Communication between IT technicians and frontline staff breaks down occasionally, especially in mid-sized and large libraries. Frontline staff submit incomplete information about the problems they’re experiencing, and IT staff sometimes lose track of help requests. Help-desk management software offers several features to help improve communication. Most use a form of some kind to elicit detailed information from staff about where and when and how a problem started occurring. When someone submits a request, it goes into a queue so that no one gets preferential treatment. IT managers can distribute the incidents to different technicians, or the software can handle that automatically. As the problem approaches resolution, the techie can update the status and send messages to the person who submitted the request. If IT staff document their fixes, the help-desk software becomes a knowledge repository.
Help-desk software almost always has some form of asset tracking tool as well so you can tie each request to a particular machine. We discuss IT asset management software separately, but the two are often sold together. Also, you might find help-desk software in suite of systems management software. Whether you’re investigating an application suite or individual pieces of software, make sure that the components work well with one another.
Why Should You Consider Help-Desk Software?
- Improve IT workflow. Help-desk programs give IT departments the tools they need to track their activities and better manage their workflow.
- Facilitate communication. Help-desk applications create formal, regular channels for communication between IT personnel and the end user.
- Uncover recurring problems. Tracking support problems can help you discover recurring issues. Are a few computers taking up hours and days of staff time? It might be worth it to replace those machines. Are staff members taking up hours of your IT department’s time with routine questions about core software (e.g., Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook)? This could point to a need for more training.
- Better reporting, evaluation and planning. Good help-desk management software will produce regular reports that you can use for planning and evaluation. For example, if it takes your technicians three weeks on average to resolve a routine software problem, they may be understaffed or they might be managing their time poorly.
- Avoid duplicated work. If your technicians record their solutions, discoveries and methods in a help-desk application, they’ll have a much easier time solving similar problems in the future.
- As with all software purchases, the process begins by talking to colleagues and gathering a set of requirements. Does your library need this particular application? What do they want it to do, and how much can you spend?
- Try out some free help-desk management tools such as TechAtlas, OneOrZero and SysAid.
Help-Desk Software Options
For a clearer picture of the types of help-desk software available to you, download and review our Help-Desk Software Options tool.
Stories from the Field
There’s another open-source product I’m using called OneOrZero, which is a help-desk or a task management system. It’s an open-source application, and you can download it for free, but they have a unique model where the most recent version is for subscribers only, and the previous version is always free. And I did subscribe to that, so we pay, say, $35 a year. So we're a subscriber. Since I pay them, I get support directly from them. I can contact them, their support team, and get support.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, MT
The SYS-Aid Help Desk…I’m going to start that here as well so we can keep better track of problems, because right now people are just emailing me, and I’m getting all these emails about a problem, and it’s hard to keep up with it. So I’ve already downloaded the help-desk, and it’s just a matter of me setting it up and getting all the branch managers the accounts so that they can keep up with what’s going on. It’s full-blown help-desk software, and I’m using [the version] where you have to actually have an account. So the branch manager will be given an account to access this help-desk and [can] submit problems under certain designated categories. They will be issued a help-desk ticket, and that way, we can keep up with what’s going on.Jaketha Farmer
Bossier Parish Libraries, LA
If you are looking for more information on this topic, check out the Further Resources section.