The Faster, Cheaper Help Desk in the Cloud
"We didn't necessarily want to have to use a virtual private network to get onto a system to interact with our incidents, said Alec Davis, the senior system analyst at Design Within Reach. "And we also liked the idea of a portal for our customers. Our customers are really just internal customers, our employees. We liked the idea of them being able to log in and see the status of an incident that they have reported."
One of the trends emerging in the cloud computing space is taking on IT service desk and incident management functions "as a service." A common data architecture and fast delivery benefits combine to improve efficiency, cost and results for IT support end users.
For example, intelligent energy-management solutions provider Comverge has extended its use of Salesforce.com to add a self-service-enabled service desk capability using BMC's Remedyforce.
Also, modern furniture and accessories purveyor Design Within Reach has made its IT support more responsive -- even at a global scale -- via cloud-based incident-management capabilities.
Here to share their story on creating the services that empower end users to increasingly solve their own IT issues is Danielle Bailey, IT manager at Comverge in Norcross, Georgia, and Alec Davis, the senior system analyst at Design Within Reach, based in Stamford, Connecticut. This podcast is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Download the podcast (29:29 minutes) or use the player:
Here are some excerpts:
Dana Gardner: When you began looking at improving your helpdesk solutions and IT support, what were the problems were that you really wanted to solve?
Danielle Bailey: We had three pretty big pain points that we wanted to address. The first was cost. As our company was growing quickly, we were having some growing pains with our financials as far as being able to justify some of the IT expense that we had.
The current solution that we had charged by person, because there was a micro-agent involved, and so as we grew as a company, that expense continued to grow, even though it wasn't providing us the same return on investment (ROI) per person to justify that.
So we had a little over US$55,000 a year expense with our prior software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, and so we wanted to be able to reduce that, bring it back more in line with the actual size of our IT group, so that it fit a little bit better into our budget.
One of the reasons we went with BMC Remedyforce is that rather than charging us by the end user, the license fees were by the helpdesk agent, which would allow us to stay within the scope of our IT team.
The second big issue that we had was that a lot of our end users were remote. We have field technicians who go out each day and install meters on homes, and they don't carry laptops, and the micro-agent required laptops for them to be able to log tickets.
We wanted to be able to use something that would allow us to give our field techs the ability to log tickets on a mobile application, like their iPhones, and Remedyforce had that.
The third issue was that we were Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliant and we needed to make sure that whatever solution we chose would allow us to track change management, to go through approval workflows, and to allow our management to have insight into what changes were being made as they went forward, and to be able to interact and collaborate on those changes.
So that was the third reason we chose Remedyforce. It has the change management in there, but it also has the Salesforce.com Chatter interface that we are able to use to make sure that managers can follow some of the incidents and see as we go through if we have any changes that we can quickly work with them to explain what we may need and that they can contribute to that conversation.
Alec Davis: We have a different story. A couple of years ago we made a huge corporate move from San Francisco to Stamford, Connecticut. At that move we saw that it was an opportunity to look at our network infrastructure and examine what hardware we needed and whether we could move to the cloud.
So BMC Remedyforce was part of a bigger project. We were moving toward Salesforce and we also moved toward Google Apps for corporate email. We wanted to reduce a lot of the hardware we had, so that we didn't have to move it across the country.
We were also looking for something that could be up and running before that move, so we wouldn't have any downtime.
We quickly signed up with Google, and that went well. And then we moved into Salesforce.com. At Dreamforce 2010, Remedyforce was announced, and I was there and I was really excited about the product. I was familiar with BMC's previous tools, as well as some of the other IT staff, so we quickly jumped on it.
But as part of that move, something else kind of changed about our IT group. We did grow a bit smaller, but we were also more spread out. We used to all be in one location. Now, we're in San Francisco, Stamford, and also Texas. So we needed something that was easily accessible to us all. We didn't necessarily want to have to use a virtual private network (VPN) to get onto a system, to interact with our incidents.
And we also liked the idea of a portal for our customers. Our customers are really just internal customers, our employees. We liked the idea of them being able to log in and see the status of an incident that they have reported.
We're also really big on change management. We manage our own homegrown enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. So we do lots of changes to that system and fix bugs as well. And when we add something new, we need approval of different heads of different departments, depending on what that feature is changing.
So we are big on change management, and prior to that we were just using really fancy Microsoft Word documents to get approvals that were either signed via email or printed out and specifically signed. We like the idea of change management in Remedyforce and having the improved approval process.
Gardner: Tell us about Comverge.
Bailey: Comverge is a green energy company. We try to help reduce peak load for utility companies. For example, when folks are coming home and starting to wash clothes, turn on the air-conditioning and things like that, the energy use for those utilities spikes.
We provide software and hardware that allows us to cycle air-conditioning compressors on and off, so that we reduce that peak. And by reducing that peak we are able to help utility companies to meet their own energy needs, rather than buying power from other utilities or building new power plants.
We have been in business for about 25 years. We originally started out as part of Scientific Atlanta, but they have taken on new companies across the country to integrate new technology into what we offer.
We are now nationwide. We provide services to utilities in the Northeast, from Pennsylvania, and then all the way down to Florida, and then all the way west to California, and then to Texas, New Mexico, and different areas in-between. And we've recently opened new offices in South Africa, providing the same energy services to them.
Comverge tries to make sure that the energy that we're able to help provide by reducing that load is green. It's renewable. It's something we can continue to do. It just helps to reduce cost as well as to save the environment from some of the pollution that may happen from new energy production.
In a nutshell, Comverge is a leading provider of intelligent energy management solutions for residential and commercial and industrial customers. We deliver the insight and controls that enables energy providers and consumers to optimize their power usage through the industry's only proven comprehensive set of technology services and information management solution.
In January, Comverge delivered two new products, the Intel P910 PCU that includes capabilities to support dynamic pricing programs, and Intel Open Source Applications for the iPhone. The iPhone is very important to us. Our field technicians are using it at residential and commercial installations, and we just want to make sure that we continue with that innovation.