I'm leaving in a couple of days for Europe for a work trip. Many years ago I worked as a consultant and logged my fair share of frequent flyer miles. However, these days I don't really travel that much at all. I'm very content to spend my time near home with my wife and daughter - and my evil dog, Dixie. There was a time when I could pack for a business trip in record time without forgetting anything - but those times are long forgotten. These days I need a checklist to get ready to go to the grocery store or I will forget to put on my shoes or grab my keys.
In packing and getting ready this week, I used a set of tasks in my organizational system to make sure that I didn't forget anything. Some things are a bit more important than others - passports and travel adapters being a couple of them - and I could put myself in a bad spot if I forgot some of those critical items. Task management is something that you can adopt in every part of your life or you can just keep track of certain aspects of what you do each day. For example, some co-workers keep a very detailed task list for work but they don't try to keep track of the errands they need to run or the things around the house that need to get done. I keep track of tasks in every aspect of my life - I've come to depend on them to ensure that things that are important to me, my family and my colleagues always gets done.
The bottom line is that there is a lot of overlap between a task management system and software used to manage a typical help desk. The process that you go through to enter, update and close a Work Order can be very similar to the way that you track one-off and repeating tasks for work or in your personal life. If you consider a Work Order and a task to be synonymous, you can easily see that there are a number of concepts that are very similar when comparing Track-It! to a task management system.
Workflow/lifecycle management - In both cases, the key to each system is how each one handles the workflow of information. The transition of a Work Order from Open to Closed often times mirrors the way that a task gets completed. For a Work Order, using fields like Type, SubType, Category, Priority and each user-defined field allows you to store many different types of information that can control the workflow through your help desk. In a task management system, fields such as context, priority, due date, tags, location and notes provide users with the ability to search, group and manage their tasks in many different ways to support numerous types of workflow requirements. In both cases, the metadata in these fields can be used to provide a number of different views into Work Orders or tasks to show you a clear picture of the work to be done.
Reporting and Metrics - The ability to view trending data and other types of reports is a key component of either type of system. Often times I have taken the time to determine how long it took me to complete certain sets or types of tasks just as you would measure the average time it takes to close Work Orders in Track-It! If you can't measure something, you can't improve it - it doesn't matter if you're talking about your Help Desk or your task list for the weekend.
History - Being able to search old Work Orders is incredibly useful when researching how to fix a problem or when trying to figure out how many times you've helped a particular user during a specific time period. I also search my completed tasks in my system to find out when a particular task was completed, how many times a task has been scheduled or other important information that might help me with my current tasks. Being able to see the Work Order history in the Asset and Requestor tabs in the Work Order Detail window as proven to be an extremely popular feature in Track-It! through the years. Having quick and concise access to this type of information is integral to being organized and efficient each day.
Integration with other modules/systems - Task management systems have long been notorious for not having integration with other types of systems, but things are getting better in that regard. These days, when evaluating a task management system you are likely to find that it integrates with systems such as Evernote or Springpad to store notes about tasks or with social media sites to provide better visibility into your task list. Track-It! has always had powerful internal integration between modules such as Help Desk, Inventory, Software License Management and Purchasing as well as external integration with systems to extend the functionality of the product with add-ons. Having the ability to integrate smoothly with other tools allows us to provide a set of extensible solutions within the Track-It! product family to our customers. Similarly, I have found that the best task management solutions that I have evaluated give me numerous options for integrating with other web applications that I use every day.
At its core, your Help Desk isn't a lot different from a task list. You still have individual tasks that must be completed and you need some visibility into them. Track-It! provides a strong family of products to help you manage your Work Orders and provide your customers with excellent service. Getting organized always starts by focusing on creating a foundation that you can build on - not shoving toys into a closet and shutting the door or cramming a handful of paper into a drawer and closing it. As important as your Help Desk is to your organization, you owe it to yourself and your users to build on a foundation that is rock solid. Maintaining a professional, organized Help Desk starts with understanding why it is important to be organized in the first place. Once that is clear, it is easy to see the benefits that getting organized with Track-It! can provide for you and your users.
Well, it's time to start working on that checklist again. And some more laundry. And more packing. It should be a great trip and I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone over there.
As long as I don't forget all of those chargers...