38 Replies Latest reply on Sep 22, 2016 3:18 PM by ddstuermer

    What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

    Luca Dell'Oca

      Hi all, I’m Luca Dell'Oca, from Italy. I work as a Virtualization Architect for a Service Provider in Switzerland, and I’m in charge of their professional services. Oh, and I’m also a new Thwackmbassador here.


      I'm doing a research about different IT help desk solutions. At our company we are using right now a simple open source program (OTRS), but we do feel it’s time to look around for something different.


      In my first round of research, I first tried to list the different features that these softwares offer. For what I've seen, several solutions are becoming something more than a simple web interface to open and solve ticket requests like the one we are using today. Most of them instead are integrating additional features, with probably the goal of offering a comprehensive solution for the overall “service management”.


      I do know even OTRS can be integrated with additional components, or to be more correct, it can “talk” with other open source softwares. But we feel that the effort to integrate them all is too much for us, and that’s why I’m looking for “comprehensive” solutions.


      We are a service provider, so maybe we have different needs for example from a company using an help desk system internally, for example I think about our need to manage different customers, and billing/chargeback.


      But as my research is going on, I’m somehow overwhelmed by the offer that is available, so I would like to try and give a priority to some of these features.

      What “additional” features do you think should be available? Which ones do you think are the most needed, or desired? Asset management? Remote control? Multi tenancy? Billing or chargeback? Time tracking? Others I did not thought about?


      Will you be able to give a score to some of these features, based on your experience?



        • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

          Asset Management and verification should be central to a successful product, in my opinion.

          • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

            I would like to see integration with a network management platform for auto opening of tickets based on alerts. I would also like to see automatic ticket generation and routing to individuals or groups based on the asset effected. I do like the idea of having time tracking built in for help desk personal working a ticket

              • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                Luca Dell'Oca

                Thanks for reply.

                I've seen (even with OTRS) the possibility to open tickets automatically based on alerts coming from different sources. They can usually be snmp traps or most commonly emails with defined content, that's easy because alerts always send the same kind of message.

                What I feel even more needed, with this kind of feature, is an automated way to also "close" a ticket if the alert subsides, otherwise the ticketing system gets filled with old alerts that are no more real by the time someone takes a look at them. Unless you also want to use the platform for historical data, but I do feel in this scenario a logging system is better, and a ticketing system should only manage open problems.



              • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                Asset management integration is key. Let's not forget intelligent application integration as well, if we're talking about help-desk solutions for end users. For example, user Joe submits a ticket regarding a problem he encounters when trying to export a CSV into a DB or other back-end app. The perfect help desk solution will:


                1. Recognize from AD or client installed on the computer that this is Joe sitting at Joe's computer.

                2. Have timely and updated information about the configuration of Joe's computer - CPU, memory, OS, etc.

                3. Will also know about all the applications currently installed on Joe's computer. Joe can select the application from a drop-down list that knows about his installed applications- not someone else's, his.

                4. Will also know about the DB or back-end app that Joe's trying to import information into.


                We're currently testing some functionality in our current platform that does all these things. We're not there yet, but it could be fun!

                  • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                    Luca Dell'Oca

                    Nice idea indeed.

                    We can say the goal of this feature is to give to the support guy as much informations as possible even before he starts managing the ticket, by having the end user filling in many informations, and not having a simple text box where he can input incomplete informations. I do agree, usually what happens with text boxes is that the user inserts a general help request, inserting a description of the problem (and he's not a technician, so noone can blame on him/her for not beeing accurate), and this forces support to have first to call the user back only to get further informations. Did I got the point?



                      • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                        Yes, you certainly did. With asset intelligence delivered as part of the problem submission - without asking the user to jump through a thousand hoops - triage is much, much simpler and routing of tickets can be much more accurate as well. Plus, our users have jobs to do - and the ability to perfectly relate their technology issues on the first pass is not one of those jobs! It's an unfair expectation and one that tends to drive a collaborative wedge between people who have the same business card at the end of the day.

                    • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                      Well we dont use the Solarwinds helpdesk but the one we do use -


                      We decided to go tot his tool for a few reasons -


                      Tie into AD using LDAP ,

                      CMDB and CI's

                      SLA tracking and reporting

                      ITIL Methodology

                      Skill assign for Tier levels or personal


                      just to name a few 

                      • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                        I think Asset Management is crucial.


