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SolarWinds Lab Episode 78: Migrating From Ticketing to Full Service

While it would probably be impossible to manage your business’s technology or keep users happy without a help desk, there’s a limitation. You’re still interrupt-driven, reacting to a pile of problems and an endless stream of mundane tasks. In an ideal world, you users would self-manage, so you can be more proactive, and focus on the big issues that your business actually cares about. That’s where Service Desk comes in.

On this episode of SolarWinds Lab™, support managers Matt Cox and Brody Taylor join Head Geek™ Patrick Hubbard to discuss how to extend your help desk to empower users to solve problems, process requests, and reduce interruptions. They’ll show you how to add asset management, process automation, and a service catalog to your operation—and accelerate incident resolution. You’ll also learn how artificial intelligence is being used to analyze behavior, anticipate users’ needs, and help them find what they need, when they need it—on their own.

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Episode Transcript

Hello, everyone and welcome back to SolarWinds Lab. Today is a special episode because we’re announcing a new product, one of the largest new products in the history of SolarWinds, and in fact, it represents an entire new category of products for SolarWinds.

Yeah, it’s a mature, fully integrated service desk platform.

Mm hmm, and while many of you have been using SolarWinds Web Help Desk since, is it 2012?

2012 is when it came into SolarWinds and I found it on the Wayback Machine going all the way back to 2003. So, yeah, it’s a really mature product.

Oh wow, wow. Well this is something completely different.

Yeah absolutely, and so to talk about that my two guests today are Brody Taylor who is our internal director of ITSM and end user support. So basically anything that an employee needs from help desk or service desk, you are responsible for providing that.

Absolutely.

And then also joining us is Matt Cox. He’s the senior director of sales engineering for ITSM, formerly of Samanage.

Thanks for having me.

All right, so I think the first question then is what’s the difference between the service desk and a help desk?

Yeah, the service desk is more the single point of contact for end users to interact with IT and submit their issues. So it’s supposed to be all encompassing, and really bring the users to engage with IT for request incidents, problems, any of their issues.

Yeah, I can’t imagine trying to run IT without a help desk.

Yeah, absolutely, it is challenging not to have a fully integrated service desk in a mature organization and a growing organization.

That’s a great point Brody. And one of the things to think about is while that’s all good, it’s still reactive. So you’ve got to get ahead of your number one goal, which is really is to prevent tickets in the first place. So that means things like automated workflows, faster service delivery, things like your knowledge base that you need to put out there for your users.

Not everything needs to be a ticket?

It doesn’t.

No, and you really need that 360-degree view of the IT organization in order to have those automations, workflows, and things like that in place. So it’s a bigger view of IT than the traditional help desk organization.

Ah, so it’s not just IT.

No, it’s really about transforming the whole business and making sure that IT is aligned with the business and focused on their objectives and their goals for the organization.

Well, it’s also a lot more than that. It’s actually not just being aware of tickets or managing the ticket queue, but it’s also having a catalog of systems and devices that you’re actually managing.

Right, that’s a really good point. So a service desk is going to give you all the things that you expect around change management, your knowledge base, 360 view, I think you said, Brody. So we’re going to be looking at things like, what am I updating, what’s my hardware doing, what’s my software doing? And then how that interacts with people. So who’s my user? What are they facing in their daily work? And then what are the things behind that?

Right, so it sounds like you’re really talking about the discipline of ITIL.

Yep, Information Technology Infrastructure Library. And while many of you’ve been asking about this for a long time, there’s a whole lot of certifications. I know a lot people out there are certified. Brody, you are, right?

Yes.

Great, so you’ve been asking us for a product that has all these capabilities.

Yeah and Brody just came off of implementing this internally for all of SolarWinds. So you’ve definitely got some interesting opinions as well.

Yeah, and so one of the ways that I think about this is when you’re at work and you’ve got something you need to get your job done, there’s either I have it and it’s not working, or I want it. And the way that we think about ITIL the most is on the I want it side. So there’s all kinds of tools, and applications, and services that you need to get your job done. And ITIL is about how to set up those tools and services, and implement them and let people do their jobs.

Yeah, we used a lot of that framework when we implemented this here at SolarWinds to run our service desk, and really the entirety of our IT organization. So we rolled out in a focused approach, the incident module, problem map module, and the self-service portal, which included service requests and knowledge management. I know, Matt, you’re going to take us through some of that demo today, so we can see what the tool looks like and how it functions.

Yep, I will.

Awesome, well, let’s take a look. All right, so this is the homepage, and this looks again like the login page, the homepage, and the website are the same thing. So that tells me this is another SaaS-based application, it runs in the cloud. So you don’t have to set up the server. You’re basically just going to configure it.

That’s right, you just show up and log in. So, I’ll show you a couple of things and thinking back to what Brody implemented, there’s a lot of parts in here we can spend really days in here, but let’s hit some of the highlights. So for Brody, one of the biggest things we did was incident management. And that’s really, I think a lot of the foundation where a lot of people start. So if you’re trying to figure out what’s in scope, that’s definitely something you want to add in.

