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Help Desk team explains redesigned process

The Help Desk reengineering project updated its work at an information session for the community on January 10. A major highlight of the redesign is that the new Help Desk will be organized according to desktop hardware, with separate phone numbers for Mac users, PC users and for those on Unix/VMS systems.

There also will be a general number for questions that are independent of the customer's desktop hardware. In addition, some common requests for service will be handled through electronic submissions. The new Help Desk, which combines the services currently offered by Network Services, the Vax Resource Center, Microcomputer and Mainframe help desks, will be centrally located in Building 11. (The walk-in facilities now in Buildings E40 and W91 will move to Building 11.)

While there are three primary entry points into the new help process, the Help Desk is one team. The specialty areas of the team will follow the same policies and procedures and use the same call distribution system and problem-tracking tool.

Activities planned through the end of March include training the Help Desk staff, preparing the space in Building 11, and developing common practices for the help desks that are being combined.

Many questions at the session earlier this month involved the role of the "local experts" who provide significant technical consulting and support for their areas. "There will be a major effort to develop partnerships with the local experts," said Harold Pakulat, leader of the pilot team.

"MIT has a long history of technically proficient staff in departments, labs and centers, and our help process will seek to establish mutually beneficial relationships that emphasize the sharing of information. For instance, one option might include direct access to the Help Desk tracking tool by the local experts. This would not only allow a local expert to report a problem directly, but also to search a database for similiar problems and resolutions," Mr. Pakulat said.

Activities from March through December will include announcing the new phone numbers, sponsoring an on-site open house, and working with other administrative areas and reengineering teams to incorporate their work into the new help process. The team also will explore other service improvements such as extended hours of operation, World Wide Web forms for ordering common services, and implementing on-line mechanisms for asking questions.

The Help Desk Reengineering team started its work in February 1995 with a charter to design a help process to meet the information technology needs of the future. The team identified self-help, problem resolution and prevention as the major components of a help desk process. In October the team piloted a redesigned help desk approach to the problem resolution part of the process. The major conclusion from the pilot was that help was most effective when customers could rapidly reach someone with specialized knowledge and problems could be solved immediately.

An activity related to the self-help and prevention components of the help desk process has also begun. A self-help pilot team has been established and its goal is to provide MIT users with easy-to-use information resources and tools such as a World Wide Web interface to commonly asked questions. In the area of prevention, the use of the common tracking tool will allow the team to analyze data for historical trends and identify recurring problems.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 24, 1996.

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