                        Network discovery of assets and reporting back on the status of these assets, software installed (seeing the license key as well), classes of assets, warranties and contracts. Also seeing event logs, placing notes, documents and tickets against the assets.


                        AD integration / management would be good.


                        Change management.



                        • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                          Asset management - this seems to be a common theme regardless of the type of support organization. If not 'management', then at least asset visibility.

                          Remote control - the bigger players are integrating this today, with Bomgar and some other vendors aligning with specific helpdesk offerings.

                          Multitenancy - this is probably the least challenging thing about our varied options...lots of products do segmented support queues and things pretty well.

                          Billing/chargeback/time tracking - these are essentials for the MSP/carrier gang (or any helpdesk organization big enough where task hours are tracked as team deliverables or performance goals).

                          I think we can agree on this, though - a helpdesk system that cannot effectively integrate or leverage all these things is of limited long-term use above a certain scale.

                            • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                              Luca Dell'Oca

                              Thanks for your summary, I'm using your post to reply also to others and to try a first summary too.


                              Yes, seems asset management is "the" additional feature everyone wants and needs. And it make sense, since you are dealing with devices at the end. On a certain extent, also employees are assets for the company, so a connection also with some directory (AD, LDAP, or something else) is needed to correlate device to the user. This is even more important if people is sharing devices like desktops, so there is no static mapping between the two.


                              Probably when I was talking about chargeback, many thought only about the billing part of it. I would probably add "showback" as an alternative, since even if noone is going to be directly charged for helpdesk activities (yes this is something specific for MSP), anyway above a certain level of complexity the helpdesk department would need some way to track the efforts of managing and offering helpdesk services. At least for budget management.


                              Workflow also appeared as a needed feature, in order to control and reduce the time spent in the first phase of the ticket while trying to figure out what the problem is, and who should be in charge of the ticket itself.


                              Finally, also time tracking is vital for me. How can someone measure the effectiveness of an helpdesk service? I'm not sure the number of solved tickets per time unit is a correct value, sometimes too much tickets are only a symptom of something wrong happening somewhere else (a new software with many problems for example), but the value of an helpdesk is measurable with certain SLAs, for example task hours, or the time gap for ticket to change from open to managed.

                            • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                              1.     LDAP Integration    

                              2.     Ability to query PeopleSoft or an Employee Database

                              3.     SLA Tracking and reporting

                              4.     Ability to control who can assign what.  For example, No one other than my team members should be able to assign a support ticket to me.  All other should only be able to assign tickets to the team as I may be on vacation      

                                      and a ticket will lay dormant and unresolved and possibly blow SLA whilst I am gone.

                              5.     Ability to connect to Monitoring Tools to pull computer or server info into ticket, ie current stats, installed software, last user log on?

                              • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                We use BMC (previously Numara) Footprints Service Core.  In addition to the items already pointed out, one of the most important features to me is good workflow management and automation; without this you end up with people spending way too much time jockeying tickets around.

                                  • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                                    Luca Dell'Oca

                                    I've seen some BMC solutions in the past at a couple of customers, but if I remember correctly it was BMC Magic. I cannot correlate it to this new one (or maybe is not so new, it's only me not having up to date info), I remember the old one being good in worflows, but totally missing remote control for example, and also asset management was not so good.

                                    Then I've seen another acquired solution named Marimba (and then changed to BCAC) but that was dedicated to client automation. Do they integrate these different products, or at least they are able to talk to each other? Because this is one of my doubts in this kind of solutions (I'm using bmc as an example here, nothing against it specifically), you risk to end up adding more and more module to solve specific problems, but they are not so integrated one to the other, and the last integration step needs to be done by someone from the vendor....

                                      • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                        BMC offers a bunch of products, most of which I have no experience with.  A year or so ago they acquired a company called Numara and their two platforms are Footprints Service Core and Footprints Asset Core.  Both of those platforms have different modules available and within each platform the modules are completely integrated.  There are also integration capabilities between the two different platforms.  We use both; however, we don't use all of the modules for either of them.  Footprints Service Core is our help-desk/ticketing system and we use Footprints Asset Core for our patch deployment system.