Yeah, that’s really the baseline for IT is submitting a ticket. We call an incident in ITIL, but users just see it as a ticket, and it’s going into the incident module.

Right, yep, and I think that this is a page where most people live all day, every day. And it’s important to have a nice feel and nice look to this page. So there’s a lot of important parts to really tweak this and get it to where you like it. So of course, you have adjustable and moveable columns. The most popular thing to click on in the application here is this eagle eye. So you can see everything about the incident without doing the whole page refresh. It’s a great time saver. Same thing here, so you can make changes to the state. You can make changes to the assignee, all without jumping into these things. So for Brody, some of the things that we really wanted to set up were … Actually, let’s jump into one. Looks like he’s having an issue with Zoom Meetings.

Yeah, no audio, that would be a big problem.

Yeah, that’s a big problem. So when someone comes in here, your Zoom expert, they’re going to look at several different things. So no audio, you got a category and subcategory that you’d expect to see. I know Keith, he’s in London. Let’s help him out. So first thing I notice is I’ve got smart suggestions. There’re 36 smart suggestions here. Most of these on this one are actually correct. We’ve got several Zoom incidents. We’ve got 33 people having the same problem with Zoom. So that’s not great. So it’s letting me know that maybe I need to take a step back and look at Zoom in general. But also, more importantly down here, I like this for ticket resolution. You’ve got smart solutions. These are going to be your knowledge base articles that we think are going to fix your incident. You can just quickly send this out to Keith. So I can click on this, hit attach. And that’s going to tee up a comment to go out to Keith. Some of the other things that we set up for Brody’s team is the problem management. So if I go back a little bit. And I like to look at the menu here and this is really the way you drive across the whole app. But I’ve got problem management here. I like to think you have a many to one relationship between your incidents and your problems. I see all those Zoom tickets come in, maybe I had one problem with my Zoom. So what we would do is if I jump back into the Zoom ticket, I can make the relationship between all of these items over here on the side. So I can say, hey I’ve got a Zoom issue, let’s do this. And this is where you actually start to build and you’re on the ground floor that’s creating this 360-degree view that you mentioned again, Brody. So I’ll say, hey this is my main problem record. And now I can … So if Keith comes in to look at the status of this ticket, or if someone else on Brody’s team maybe is looking at this, they can say, OK someone else has already triaged this. They’ve already done all the work and there’s not much for me to do.

So a lot of people use it as sort of as evolving root cause, right? So you’ve worked a whole bunch of tickets. They all start to get some gravity around one particular primary ticket, that’s the one that’s likely going to close all those other tickets.

Yeah, and that’s a really good point, Patrick because it starts to say where ITIL is really important. It’s getting a hold of what’s going on with the service desk, having a problem manager, maybe having a change related to the problem, those are all important things. So let’s look at a little bit more of the setup. And this is back in the back-end. We call it the back-end, this is really where your administrative access is. There’re several different things I’d set up. So what we’ll dive into a little bit more is here’s your service desk setup, and this is where we spend a ton of time with Brody’s team, saying, “What do you want it to do?” and the big thing about a cloud tool is going to be, we’re not customizing it, we’re just configuring it. So everything’s an option. So we’ve spent so much time together working and Brody says, “Well, what does it do about this?” I said, “Well, what do you want it to do? It can do anything, it depends.”

But you’re building on just like with Salesforce, you’re building on a large body of best practice that’s demonstrated across many, many, many customers instead of you starting from zero with a fresh install.

Yeah, I think that’s absolutely a relevant thing to bring up. You’re starting from some templates and best practices. You’re not starting from just a blank system. There’re already some workflows, some examples in the system, and so it’s a launching point to really get this implemented quickly as we did here at SolarWinds.

It’s nice not to be a snowflake.

Yes.

So there’s things you’d expect to see in here, like categories. So obviously you can set these to whatever you want. There’s a few out of the box ones, if you want to use those. And you can make these whatever you like. You can have all of your defaults, your automations that are taking place here. All these are things that will walk you through as we get you set up. Some of the other things that I want to show you definitely to get started, there’s things like you’ve got your users getting in here. We did a lot of work with the Azure, I think for you guys, Brody. And of course the organization. You guys run a global team, so you want to make sure every office is represented, every working group is all represented. And all those things are set up here. And then just lastly, I’ll show you where this really ties in with asset management. So if I go back into, from my main screen, you can see there’s a lot of options here, so I’ll scroll down to inventory. And there’s several different ways you can get tools in here. You can get to any machine that’s running an operating system. So we’ve got a dedicated agent. I’ll also do network discovery. You can of course, put manually some things in here. But all this is tied in. And I’ll show you real quick. I’ll jump into this MacBook Pro. What we want to do is tie in the people with the hardware and the thing that they’re experiencing. I say thing because it could be, maybe they want more RAM, or maybe they can’t boot it up, who knows? But I’ll show you this. Here’s a look at incidents where these are all the incidents that Ty has had with this MacBook Pro over the years, and it’s only two, so that’s a pretty good thing. I think it starts to give you a really good view of what someone is experiencing.

