Implementation of Remote Desktop End-User Support Forum. As a Means to Reduce How-To Support Contacts. Rochelle M. Sweeney.

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1 1 Implementation of Remote Desktop End-User Support Forum As a Means to Reduce How-To Support Contacts by Rochelle M. Sweeney A Research Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Technology Management The Graduate School University of Wisconsin-Stout May, 2011

2 2 The Graduate School University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI Author: Sweeney, Rochelle M. Title: Implementation of Remote Desktop End-user Support Forum as a Means to Reduce How-To Support Contacts Graduate Degree/ Major: MS Technology Management Research Adviser: James Keyes MonthrYear: May, 2011 Number of Pages: 42 Style Manual Used: American Psychological Association, 6 th edition Abstract End-user support is an essential business service. The technology used to provide support can vary widely from phone to Web-based contact solutions. Achieving the highest level of user satisfaction most efficiently and cost effectively is a business priority. Remote desktop support provides the support specialist with real-time access to an end-user's computer. The specialist is enabled to more quickly assess, identify and resolve the support issue because remote desktop access allows the specialist to see and if granted permission by the end-user, assume control of the desktop. The more quickly a support resolution is achieved the greater time and money savings are realized, as well as greater end-user satisfaction. Providing a remote desktop support forum allows the specialist to resolve individual support issues as well as simultaneously providing the

3 3 same knowledge to multiple end-users. This may result in a reduction of repetitive as wells as time-consuming individual support inquiries.

4 4 Acknowledgments I respectfully acknowledge and thank my research advisor Dr. James Keyes for his expertise and guidance throughout this thesis project. I would like to dedicate this thesis project to my husband Edwin for his unwavering support and encouragement.

5 5 Table of Contents... Page Abstract... 2 Acknowledgments... 4 List of Tables... 7 Chapter I: Introduction... 8 Statement of the Problem... 9 Purpose of the Study Assumptions of the Study Limitations of the Study Definition of Terms Methodology Summary Chapter II: Literature Review Support Source Support Method Figure Support Inquiry Summary Chapter III: Methodology Introduction Subject Selection and Description Instrumentation... 23

6 6 Data Collection Data Analysis Limitations Summary Chapter IV: Results Issue Resolution Type Results Data Analysis Forum Attendance Key Considerations Summary Chapter V: Discussion Conclusions Risks and Challenges Limitations Influencing Factors Recommendations Summary References Appendix A Appendix B Appendix C Appendix D... 41

7 7 List of Tables Table 1: Streamlining help desk operations Table 2: Sample summary table Table 3: March 2011 marketing project management application issue tickets Table 4: April 2011 marketing project management application issue tickets... 27

8 8 Chapter I: Introduction Providing end-user support has been a necessary expense for achieving end-user satisfaction ever since the proliferation ofthe desktop computer as a business tool. Every time a company implements a new business system or application information technology management team must decide how to provide end-user support for that system or application. Developing an end-user support strategy can be challenging given the multitude of options available. The means by which end-user support can be provided varies and is continually evolving as technology evolves. Some companies outsource end-user support to third-party providers in the U.S. and abroad while others hire and train employees to provide end-user support internally. Internal end-user support teams can be required to provide centralized, company-wide support or decentralized, business-specific support depending on the needs of the company or business group. End-users may contact support via the phone or by electronic means, such as or Web-enabled support request forms. Retailer X operates a national chain of retail stores from its headquarters in the Midwest. The well known retailer maintains and supports both desktop and laptop computers for store and headquarters personnel. Retailer X provides internal end-user support utilizing both centralized and decentralized support models. The marketing operations group at Retailer X provided decentralized, business-specific end-user support for a marketing project management (MPM) application. The marketing management team determined that directing end-users to a decentralized, business-specific support specialist rather than the centralized, corporate client support center would provide the most relevant and expeditious user support experience. This required the marketing operations group to hire and train a single support specialist dedicated to providing marketing project

