Picking the Right Help Desk Software

There’s one undeniable constant when it comes to technology: Every piece of technology will eventually need some kind of support. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, having some kind of help desk solution is absolutely going to be a necessity at some point in the future. Whether it’s the new employee struggling to get to grips with an unfamiliar software platform, or the department head in a complete panic over a hardware incompatibility issue affecting an upcoming deadline, every business needs a way to handle day-to-day technology snags.

One of the best ways to efficiently operate a technology support department is with a fully capable help desk software platform. These range from extremely basic systems that just handle ticket management, to extremely robust solutions with SLA management, ticket automation, self-help knowledge bases, and more. They can vary wildly in cost and complexity and choosing the right solution for your individual needs is critical in maintaining an effective IT help desk.

There are dozens of popular options for help desk software currently available, and narrowing down what works best for you is the critical first step in selecting a platform to work with. It’s important to select software that fits both your budget and end-user needs in order to get the most out of your help desk software.

Identifying Your Help Desk Needs

Every company is different, and each help desk will have its own requirements to operate at maximum efficiency. Using some kind of performance metric for your current system will help highlight which features and specifications are useful for you. As an example, if you have high ticket frequency and low turnaround times, implementing software with automated incident management may make more sense than one with only manual incident sorting.

Some things to consider when selecting an incident management solution:

  • Budget: Cutting corners when it comes to your IT support budget can sometimes seem like a good idea, but getting your support staff the tools they need to succeed should be considered a mission-critical financial concern. Even the best craftsman will have trouble building a table without a saw, and the same logic applies to the help desk. That being said, spending too much on features you don’t need or features that won’t get utilized is just wasted money.
  • Ticket Handling/Incident Reporting: Each incident management solution has its own method of incident management and ticket handling. Many developers offer automated ticket routing, with rules and escalation parameters programmable on a per-deployment basis that allow for significant customization in the way incoming tickets are handled. Others will have advanced sorting rules and responses that can automatically guide low-level incidents to a self-help knowledgebase. What kind of ticketing you’ll need will largely depend on your ticket volume, available support staff, and incident complexity. If you have a low volume of very complex tickets, you may not need robust automated systems to sort and respond to each and every ticket.
  • Information and Data Collection: Some ticketing platforms feature robust data collection and analytics to help streamline the service desk process and improve turnaround times. This same data can also be used to improve technology infrastructure and reduce the chance of failure down the road. Many, but not all, companies will be able to use this data to improve technology spending. These kinds of features are most useful in companies that will produce large data sets to work with, so a higher ticketing volume will always yield better results.
  • End-user Experience: Are your employees generally fairly technology savvy? Do they have an easy time adopting new software? The end-user experience can have a massive impact on ticket times and overall help desk effectiveness. Software that is feature-rich but extremely complex may end up costing more time and money than it’s worth if the average user has a difficult time submitting a ticket. On the same token, even though it can be great to have a wealth of information provided to help desk personnel up front about each ticket, if the process of filling out a ticket takes ages many users will either give up or leave fields blank, making all that extra data collection potential worthless. Understanding how your end-users will be interacting with your help desk software will go a long way towards improving your support desk effectiveness.
  • Administrative Useability: This includes deployment time for end-user clients, configuration of the software itself, setup, and day-to-day management. It’s critical to pick a software that your support staff feel comfortable using and can quickly get acclimated with to speed integration time. It’s also important to keep in mind how well the new system will integrate with your old one, how easy it will be to migrate any data or processes you currently have in place, and how much training will be required for both the back and front-end users.

You may have noticed that many of the features on this list aren’t specific features. While it’s important to select software that meets all your needs from a technical standpoint, it’s equally important to consider the day-to-day useability of a given piece of software. A platform that has all the right features but is a nightmare for help desk personnel or end-users to operate is not going to last very long before employees grab printer cartridges and keyboards as impromptu torches and pitchforks.

Cloud Deployment As An Extra Consideration

A fairly recent addition to the help desk world, it’s big enough to get its own special mention here. Cloud SaaS help desk implementations are already here. In most cases they’re easier to deploy than traditional on-site installations, are updated far more frequently than their on-site counterparts, and give you more overall flexibility in how and where you use them. Most companies will benefit greatly from a developer offering an SaaS help desk solution.

There’s a couple downsides that will affect a small percentage of users. Help desk software that uses a cloud deployment method don’t offer a lot of flexibility in software updates or versions. Whatever update the service-provider decides to roll-out is going to be the one you’re using, even if it causes problems with your current system. This lack of finer control provided by an on-site installation may be a consideration for certain systems, departments, or companies.

Regardless of the implementation you choose be sure to spend the time selecting the right one for your business needs. Setting your help desk up for success will help improve the way technology works for your business.

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