Well especially with the hardware perspective too. And that’s the thing that ends up really missing in just using a help desk is by having awareness of the infrastructure, by having awareness of the devices and being able to link them, you could just at first pass, when you’re looking at a ticket that’s been opened on this laptop, I can say there’s two or there’s 20. So at some points, we’re just going to replace that thing, or do we want to send somebody up there to try and mess with it again? It lets you really triage that in the first few seconds because you’re tied to the inventory itself. You know what, that’s really the key thing, Patrick. And when someone’s in here, they want to understand exactly that. And the other part of it is looking at the asset, they want to say, what am I looking at? So who am I working with and what am I looking at? And that’s of course going to lead them to resolving the problem.

OK that is really great, and we’re going to dive into some of the details here about how to configure some of these modules in a minute. We’re going to talk about the fact that there’s artificial intelligence in this platform. But I want to go back and talk about adoption for second. If you build a really powerful service desk, but nobody uses it, that’s a problem. So how do you create something that people will want to use? That at lunch time, you’ll overhear someone referring to the other, “Oh don’t open a ticket. Just go to the service desk and then search for what you’re looking for and there’s a flow in there, that’ll take care of that for you.” What does that look like from the user perspective?

Sure, I can show you that. So there’s a whole bunch of setup options, but let me just take you right to the meat and potatoes. So the way to navigate around, if you have access as maybe the admin, you want to see what you’ve built. It’s just hidden up here. Go to Portal View and it’s going to show you exactly what they’re seeing.

Nice, so it’s a personated view, so you exactly what it’s going.

Yep, it is. So this is what we set up for Brody’s team. This is what most of use every day. We have nice colors. We picked these, so it’s branded to our SolarWinds colors. We got a cool image of a robot there. It reminds me of you guys because you’re nerds too. But there’s a lot of stuff packed into this. So if you look across the top–

Wait a minute. Back up a second. You configured it that way. So they can configure it to look like whatever they want.

Absolutely, and you should.

Nice.

Yep, so what we’ve packed up at the top, you’ve got Tasks & Approvals, all things that are part of your workflows and your automations. My Requests, of course for anyone who’s going to want to go, “Hey, what’s the status after I’ve submitted?” Knowledge Articles where we hope they click to your point, and then Service Requests, all the services we have out there, and of course just a plain old Open a New Ticket. The search is in there, and there’s a lot of stuff packed into the search. And then down at the bottom, you can see useful services and useful articles. So these are what’s popular for your service desk. And I think that really shows where people are living and breathing. And the service desk is doing what’s most active and not going stale. So let me show you a couple of these things. If I come into one, I’ve got a laptop loaner check in/out program. So a lot of times, you know, maybe you got somebody who’s traveling, and they have a laptop issue when they get to headquarters, or if they left it in the back of the car, something like that, who knows? We have a form here for them that just says, hey I need it for a couple of days. Tell me when you need it, and tell me what you need. So that’s just giving Brody’s team everything they need to say OK, I need to go get a laptop which laptop do I pick? Who does it go to? When can I expect it back? All that’s built right here into a pretty good use form.

So that first use case is instead of having the one big submit ticket form that has every possible field for every possible function that you’re trying to perform and confusing users to death, instead at a minimum, you’re providing a way that you’re targeting just the information that’s necessary so they don’t have to fill out a ton of forms, but you still get what you need.

Correct, and you get a dynamic workflow on the back end of this to automate some of the processes like we talked about earlier on. So Matt, you’re going through the form currently and just filling it out with some of the predetermined configuration items for this form?

Yeah, you can see I’m going through this pretty quickly, but all of these values are things that we configure in the app. So obviously, maybe you’re not a Mac shop, you only have Dells, or if you’ve got certain costs that come into things. These are all values that you give us here. None of it’s coded, these are all options that you put in, drop-down lists back in the setup, and that’s how it’s easily customizable. So you can see all of these have different things that you want to show your users. Conditioned received is funny because maybe you don’t get it back in the best condition.

That never happens.

Nope, so we’ll say here’s travel, associated items needed, so again these are all things that we’ve given as options. So maybe I’m going to do a presentation, and you can even do things, look there’s a liability waiver just to say, “Hey, you’re responsible for this.” And from here I hit Request Item. Now you notice this took me back to My Requests. So it’ll say here’s your landing page, here’s what you requested. Looks like we’ve got a few in here, and I get to see my whole team’s requests. I can see everything they’re working on even in the portal. But I can come in here and as the requester I can see what’s the status of this, I can actually comment back and forth with the person who’s assigned to my incident. Right now it’s with the IT help desk.

And here in the subject line, it’s appended with the workflow that drove that. So you know where it’s coming from just by looking at it.

