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Helpdesk Solution Implementation Basics

Created: 31 Aug 2006 • Updated: 18 May 2007 | 12 comments
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Whether you are new to Altiris' Helpdesk Solution or just shopping around, this amazing document hits on all that's important to know when setting up a world-class helpdesk. There's no better way (than this quick read) to get a look at the capabilities under the hood of the Altiris Helpdesk Solution.

Contents

Introduction
Helpdesk Solution Capabilities
Best Practice: Keep It Simple in the Beginning
Phases in Implementing Helpdesk
Phase 1: Process and Workflow Planning
Step 1: Identify Processes
      Examples of Processes
Step 2: Build Workflows to Drive Processes
      Workflow Example: New Hire Workflow
Phase 2: Installation and Basic Configuration
Step 1: Install Helpdesk Solution
Step 2: Import Contacts and Assets into Helpdesk Solution
Step 3: Add Workers
Step 4: Add Workers to Security Roles
Step 5: Define Categories
Step 6: Define Priority, Urgency, and Impact Lookup Values
Step 7: Define Ticket Types LookupValues
Step 8: Define Status Lookup Values
Step 9: Define Queues
Step 10: Define Close Code LookupValues
Step 11: Define Business Rules to Automate Workflows
Step 12: Define Notification Policies in Notification Server
Step 13: Define E-mail Templates
Step 14: Define E-Mail Inboxes and Inbox Filters
Phase 3: Advanced Configuration
Define Smart Tasks
Define Quick Incidents
Define Common Queries
Integrate Helpdesk Solution with Other Systems Using Web Services
Import Your Documentation into theHelpdesk Knowledge Base
Define New Reports
Introduction

With Altiris® Helpdesk Solution™ software, you can provide the level of service that your organization expects and can afford, keeping hundreds—even tens of thousands— of computers running efficiently, while providing new services on a regular basis.

The key is to create an organized environment that quickly responds to reported issues, and, at the same time, advertises and provides new services to the organization using the same basic software architecture. The ultimate goal is to provide better service by automating as many steps as possible, and, where automation isn't possible, to increase the efficiency of the people who provide the services. That is what a service desk is all about, and this document provides guidance on where to start and how to approach the implementation of Helpdesk Solution.

This article is for users that plan to implement Helpdesk Solution on their own. Many customers have done this successfully. You can also leverage experienced consultants who can help you address specific requirements unique to your organization through specialized customization and programming.

Helpdesk Solution Capabilities

Helpdesk Solution can be configured to capture reported issues electronically through e-mail or through special Web-based screens designed for end users to log an incident as well as to receive updates on all problems that they have reported. Once an issue is reported, it can be prioritized and routed to the right people who can solve the problem and report the success back to the users and management.

Helpdesk Solution has many automated capabilities that can drive down the amount of human effort needed to correct issues. In other cases, where several people need to be involved in the process, such as purchasing, installing, and provisioning a new server, Helpdesk Solution can provide coordination between all of the parties to help eliminate delays and improve service levels. Helpdesk Solution can then become a central communication center for all of the things going on in the IT department, and in many cases it can extend beyond IT to provide services to Facilities, Telecommunications, Human Resources, Equipment Maintenance, and so on.

Best Practice: Keep It Simple in the Beginning

Keep the initial implementation of Helpdesk Solution simple enough for most of your staff to understand and manage. Aim to provide the basic functionality and services needed to achieve a reasonable amount of satisfaction, not the ultimate "end all" solution. Then, build up the Helpdesk Solution system over time as the support staff and the end users become more familiar with it.

Phases in Implementing Helpdesk

This document organizes the process of implementing Helpdesk Solution into 3 phases. After you complete the phases in this document, you can begin customizing Helpdesk Solution. For details, see the Helpdesk Customization Guide. If you do not have the Helpdesk Customization Guide, contact Altiris support or your Altiris sales representative.

Phase 1: Process and Workflow Planning

In this initial phase, you consider the processes that you want to follow using Helpdesk Solution, and then you build workflows in Helpdesk Solution to drive and automate those processes.

