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Support Works Helpdesk

SupportWorks is a HelpDesk Manager application for service oriented organisations. The overriding principle behind SupportWorks is maximum efficiency in WorkFlow management.

The software has been designed from the outset to be absolutely the easiest to use - benchmarks are constantly re-defined amongst the mainstream competitors, yet SupportWorks remains the most straightforward. This is particularly significant to IT departments, which often include Contract staff and personnel with evolving working requirements - adherence to Service Level Agreements in force can be used to determine their working practices.

Problem ownership is another 'cultural' option that can be deployed as a control. Local and Internet E-Mail integration is an area of outstanding functionality in the product - indeed this is used to integrate Helpdesk operations in the UK, USA and Germany for one client. Incidents can be logged by the 'customer' at the point of source, who will then be kept updated on the status by Mail upon request.

Management can also use the real-time reporting to write queries automatically and generate statistics and graphs that can posted via E-Mail. These reports can also be set to display on a live VDU in the department.

The product was first developed in 1994, when one of the worlds largest Pharmaceutical corporations recognised a need for automation of their IT support function. Acting as consultants, Hornbill Systems scoured the marketplace for suitable solutions and presented their findings to the Board of Directors. After careful consideration it was apparent that the mainstream vendors could not offer the power or flexibility demanded by this information-driven mixed operating environment. SupportWorks has been running at the clients Central London site for over 18 months in 16 bit form.

Functionality upgrades are undertaken on a quarterly basis without compromising the integrity of the service offered. There are typically 10 concurrent users on a Windows for Workgroups platform, who have logged over 16,500 calls.

Hornbill offer Hotline support to the client, which currently encompasses less than 1 incident per month. The client does not require user documentation or external training for new users - testimony to the simplicity and stability of the product.

As a consequence of SupportWorks success, Hornbill have implemented a schedule for the further development and marketing of the product. The largest UK manufacturer of PC Multimedia products now uses our software to support their Trade and End-User customer base, currently numbering in excess of 10,000. Due to the growing emphasis on customer service, and in particular the emergence of IT departments as self-financing centres, Hornbill are now beta-testing the 32 bit version of SupportWorks - enabling more users, greater performance and unsurpassed resilience. This version is due to market in October - porting of data and user transference from the current version has been a primary consideration.


System Requirements

SupportWorks client will run on Windows NT, Windows 95 and Windows for Workgroups and OS/2. Support-Works server will run on Windows 95(Workgroup version) and Windows NT(corporate version). The server requires a minimum of a Pentium 100Mhz processor with 16MB of RAM and 20MB of Hard Disk Space. TCP/IP must be running and an ODBC driver must be enabled - we recommend the Intersolv ODBC drivers, due to speed and stability. The client requires a minimum of a 386DX processor with 8MB RAM, 5MB Disk space and TCP/IP.

The program supports all common database types - Access, Dbase, SQL, etc. Supportworks has been written in C++ for resilience and adaptability.


Operation

In many large organisations the incoming calls to the Helpdesk are initially fielded by a 'receptionist' who logs the calls and then assigns them to the appropriate team member - this is how SupportWorks is currently configured. Where the initial recipient takes responsibility for the call they must remember to 'Accept' the call. It can easily be reset to assign the call to the initial recipient.

To log a new Support call click on the 'New' button on the left-hand end of the Toolbar (underneath the File menu). If you have a mail message open when you log a call, the customer and message details will be automatically transferred into the new call window. This will bring up the 'Log New Call for xxxx' window, where xxxx is your personal identifier. The cursor will be blinking in the 'Customer ID' field - you can enter a code which your department has assigned to each user. If you do not have the user codes press the TAB key to move down to the 'Fullname' field - the format generally employed is Surname, FirstName - you can just enter the Surname (or even just the first part of it) and then press TAB to search the database for that user. If the user is found the field will be populated by their full name.

If there are many users with that surname, the Browse Customers window will appear and let you select the correct match. If the user is not found you can use the 'Set up now' option to enter a new customer or the alphabet keys in the Browse Customers window.

If the spelling is incorrect you can use the 'Modify' button to put it right. If your database has been properly set up the following fields will be populated : Equipment ID, Make / Model, Priority & Cost centre. You can view all the items in the possession of that user by clicking on the drop-down arrow in Equipment ID. If the users equipment has not been entered you must enter your Internal code to identify the Hardware used. You can then see the specification of the equipment they use by clicking the 'View equipment details' button - by then clicking on the 'Notes' button you can check the exact configuration.

