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Geek Speak

4 Posts authored by: Charles Galler

Management wants to be able to track employees productivity and their performance to use in periodic employee evaluations. Performance improvements can lead to keeping your job, bonuses, and pay increases, where declines in performance lead to pay decreases, black marks in your HR file, and possibly losing your job. When accurate metrics are used in evaluations, they can be beneficial to the organization and individual.

 

One type of metric is the Service Level Agreement, or SLA. This defines how IT, as a group, is going to respond to the issue that a user reports. Some organizations define the SLA to be the time it takes to resolve the issue. While some issues can be resolved quickly, like a password change, other issues can take a long time to diagnose and correct. The SLA can also be measured by how long it takes for the initial response to the request. While I believe this is a better metric than time to resolution, this can be abused. The person assigned the ticket can easily make initial contact but not make any progress in diagnosing or resolving the issue.

 

Another metric is customer satisfaction. One way of getting this metric is using surveys sent to the requestor after the issue is resolved. Not all surveys make it to their destination and if they do, many get ignored or deleted. The questions on surveys are written in multiple choice for easy analysis, but don’t really provide much for collecting real feedback from the requestor. If an issue was handled by multiple people, then who does the survey reflect upon and does the requestor realize this.

 

Managers want to know how well their employees are doing and a way to accurately measure the employee. Ticketing systems have some metrics that can be used to track how well employees are doing. How do you accurately measure employees, in particular Help Desk employees?  What are the metrics that really matter? Can all of these metrics be tracked in one system? How would you like to be measured?

Remote control software is a huge benefit to all IT staff when troubleshooting an issue. There are big benefits for using a service provider to host this functionality for you. There are many reasons, mainly security, to not use a service provider and instead host this application internally. However, internally hosting a remote control application can cost more in capital expenditure and overhead.

 

When you host something in the cloud you are giving that service provider responsibility for a significant portion of your security control. Even for something as simple as remote control software there are concerns about security. For many solutions you have to rely on the authentication mechanism the provider built, although some will allow you to tie authentication into your internal Active Directory. The provider may allow for two-factor authentication. You have to rely on the provider’s encryption mechanism and trust that all signaling (setup, control, and tear down) and data traffic is encrypted, along with the appropriate algorithms. The remote control service provider not only services your hosts, but that of many other organizations and you have trust them to keep everyone separated. Also, with all of those combined hosts, it makes the service provider a larger target for an attack than your organization may be on it’s own. When your organization’s Internet connection goes down you loose the ability to control any of your end hosts from the internal side of your organization’s network. When you delete an end host or discontinue service from the provider you data might not be completely deleted.

 

Hosting a remote control application within your own organization can be difficult in itself. You have to have the infrastructure to host the application. Then if you want redundancy, the application has to support redundancy and you have to have more infrastructure. Then you need to make sure you update the application on your server(s), on top of ensuring the end hosts are up to date, which requires planning, testing, and change control. If you expose your internal remote control application to the Internet, like a service provider would, then you need to monitor it for potential intrusions and attacks, and defend against those. That may require additional infrastructure and add complexity. If your organization’s Internet connection goes down and you are on the inside of your organization, then you loose connectivity to all of the remote hosts. If you are external, then you loose connectivity to all of the internal hosts.

 

There is no one solution that fits everyone’s needs. As a consultant I have seen many different solutions and have ones that I prefer. Do you use a remote control solution from a service provider or do you have one you host yourself? Why did your organization choose that one?

Users only call the HelpDesk with problems. Some of the issues, like password resets, are easy to resolve. Other issues can get very complex and then add into the mix the user not properly describing the issue they are having or exactly what the error message they see says. When helping a user with an issue, have you ever asked a user to click on something here or there and let you know what pops up on the screen? How long did you wait until you asked if anything different is on the screen and the user says that something was displayed several minutes ago?

 

 

I am a very visual person and I need to see the error or see how long it took for the error message to pop up. An error message that comes back right away could mean something completely different than if it took a few seconds; users cannot really convey that timing well. Years ago when I first started working in IT, I used a product called PCAnywhere that would let me remote control another machine. I could even do it remotely from home via dial up!

 

 

The ability to remotely see what is happening on a user’s machine makes a huge difference. Today I use a variety of these applications, depending on what my client will support, but they all have a large set of features beyond just remotely controlling the machine. Solarwinds DameWare lets you remotely reboot, start/stop processes, view logs, AD integration, and mobile remote control. Other than remote control of a machine, what other features do you use? Which features make it easier for you to troubleshoot issues from wherever you are?

The core application to any HelpDesk workflow is the ticketing system. It helps all levels to track issues/requests and documents what has been discovered about the particular issue. There are some ticketing systems that are really complex with lots of features. As more and more features are added, complexity is added as well.

 

 

I was recently speaking with someone who stated that they had emailed into their IT ticket system with a list of items that needed addressing. They knew they were supposed to open a single ticket for each issue separately. A few days later the IT staff worked on one of the issues, then closed the ticket and marked it as resolved. Only one of the issues on the ticket was resolved with the rest of them never being addressed.

 

 

Since ticket creation via email is so easy, some users may create more tickets than they normally would. Perhaps instead of doing the research in a knowledge base or on a company intranet, users just send in the email to ask IT. I personally have done this because it was easy.

 

 

The email ticket creation feature is a convenient feature of a ticketing system. Users can easily send in one request or issue at a time to create a ticket. Users don’t have to stay on a phone trying to explain the issue while someone transcribes it into a ticket for them. However, with every feature there are down sides too. Users will inevitably email multiple items in at once and IT staff will overlook them. The email system or integration will go down. Users will create tickets via email with very generic requests like ‘Internet is slow’.

 

 

Does a feature like ticket creation via email improve user experience? Does the benefit to enable such a feature outweigh the cost to set it up and maintain it? Can you train users to only send in one issue per ticket.

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