An IT process is a predefined series of steps that are executed in a repeatable way to deliver the same expected outcome each time the process is triggered. When a company can move from a place where IT problems are solved in an ad-hoc manner to one where every issue is handled in an efficient and repeatable manner, cost goes down and end user satisfaction goes up.

A workflow is the implementation of an IT process in Helpdesk Solution, using Helpdesk Solution features and capabilities. The first thing you need to do to implement Helpdesk Solution is to determine what processes you want to follow in Helpdesk Solution. Once you have mapped out your processes, you can begin to determine what Helpdesk Solution capabilities you should use to manage the different steps of the processes, and how to put it all together to create Helpdesk Solution workflows.

You will also want to consider your IT staff to determine what part different employees will take in workflows, and how your staff's areas of expertise may influence your Helpdesk Solution implementation.

Step 1: Identify Processes

Think about how your organization addresses incidents, both formal and informal processes, how incidents are reported, who is the first to find out about them, what happens next, and so on.

Consider these questions when thinking about your current processes:

  • Is the process different if the issue is a hardware problem or a software problem?
  • Is the process different if you don't know what is causing the issue, only that a user is unhappy?
  • How do you determine if an issue is a high priority or what the level of impact to the organization is? This part of the Helpdesk Solution system is managed by Priority, Urgency, and Impact fields. See Step 6: Define Priority, Urgency, and Impact Lookup Values.
  • When the root cause is identified, what tools does your team use to troubleshoot and remedy the situation?
  • Do you handle incidents differently than problems (based on the ITIL definitions of incidents and problems)? If so, what is the process from start to finish for the Level 2 workers to follow?
  • How are service requests handled? For example, if an employee needs to move from one office to another, who in your organization is involved with that and what are the process steps?

Once you determine the processes that you want to follow in Helpdesk Solution, plot the processes out in flow charts and use the flow charts to configure Helpdesk Solution.

Examples of Processes

The following process flow charts will help you start thinking about how your organization works, or at least how you would like it to work. These processes are based on ITIL best practices.

  • Change Management Process
    The change management process aims to understand and control the risks and impacts of changes to the IT infrastructure.
  • Incident Management Process
    The incident management process aims to restore normal functionality as quickly as possible to the level identified in the Service Level Agreement.
  • Problem Management Process
    The problem management process aims to reduce the occurrence and negative impact of incidents caused by errors in the IT infrastructure.
  • Release Management Process
    The release management process aims to automatically distribute and maintain tested versions of software and licenses for the software.
  • Service Request Management Process
    The service request management process handles requests from users for new products or services that they currently don't have. By contrast, an incident is a reported issue that someone has about something they already have in place, but isn't working correctly. Service requests extend the help desk from an IT-only tool to a communication system for an employee self-service environment.

Change Management Process

Incident Management Process

Problem Management Process

Release Management Process

Service Request Management Process

Step 2: Build Workflows to Drive Processes

Once you have defined the processes to implement in Helpdesk Solution, you are ready to translate those processes into actual Helpdesk Solution workflows, using Helpdesk Solution and Altiris® Notification Server™ features to move incidents through the processes.

Workflow Example: New Hire Workflow

The New Hire Workflow is based on the Service Request Management process. Refer to Service Request Management Process (page 8). Examine this flow chart and following explanations to learn how to use Helpdesk Solution capabilities to implement a process.

  1. The New Hire Quick Incident enables Helpdesk Solution workers to quickly enter the data needed to complete the new hire process in Helpdesk Solution. The Comments field of the quick incident prompts the Helpdesk Solution worker for this data:
    • New Hire Name
    • Start Date
    • Organizational Unit
    • Title
    • Location
    • Office Assignment
    • Phone Extension
    • Equipment Needed (computer, laptop, etc.)
    • Supervisor Name
    • Floor Assignment
    • Type of Worker

    When the New Hire Quick Incident is saved, it triggers the Create New Hire Incident Automation Rule. This rule creates the New Hire Incident, and it sets these fields for the New Hire Incident:

    • Contact = Supervisor name
    • Due Date = New Hire Start Date
    • Assigned = Helpdesk Solution worker who created the incident
  2. When the New Hire Incident is created, it triggers the Create New Hire Child Incidents Automation Rule. This rule creates 4 child incidents, described in steps 3, 4, 5, and 6 below.