9 9 management-specific support. A dedicated box and a custom-designed, SharePoint list were the available means for end-users to request support. The well known retailer is continually seeking to improve operating efficiency while reducing operating expense which resulted in a recent reorganization of the marketing operations group. This reorganization required that the dedicated support specialist spend less time providing individual end-user support to devote more time to business-critical technology projects. Individual end-user support is time-consumingon average requiring five to eight minutes per support contact to provide issue resolution and often for a redundant issue. This research proposed the implementation of a remote desktop end-user support forum as a means to reduce the quantity of client procedural or how-to support contacts thus increasing the effectiveness of the end-user-support provided for the marketing project management application. Fifty percent of all marketing end-user support contacts were for the marketing project management application. Of those support contacts 50% were client procedural or how-to questions - user isn't sure how to use the application however with the correct knowledge the user was capable of resolving the issue without support intervention. This volume of client procedural support contacts for a single application jeopardized the ability of a single support specialist to maintain the proposed service level agreement of issue resolution within four to eight hours per each support contact for all marketing applications. Statement of the Problem Due to the comparatively high volume of how-to support contacts for the marketing project management application, the quantity of client procedural contacts needed to be reduced

10 10 by five percent within one month to maintain the current service level agreement. Purpose of the Study Due to the reorganization of the marketing operations group, the single end-user support specialist was required to reduce the amount of time spent on individual support contacts. The support specialist proposed a bi-monthly remote desktop support forum to provide marketing project management end-users with a critical understanding feedback loop which is difficult to achieve through . The forum exposed multiple end-users to support issues and the resulting resolution, frequently asked questions, and an online source of application self-service as a means to reduce redundant marketing project management application support contacts. Remote desktop support allowed end-users to experience support resolutions visually to promote knowledge retention. The bi-monthly forum supplemented monthly training classes while providing sufficient frequency to remain responsive to end-users support needs. Assumptions of the Study The bi-monthly remote desktop support forum was intended to supplement monthly marketing project management application-specific training classes, a dedicated box and custom-designed, SharePoint list for direct and immediate support requests. Limitations of the Study 1. This study applied only to the marketing operations group of Retailer X. 2. For the purposes of this study the remote desktop support forum applied only to end-user support of the marketing project management application. 3. This study only reviewed support contacts for the marketing project management application collected and compared from March and April 2011.

11 11 Definition of Terms Forum. A public meeting or lecture involving audience discussion (Merriam-Webster' s Collegiate Dictionary, 2005, p. 494). Remote desktop. A feature in the Windows operating system (OS) that allows the machine to be run remotely from another Windows machine over any dial-up or local area network (LAN) connection. Remote Desktop is the Windows-based technology used to exchange only keystrokes and screen changes (PC Mag.com, 2011). Service Level Agreement (SLA). A contract between the provider and the user that specifies the level of service expected during its term. They can specify bandwidth availability, response times for routine and ad hoc queries, response time for problem resolution (network down, machine failure, etc.) (PC Mag.com, 2011). SharePoint. A family of Windows software from Microsoft that is used to set up internal Web portals (intranets) for document sharing and search, team collaboration, lists, blogs, wikis and company news (PC Mag.com, 2011). Methodology The support specialist prepared a proposal for the remote desktop support forum including objectives and risks and challenges. The proposal was then presented to the marketing operations manager and group manager for approval. Once approved by the manager and group manager the proposal was presented to the marketing operations director. A pilot of the remote desktop support forum was planned after the director approved the proposal. Objectives of the proposal included:

12 12 Provide end-users with convenient access to a support forum at their desk, thus minimizing disruption to busy schedules Utilizing remote desktop technology to demonstrate to end-users the steps to follow for issue resolution Solicit end-user questions during the forum as well as review of top five frequently asked questions (F AQs) Provide end-users with an additional source of support Risks and challenges of the proposal included: End-users unfamiliar with or intimidated by remote desktop application End-users register but fail to attend Remote desktop support frequency may not meet end-user's needs or expectations This study analyzed end-user client procedural support contact data for the marketing project management application collected in an existing custom-designed, SharePoint list between March and April The number of client procedural support contacts for the marketing project management application was collected for a period of 30 days prior to the implementation of the remote desktop end-user support forum and compared to the same support resolution type for a period of30 days during the implementation of the remote desktop support forum. The data was then exported into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and converted into a PivotTable report for analysis of the client procedural issue resolution contact type by month for the marketing project management application. A PivotTable report is a feature of Microsoft Excel that enables the analysis of numerical data in detail by subtotaling and aggregating

13 13 numeric data and summarizing data by categories and subcategories. The interest or demand for continuing the remote desktop support forum was determined by attendance. Summary Providing end-user support is an essential business service however the manner in which the support is provided various greatly. The available time and resources devoted to end-user support often influences the delivery method. This research proposed a remote desktop support forum as a supplement to individual support contacts. The study results provided the marketing operations group with an understanding of the benefit to the support specialist of offering a remote desktop support forum to the end-users of the marketing project management application in the comparative number of client procedural support contacts, as well as the level of interest among the end-users for the remote desktop support forum format.

