Just three years ago, the IT department at American Airlines Federal Credit Union (AAFCU, Dallas, $4 billion in total assets) tracked all help desk calls manually on a two-foot by three-foot whiteboard with space for no more than 45 project requests. AAFCU knew it couldn't continue to operate like that.
"We were letting the projects manage us, instead of letting us manage the projects," says Jesse Davis, management information systems supervisor at the credit union. "It was an unacceptable process to use, and we needed to change immediately."
As the financial institution grew, the demands on the help desk increased. "Through the years, AAFCU had started to increase employees and the number of applications we supported. As our branches grew, it became critical to find a help desk software product that would allow us to effectively utilize human resources and channel our efforts and energy," Davis continues.
After vetting vendor proposals in 2000 and 2001, managers within AAFCU's IT department, along with the former management information systems supervisor, decided to purchase a solution from Toronto-based Help Desk Technology. The original HelpStar software version 7.47 was purchased in 2001, and in April 2004, AAFCU upgraded to version 8.0.
According to Davis, AAFCU initially selected the software because it was an out-of-the-box solution that had a reporting/tracking system for producing reports and allowed all credit union employees to interface with it. There was no need for Help Desk Technology to even visit AAFCU - the software was shipped to the credit union and installed on a Windows 2000 server by its IT department without any training. No platform changes or PC changes were necessary.
At first, HelpStar only was used internally by the credit union's six management information engineers to track their work. In 2002, all employees in management information systems started using it. But - until the application was rolled out to the 41 branch and regional managers in 2003 - managers could check the status of their requests only by e-mailing or calling the help desk staff, explains Davis, who adds that HelpStar has two distinct interfaces. The IT staff use a desktop interface that has been installed on their desktops; managers, directors and accounting employees utilize a Web-based interface.
The HelpStar software has enabled the help desk to respond to technical problems experienced by the 450 employees at any of the credit union's branches, Davis says, but the value of the software extends beyond AAFCU's initial goal to gain control over help desk calls. He explains that the HelpStar solution is also used to archive all service request histories for reporting and reference purposes, and to proactively identify recurring problems and manage IT projects ranging from switching budget systems to outfitting new offices. Weekly reports generated with the software shape everything from productivity evaluations of each IT staff member to establishing departmental priorities, Davis adds.
He points out just one shortcoming of the software - Davis would prefer more flexibility in organizing problem types. "Although we can consolidate some of the problem types, we can't combine the historical information. For example, if we delete 'printing,' it deletes all the information behind it," he explains. "So my word of advice is to think carefully what name you want for problem types, because if you make changes - consolidate or delete - there is a problem."
Still, Davis touts the solution's benefits. "This software has more than exceeded our goals," he states. "This is the ultimate management tool. This software allows me to manage our projects and the user's request, as well as manage my employees."
- Institution: American Airlines Federal Credit Union (Dallas).
- Assets: $4 billion.
- Business Challenge: Empower help desk to manage project requests.
- Solution: Help Desk Technology's (Toronto) HelpStar software.