    The New Hire Incident also triggers the Check Dates Validation Rule. This rule checks to see if the Due Date is within 60 days. If it is not, the worker will get an error when trying to save the incident and must change the date.

  3. When the Building Access Incident is created, it triggers the Building Access Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the facilities manager.
  4. When the IT Account Creation Incident is created, it triggers the New IT Account Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to manager in the IT department who is responsible for all changes to the Active Directory.
  5. When the Telecom Account Creation Incident is created, it triggers the New Telecom Account Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the telecom manager who will need to add the person to the telephone switch, voicemail, and possibly other services, such as a mobile phone or long distance calling card.
  6. When the IT Equipment Incident is created, it triggers the New IT Equipment Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the asset manager, the person who is responsible for accounting for every IT asset in the organization, who the assets are assigned to, and any associated costs, such as support contracts and leases.
  7. The Escalate Overdue Incidents Notification Policy runs every 24 hours, checking for any Helpdesk Solution incident where the current date is less than 2 days from the Due Date. If the policy finds incidents that meet this criteria, it sends an e-mail notification to the Supervisor of the new hire.

    Refer to Step 12: Define Notification Policies in Notification Server in the section Phase 2: Installation and Basic Configuration.

  8. An Asset Management worker checks to see if the requested equipment is available.
  9. If the equipment is not available, the Asset Management worker creates a new IT Equipment Purchase Incident and assigns it to Purchasing.
  10. Once the new equipment has been received by Purchasing, a Purchasing worker updates the IT Equipment Purchase Incident with a Closed status.
  11. Once the equipment is available, the Asset Management worker re-assigns the IT Equipment Incident to IT Provisioning.
  12. Once building access has been granted, a Facilities worker updates the Building Access Incident with a Closed status.

    When the Building Access Incident is saved with a Closed status, it triggers the Building Access Granted Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the supervisor to let them know access has been granted.

    Building Access Incident with a Closed status also triggers the All Child Incidents Closed Rule. This rule checks to see if all the child incidents belonging to the parent are closed.

  13. Once an IT account has been created, a Network Operations worker updates the IT Account Creation Incident with a Closed status.

    When the IT Account Creation Incident is saved with a Closed status, it triggers the IT Account Created Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the Supervisor to let them know that a network account has been created.

    IT Account Creation Incident with a Closed status also triggers the All Child Incidents Closed Rule. This rule checks to see if all the child incidents belonging to the parent are closed.

  14. Once a Telecom account has been created, a Telecom worker updates the Telecom Account Creation Incident with a Closed status.

    When the Telecom Account Creation Incident is saved with a Closed status, it triggers the Telecom Account Created Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the Supervisor to let them know that a telecom account has been created.

    Telecom Account Creation Incident with a Closed status also triggers the All Child Incidents Closed Rule. This rule checks to see if all the child incidents belonging to the parent are closed.

  15. Once the IT Equipment Incident has been assigned to IT Provisioning, an IT provisioning worker images the equipment and loads it with the necessary software. Then the IT Provisioning worker updates the IT Equipment Incident with a Closed status.

    When the IT Equipment Incident is saved with a Closed status, it triggers the IT Equipment Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the Supervisor letting them know the equipment is available and provisioned.

    IT Equipment Incident with Closed status also triggers the All Child Incidents Closed Rule. This rule checks to see if all the child incidents belonging to the parent are closed.

  16. When the All Child Incidents Closed Rule evaluates to True, then the rule updates the New Hire Incident with a Closed status.

    When the New Hire Incident is saved with a Closed status, it triggers the New Hire Incident Closed Notification Rule. This rule sends an e-mail to the Supervisor to let them know that all Helpdesk Solution tasks for the new hire have been completed.

