Helpdeskshow - a quick review
26 April 2006
I just got back from the Helpdesk & IT Support Show in Olympia (Kensington, London). My main impression is: there are many, big players in this industry.
My pet project, the IssueTrackerProduct is very basic in comparison to some of these companies products. Although it's often used in help desk situations the kind of help desk solutions I've seen today are way different. For many of them, it's all about integrating various systems such as asset management, call logging, configuration management, knowledge management, etc. It seems that the actual help desk apps seems to have to be low priority compared to getting all pieces to fit together.
I walked one lap around the perimeter of the big hall so first I saw the little stands. There they called it "Help desk". As I moved in towards the centre of the hall where the really big players had really big stands, big plasma screens and lightly dressed young ladies a different word was used: "Service management". I talked to a really friendly chap from ICCM Solutions and asked him honestly: what is Service Management? He gave me two answers. One short, one longer. The short version was: the smaller less advanced providers haven't evolved and still call it help desk; the bigger players who have evolved more call it service management. The longer version was that the expression "help desk" is more associated with IT and problems that need immediate solutions. Service management is more about monitoring and controlling: Configs, Incidents, Problems and Change. In that order. It's all business/marketing lingo that don't mean much but at the time he explained it it actually started to make sense. In simplicity, they just want to get away from the word help desk because it's got ingrained annotations to it and they want to do something else.
Very few of the screenshots and demos I saw impressed me in the detail work. I saw endless horrible help desk issue/incident entering screens where some poor user has to select the right fields to fill in amongst a screen packed of different input fields of various sorts. Many systems had issue/incident reports and lists again packed with far too much screen-noise. Some of them had quite a slick and neat design but a lot of them had windows GUI apps that look like a video-rent-shop-epos system from 1995.
Although I never saw it in action, HelpSTAR had (supposedly) a clever solution. You can apparently drag and drop emails from your MS Outlook into their help desk system. That email is then logged, archived and can now be responded to and become a email correspondence ticket. They also had (supposedly) an interesting templating system. That makes it easy to reply to frequently asked questions that people send in to a help desk.
One promising company that I talked to was Logicalware and their product MailManager. Their brochure-work was, unlike all others, really down to earth and easy to read and understand. MailManager is, like the IssueTrackerProduct, written in Zope and is Open Source too. The IssueTrackerProduct has email ticketing capabilities but that's not its core functionality. With MailManager, I think email ticketing is the only thing it does and does it well. Keep up the good work guys!
In conclusion, my IssueTrackerProduct does do much but the few simple things it does it does very well. If you don't have £10,000 to spend on licenses, consultants and headaches and just need a simple system for logging issues, pick my system