IT help desks find salvation in e-support

At one time, customers had little direct interaction with companies’ network and IT infrastructures. Today, mobile workers, business partners and customers enter your firm through the e-lobby. Delays, outages or other problems are clearly visible outside the organization.

Meanwhile, computing continues to grow more complex. The proliferation of loosely connected laptop computers for an increasingly mobile work force makes internal computing environments more volatile. E-business initiatives target customers beyond the boundaries of IT’s control.

Knowledge workers depend on strategic business information contained in enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and data warehouses. And end users are demanding alternative communications channels into the IT service desk — such as e-mail and the Internet — rather than being forced to use the phone.

These problems have put a spotlight on the IT help desk.

For help desks, the challenge is to rework support processes and service-level agreements to handle increased call volumes and problem complexity without incurring runaway costs. Traditional help desk products are fast being eclipsed by emerging e-support offerings from vendors such as Motive Communications, Perpetual Systems and Tioga Systems.

Motive Communications ( is a proponent of support-chain automation, which uses the Internet to link end users and the digital devices they use with support organizations, vendors and shared support content. Motive’s approach combines automation software (Motive Duet) with active content (Motive ActiveLink) — information that has the intelligence to identify problems and perform support tasks.

Last month, Perpetual Systems ( began beta-testing, which is billed as a “conflict-free” application management system. The system provides access to a customizable database of “golden” configurations — application and operating system combinations that are known to be free of conflicts — over the Web. The idea is that avoiding conflicts will reduce the number of support calls.

And in June, Tioga Systems ( released Version 2.0 of its Healing System, which lets IT help desks provide real-time Web-based support. Healing System uses Tioga’s DNA Probe technology to automatically determine the complete detailed configuration of any Windows 32-bit application. The DNA for any one application will differ for each end user’s desktop because each has unique settings, bookmarks, proxies, plug-ins and so forth.

It goes without saying the help desk offering that’s best for you will depend upon the specific policies, priorities and problem to be solved.

First and foremost, remember to define and carefully articulate your requirements before bringing in vendors. Otherwise, you risk selecting a feature-rich product that may not fit your organization or solve your problems.