Phase 2: Installation and Basic Configuration

In this phase, you complete the Helpdesk Solution installation process, and then you configure the elements that you must have in place for a minimally functional implementation of Helpdesk Solution.

Once you have completed this phase and everything is working, you can complete Phase 3: Advanced Configuration for a more efficient implementation of Helpdesk Solution.

Step 1: Install Helpdesk Solution

Before you install Helpdesk Solution, you must install Notification Server and complete at least an initial discovery and inventory. For details, see the Notification Server online help.

You install Helpdesk Solution from the Solution Center in the Altiris Console. The Helpdesk Solution installation installs Helpdesk Solution, and then prompts you to configure the Helpdesk Database and to create the Helpdesk Solution administrator worker. You can use Helpdesk Solution for 30 days without a license, but you should install a license as soon as possible.

Configuring the Helpdesk Database
The Helpdesk Database stores Helpdesk Solution incidents. The Helpdesk Database is created when Notification Server is installed, but you must configure the Helpdesk Database before it can be used by Helpdesk Solution.

Creating the Helpdesk Administrator Worker
The Helpdesk Solution administrator worker is the main administrator of Helpdesk Solution. The Helpdesk Solution administrator has full rights to perform all tasks in Helpdesk Solution. You must create the Helpdesk Solution administrator to complete the other Helpdesk Solution setup tasks.

The name you use for the Helpdesk Solution administrator must already be assigned to the Altiris Administrators security role. For details, see the Notification Server online help.

Step 2: Import Contacts and Assets into Helpdesk Solution

Notification Server can automatically synchronize user and asset data gathered by Altiris® Inventory Solution™ and entered into the Notification Database as contacts and assets in the Helpdesk Database. This is the easiest way to add contacts and assets to Helpdesk Solution. If you don't have Inventory Solution, you must add assets using Altiris® Connector Solution™, or add them manually.

To synchronize contacts and assets between Notification Server and Helpdesk Solution, go to the Notification Server Incident settings and select the synchronization setting. We recommend that you leave the default interval of 3600 seconds.

If your organization does not use Inventory Solution to discover assets, you can use Connector Solution to import assets through an ODBC connection, a .CSV flat file, or a spreadsheet.

Connector Solution provides a useful interface to define the format and data mapping of the incoming information and to correctly store the information in the Notification Database.

Step 3: Add Workers

Workers are employees who are responsible for managing and resolving incidents. When the Helpdesk Solution system is live, incidents can be assigned to workers directly, or they can be assigned to queues from which a worker can pull an incident and then assign it to themselves. For details on queues, see Step 9: Define Queues (page 16).

Licensing Issues
Each Helpdesk Solution worker consumes a license. All workers have access to the Helpdesk Solution console, whereas end users (or contacts) do not have rights to the Helpdesk Solution console. When a worker opens an incident in the console and edits the information, a license is consumed and retained by that worker until 5 minutes after the worker closes the last Web browser with access to Helpdesk Solution. One license per worker is consumed until all of the licenses are in use. When all the licenses are in use, the next worker who tries to edit an incident is denied access until a license becomes available.

Step 4: Add Workers to Security Roles

Once you have added workers to Helpdesk Solution, you add the workers to security roles in Notification Server. For details, see the Notification Server online help.

You can fine tune access to Helpdesk Solution items by changing the permissions and privileges associated with security roles. For details, see the Notification Server online help.

Step 5: Define Categories

A good category system is key to building a smoothly running Helpdesk Solution system. The category assigned to the incident usually triggers workflow by setting how the incident may be prioritized, what queue or worker it is sent to, and perhaps even whether the situation is serious enough to require that automatic e-mails be sent to managers. Also, some of the more useful Helpdesk Solution reports are sorted by category to help you see what types of problems are most common and what trends are occurring in your environment.

Helpdesk Solution ships with a list of suggested categories. You can change the list as much as you want. It's also possible to use nested categories up to 4 levels deep. But remember that the more complex you make the category system, the harder it might be for Helpdesk Solution workers to correctly categorize incidents. If workers don't categorize incidents correctly, then a lot of other steps in your processes may be skipped, or the wrong steps processed, making the reports incorrect.