Yep, I do. So now that I’ve got to My Requests page, let’s click into there and see everything that kicks off after that’s requested. So I have a little bit different view, this is back to maybe Brody’s team that’s working the issue. Someone’s going to help me get that loaner laptop. Down here is the process that we didn’t see before. So you can see this has to be approved. So you think about all the real business stuff behind what’s going on at the service desk, someone’s going to have to approve this. We can’t just give laptops to anybody. But after that, you see that it’s grayed out. We’re waiting for approval, but there’s things like if we have to setup a new laptop, we’ll image it. If we have to update anything, maybe records and other place, maybe in SolarWinds Service Desk asset management will do that as well. Once it’s done, we need to let the requester know. All those are parts that are built into the workflow, so you don’t have to keep track of the business process that’s really behind here. It’s all set there as a template.

And so even though it’s grayed out here, which I like because it reminds you that there’s something else that’s important that needs to happen first, you can see that the approval is actually a milestone down here before it gets to the after actions that happen after that. One, you can see that there is an opportunity to use concurrent work, but you know where to stop. There’s a gate that’s presented that says, “OK human, you need to stop now and turn this back in to the service desk to take the remaining steps.”

Yeah, absolutely and it also allows the IT bucket of work to stay clean until this gets approved. So these won’t flow through to the help desk, service desk organization until it’s been approved.

The change is not accidentally going to happen.

Nope.

Nope.

So let’s go back and I’ll show you a few other cool things in the service portal. And I’ll just go back all the way to Home even. So remember I said that there was a lot of stuff built in to this search bar? There really is. And if you think about someone’s experience from the very beginning, you get them to the service desk, so they didn’t just email. And they’re trying to figure out, OK, what am I looking for? And the best-case scenario would be to fill out that service catalog item, because it’s all preset, because there’s templates. Some of the fields are required. You’re building good data to go back and do your reporting and your analytics. So that’s the best place for them to land, but even if they got to the portal, they may still not find that single service catalog item because there’s a lot of stuff out there. If you look, we’ve got quite a few useful services and those are just our popular ones, and I think we have hundreds built in to the whole list. So someone hopefully maybe they’ve got this nice prominent search bar, maybe they’ll use that, right? So actually let’s try loaner. If I hit loaner, I’m going to get a couple of things shown here. One, your Services, that’s the first result on purpose because again, that’s the thing we want them to fill out. Articles, so maybe they just need information. For a loaner, they probably don’t need to know too much about the loaner program. They just know they need a laptop, right? But we do have an article there, and we want them to read that before they go any further. I can go view all results, and then we kind of have it in a little bit more of a gray there, submit help ticket because we can still let them, we don’t want to give them any friction. We still want them to open an incident if they have to, right?

Right, but you want them to read the fabulous manual before they actually go and fill out the ticket, actually learn how that process works, it’s going to really increase the likelihood that they’ll be satisfied with the process because they will come to it with everything that they need to make it easy for your team.

Yep.

Yep, absolutely.

That’s right. So I can go and see all search results if I want, but I don’t have to. So let me go back to Home real quick. And I’ll show you a couple of other things. So if I go into … Let’s type a different one. So we do onboarding quite a bit. It’s actually one of the most popular things we do with our customers is we get a new hire and there’re so many things to do. There’s access to set up, there’s approvals from HR. They’re going to need all of their equipment. So let’s imagine just for fun that I didn’t find the service that I wanted. I didn’t find the article that I wanted. And I just hit Submit Help Ticket. Maybe I have one of those kind of users, right? We still are trying to combat the opening of just a generic incident. So we will keep showing you information. Ah I clicked into the description. Hey, over on the side, there’s still a service here available, a service catalog item, and there’s still an article that you can use to help keep that ticket from being open. So we’re still showing these people even as they create the item.

What I like about that it’s really an online interactive version of what happens when you’re on the phone with them, right? As soon as they start describing the issue to a human, you’re going to say, “Oh, I can see where you’re going with this based on years of experience,” and drive them into a process that’s going to actually allow them to complete their work. In this case, you’re just bringing that for the interface, and the Smart Services are presenting that on your behalf to get them into the right workflow.

Yep, that’s right. So the Smarts are all over the place, the artificial intelligence is trying to do as much as it possibly can. Now I wanted to show you down here on the bottom as I categorize the ticket, and Categories and subcategories of incidents and tickets have always been one of the most important parts of the service desk to me. They go to different assignment groups or it’s really a question of when I come into work and I’m looking at that main incident page, what am I working on? And I want to close those out, and I want to go on about my day. So when you’re building an incident, we’re suggesting to your user that, hey this is an HR ticket. I saw that it’s new hire. I saw that they need a new laptop. My subject line is onboarding. Sot that’s going to drive all the automation rules that Brody has set up for his team to go right to the first people that need to do some of those tasks for onboarding. So we’re saying OK, open a ticket, cool. Please at least categorize this for us. And here’s what we suggested it is. So that’s where we’re going to do this ticket. So you’re building good data. And that’s really helpful in the service desk, especially when you get back to your reporting. Same thing for a subcategory. There’re all kinds of things that again, we’ve built these in. These are just configured, not coded. These aren’t hard-coded values. All kinds of options that you can show to your users. So there’s onboarding, and I’ll submit that.

