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» Help Desk Automation:
Build or Buy
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Help Desk Automation: Build or Buy
Developing software in-house involves a long-term commitment in terms of time and money from developers that already have too much to do and not enough time to do it. If a company decides to purchase software, the company enters into a business relationship with a vendor and can spend thousands of dollars to purchase a license and them to customize and install the software.

The decision of whether to build or buy a Help Desk software system is a very important one. In particular, small to medium sized businesses often face the tough decision of whether it is better to purchase help desk software or develop it in-house. Advantages of building can include lower cost, a thorough understanding of how the system works, and the lack of a training requirement for IT support, since the system was built in-house.

Disadvantages can include tying up IT labor for a significant period of time, lack of any sort of warranty or service contract in the event of malfunctions, and the inevitable growing pains suffered by customers and Help Desk personnel as the system is tweaked and tuned for optimal performance. Moreover, building the system can be difficult for in house IT department that are not familiar with that type of application.

If the decision is made to buy, a company must do its homework--including the calculation of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), find the best software company possible, and purchase what it needs. The toughest part often lies in making the determination of what the company actually needs instead of what it wants.

During the search process, the company should look for a software manufacturer that is financially stable and has many years of experience developing software. After this type of list is compiled, the focus shifts to determining the functionality the company needs. This functionality may include the ability to process issues via multiple channels, such as voice-mail, e-mail, web, Instant Message (IM), and chat. Other functionality might include many diverse search methodologies, including decision trees, escalation to Tier 2 personnel, routing capability, and direction to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's.)

The benefits of purchasing an off-the-shelf Help Desk software system can include a dramatic increase in end user satisfaction, expert support in over many diverse applications, reduced turnover and hold time on the internal help desk, and support available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. These benefits accrue because most Help Desk software systems set up a dedicated toll-free support lines for each client, answered each call usually within 2 rings by a certified computer consultant, and provide call reports that detail all call activity and resolutions. In order to make the right choice as to whether to buy or build a Help Desk software system, the company must first calculate ROI and TCO for each avenue. The next thing that must occur is an analysis of the company's support organization and processes, including individual requirements analysis of the demands on the support organization. This type of an analysis should identify weaknesses and possible solutions. Next, the company will need to bring together a representative sample of end users to lay out a list of functionality criteria. Once this has been done, the company can develop a matrix to help decide whether to build or buy a Help Desk software system. In many cases, the company may find that it is a lot simpler and time efficient to purchase software. However, if the company has an experienced IT department, it may make sense to build.


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