Some Helpdesk Solution systems have around 50 categories and others have more than 2000 categories. The average category list size seems to be about 200 to 300. If you aren't sure which way is best, keep it simple.

Remember that you cannot delete a category because there is the possibility that an incident in the Helpdesk Database is assigned to that category. You can, however, deactivate a category so that it cannot be used again with new incidents.

For details, see "Categories" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Step 6: Define Priority, Urgency, and Impact Lookup Values

The Priority, Urgency, and Impact fields of incidents can help you manage Service Level Agreements and comply with the concepts of ITIL service management.

The Priority and Urgency fields indicate how quickly an issue should be resolved. The Impact field indicates how broad an issue is. Impact could be low if just one person is affected, or it could be high if the whole organization is affected.

Helpdesk Solution ships with suggested values for these fields. You can change the values as you wish. Most Helpdesk Solution implementations make only minor changes to the Priority, Urgency, and Impact fields. However, when you are farther along with your Helpdesk Solution implementation and ready to refine it, you can change the values of these fields, or use them to trigger other processes. For example, you could define workflow rules that look at the Urgency and Impact of incidents, and then automatically set the value for Priority. The workflow process could then do some special things with the Priority automatically set to ASAP, like send you and your peers an e-mail or a page, so that you know right away that something serious is going on.

For details, see "Lookups" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Step 7: Define Ticket Types Lookup Values

Ticket types organize incidents according to topical areas. Ticket types can be used along with categories to drive workflow as well as to organize similar incidents for reporting and assignment purposes. Ticket type plays an instrumental role in the implementation of ITIL processes within Helpdesk Solution because it allows the administrator to define a high-level organization for incidents, problems, and changes. The pre-defined Helpdesk Solution ticket types are a good starting point for most installations and are frequently augmented to fit the needs in some environments.

We recommend that you use the Incident, Problem, Change, and Release ticket types. You can also use Known Error, Training, Shipping, and Receiving.

For details, see "Lookups" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Step 8: Define Status Lookup Values

Status can be thought of as a subset of ticket type. Status represents where the incident is in relation to the entire workflow based upon the ticket type.

Here are the pre-defined Status values and what they indicate:

  • Open: For new incidents.
  • Requested: For requests entered by end users. Level 1 workers can change the status to Open.
  • Planned: For incidents that have activities that are going to occur at a predefined future date.
  • Resolved: Indicates that the Helpdesk Solution worker thinks that the reported incident has been corrected through his troubleshooting and remediation steps.
  • Closed: After a Resolved incidents has been confirmed by the requesting employee, the status is set to Closed. In some organizations, the incident won't be closed until the confirmation has been made and in others a 24-hour wait period is automatically implemented. If the reporting user doesn't get back to the help desk Solution within 24 hours, then it is assumed the problem has been corrected and the incident status is then changed from Resolved to Closed.
  • Hold: Work on the incident has stopped for a time. For example, Helpdesk workers may put a request for new equipment on hold while the request goes through the approval process.

You can create other statuses, such as Approved, Rejected, Shipped, and Received. These statuses can allow for workflow steps that require a manager's approval or for activities that send and receive assets to remote users.

For details, see "Lookups" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Step 9: Define Queues

Queues are an alternative way of assigning incidents. Instead of assigning incidents directly to workers, you can assign incidents to the queues. Workers are assigned to a queue or queues, and draw their next incidents from them. Queues can sort and prioritize incidents in any way appropriate for your organization. That way, when a worker looks for the next thing to work on, the queue automatically shows the worker the next most important incident to work on.
Best Practice
It is better to start with a few number of queues during the initial implementation rather than setting up too many. Having too many queues often leads to missed assignments and "lost" incidents, slowing down the entire workflow process and creating dissatisfaction with end users.
For details, see "List Queues" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Step 10: Define Close Code Lookup Values

Close codes indicate why incidents are closed. Close codes are a way of identifying if the process correctly addressed the incident or if some unexpected or unrepeatable result occurred. Close codes are used in reports to monitor how well the processes are working. If a high number of unexpected close codes are used to terminate a process, that could be an indication that the process isn't as well tuned as it needs to be.

