Tools of the trade
I have been trying to work out how we are going to keep in touch with people off on 4 different sites a day if not more and the logistics of not missing issues across 8 sites now. It’s so important we continue to work as a team. This is for a number of reasons:
- So if someone is off we can cover
- When people call up the helpdesk we sound like we know what is happening
- So that nobody feels isolated when off site
- Professional development
And probably a whole load more that I have forgotten. So I have decided to write a blog about the tools we use, or will use from January.
Helpdesk: Web Help Desk
We have been using WHD since I started, other then Impero, it is the only thing I have kept. I wont lie, I probably would have switched to another by now (FreshDesk is my favourite) but cost has been an issue, and how to purchase for a UK School. WHD is not cheap (Its about £450 a seat) and then a yearly support cost.
However, it does what it says it does. It copes with the different locations, and allows us to sort people by their email TLD, which makes life a bit easier. It’s not that easy to use – but the ability to write tech only notes is very useful. We work on a strict ‘no ticket no help’ policy. We have too. We support 2300 people, so our helpdesk is a critical tool, and the one thing that keeps me using WHD, is that it hasn’t let me down yet!
We use several tools for the phones. We all have mobiles, nothing fancy – but it saves us having to phone school receptions and have them find a techie on their site.
Obviously the phones can also pick up emails, and the helpdesk has a mobile version as well, although I may be the only one who uses it!
We have a physical landline dedicated to us at the school, which is piped through the PBX to call all our desk phones – but we don’t give out this number – we use Switchboard Free, which ironically, isn’t free for us, to distribute calls if the landline is not answered. They give us a 01527 number as well, so nobody knows.
It also means we can work remotely, so great for DR if Bede’s is down for any reason because the switchboard also redirects to mobiles if we are busy on the phones or out of the office – we have also just increased our capacity to have two incoming lines on the same number as well. If nobody answers, calls are sent to mobiles in a specific order. It also helps us in the holidays, allowing us to all be out of the office.
The great thing about Switchboard Free, is there is an IOS app (even works with my apple watch), a webpage which allows me to see live incoming calls, and more importantly, those we have missed and much more.
We have live chat for our clients, via livesupporti – just a chat option on a page (which will also pipe up via a windows client)- but today I also wanted to set something up for the team, with some many people in so many different places, including me now being in a different office – I wanted to make it as easy as possible to talk, banter, ask questions and a moan if required!
I found a great tool – that is free to boot! Hip Chat allows unlimited amount of people to join your private chat area, create rooms and more. It comes with Windows, iOS and Android apps as well as being web based, and allows file and link sharing. For a small month amount of $2 each, you can even share screens and more. I can’t wait to launch this with the team on Monday, and see it being a great tool in keeping the team as one. Possible uses outside of the team exist as well, for example we could allow each school to have access to a room where they can pop in and out for chat, probably more for admin staff, but lots of possibilities.
Professional Development – Wiki
The great thing about the team is we have people with different strengths and different ability levels, we also have 8 different networks that are constantly evolving, we don’t sit still! It’s therefore a real challenge to ensure any staff member (and any of them could answer a call for any site) can quickly get the answers they need, without having to bother someone else.
So I downloaded Media Wiki, and installed it locally – which I plan to open up shortly, when I am sure it can be protected – and the team can create their own pages or edit others with additional information to ensure all our notes are in one place.
The critical thing will be making sure all the team add to it, so thats my job to make sure it happens, and I have made sure I have followed that up with targets for the team.
All of these tools help us work together better as a team, and I have now got most of them reporting to me live on my TV screen which is great for me too! What do you use? How can we do this better?