                                          • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                                            Luca Dell'Oca

                                            Uhm, interesting, cause some of the features you are describing (Asset Core) sounds exactly like BCAC (or Bladelogic Client Automation, so maybe is BBCA, sometimes I got lost with all their acronyms...). This one however was acquired some years ago, so this Numara sounds a new offer from them. Thanks anyway for pointing out this solution, seems the integration level inside the product is really high, that's a good point too to evaluate a solution.

                                      • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                        Sure thing!  Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to work with the SolarWinds Web Help Desk product to provide a comparison; however, I can say that we do run a lot of SolarWinds products and I have never been disappointed with any of them.

                                        • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                          dellock6 I would want a simple and functional solution, rather than something that does everything in the book.  A help desk should simply keep track of troubles/tickets, and allow for information to be organized easily and efficiently.  I often find the more "features" a product offers, the less solid and straightforward it is to use.

                                          • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                                            Ryan Adzima

                                            A few years ago I would've agreed with nearly everything already listed, but after my time in higher education my views have changed a lot. We've just undergone a search/demo process for a series of help desk solutions and when it came down to it there were only three requirements... End user experience, social media integration, and a well documented open API. We are even moving away from tying into a user directory. Let me elaborate:


                                            End user experience: We needed something that had a nice flow, customizable look and feel, and a logical layout. Plain and simple I want my grandmother and daughter to equally be able to navigate and figure this thing out. They don't care about categories and tags or which team gets it. All of that is our job, make sure the right people get the ticket as quickly as possible. The end user experience also translates into good metrics allowing us to tune our methods.


                                            Social media integration: We need our students, staff, and faculty members to be able to quickly open a ticket using any method they can get ahold of be it twitter, facebook, email, phone, text message, or carrier pigeon. If someone is reporting an issue that I am able to verify within a minute or two, does it matter where it came from? The issue still exists. If it's a purchase order or upgrade request, we require an approval workflow that allows us to have verified authorizations and a paper trail to follow it.


                                            Open API: Why buy a cobbled together solution when I can cobble it myself?! By cobble it myself I mean tweak whatever other systems I have to get exactly what data I need, when and how I need it. No extra fluff and no frustration. Having a community behind it is even better (as Thwack proves) and lets people share what interesting integrations they've pieced together.



                                            I think a lot of companies are starting to move in this direction too, both internally and externally. Obviously it won't be valid for quite a few verticals (high security) but with BYOD and the self-service nature that a lot of people are gravitating towards, it makes sense to just make it easier.

                                            • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                              Jeff hit on a key point, e-mail or alert generation of tickets is lacking or lackluster in most ticketing applications I've used. It would be nice to be able to setup multiple templates for alerts or e-mails based on the source and content of the e-mail. From what I've seen, most ticketing applications that allow e-mail ticket generation use a single template to fill in fields, don't always even allow you to fill in "required" fields with the template and don't take any of the content of the e-mail into consideration at all. Not who it's from, not the subject, it's just a copy/past job into the problem/description field.

                                              • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                Asset management is key for many reasons so that you can easily track history, and life-cycle, but i also thing scheduling of technicians is a nice feature to have.  I have a small department now but in managing a larger department in the past i can tell you it was hard to know where everyone was or is from morning to afternoon and day to day.   Having a calendar that can schedule your techs for services would be a great asset as well.   I would also like to see lots of AD integration.  Maybe even a tool in the help-desk that would allow users to request a password reset to a locked account that would be a complete turn key, creates a ticket, unlocks the account, emails or text's the new password, and can close the ticket once they log in successfully.   This way we can track events with out having to have a technician involved.  It would be nice to have a Bar code system with the Help-desk as well, so asset tracking and parts tracking could be simpler.   a rank to the users that log in from the portal showing how many tickets they have and their rank with other top users of the Help-Desk solution in the company, more of a geek thing but helps.   I have seen it in OTRS and other solutions. 

                                                • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                                                  Kurt H

                                                  Some good features to have:


                                                  1. Auto opeing of tickets based on trouble events with machines on the network.

                                                  2. Automatic assignement of ticket to an appropriate group. (For Example if there is a problem with a router, the ticket is automatically assigned to the Network Group).