Helpdesk Solution has 9 predefined close codes, and you can add more if needed. Also, if a worker needs to record additional details about the closing of the incident, the worker can enter that information into the Comment field.

For details, see "Lookups" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Step 11: Define Business Rules to Automate Workflows

For each workflow, you need to define business rules to move incidents through the workflow. Business rules evaluate the data contained in an incident and test for specified conditions. If the conditions exist, the action specified in the rule is executed. If the conditions don't exist, the action is ignored.

The 5 types of business rules are:

  1. Validation Rule. Ensures the data entered into the incident is valid. If the data is not valid, the user is asked to correct the data before the incident can be saved in the Helpdesk Database.
  2. Incident Rule. Ensures that the relationships between the data fields are correct. For example, if a new incident is entered, the status should not normally be Approved but rather should be Open or Hold.
  3. Routing Rule. Sends the incident to the correct person or queue for further processing.
  4. Notification Rule. Generates an automatic e-mail or page. For example, when an incident is closed, the person who reported the incident is automatically notified that it was closed. Refer to Step 13: Define E-mail Templates.
  5. Automation Rule. A powerful capability to automate actions and remove the need for human interaction to resolve the step. For example, you can define an automation rule that triggers an automated update of software patches to client computers, or an automated backup of a computer that is showing signs of pending failure.

Business rules are executed when an incident is saved to the Helpdesk Database in the order in which they are listed above. When the Helpdesk Solution worker clicks Save, all rules are evaluated against the current incident values, and if a rule finds the criteria within the record that it is designed to look for, the associated action for that rule executes.
Best Practice
Name rules according to the processes that they belong to. For example, "New Telecom Account Notification Rule." This will help you to manage the many rules that you will create over time.
For details on defining business rules, see the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Guidelines for defining business rules

Step 12: Define Notification Policies in Notification Server

Often, Helpdesk Solution administrators find that they need to automatically notify a manager when an incident or a workflow falls behind schedule. You cannot do this with notification rules because they are triggered only when an incident is saved in the system.

However, you can define a notification policy in Notification Server that can identify late incidents and automatically execute an alert in the manner that you specify. A notification policy can change the incident status to a higher level, and it can send out e-mails before the scheduled date is missed, or it can re-assign the incident to a different Helpdesk Solution worker. Notification policies are flexible and easy to define, and they can leverage incident information as evaluation criteria to determine if there is a need to send a notification to automatically take action to move the workflow items along their way.

Notification policies can perform several types of automated actions. These are the automated actions that you might want to use in conjunction with Helpdesk.

  • Edit Incident Automated Action. Edits incident values that you specify.
  • E-mail Automated Action. Sends an e-mail.
  • New Incident Automated Action. Creates a new incident.
  • Report Automated Action. Sends a report.

For details, see "Policies" in the Notification Server online help.

Step 13: Define E-mail Templates

E-mail is a great way to let end users know about changes to and status of incidents. Notification rules allow for a wide degree of control over the frequency and types of situations that can cause an e-mail to be sent out. As your team sets up notification rules, you should determine the different types of e-mails that are needed to communicate the right message to the receiver. The system allows for an unlimited number of e-mail templates that can be created and formatted for specific purposes. E-mail templates are stored in HTML format and can be modified and tested by a member of your team who has intermediate level capabilities in HTML code.

The predefined e-mail templates are a good starting point. You can adjust them later to meet your specific needs.