You then
  1. TAB to the 'Problem area' field and select the appropriate category from the drop-down list
  2. TAB to the 'Component breakdown' field and select the name of the manufacturer.
  3. TAB to the 'Problem breakdown' field and select the name of the offending product.
  4. Select the 'Priority' assigned to the call.

The users Cost centre will be shown by default - if this support call is to be cross-charged then select the appropriate department. You should now click in the 'Problem description' field and type a summary of the support call and comments. Click the 'Log Call' button. In the 'Confirm New Call' window you have the option to log the call and assign it to a Representative or defer the call to a more suitable time (if, for example, the user will not be available for a number of days - logging the call immediately may cause an infringement of the Service Level Agreement). Click on the 'Log & Assign' button

In the 'Select Support Representative' window you must choose a group and then an individual to whom the call is assigned. The 'Log Call Confirmation' message box will appear, which gives the call reference and other information for the customer. You have the option to 'Send E-Mail' to the customer relaying the details. The Call then needs to be Accepted by a Support Representative, by selecting the call from their list of 'Active Calls' and then clicking the 'Accept' button on the toolbar (underneath the Options menu).

On the toolbar there are buttons relating to call management functions. The call can be re-assigned to another representative, put on hold, updated, etc. The most significant function is the 'Update' button, whereby you can add notes on any further progress relating to that incident.

If you need to check the status of another representatives calls, you should click on the 'View' menu and then 'Switch Support Group / Rep' - choose the individual concerned from the listings. SupportWorks assigns colours to calls in the 'Active Calls..' listing. These can be customised - currently they have the following meanings

If a call has not been accepted by a group member, and has been on the system for such a period of time that it is in breach of any Service Level Agreement, then it will show as a Red item.


E-MAIL CONNECTIVITY

Apart from satisfactory problem resolution, one of the factors most likely to impress a HelpDesk customer is to be kept informed of the status of their call. SupportWorks offers impressive E-Mail integration - the customer can post their call by E-Mail and the system can respond and provide the latest information by return.

In the previous 'Logging a call' section we have seen how the initial call is acknowledged by the system via E-Mail if required. There remains the option to Send E-Mail to the customer every time the call is updated. The user can send E-Mail to SupportWorks, requesting information on the status of their call by reference number - the system will compile a report and reply. This feature is not enabled in the beta versions.


IMPORTING DATA

In order for the HelpDesk staff to have the latest information at their fingertips it is important to update the tables containing information relating to the users supported, their Cost centre, their equipment and configuration. Because SupportWorks uses industry standard SQL RDBMS all data can be imported from any other source into SupportWorks tables


REPORTING

Contained within the program there is a 'Quick Reports' and 'Statistics' facility, under the 'Tools' menu. 'Quick Reports' allows any member of the team to generate summaries of their personal workload and the performance of the group as a whole.

'Statistics' is an on-screen facility for measuring a large number of parameters relating to the activity of the HelpDesk. SupportWorks uses Crystal Reports to generate a multiplicity of reports - standard items will include Call Statistics, Call Histories, Equipment data, Analysis by Cost centre. Reports can be generated by each support representative or by Management to cover the group performance. There is also the facility to define any specification of report. Reports can be requested by E-Mail, whereupon the system will generate the statistics / graphs and return the results by Mail.


CONCLUSION

SupportWorks enables you to achieve greater customer satisfaction, whilst maximising the productivity of your existing resources. Tracking the status of a logged call, in order to adhere to a predetermined Service Level Agreement, is a particular strength of the product. Keeping the customer informed of the current position and related activities by E-Mail is a primary consideration.

SupportWorks has been running at beta test sites for in excess of a year - their requirements have been met and tailored into the product. One of the final development items is an installation procedure, and until this is completed, we are only able to offer limited functionality to our beta test sites, because the product is unable to be automatically configured for your business in a short time. As you make greater use of our software we will be interested to learn if you have any further needs, or feel that we do not meet your expectations in any areas.


©Hornbill Systems Ltd : http://www.hornbill.com. Email : sales@hornbill.com