                                                  3. Troubleshooting tips and lessons learned. Also this would be completely customizable for the tech to add additional notes or tips to repair a problem they may have run into.

                                                  4. Integration into current solarwinds products, such as NPM, SAM, IPAM, and UDT.

                                                  5. Web based trouble ticket submissions for the users to submit tickets as needed.

                                                  • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                    The current system we use is designed well, it just can't scale to the amount of users that we have.  In hindsight, user scaling probably should have been a bigger concern.  Things I would love to see in a helpdesk solution:


                                                    1. Ability to open tickets via whatever method you have / find convenient.  Email / IM / Text Message / Twitter / Web Form / etc.  Many users don't have constant access to the internal network, or have an issue which is preventing their ability to access it.  Shouldn't they be able to send a text message to the ticketing system to report their problem?  I would certainly appreciate that over a phone call.

                                                    2. Capability of locking down ticket pathing.  For example, if a ticket is related to a computer workstation, the ticket should be prohibited from going to a network engineer or sysadmin as a first stop.  Have the option in setup of the system to force certain categories of tickets to go to the right group should speed up problem resolution. 

                                                    3. Integration with monitoring solutions.

                                                    4. Fully searchable ticket history, ability to add keywords to tickets and group issues with them. 

                                                    5. EASY to use and understand.  After all, if it's too complicated... the users won't use it!

                                                    • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                      For us, it would be two things.  One, the ability to pull in asset data from our current endpoint management system.  Two, the ability to pull in diag data from the end user system when the ticket is opened.  That would be killer.

                                                      • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                        Asset Management is always something I looked for in the past when choosing a help desk platform. I personally found that something with barcode/IR tagging worked best in the long run. the initial workload to get the database setup and everything scanned in was a big project, but afterwards it was really nice.


                                                        Remote Desktop/Assistance with an Active Directory tie-in to reset passwords/change group memberships/create or delete users/etc is EXTREMELY helpful. At my last job, a few of us collaborated nationally to create a bunch of powershell functions and then compile them all to a .exe that offered the AD plugins and remote assistance.

                                                        • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                          You know having a way to track maintenance cycles on the network equipment would be fantastic.   Maybe someone mentioned this already, so i apologize if so.  I want my techs to have each PC cleaned annually at least and i need a way to track that cleaning cycle, network switches and routers need restarted once or twice a year to verify functionality and other maintenance that needs performed.   If the Helpdesk had a way either under assets or in the ticket side as well to manage that, and create a schedule of maintenance that would be fantastic. 

                                                          • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                            One of the biggest things a helpdesk device needs is some Asset management interface that shows up to date the hardware in their computer and some tie-in to AD and a way to remote desktop to them either through RDP,VNC, or some other proprietary protocol. A tie in to be able to reset passwords would be handy as well.

                                                            • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                              Time tracking, maybe what someone was getting at when they mentioned charge back, is something we will be looking at when we evaluate helpdesk solutions again next year.  We won't actually charge back, but we do want to know the time so we can look at trends with problems, or areas people need training (technical staff or the rest of the company), project planning, etc.


                                                              Having e-mails people send attach to the same case (not unusual, but we don't have it now).  I find people more willing to e-mail than to use a web site.


                                                              Work flow to address routine tasks that involve multiple people - so we could automate user setup for instance and get rid of the seperate checklist we use.


                                                              We would also like to see a system that is friendly not only to our technical helpdesk, but we could also configure and use for multiple processes.  That way our facilities department, and other departments that receive multiple requests could also benefit from the tracking system.  We're not a large company, so a system that was flexible enough to have a management account overseeing a subset of "technician" accounts; but not have to jump to enterprise pricing, would be very beneficial.

                                                              • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?
                                                                imm an

                                                                I know its old still if you are looking for more info dont hesitate to reach out. I will help you out.

                                                                • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                                  Asset Management integration and intelligent application integration are help desk solution should have.

                                                                  • Re: What features do you think a Help Desk solution should have?

                                                                    Couple of key components are Templates for creating tickets with specific pull-downs so ALL tickets for a particular item are created the same.

                                                                    Which then helps another Key component, Reporting!!!  If the data isn't gathered similarly, well, you know.  GIGO...