Refer to "E-mail Templates" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Step 14: Define E-Mail Inboxes and Inbox Filters

Helpdesk Solution can accept new incidents or updates to current incidents through the inbound e-mail interface. This method allows for anyone to send in an incident using a standard e-mail. The system identifies the user. If the user is not listed as a contact, it can be automatically added, and an incident is created based upon information contained in the incident. The e-mail subject line becomes the title for the incident, and default values, such as queue, status, urgency and the like are assigned. It is possible to use an incident rule to parse the body of the message looking for specific words or phrases, such as "windows," "Word," "Excel," or "printer." If specific words or phrases are identified, then specific ticket types or field values can be set within the incident.

You can also use a notification rule to automatically create an e-mail if additional information is needed from a manager or end user. When the e-mail is received and opened, the recipient can reply with the information that is requested. The Helpdesk Solution e-mail inbox detects the reply and copies it into the original incident. The status, assigned queues, and other parameters can be modified so that the new information is routed to the proper worker for quick resolution.

Refer to "E-mail Inboxes" and "E-mail Inbox Filters" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Phase 3: Advanced Configuration

The configuration options in this phase are critical for achieving efficiency in your Helpdesk Solution implementation.

Define Smart Tasks

Smart Tasks are Altiris processes, Altiris® Task Server™ functions, or third-party programs or batch files that you make available in incidents, where Helpdesk Solution workers can use them as necessary to diagnose or remediate problems. When a worker selects a Smart Task in an incident, the Smart Task action is triggered and one or more automated processes are executed. (Task Server is a new Altiris product that organizes and runs background processes. Task Server has job scheduling capability, and it can also invoke any specific task through the user interface or through a Helpdesk Solution Smart Task.)

Here are some examples of ways to use Smart Tasks:

  • Run the resource association diagram to see how the computers are logically set up.
  • Change the assignment to yourself.
  • Quickly close an incident.
  • Show a list of in stock computers.
  • List all incidents associated with a specific asset.
  • Send a request for approval.
  • Add a backout plan attachment.
  • Reject a change request.

Refer to "Tasks" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Define Quick Incidents

Another Helpdesk Solution feature that speeds up the processing of incidents is Quick Incidents. Quick Incidents are incidents that have pre-defined, standard values for common issues. For example, password resets are frequently requested in most organizations, and there are many values in these incidents that are set the same way every time. Instead of the Helpdesk Solution worker setting all of these values manually every time a password is reset, the worker can select a Quick Incident for password reset and all of the fields in the incident will be set to the proper values. It's possible to set up as many different quick incidents as you need, and they can be modified at any time based upon the changes that occur within your environment.

The New Hire Workflow uses a Quick Incident to start the New Hire process. For details, see Workflow Example: New Hire Workflow.

Refer to "The Quick Incidents Menu" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Define Common Queries

Helpdesk Solution is designed to be used in real time so that all of the information stored in the CMDB (Configuration Management Database) is the most current and accurate data available. Helpdesk Solution workers frequently need access to a wide variety of information, from investigating specific issues with a device to looking at the overall trends for a specific service or group of users. Because of the diverse informational needs, Helpdesk Solution allows workers to query and find incidents based on a wide range of criteria. You can define common queries so that the Helpdesk Solution worker needs only to select the query and execute it. Workers can also build their own queries by using the built in wizard or by entering SQL select statements to find the incidents that are needed.

Here are a few examples of common queries that you might want to define:

  • Show all of my assigned incidents
  • Show all of my high priority assigned incidents
  • Show all of the high priority incidents that are still open
  • Show all of the incidents associated with a specific asset
  • Show all of the incidents opened by a particular contact

Refer to "Queries" in the Helpdesk Solution online help.

Integrate Helpdesk Solution with Other Systems Using Web Services

There are many design advantages that can be leveraged based upon the 100% Web-based nature of the product architecture. The primary advantage is that all data is stored on the server in a highly secure manner. In addition, access to the server is through a Web browser, which means that anyone properly authorized on the network can have immediate access to the application. It also means that if the Helpdesk administrator changes any of the configuration or customization information, the new functionality becomes readily available to all users because the changes don't have to be "installed" on each client computer. An additional benefit is that the Service Desk Server component is designed to reply to requests for information in the form of screen displays or simply data values through the Web services that are provided by the product as well as the Microsoft IIS Web server. They can be used to integrate the Service Desk with other systems or custom applications.