14 14 Chapter II: Literature Review Help desk is a generic name typically associated with an end-user support center. There is insufficient information to determine when the first help desk was established. However it is generally accepted that it was first established about twenty years ago (Leung & Lau, 2007). Prior to the creation of a dedicated help desk, end-users often resorted to contacting a friend or colleague for assistance. Today's savvy technology managers realize that it is critical to transform outdated "help desks," which rely primarily on telephone communications, into efficiently managed "service desks" that efficiently and economically accommodate multiple forms of interaction - from voice and data to and instant messaging. They also understand that by transitioning to self-assist and remote incident resolution they can reduce service desk operational costs by half, while dramatically improving the quality of service provided (CompuCom, 2006). Support Source Determining an end-user support strategy requires serious evaluation of the needs of the end-user, the cost and the overall value to the company. Building an in-house support staff or outsourcing to a third-party provider is a central consideration of any end-user support strategy. Outsourcing support can refer to both onshore as well as offshore vendors. According to a survey of 175 information technology (IT) and business managers conducted by Information Week Research about technical support practices found that internal, centralized help desks are the most prevalent assistance being provided (D' Antoni, 2001). The survey went on to state that forty percent of participating managers work for companies that use third-party vendors to resolve IT difficulties. However, outsourced support is generally provided in conjunction with

15 15 existing in-house services; only three percent of managers said their support is entirely outsourced (D' Antoni, 2001). The challenge of finding and retaining help desk employees is leading more companies to turn to automated products as well as outsourcers according to Tony Adams, an analyst at San Jose-based Dataquest (Dash, 2000). Outsourcing is a trend that is clearly growing. Forrester Research projects that by 2005 nearly 600,000 U.S. jobs - including many customer service and technology support positions - will move offshore; by 2015, that figure could reach 3.3 million (Kandra, 2005). Outsourced help desk prices range from $7-$64 per user per month or charging may occur on a fixed price per call or call bundle (Romney, 2004). Support Method Once the source of the support has been decided, how the support will be provided is another primary consideration. Frequently an end-user's first contact for help is not to the dedicated help desk. End-users often find consulting a trusted colleague who has previously demonstrated proficiency with the application or issue in question a more convenient manner in which to receive help. While consulting a colleague may seem expeditious and will reduce contacts to the help desk the information provided may be inaccurate, incomplete, and may obscure a more serious technical issue. Calling the help desk is generally the preferred method of contacting the help desk. According to the research firms Data-quest and Jupiter Research, most end-users seek support through the telephone (Metz, 2000). Phone contact is understandably preferred as it allows the end-user to interact with the support specialist providing the user with an opportunity to clarify and expand on issue details.

16 16 Although the telephone is the preferred method of seeking support, end-users can encounter frustration when calling the help desk. End-users often lack confidence that they will be able to adequately describe the issue they are experiencing or fear embarrassment for their lack of application and or computer knowledge and skills. This can lead to confusion and misinterpretation for the support specialist as they attempt to resolve the issue. Concern over a language barrier is a potential drawback of phone support as well. The end-user may become frustrated and abandoned the call before their issue is resolved if they're unable to understand a support specialist due to a thick accent. As a result of these attitudes, end-users may postpone contacting the help desk. This will ultimately result in a delay of their issue resolution. A study by the Help Desk Institute (HDI), based on a survey of information technology managers, directors and other personnel at approximately 800 businesses, government agencies and organizations, found that 67% of survey respondents reported that calls had increased at their organizations during The study concluded there's no single explanation for the continuing increase in support calls (Thibodeau, 2011). While phone support is convenient it is also expensive, the cost for a typical support call is between $10 and $15 according to Giga Information Group customer relationship management analyst Erin Kinikin (Bertolucci and Aquino, 2001). Electronic support or e-support as it is referred to, often encompasses all other forms of end-user support including , Web-based incident initiation, Web-based chat, Web-based self-service and remote desktop applications. is probably the most common e-support means of contacting the help desk. While is widely available and easy to use the outcome is often less than satisfying for the enduser. According to a PC World Reliability and Service survey, between 65 and 70% of

