Crow Canyon SharePoint Blog

Supporting Your Remote Employees via Help Desk

January 20, 2017

Part 1

help desk for remote employeesModern technology has transformed the world we live in. Not that long ago the idea of hiring an employee who did not work in a corporate office was unheard of — not out of choice, but because it was not technically possible. As technology improved, companies experimented with the idea of remote working via baby steps, such as telecommuting (i.e., sharing time between the home and office).

Slowly but surely, the stigmas associated with remote working started to fade away — the benefits are supported by the research, with Stanford University discovering that, on average, remote employees work 9.5% longer than in-office employees and are also 13% more productive.

Making the Transition

Many IT companies are transitioning from a traditional in-office working structure to a distributed workforce capable of performing their jobs remotely. Employees are now no longer tethered to their company headquarters — they can be hired locally and deployed to a different location (e.g., establishing an offshore Marketing office) or hired directly from their remote location. In today’s Internet-based environment, distance is no longer a predominant factor: e-mail, Skype, and collaborative online platforms enable employees to work from any location.

There are some unique requirements, however, when including remote employees as part of your workforce; the most significant being the need to provide them with reliable IT Support. Remote workers depend on processes and infrastructure originating from corporate headquarters, perhaps even more than their in-office colleagues. When new hires need onboarding, credentials are lost, software is requested, and VPN access is severed, your remote employees need to be able to communicate with their home-base in a timely fashion… even if they are on the other side of the world.

When establishing a remote employee infrastructure, there is one core requirement needed to make an employee fulfillment service operate effectively: the IT Help Desk platform.

Three Help Desk Platform Must-Haves

There are some unique considerations when aligning remote working with your organization’s Help Desk initiatives. Some Help Desk platforms may be able to address basic requirements, but may be unable to anticipate potential remote working issues, such as time differences and balancing communication needs. For example, a Help Desk platform needs to offer a collaborative environment, ease-of-accessibility (e.g., Web-based), and comprehensive functionality (e.g., ticket routing, analysis tools, configurable workflows, and a globally-sensitive notification system).

Collaborative Communication

Communication is paramount between home-base and your remote employees, particularly when multiple time zones are involved. In a Help Desk environment, your IT Support team needs to easily converse with their remote colleagues as well as between themselves. It is imperative for IT Help Desk communications to be centralized, trackable, and routable; this is typically accomplished via a ticket-based system.

Creating new tickets should be easy and supported by multiple methods, such as via e-mail, telephone, or via a collaborative platform such as SharePoint. An IT Help Desk system should automate the movement of tickets through configurable workflows, such as when tickets are escalated, approved, denied, and/or routed to different team members.

Some critical ingredients to look for in an IT Help Desk system include:

  • Integrated ticketing and communications;
  • Centralized file sharing;
  • Configurable workflows for routing, approvals, and escalations;
  • Team-based chat and integrated e-mail;
  • Access to collaborative productivity apps;
  • Automated notifications and alerts.

Ease of Setup / Scalable

A major obstacle preventing small to mid-sized IT companies from pushing forward with remote working initiatives are perceived onboarding costs. For old-school IT organizations who avoid the cloud, this challenge is even more significant. Many companies make the mistake of purchasing standalone client-installed Help Desk apps — in such scenarios, every new remote worker needs a separate app that requires installation and maintenance. This de-centralized approach results in higher costs, increased technical problems, and presents barriers to scalability.

Ideally, an IT Help Desk platform should be cloud-based and centralized in terms of user account setup/management. Onboarding a new remote worker should be as simple as setting up an account and providing URLs with credentials. Being cloud-based means that scalability is possible at a lower cost — you only pay for what you need. Solutions that integrate with existing systems also present significant cost savings, as it negates the need to purchase additional infrastructure.

Reporting and Analysis

As your remote workforce and IT Support Team grows, the need for accountability also increases. This is magnified when your employees are widely distributed, as variable factors can influence future decisions. In short, you need to know how your local Support Team is interacting with your remote employees.

For example, you may need to…

  • Discover how long trackable issues remain unaddressed;
  • Correlate ticketing data (e.g., issue pending approval) with remote worker distribution (e.g., locations of your remote workforce) to support future remote working decisions. Does it take longer for IT Support to help employees in Australia compared to Canada? Analysis of response times may lead to changes in your long-term remote distribution decisions or changes to your local Support processes;
  • Analyze the types of tickets being generated to determine recurring issues;
  • Isolate reasons for pending tickets (e.g., “Waiting for reply from colleague.”) and make adjustments as needed. Is your IT Support Team working as effectively as you’d like?
  • Monitor and analyze the remote new user setup process and improve related onboarding policies.

Taking the Leap

There are unique challenges to hiring remote employees, but that can be said for any new initiative. The benefits to a company’s bottom line are considerable, yet this can only be realized if the IT Help Desk platform supports the requirements of a remote working infrastructure. The Help Desk needs to be comprehensive enough to address a wide range of communication and analytical requirements, yet flexible enough to remain cost-effective and scalable.

Want to learn more about how our no-code IT Help Desk solution integrates with your existing SharePoint and/or Office 365 platform? Let’s talk. Give us a call at 1-888-706-0070 or contact us by e-mail at sales@crowcanyon.com

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