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'Who ya gonna call?'

Need technical help with your computer? In the past, you might have called separate help lines to resolve a simple problem. If it involved several areas of responsibility, you might have been referred to different sources for help. In essence, there was no "one-stop shopping."

Last February, the Help Desk Reengineering team was chartered to design a help process to meet the information technology needs of the future. The team's specific responsibility was to design a model for assistance that would maximize the productivity of the MIT community by providing the following:

  • Integrated information technology and business support
  • Access to the services people need
  • Rapid resolution of problems

The team began its work by assessing the current sources of information technology help that are available to the community. They looked at it through the eyes of the customer. The team then designed an integrated approach to information technology support.

The new process will provide timely identification and resolution of problems, and proactive improvements to products and services based on an analysis of questions and problems reported to the help desk. Another component of the new process will be sophisticated on-line tools allowing the user to get answers to common problems and questions.

A subset of the model was tested for two weeks in October, and the results and what the team learned were impressive. A log of calls was kept and it revealed that 80 percent of the problems were solved on the same day. Of these, 36% of the calls were to fix a malfunction, 26 percent were for instruction, 19 percent were requests for new service, and the rest represented a combination of the above.

The team drew several conclusions from the pilot. The greatest success came when the teams had more specialized expertise and problems could be solved immediately. Because of this, the new Help Desk will be organized according to desktop hardware. There will be separate numbers for Mac users, PC users, and for those on Unix systems. In addition, some common requests for service will be handled through electronic submissions.

A Help Desk Open House will be held on January 10 -- watch for details. The new, improved Help Desk will be ready for rollout in spring 1996.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 13, 1995.

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