[bit.listserv.liaison] Our Help Desk

RTRAVSKY@UWYO.BITNET (Richard W Travsky) (02/06/90)

I've been reading the help desk traffic on this list and thought I'd add
my 2 cents worth.

Our site has had a help desk of some kind ever since computers came here -
since the late 60s.  Of course,  back then there were fewer users,  and the
atmosphere was more informal (or so I'm told; I wasn't here then).  The help
desk (and user support in general) got a boost in the 70s when a pair of CDC
Cybers were purchased;  organized user support was mandated from above.  We
provided areas on campus where people could go to do work (read keypunching
or old ADM terminal type communications) and the help desk was at the main
such work area.  The help desk,  and all other computer department stuff
(like systems and management) was located in the same building.  The help desk
underwent much tweaking,  but bascially it amounted to this:  answer questions.
Full sets of manuals were available.  Pretty much the same equipment is used
as is used by the users.  For the most part,  full time consultants sat at the
desk in rotating shifts.  Other work,  not to mention learning the software on
the system,  was done during times not spent at the desk.  Phone support was
provided at the desk as well.  In the evenings,  students were hired,  since
mostly other students used the facilities at night (nice being an 8 to 5er).

As micros usage started and grew, we added a similar help desk for micros (but
only during office hours).  This was staffed primarily by highly motivated
student help.

These days,  the Cybers are gone (thank God) and we have a VAX cluster running
VMS.  We also have more users.  The micro and mainframe support has merged
administratively,  but we still have two desks.  The mainframe support desk is
located in a public work area (PCs now);  the micro support in a room full of
equipment primarily intended for in house work and demos.  In addition we have
two support phone lines (one micro,  one mainframe);  calls are frequently
forwarded (after screening by the main phone line) to the help desks.

Somewhere along the line we started logging questions (before I arrived). We
used the TIC system - make a tic mark for each question. A tally sheet is made
up according to broad topics (like 'languages' or 'stat packages') with no dis-
tinction between phone calls or walkins.  At one time we recorded the length of
time spent on a question.  A crude FORTRAN program ran some simple stats.  Now
that we've 'merged',  this is no longer done,  and the topics seem to change
daily (sigh).  (We saw that we had more walkins for mainframe support and more
calls for micro support).  We run a mix of full timers and part time student
help.  We distribute one page tip sheets called "How-Tos" (how to do something).

Because VMS has fairly decent on-line help,  we refer people to it whenever

Moral:  Support is directly related to the number of people on hand.  The more
people you have,  the more support and services.  You can always yank chaos
from the jaws of control.

Well,  that's a thumb nail sketch.  Any more specific questions, let me know.

+--------------------+     Richard Travsky                   __ /
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