17 17 respondents who have tried to use -based support say the answers they received didn't resolve their problems (Bertolucci and Aquino, 2001). Also, often doesn't meet the enduser's expectations for speed of resolution. David Daniels, a Jupiter Research analyst stated, "We've found that 55% of consumers expect a resolution to their inquires within six hours and that only 20% of companies were meeting those expectations." (Metz, 2000). As our society becomes increasingly self-service oriented from self-checkout at the grocery store to scheduling a doctor appointment online, end-user support has also moved towards a self-service model. Web-based, self-service support allows the end-user to use keywords to search a Web-enabled knowledgebase for frequently asked questions (FAQs) and troubleshooting tips to potentially resolve their technical issue without intervention from a support specialist. The cost of this model is also considerably less expensive than other forms of support at $1 or less per incident (Bertolucci and Aquino, 2001). Tom Sweeny, an analyst at ServiceXRG, contends that organizations allocate a disproportionate level of resources to delivering content through one-to-one channels rather than creating content for self-services. Even with self-service making such strides, he says, many companies still have the model where one support specialist is fielding 30 calls daily on the same simple subject. It's grossly inefficient when this does not get captured and used in a knowledge repository (Parature, 2009). Companies electing to implement a self-service solution for end-user support should focus on getting users over the cultural barrier of depending on technology not individuals - for help. That means actively promoting self-help sites and making sure the content in these Web-based knowledge bases is continually updated, relevant and easy to use (Stackpole, 1999).

18 18 In a 2005 user survey, Gartner asked what was necessary to improve the self-service experience. Specifically respondents were given a list of improvement areas and asked to consider the benefits, effectiveness, and ease of use of self-service solutions, and identify which are needed to significantly increase the use of self-service solutions (CompuCom, 2006). The results were: Easier to find solution for a specific problem Organized to make it easy to find the right tool Content that is more relevant to the context or problems Content that is specific to the application or operating system Content that is more comprehensive in scope and depth Increased performance of Web-based self-service Support site and content personalized to my needs Tailor site to my unique IT environment, rather than IT products Security of automated remote monitoring and management Easier to log in According to Matt Healey, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. (IDC), the market for clientless remote-support tools is still emerging. Sales of these tools are expected to more than double in the next four years, from an estimated $156.4 million in 2008 to $335.7 million in 2012 (Wong, 2008). See Figure 1 for a detailed breakout of cost by external support, service provider, and internal help desk.

19 19 Figure 1. Worldwide clientless remote support tools spending, ~ ~ 200 ~ '-" External support 0 Services provider Internal help desk Adapted from "Using Web-based support tools to improve customer service," by Gilhooly, K Retrieved from pdf. Although remote desktop software can't resolve every type of support call, it can dramatically reduce the time spent on some support tasks as shown in Table 1. For instance, demonstrating via remote desktop the resolution for a how-to question can shorten the time spent on 70% to 80% of those tasks and avoid 5% of future calls.

20 20 Table 1 Streamlining help desk operations Type of Call % of Tasks Where % of Calls Time was Saved Avoided How-to Break/fix Service request 0 0 Moves 0 0 Adds Changes Password reset 0 0 Outage 0 0 Adapted from "Remote control a la enterprise," by Phillips, K. 1999, 87. Support Inquiry End-user support is no longer primarily focused on whether or not the technology is working but also how the technology should work in the specific business environment in which it is being used. Many support inquiries are for how-to questions - user isn't sure how to use the application however with the correct knowledge the user is capable of resolving the issue without support intervention. Rather than contact the help desk for assistance, these how-to questions could easily be resolved through the use of self-service Web-based knowledge bases. The ten most common support actions that could easily be handled by self-service methods include: Clear temp files; clear cache; reset password; check exchange server connectivity; check network connectivity; fill out questions and answers; empty recycle bin; create Webmail icon; clear Web browser history; map network drive (CompuCom, 2006). According to Greg Oxton, executive director of the Customer Support Consortium (CSC)

21 21 in Seattle, between 60% and 70% of service calls are known problems that have been answered before. Better access to information could prevent some of the repetitive questions (Girard, 1997). Knapp and Woch have found that 80% of inquiries made to the help desk often require no specialized technical knowledge. As a result, the help desk staff is overwhelmed by the increasing workload and is no longer available for business-critical projects, proactive support activity or training because their time is mainly occupied by resolving these simple and routine contacts (Knapp and Woch, 2002). Summary The literature review suggests that the implementation of e-support tools can reduce the number of contacts to the help desk. However, e-support tools such as self-service must be supported and aggressively promoted by management to encourage end-users to adopt and routinely utilize these methods rather than expecting a personal interaction with a support specialist. As technology evolves so must help desk support. As with many technological advancements adoption requires time and promotion.

