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BOSSDesk — One Technician’s Discovery of Service Desk Success

BOSSDesk — One Technician’s Discovery of Service Desk Success

If you’ve worked in corporate America you’ve seen it, a workplace brimming with the needs of a multitude of departments, each with their own goals, communication channels, and expectations, not to mention their unique technology needs. And in the midst of it all? An IT department whose goal it is to keep the pistons of the company running.

Simple in theory. Nearly impossible in practice.

But why?

Because companies — like human beings — are a diverse collection of competing perspectives and agendas, skills and utilities: a workforce often less a well-oiled machine than controlled combustion.

For many IT departments the challenge of navigating such an environment can be more difficult than maintaining the technologies themselves. IT thrives on standards and security, but nearly every rule has its exception. Standards may require occasional bending, but only sparingly and only when essential. It is knowing where to the draw the line, and why, and for whom, that the middle ground of efficiency is found.

This is nothing if not the very definition of a balancing act.

This raises a practical question: How does a corporate IT group maintain professional standards across a diverse organization without sacrificing legitimate business needs? And how can this be done without impeding the very users they are trying to support?

The answer is simpler than you may think: a SERVICE DESK.

Too easy? Fair enough. How about this instead: a service desk which [1] caters to the needs of IT, [2] offers itself as a natural course of help to the end-user community, and [3] does so in a way that it becomes nearly invisible to everyone.

I’m not suggesting the users must be unaware of it. On the contrary, but to be invisible is to become a part of an end-user’s routine, a liaison rather than a sentry; a service that operates between technician and end-user without hindering either. When a service desk can find the favor of both parties it becomes a part of the solution for everyone.

I’ve faced this many times in my own career. Over the past twenty-five years I’ve crossed paths with a myriad of ticketing, inventory, licensing management, and content management systems, from enterprise-grade help desk applications requiring full-time administration to home-grown access databases…and worse. One would think that with so many options to choose from, and so many customers facing the same problems you face, that finding a solid solution that works and works well, would be a cinch. One would be wrong.

Again I ask why? Well, in my experience it comes down to two factors.

First, many products are built from a fixed perspective, one that may have made sense for one group at one time, but which has since fallen out of touch with what the majority of modern support teams require. Consequently those hoping to glean its benefits end up fighting it instead. Attempts to implement processes are frustrated by uncompromising designs which often make little logical sense in today’s workplace, leaving technicians to shoehorn workarounds into place in spite of the system they themselves are trying to leverage.

This annoyance only grows when the issues are brought to the vendor, as they often result in a deer-in-the-headlights look, or a “Why would you need it to do that?” reply.

Second, the products which *do* deliver on their promises and operate as one would expect tend to come a la carte. You might find a great ticketing system, but chances are it won’t offer much in terms of inventory. You’ll find a fantastic inventory system, but it doesn’t come with a knowledge base. And so on.

This was precisely the boat in which I found myself adrift several years ago. Having recently moved on from a mainstream project management system, I had purchased what promised to be, a highly effective ticketing, inventory, knowledge base, project management, and change management system. Believe me when I say that I went in with expectations sky-high.

Fast forward twelve months and all I had to show for my efforts was the ticketing subsystem. And even that was rudimentary at best. The number of issues I encountered along the way was excessive to the point of being comical, and eventually resulted in us becoming such a problem customer that the vendor would eventually approach us to discuss an early contract cancellation without penalty…something we were only too happy to do.

And yes, I realize that not every product on the market fits everyone’s needs. I’ve used many over the years. But this experience was a revelation to me, not so much because the product didn’t quite fit, but due to its many shortcomings and unfathomable design choices that became a constant hindrance in all that it was supposed to do for us.

But every cloud has a silver lining, and it did nothing if not set the bar for my next solution. One might (rightfully) claim I screwed up big time in selecting that system. I wasn’t about to do it twice.

I sat down to think things over and began to make a list of what was most important to me.

I needed a solution that would cater to the unique needs and technical skills of a diverse user community, from highly-technical software developers and technicians to plant operators, truck drivers, and the sixteen-year-old standing behind a cash register at one of our stores.

With over a thousand employees spread across fifty locations, some office-bound and others operating exclusively in the field, I needed a solution that offered easy access to support teams, knowledge base articles, and ticketing from both browsers and mobile devices alike. Additionally, because some of our field employees were support agents and not end-users, I needed the technician's experiences to be the same whether accessing the system from a PC or a mobile phone.

With a support staff of about twenty individuals spread across multiple teams I needed a solution that was intuitive, intelligent, flexible, and one that would allow for a high degree of automation. One team’s requirements wouldn’t necessarily match another team’s needs, and I didn’t want to sacrifice one group’s experience for the sake of another.

I required ticketing, knowledge base, hardware and software inventory, vendor and contract management, and reporting and scheduling. The last thing I wanted was to piecemeal together a bunch of different products into an incoherent mess; so the more I could deliver from under a single hood, the better.

Most of all I needed a solution that came with turnkey features for a fast implementation but also supported a high degree of customization for future growth. I had fought for over a year with my first system and barely even scratched the surface beyond ticketing. I couldn’t do that again.

The search began. Most products were easy to dismiss. They simply didn’t deliver what I was seeking. Several came close. Two made it into the finals and BOSSDesk was the winner!

But you already knew that. The question you really want answered is why.

Instead of spelling it out, allow me to instead summarize what happened following our deployment. Within a week ticketing was up and running. That included setting up support teams, creating categories for ticket visibility, scanning AD for user accounts, promoting some users to agents for ticket processing, building electronic forms, designing email notifications and triggers, and configuring mailbox monitoring. The entire setup was a one-man show on my side, and all this was accomplished in just one week.

Compare that to the full year required for my previous solution!

Within two weeks we were scanning AD for computer accounts and performing WMI scans to build a hardware and software inventory. We also started building out our knowledge base and knowledge base security. And we began crafting rules to govern the automatic behavior of tickets.

Since then the system has undergone tremendous improvement, with new features being added regularly. The developers listen to their customers, and more than once I’ve seen changes effected which originated with me reaching out with a feature request or a complaint. This fosters a relationship where you’re as much a partner as a customer and lends itself well to the future growth of the product overall.

Internally there’s even more to be said. Numerous departments use the system to track issues from technical support to human resources, customer care to plant management, retail maintenance and even product quality assurance. We’ve posted hundreds of knowledge base articles, automated countless processes, tracked dozens of active contracts across a myriad of vendors, built a living inventory, and much more.

I could write articles on each of these (maybe I will), but for the moment I will say only that BOSSDesk has absolutely changed the way we do our jobs, and for the better.

No system is perfect. No environment is ideal. End users are as diverse in mindsets as they are in skillsets. But with an effective solution like BOSSDesk gluing it all together, you might just forget it’s even there.

Bob Gruett

Systems Administrator


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