For details on these Web services, see the Helpdesk Integration Guide. If you do not have the Helpdesk Integration Guide, contact Altiris support or your Altiris sales representative. The Helpdesk Integration Guide includes a list of all Web services, parameters, as well as some practical examples to give you an idea about how Helpdesk Solution can be set up to automatically respond to most types of issues that come up in your environment.

Import Your Documentation into the Helpdesk Knowledge Base

The Helpdesk Knowledge Base is a powerful tool for building and retrieving solutions to problems experienced in the past. This tool allows Helpdesk Solution workers and end users to search the Helpdesk Knowledge Base to find published articles about symptoms as well as best practices to correct any type of known problem. The Knowledge Base can be populated with solutions that you have already created with other tools, and it also contains a workflow process that can be used to draft, review, and approve articles before they are made available to the general user population. There are also subscription services that provide a wide variety of common solutions to the most popular software products and related end user questions in the market today. This subscription service loads hundreds of professionally written documents into the Knowledge Base designed for access by the Helpdesk Solution workers.

If you already have documentation that you would like to be articles in the Helpdesk Knowledge Base, copy the files to C:\Program Files\Altiris\Knowledgebase\Articles. Wait for the knowledge base to refresh (default is 60 seconds), and then the articles will appear in the Knowledge Base.

Define New Reports

The Helpdesk administrator has access to more than 60 predefined reports that present useful information right out of the box. However, the administrator can modify these reports or create entirely new reports by using the built-in Report Wizard or by modifying or developing their own SQL select statements to generate information. Most customers start with the basic reports and tune them to their own specific needs.

Best Practice
When you are defining new reports, use the SQL views of the Helpdesk Database that are defined in the Notification Database. These views have helpful logic built into them that will make it easier for you to define new reports.
Refer to "Reports" in the Notification Server online help.

Comments 12 CommentsJump to latest comment

jjesse's picture

Wow, what a great guide. Thanks for writing this up.

Jonathan Jesse

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Scott Hardie's picture

Great Getting Started Guide! This is an excellent start for customers just beginning to look at Altiris for Helpdesk.

If you're familiar with Asset Management as well, I would love to see your work with a guide on that as well.

James "Scott" Hardie
Vice President of Technology Services
shardie@xcendgroup.com
http://www.xcendgroup.com

James "Scott" Hardie
Security Architect
Security Business Practice
Symantec Corporation
www.symantec.com
__________________________________
Office: (810) 588 9464
Mobile: (810) 588 9464<

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ctoll's picture

I appreciate the positive comments on the Helpdesk Implementation doc. There's a real need for this kind of documentation for all Altiris products, and I'm kind of taking this on as my major task for the next year or so.

But I have to give credit where's it's due. Dan Sherwood, Helpdesk Product Manager, drafted the content, and I added to his work and polished it all up.

Christina Tolliver
Technical Writer

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David_Falcon's picture

Great job on the write up. This type of doc has been needed for a while.

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macten's picture

Great job! This is a very helpful guide for those new to heldpesk as well as those who are familiar with it.

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xmoreland's picture

As someone who is working on the business needs and business case for purchasing this...the information is priceless. Gives a great indication of a good road map.

Thanks!

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Dominique's picture

Excellent document.

It will have to be connected to some other documents to describe exactly what is needed for the Helpdesk Solution to be functional on a separate server than NS.

Thanks,
Dom

Dom

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Jeanne's picture

I have used a lot of the setup features you outlined and really appreciate the guide. For someone who is a novice with this software solution it has proved immensely helpful. Thanks again.

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riva11's picture

Really an excellent guide. I revised my Help Desk according to your documentation.
Thanks
PM

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Lucke's picture

This article helps me a lot it is a really good guide!!!
Congratulation!!

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Spacemonkey's picture

Simply excellent - Well done!

Has provided us with vital information for our helpdesk implementation.

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Steve Wayment's picture

Thank You. This has been a great help to get us up and running.

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