22 22 Chapter III: Methodology Introduction A recent reorganization of the marketing operations group at Retailer X required that the business-specific, dedicated support specialist spend less time providing end-user support to devote more time to business-critical technology projects. This research proposed the implementation of a remote desktop end-user support forum as a means to reduce the quantity of how-to support contacts and increase the effectiveness of the enduser support provided for the marketing project management (MPM) application. The support specialist prepared a proposal for the remote desktop support forum including objectives and risks and challenges. The proposal was then presented to the marketing operations manager and group manager for approval. Once approved by the manager and group manager the proposal was presented to the marketing operations director. A pilot of the remote desktop support forum was planned after the director approved the proposal. Objectives of the proposal included: Provide end-users with convenient access to a support forum at their desk, thus minimizing disruption to busy schedules Utilizing remote desktop technology to demonstrate to end-users the steps to follow for issue resolution Solicit end-user questions during the forum as well as review of top five frequently asked questions (FAQs) Provide end-users with additional source of support

23 23 Risks and challenges of the proposal included: End-users unfamiliar with or intimidated by remote desktop application End-users register but fail to attend Remote desktop support frequency may not meet end-user's needs or expectations Subject Selection and Description Intended subjects were all marketing project management application end-users. During the study period there were approximately 350 active marketing project management application end-users. The remote desktop forum was promoted to the end-users through the distribution of a regularly scheduled weekly (Appendix A) sent to all members of the marketing team. Endusers interested in attending the forum registered using a Web-enabled registration tool. Instrumentation project management application end-users registered for the remote desktop support forum using a Web-enabled registration tool. After interested end-users registered they received an Outlook meeting invite. The meeting notice contained a conference bridge phone number and meeting number, a link to Adobe Connect, and an agenda. Adobe Connect is software used in part for Web-conferencing and remote desktop sharing. Data Collection A custom-designed, SharePoint list form (Appendix B) containing 36 questions, of which 23 were required, was used to gather support contact data for the period March through April The support specialist spends approximately two minutes per issue to complete the issue form as the issues are received. A custom view was created in the SharePoint list to include the data columns, filters and sorts necessary to capture the required data. The data was exported

24 24 from the SharePoint list by clicking Actions and selecting "Export to Spreadsheet" (Appendix C). For the purposes of this study the how-to issue type was indicated by the "client procedural" resolution type. The interpretation being the user was capable of resolving the issue without support intervention. Data Analysis All support contact issue details were entered into an existing custom-designed, SharePoint list. The export to excel feature in SharePoint was used to export the data for further analysis. The data was then exported into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and converted into a PivotTable report to summarize the issue resolution type by month for the marketing project management application. The data collected will be entered into a summary table as shown below in Table 2. Table 2 Sample summary table Issue Resolution Type Total Client procedural Corporate support support No response from the user Not supported by marketing Request center request Grand Total A PivotTable report is a feature of Microsoft Excel that enables the analysis of numerical data in detail by subtotaling and aggregating numeric data and summarizing data by categories

25 25 and subcategories. A baseline of marketing project management application support data was collected prior to the implementation of the remote desktop support forum in March This provided a total quantity of support contacts for the marketing project management application by issue type for the previous 30 days. The support data from the previous 30 days was then compared to 30 days of data collected during the implementation of the remote desktop support forum. A reduction in support contacts related to how the marketing project management application should function in the marketing environment - also known as client procedural - thus resulting in a reduction in the total quantity of support contacts was expected to indicate that the remote desktop support forum achieved the desired outcome. Limitations Results and recommendations of this study were limited to marketing project management application end-users. Data gathered was exported to Microsoft Excel from an existing, custom-designed SharePoint list and summarized in a PivotTable report. The data represents only the support contacts collected during March and April 2011 for the marketing project management application utilized by the marketing operations group at Retailer X. Summary The end-user issue tickets created for the marketing project management application during March and April 2011 for the marketing operations group at Retailer X were collected and analyzed. The number of client procedural resolution type tickets for March 2011 was compared to April 2011 to detennine if the implementation of two remote desktop support forums had any effect on the number of client procedural issues reported.

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