve a TV and a VCR or a TV and a DVD player. You can go in here and define a reservation and reserve that asset. Parts is exactly what it sounds like. I can go in, just like assets, I can define parts, create new parts. I'll go ahead and just quickly search so you can see parts, things like toner cartridges or hard drives or additional memory, monitors, things along those lines. You can go in here and see what you have in stock, how much it costs, how much you're going to bill back to the customer, where it's stored at, things along those lines, and how many you have. And then you can see if I need to order more.

FAQs are also very important. We're coming up here towards the end of time, but before we get there, you may have common things that come up, like common issues. So you want to define an FAQ. So, as a user starts entering a ticket, you can basically assign a workflow, and maybe they can self-service themselves and the issue. So, as they define software trouble, email, you set up a set of five or six FAQs of common problems that come up in email, and those will show up directly in context as they define their ticket against email. And they could look and say, "Well, this actually solves my problem. I no longer need to open a ticket." So, it allows you to hopefully head off at the pass potentially users opening tickets, but also it can keep you from having to constantly retype in the same stuff over and over and over.

As you saw earlier, when I was directly in line with the ticket, I could link to an FAQ, and it'll send them that FAQ and it'll say, "Follow this and this will fix your problem." Reporting I talked about. You can define reporting within Web Help Desk. You can also define messages and you have a full array of setup options here that you can import and export; setup change approval boards, set up action rules around, if this person's on vacation, then go to this person. If it's this type of ticket then assign to this person. You can set up all different types of rules and scenarios and groups and users and things along those lines.

So, if I actually log out here and I'm going to go back in. And I'm going to here as if I was an end user. So, with Web Help Desk, you can file a ticket via email, but you can also do it via the web console as well. So, I'm going to log in as if I was an end user. And so you can see here my history of tickets, approvals that I currently have and where are they at, FAQs, messages, my profile, but if I go to request, I'm going to go to an IT request. Let's say network support, but as you see, actually, if I go to software support and I go to email, and I go to repair request, things along those lines. So if I go back down to Windows... Actually, let's go facilities. You can see as I keep changing these around, the related FAQs change accordingly, as they're assigned to the workflow. So, I can go ahead and drill into this and see that that associated workflow. I'm sorry, that associated FAQ, associated with this potential workflow, maybe I can help, as I said earlier, head off the ticket at the pass. I can go ahead and specify all the information.

So let's talk about facilities, maintenance, clean conference room, so it doesn't just have to be IT, you can integrate with other departments as well. I am in room 222 and need floor cleaning. You can specify which floor you're on. These things are all very configurable. Executive room two, specify location, I'm in Los Angeles in a computer lab, and go ahead and submit that. I didn't provide any details. So, it's now submitting this ticket. It's ticket 45 and it went ahead based upon the rules that were set up for that, the action rules, we went ahead and assigned it to the appropriate technician to take care of that. I can then, like I said, go back and see, here's the ticket that I just opened. I can go in there and I can click in and I can see the status of it. Where's it at? What's going on with it? I can go back to other ones and see what's the status of a ticket, what's going on with it. Who's it currently assigned to? It's been assigned to Paul.

So, let me go ahead in here, switch back over the slides and make sure we answer any last Q&A. So I believe we hit up all the Q&A here, within the session here. So I got one final slide here. Let's go ahead and continue this conversation. Obviously, we had a short period of time here today, but you can chat with the product experts with THWACKcamp Product Showcase. You can always join us in the THWACKcamp group on THWACK to continue Q&As for this session. And you can discover additional information on the SolarWinds Resource Center.

And for Web Help Desk, you can also go to And within, we also have a dedicated forum within there as well, to where you can go ahead and submit questions submit questions and search the existing forums. Other users may have encountered some more challenges or questions on what they're trying to do, and you can learn from those challenges and experiences as well.

Definitely appreciate everybody's time today and joining me for talking about best practices for managing your IT help desk. Hopefully it was informative and helpful for you. If you don't currently have an IT help desk or evaluating an IT help desk, you can to The demo I was actually showing you is our online demo, so you can go and actually play with it online and check it out just like I was just doing now, and see everything I was seeing, or you can install it in your environment, if you don't currently own it, for a fully-featured, 30-day trial. But once again, thank you for your time. Much appreciated, and hopefully we'll see you on some of the other THWACKcamp discussions here today and in the future. Thank you, bye.