Now let me go back to one thing here, and I know you would never expect me to talk about automation, and I’m not going to go into it because it’d be a whole other episode. And please, we’d love to get feedback on whether you want to see more about this in the future, but what we completely are passing over here is these great elements for the workflow steps that are part of this, is that there’s an opportunity to do a lot of automation here. And so one of the things that you’re going to want to do when you’re looking at this is make sure you use the Customer Success Center and the help pages because they’ll actually walk you through all of that. And if you want to see more details in the future, let us know in the comments. And we’ll dive into how to actually configure the automation around these workflow steps.

Great idea.

So Matt, thanks for taking us through some of the service requests. Can we talk about the service catalog overall, and how that’s built and architected?

Yeah, good idea. So I’ll take you here. And I click the Service Request tab at the top, and this takes you to your entire catalog. The most important way to look at this is over on the left, you’ve got All Services, and these are actually just a list of your categories that you have built in your service desk, and you associate each service with a category. And then from here you’ve got 77 total items that you can request from. And I’ll scroll down just a little bit. Take a look at all the things here. All of our customers really always start with the IT department. These are things like, look they’ve got just laptop requests all over the place, loaners, Google Apps requests, and it goes on. But then we get to other things. Like you’ve got your light bulb replacement, so on and so on.

Yeah, I noticed you have payroll on there as well. That’s obviously not typically an IT issue.

Yeah, can I get my W2, days off request, if I need to have business cards printed. There’s a ton of stuff that ends up landing on our help desk that’s actually not. It’s actually services that are provided the business.

Absolutely, it’s not an IT service request catalog, it’s a service request catalog. So we can integrate other parts of the business, HR, payroll, facilities for a light bulb request. And have them as support groups in the system so that they can receive the work that they need to do their daily job.

So now that we’ve seen what’s in the service portal, what kinds of things people can request while they’re at work, let’s figure out how to decide what to build and how do we build it.

OK, that’d be great.

So, I’m going to go back into the application. If I click back up where I came to get to the portal I can go back to the platform. And this is again, your view of what someone who’s in here as an agent working tickets, closing tickets out, doing incident management, all those things, this is back here. First of all I’ve got my dashboards, so I can see all of my important metrics. If I want to start to understand what service catalog items we need, this is a great place to start.

Do we guarantee that they have a 100% customer SAT all the time?

I wish we could.

My help desk does.

You do run pretty green.

So if I click in the service catalog, now you’re going to get into the kind of concept that you’ve got the templates of what we’re requesting and then we’ve also got what’s been requested, what’s been triggered to fire off. So let’s build one from scratch. Brody, what’s a common use case that you guys see? Maybe if we were starting your implementation over again what would we do?

I would start with a new hardware request. That’s what every IT organization has, so I think it’s a good place to start. It also starts the approval workflow conversation.

OK, we can do it. So if you notice this page, it looks a lot like an incident, but there’s some more boxes, there’s more things to do. But let’s go ahead and get a drill down. So the category for these, these are going to be, I’m guessing we have Hardware. And Subcategory, let’s stick with laptops. Most people have laptops around here. OK, so from here, I like to do something like, please use this form.

Creative.

And from here you can fill things like price in if you want. You can fill in expected delivery time. You don’t have to, and there’s a lot of things that you can hide. So maybe you don’t want to see where all the sausage is made, but you want to let your users see just the good parts. Those are all options you have too. And from here, there’s two more parts. We’ve got the main bulk of what is it we’re requesting, what’s the category? From there, there’s two other key parts. One is the variable. So if you remember back in the portal when I requested one of these, there were all these fields I filled in, you build those here. The second part is the process. So once it’s been requested, Brody what does your team go and do with it?

Correct.

So let’s add the variable. So their laptops, what kind of laptops do you guys use?

Dell.

All right, we’ll use Dell.

It’s an Austin thing.

Yes, it is. [laughter] So what kind of laptops does Dell use? So usually we’ve got a dropdown. So I’m guessing you have maybe different sizes of Dells–

Correct.

Different screen size, different RAM.

Correct, we have a travel profile, we have a normal profile, and an executive profile.

All right, so let’s let the users say, well, am I normal or am I an executive?

Let’s go with standard profile.

OK.

I was going to say, I drive a lot of that upgrade memory service flow.

So the idea here is just to think through just really what is the information you need. And you can make it, so they can’t submit this without giving it to you, or without giving you that data. But you want to make it still pretty easy. So there’s a balance there. Let’s add one more. So other than which profile they fit for the computer type, what’s something else they might need? Maybe they have some extra accessories that they need to go with it? Some adapters?

