The whole idea of your personal data not being on a local machine also allows companies to facilitate hot-desking. It’s your PC image that is familiar to you, not your own PC, he argues. Not that all his clients agree.
“When people think of helpdesk products they think of call handling systems like Remedy’s Action Request System. I’m sure it’s a good call handler, and I’m sure it’s easy to install and use and everything, but in the end it just logs your calls. It doesn’t fix the problem.
That’s why Chadwick insists he’s in a different business and calls what he does IT service management. “We try to automate all the low grade operating tasks that use up the help desk operative’s time.
“In lots of systems we’ve built there is a call center 150 miles away from the desk that calls in. In the end the job is for an engineer down on the first floor, who simply has to go and fix a machine on the fourteenth floor. Now it’s fine centralizing help in that way, but it means that the remote helpdesk site is blind. Which is why we always push to use our web-based call handling system so the engineer can clear down the job himself when he’s finished. He can even use the machine that he just fixed, and be ready to take his next job.”
Touchpaper targets companies in the middle market zone that everyone these days seems to be after. Chadwick defines it as between 150 and 2,000 desktops. “Above that level the big corporates just lock down the PC. No way to get data in or out, and you’re really just shutting down the function and making sure you can’t change anything on the machine. That means little or no access to the web, not allowing executables to run, no email unless your job function requires it. They buy a call logging system and just try to do as little as possible to keep their costs down.”
THE OVERALL PICTURE
He continued: “In a way they’re right, but we think we have a little more sophisticated approach, we take a picture of the machine, what we call a Scan, in a desired state. We have clients that define certain combinations of applications for power users, senior management, different job functions. This desired state is stored by an application we’ve built that takes a picture and records a description of every file that’s on the machine. If something goes wrong, we can remotely, put every file back as it was on the latest scan from a server.
“Now it’s much harder to do that when you have local data. We can do it, because we strip out and copy all files of a certain file extension, take them up to the server and then put them back after the scan has replaced the machine how it should be, but it’s far more work.”
Chadwick reckons that Touchpaper will make it to 22m [pounds sterling] ($35m) and 180 employees this year, just a few short years since its independence from Royal Blue Technologies. So selling these ideas on IT services management hasn’t been too much of a problem. How come?
At this point Chadwick leans forward, looks from side to side conspiratorially and says: “Okay, I’ll tell you”, and drops his voice to little more than a whisper. “We get them to do a survey. Better still we do a survey for them. We’ll even make it easy for them and host it on our site. We’re good at doing surveys.”
A survey on what?
“We get them to ask their customers what they think of IT support. Are they satisfied with it, simple as that. Well, you think about it. First our profession gave them smiley coasters and said call the helpdesk. And they called it. That’s the noose around the neck because when someone calls you, they expect you to actually do something about whatever’s wrong. That’s when the costs start rising.
GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
“Then they ask their customers ‘How are we doing?’ and that’s like asking a passerby to kick away the stool they’re standing on. Ask how an IT support team is doing and its customers will tell you at worst that the support is crap or at best that it could be better. And then you’re stuck. The customers already have your phone number, now the IT team is raising the expectations of its customers because they think they have been asked how support is doing for a reason.”
He carries on: “It must mean that someone is going to do something about it, going to improve it in some way, and they think of all the things that they’d like to see improved. The IT department expects its customers to say ‘we love them they do a great job’, but we’ve never seen a survey come back like that. So cost of support is up, satisfaction with support is low, and budgets are cut. That’s when they have to call an organization like us in.”
Touchpaper has some convincing reference sites, deals at the London School of Economics and the London Business School play to its strength of using its toolset to cut down the number of physical visits that engineers have to make. That’s vital when you have a distributed student base.
Much the same can be said of Knight Frank, the property agency, which operates with 9,000 out of 200 offices in 30 countries around the world. Touchpaper looks after the 1,100 UK employees at 40 UK sites. Its IT department could be forgiven for failing to live up to service expectations and supply even foundation level support. The company’s officially supplied support disintegrated and instead it ended up with a combination of outsourced engineers and half trained, local IT champions. Effectively the smiley coasters to linked people to the helpdesk were thrown away and no-one ever called the central support line.
They settled on bringing in the Vega product line, really a catch-all name for all Touchpaper’s products, to rebuild their helpdesk and begin once more logging and measuring IT support calls and analyzing and tracking its different kind of problems in an attempt to move forwards. This time they decided instead of replacing the local champions they would recognize their work and work through them, adding to their know-how with a central helpdesk and use Helpdesk Internet Edition from Touchpaper so that they had a transparent process, where everyone that was waiting for support could see the progress of its outstanding call.
Owen Williams, the IT partner at Knight Frank, is relieved to see that his offices are beginning to rely on the helpdesk once more and he reckons he is saving over 200,000 [pounds sterling] a year be reducing the company’s reliance on outsourcers. He has also rebuilt an accurate asset management system and with the improved information, he can now get more competitive pricing on hardware maintenance.