University of Exeter Students Choose Twitter for IT Support

Given the choice, University of Exeter Students Opted to Receive IT Support Updates via Twitter

The itSMF held their UK South West & South Wales Regional meeting at the University of Exeter this week.

The theme of the day was processes and toolsets with a big emphasis on member interaction and discussion.

In a nutshell: A good day. Recommended.

Two presentations really stood out for me during the day. Firstly Deborah Pitt, Configuration Manager at Land Registry Information Systems in Plymouth, gave a compelling talk on how she managed to convince various IT teams within Land Registry to buy-in to their CMDB. In short, Deborah recalled her strategy of badgering, evangelising and more badgering.

Winning Friends and Implementing CMDBs

Deborah shared with us that she increased engagement and adoption with the CMDB by farming out responsibility for configuration items to various IT teams. For example, the team responsible for management of blackberry devices were assigned ownership of Blackberry data within the CMDB, a great strategy for building confidence in the system and getting users to let go of their precious excel sheets.

“Although process and tools have both been important in getting buy in from consumers and owners of the data that goes into the CMDB, another, often overlooked factor has been a major plank of getting the message across.   This is building successful, communicative relationships with both consumers and owners.  Through selectively targeting the audience and tailoring the message, Land Registry have been able to build enthusiasm for CMDB, such that there is now a widespread take up of CI use and ownership.” Deborah Pitt, Land Registry.

Bring Your Own Pot Noodle?

However, for me the most interesting talk of the day came from the hosts: Zach Nashed who runs the IT Helpdesk at the University of Exeter.

Zach shared how the IT support team at the University were coping with the changing demands of students. It was interesting to hear of the changing attitudes towards IT support since tuition fees were abolished. Since students will be paying £9K per annum out of their own pocket from 2012, this was beginning to translate into higher expectations and demands of IT support (e.g. If I’m paying £9K a year to study here I’m not paying extra for printing).

The IT team are also under increasing pressure to provide 24/7/365 IT services for multiple devices per student. For example students are arriving on campus with a laptop, tablet and phone with all flavours of platforms and expecting instant compatibility and high-speed ubiquitous WIFI access.

Fish Where The Fish Are

To provide higher levels of support at the University and align closely with current requirements Zach and his team hold focus groups with students. As a result the University has begun to explore Twitter as an IT support communication channel. When given the option, students at the University chose Twitter as their preferred update mechanism.

I think this is an important point for anyone considering implementing social channels into their support infrastructure. When considering implementation with a particular channel we need to consider:

  1. Do our customers actually use this social media channel?
  2. And do they want to hear from us when they are using it? (Zach noted that although students spent a great deal of time on Facebook their preferred update mechanism was Twitter)

If students of today are recruits of tomorrow then this initiative paints a picture of IT Support in 2015.

The University of Exeter are a long term Hornbill customer and are exploring a module from Hornbill specifically for twitter integration. Want to know how they get on? Follow them here.

Twelve IT Helpdesks For Under $1,000

Say What You See

ITSM folklore states that the helpdesk software market is heavily oversaturated. Companies don’t suddenly discover the need for an IT helpdesk – it is a replacement market.

That may be the case for large enterprises, but this overlooks the enormous market of small and growing businesses.

In the UK for example the Federation of Small Businesses claims that 99% of UK business activity stems from small and medium size companies.

The UK has 4.5 million SME companies that account for 58.8% of all private sector employment in the UK and 48.8% of private sector turnover (source).

I have used UK figures here but my bet is that the vast majority of countries have a similar balance – perhaps even more so in developing countries.

Similarly, teams or divisions within larger organizations are breaking free of the shackles of prehistoric software and taking IT support provision into their own hands.

With this is mind I have compiled a short list of companies offering IT helpdesk software offering an entry level for under a grand. All the offerings below are web-based (do start ups and small companies buy servers?).

Conditions of inclusion

  • Under US$1,000 per year per user
  • Pricing is readily available on their website
  • Delivered via the Web
  • The website is not scary

If I have missed any companies that meet the criteria above please leave a comment below. Thanks in advance for your help.

Company Marketing Blurb… Pricing (Named user / agent per month from…)
1 Beetil “Adopt best practices the easy way” $39
2 BMC RemedyForce “A simpler, more affordable IT helpdesk in the cloud” $79
3 Desk (Salesforce, formerly Assistly) “The simple, social, mobile, affordable Customer Support Help Desk” $49
4 Freshdesk “Deliver a refreshing customer support experience through email, your website, phone, your communities and even Facebook and Twitter. Take your support to where your customers are” $9
5 ITRP “Make IT service management work for you. Your customers will thank you.” $30
6 ITSmartDesk “Social IT Service Management” ~$80 (for whole company not per named user)
7 Kayako “Helpdesk Evolved. Never miss a beat. Manage your email, live chat, calls, remote support and self-service, all in one place.” $29
8 My Service Desk (Hornbill) “Best Practice ITSM that delivers in Days not Weeks” $59
9 SAManage “Thousands of people around the world use SAManage, the leading online IT Service Desk and IT Asset Management tool.” $800 per year
10 Web Help Desk “Powerful Software for Technical Support” $75
11 ZenDesk “The fastest way to great customer support” $24
12 Zoho “Great Customer Support Quick and Easy” $12