Case?

A new case, yeah even that. And I’ll do a Multi-picklist for this. I also like to pause here a lot because there’s different formats of data here, and it’s important that you design this how you want it. And it’s just in the format of these fields. So there’s free text, but if you want to do reporting on it, you want to stay away from free text. If you want to use something like checkbox, yes or no, that’s easy to do too. Dates are in there and of course attachments. You can do a user picklist, maybe who gets the approval. Those kinds of things. For accessories for you, Brody, I’ll just do a Multi-picklist. That’s going to be something like case, adapter, we won’t get too specific.

Extra brick.

Of course you need the extra brick. And I’ll save that. From there, OK, now we know what we need from the users. And then what do we want to do? I’ll keep this one pretty simple. But look down here in the process. All the way down in the bottom-left. There’re things you can do. You want to just fire off a task to the team, you can do that. You can do whole groupings of different tasks and different approvals. Because maybe all this now gets shopped out to different teams, that’s how you collaborate globally. So I can set a group and say, OK, while someone’s imaging this laptop someone else is going getting the case, maybe someone is in charge of purchasing. And you can run all of this at the same time. The approvals is exactly what you think. You know we can’t spend $2,000 on this thing until someone actually gives the go-ahead, so let’s put that in first. So I’ll click approval. And this is kind of neat. One of the ways that you can understand who the approval goes to, and do a little bit more of a dynamic nature to the workflow, this is saying, OK, maybe my manager always approves these things, and we have that data that we pulled in for you from Azure so we know who reports to who, what the chain of command is, we can run all those here. So I’ll just say the Incident Requester’s Manager always has to approve this purchase. I only need one person, maybe don’t need to go out to a whole group. And I’ll say it’s due in one day. We need a quick response on this thing.

So I like that for escalation too, or just vacation, you have that option of either making everyone on that list required or optional so that you can say, “Here’s three different people.” So you have a fallback. If a manager’s out of town, someone else can approve it as well.

Yep, that’s a really good point. People take time off, people are busy. So we want to add those things in. So when you go talk to the Customer Success Center, those are the kinds of questions they’re going to ask you. They’re going to say, “Well, who else is involved? Who’s the backup? How do you guys run your business?” because we’re really fitting one tool into thousands of customers’ operations. And that’s the way we do it. So we’ll just do another click on it. It’s been approved, on approval, I’ll do a task, and I’ll keep it simple. Order the laptop. And we’ll send it to the assignee. On Decline we’ll just say, let the user know we can’t order this thing. So really basic workflow, and then I’ll create it. And there’s your template. So I kept it really simple. But you get the idea. Someone comes out to the portal, they need a new laptop, maybe they’ve got an old one. They’ve got the form there. They’re presented with everything they need for the options that they want to choose. And that’s it.

So do you see like in the onboarding example before, a lot of customers using the process integration step to do things like create an AD account, or provision a set of security permissions, or something else so that piece is actually part of that automation as well?

Yep, and I glossed over that, but that’s one of the most powerful pieces of the workflows. You can submit credentials for really any web application, put a URL in there, and if they’ve got an API, we can send any of this data from the catalog item over to them, and we can kick that off. A lot of times we’ll see the use case of HR. So you’re back to the onboarding example. You want to send some piece of data, maybe the title, name, start date, managers, send that over to your ITIL pros, to your workdays. We do it all the time. And it keeps most of the workflow here, but when you have to bring another tool, sends that data over nice and clean.

Well a lot of times for payroll for example, how many times do people forget their payroll password, which is usually a third-party. So in this case you would use that workflow to automatically submit the password reset flow on behalf of that user based on an ID, so that they would just get the email they could reply to.

Yep, and you could, and you definitely should.

Awesome.

So from here, I want to go back to the portal, so you can just see what I’ve built. I think it gives kind of a full view of what the user’s experience is with the service catalog. OK, we built one. Let’s go look at the fruits of our labor.

OK, so there it is. There’s the new hardware across the top. And what I really like here is that it’s showing that it’s draft. So does that mean that I can actually let, I don’t know, Beta testers check out my service desk catalog first before I expose it to everyone?

Yeah, it does. And that’s definitely an exercise we went through with Brody’s team. We said, OK we need to check these out first. We have some trusted individuals. Want to let them help pound this thing before we roll it out to everybody. And I’ll show you how you do it. So I’ll click Edit over here on the side. And all that is is just the status here. So we’ve got Draft, Internal, and Approved. And these are just ways of organizing everything. So Draft you can always request, but you can maybe share a link with somebody or get them into the app and let them trigger this thing off. Internal is going to be any service that sticks with the service desk. It’s not really an end user facing thing. But it’s in production, it’s live, it’s still requestable. And then Approved is exactly what you think it’s. It can go on the portal. Everybody can see it, we feel good about it.

All right, so this thing is live. Everybody’s using it, and not just for what was help desk tickets, but you’re actually driving a lot of other business processes. You’re generating tons and tons of data. You can probably guess what my next question is.

I can guess what your next question is.

Which is?

How do we understand? How do we look at the data? How do we draw inferences?

Always going for the analytics.

Yeah, so I’ll go back to the platform. And I’ll go straight into reporting. So remember that we nest everything under here. There’s a couple of different ways to look at data in here. One is actually I’d show you, and this really isn’t analytics, but it’s really understanding there are filters built in here of course you’d expect. And any data point that you’ve created, your out of the box fields, your custom fields. All those are here. So if you’re trying to get down to just an aggregate number, but we know we have 17,800 items in the service desk, but I can start to pull numbers out this way. There’s still a lot of data on this page. If you want to look at aggregate data, you want to draw some real answers out of here, I’ll take you into Reports. OK, so now we got some nice colors. It’s pretty. But what are we really looking for? One of the most popular ones, one of my favorite ones to show everybody is called the Incident throughput. We’re changing gears a little bit. Brody, I know you as director of ITSM and end user services are going to want to answer this question. What are our people working on? How many tickets are we getting? How many are they closing? What’s their workload like? And this report shows just that. So it’s read in really four different ways. One is for the IT help desk overall, what number of incidents did they have in the last 90 days? What did they start with, then what did they receive in those 90 days. That’s your yellow bar. What did they close? And then what was left over? And so I got 90 days from this timeframe here. So of course you can change that. Maybe in the last week. I know you like looking at weekly and monthly views. So I’ll change this to the last week, what is my team working on? So the numbers should come down quite a bit of course, but the tickets that they had, you only got 30% throughput from your team. They’re actually not working their tickets. So you’ve got a lot that come in and not a lot that go out. So something you want to look at. What I would expect to see on this report is really low on the outside of these columns and really high on the inside. They’re getting stuff, but they’re closing out quickly. So that’s going to lead to customer satisfaction. That’s why I think this is an important report because what you’re submitting to the service desk, you want a quick turnaround again, so you can get your work done. But then after that, I’m happy, because I’m going about on my way.

Well, and the discreet step’s below the initial submission, right? Because yeah, you want to be turned fast, but the main thing that you want is for it not to be reopened. You want to be able to address all of the issues in that incident and then close it once and for all and have it go away.

Yeah, there’s also a report for that, First touch resolution.

Well a lot of times the analytics, I tend to look more at aggregate views. Like for example, if I want to see how effective my service desk catalog is over time, I’m going to be making changes, right? So I might want to add a workflow step for notification in the case of I have bunch of tickets that are left open where I’m waiting on user. So you showed me one time, you were actually, yeah, you were eliminating the ones that were …

Yeah, let’s close, if it was resolved or closed, we don’t usually care about it. We want a good look at everything that’s still open.

Right, so then I can actually trend, and say how many of my total ticket backlog is based on waiting on the customers? Being able to use views that are aggregate views to get trends for overall performances are really a big part of this as well, as opposed to just drilling in on specific issues that were resolved.

Yep, and one of the big ways to change these reports around is this time scope, especially on the Incidents report here. So what we’re looking at is by Created Time what’s the current state of that ticket? So the way I want to look at this is OK, what are things that are in new state, or on hold, or awaiting user input that are older? Because they shouldn’t be that way. And this is a demo service desk, so of course everything’s in new. But that’d be a huge red flag, there’s a lot of yellow for things that are going way back, so that means the tickets aren’t getting worked, which is again, going to lead to low CSAT. But I want to dig in a little bit more. I’ve got something that’s old, that’s awaiting user input. So we’ve asked the user for something. We need a little bit more extra information. We didn’t get it. So let’s figure out what that is. And clicking in is going to give you a way to kind of drill down and figure out where are the slowdowns. You want to be agile. You want to keep things moving. It looks like this is assigned to Nick. Nick didn’t finish this new hire process. In fact he breached an SLA here. And those are the things I want to go, and I want to take some action in my service desk after finding that in the reports.

So the SLAs here in this view are essentially setting the thresholds that are going to determine whether they pop out that status or not?

Yep, that’s correct.

So Matt, we’ve got an SLA breach here which leads me to think that this user may not be satisfied. We’ve talked about CSAT throughout the conversation today. How do we measure that and make sure that users are getting satisfied, and if they’re not, we react to that or take action?

You know, that’s a simple one, and it’s really a key component of any service desk. We are wanting to be proactive. We’re wanting to get everything complete. We want our users happy. So this is back in Setup, Service Desk, and I’ll just click into this main area. And there’s all kinds of again, configurations you can add. We’ve looked at this page for just a second. There’s a lot of off and on, but down here at the bottom CSAT surveys. There’s a couple of key parts here that I think are interesting. One, you don’t have to send a survey every time. So you can turn these completely off. You can send them for everything. You can send maybe a subset of categories. Maybe not everything is really CSAT related. One of the things is survey fatigue. Do we give them a cool off period? Do we let them wait an hour or do we want to wait a day? So let’s do that. So we’ll say maybe a day is good. And then here’s our frequency. We don’t want to send them a survey for every ticket immediately after they get it. They might not fill them out. We want to have good data. So I’ll probably do something like once a week, we’ll send them one. We’ll send it a day later. So that’s a pretty good balance of how often we want to send them that. Once they get that, once the ticket gets closed, it’s just a simple yes or no, thumbs up, thumbs down. And they can just do one click, I liked it. They can add comments if they want. And then of course, you can go back and then find the negative comments if you want to follow up on those. Or the good comments. So a good service desk follows up on the good ones too.

One of the things that’s helped us provide a more consistent support to our customers drive our CSAT is the artificial intelligence in the system. I’m kind of surprised that hasn’t triggered you yet, Patrick.

Ah, yeah, of course I’m triggered on that. And the main thing I was watching was it’s providing guidance in creating a ticket. Because how many times do you have a ticket that is sort of you don’t know anything about it? So basically, it’s an unknown ticket. That’s automatically more or less a ‘sev’ one. Somebody has to address it, right? So for just for categorization that’s really important. But beyond that, yeah this is the second SolarWinds product that actually has a lot of artificial intelligence built into it. The first one, we’ve done Lab episodes in the past on Database Performance Analyzer. That was the first one where it first appeared, and they have a lot of questions on it. So yeah, I’m just a little bit triggered, but the other thing too is there’s a lot of opportunities to go beyond just helping people fill out a form. Is it you’re actually using it to help resolve the tickets, right? So the technicians that are working an issue, an incident, are already using it as well?

Yeah, helping to drive the resolution, but also the categorization which you’ve touched on several times. The categorization is really important to reporting in our data. So that we drive and focus our automation and workflow later on down the IT pipeline.

Cool, well let’s take a look at that in the resolution form.

OK, so I’ll pick on Zoom Meeting again and we’ll click in and we’ll see what Keith was working on. He still, remember had that no audio issue. But the system’s going to say, hey there’s your smart suggestions, there’s your similar incidents. That’s really helpful because you could click into those and see what comments people have made when they work that ticket. What was the timeline? Can I help you get some understanding because you’re repeating the same process? So that’s nice. If you have a Smart Solution and you have your knowledge base article available, we’re just going to put it right in front of you and say, this is what you need to send to Keith, and then go on about your day. Another place where it shows up that Brody mentioned is really important is in the categorization. So we want good data. We want to be able to report on it. We want to drive all of your processes. And that shows up here. So this is put under application support, under subcategory Zoom Meeting, which I think is correct. But let’s see what the system thought. So the system thought Smart Suggestions were Applications Support and Facilities. So we got Applications Support right. But audio’s probably where we thought it was picking up on facilities maybe somebody was in a meeting room for some issues. But that’s what we thought, so this one actually went through the process pretty well. App support, and then your subcategories will suggest those too. It’s grayed out, so we’re just kind of saying, hey it’s there if you want it. But you can go and categorize this differently if you want.

So the goal here instead of saying, we already completely understand what your processes are and categorization and the rest of it, everyone’s a little bit different. So this is designed to let the service desk get smarter over time about your particular operation.

Yes, it’s there to help the service desk and provide some guidance, but not a hard rule. So it provides suggestions based on some of the data, the analytics in the system in trying to intelligently apply them to what you’re typing into the incident.

Versus you having to go build this big bespoke set of rules that encompasses all the things.

Yep, in fact, the way these algorithms work, we don’t even start suggesting things until there’s a good set of sample data in there. We want to see how you’re operating first, and then we’ll go, and like you said, Brody, start having light suggestions in the service desk.

So red, blue, green, and yellow.

Yep, all those and a little bit more.

Well, that’s fantastic. So I’m assuming they can try this for free.

Yep, out there on the site, there’s a 30-day free trial, fully functional, everything’s built in. Go ahead and start configuring it, and actually it’ll turn into your production account too if you want.

OK, and it offers a service, so it’s licensed per user?

Per agent, we say. So that’s someone who’s in here working incidents, closing them out, like everybody on Brody’s team for example.

Well that’s awesome. Well, Matt, thank you so much for coming down and being a part of this episode.

Thanks for having me. This has been a great experience.

And thanks again for being part of the SolarWinds family. We’re really excited about this product.

Great.

And Brody, thank you of course. You’ve been a part of SolarWinds now for a while, and you’ve been delivering services for years, and I’m glad to see this implementation went pretty well for you.

Yeah, thanks for having me.

You bet. And thank you, again for being a part of SolarWinds Lab. Hopefully we’ve been taking your questions live on air, and you’ll know that you’re live if you see the chat box up here to the right. If not, then make sure you swing by our homepage which is lab.solarwinds.com. And check out the schedule for upcoming episodes so that we can take your questions live on air. Is that about it?

I think so.

I think so, yeah.

Awesome. Well, thanks for being a part of SolarWinds Lab.