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Track-It!

21 Posts authored by: Benny Morrison Employee
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I like to think in terms of stories here at BMC.  Stories that we can tell that spell out exactly how we can help our customers.  Not just features we could implement, defects that we could fix or combinations of products that could serve as a solution.  But stories that allow you to imagine yourself in a particular situation and see how the Track-It! family can help you.

For example, meet Jim.  Jim is a senior help desk technician on campus at the local university.  They have Track-It! deployed - it services their faculty, staff and students and has done so for several years.  They have upgraded successfully a few times and they are on the latest version - Track-It! 10.5.

Jim has a few tickets assigned to him that were entered earlier this morning via Track-It! Self Service for various minor issues.  Suddenly the help desk gets a call from a demanding user - a professor with an office in a building a block away from the building that houses the IT department on campus.  His laptop cannot print and he has a lecture in 25 minutes for which he needs handouts as it is the last lecture before mid-term exams.  This has happened before and technicians have solved his problem by a series of random steps including plugging-in and unplugging peripherals and rebooting his laptop.  However, this time there is no time for him to go through that process - and he is being demanding.  Jim decides to take a chance on the issue and since a few of his Work Orders are for users in the same building as this professor, he runs out the door and hurries over to his office.

When Jim arrives he talks briefly with the professor to try and find out a few details of the problem - but it's pretty simple.  His laptop simply hangs up when trying to print anything.  The professor has already checked the print queue for the laser printer down the hall and it's empty - so it's not the printer.

Jim pulls out his smart phone and opens the ticket via Track-It! Mobile Web - this is the ticket that has been re-opened this morning for this issue because it has never really been solved in the past.  Jim reads all of the information in the ticket very quickly, including all of the notes that have been entered previously on the issue.  Jim switches to the Search feature in the Mobile Web and tries a few simple searches like "error printing", "cannot print" and "print problems".  Nothing looks promising - he frowns and steps back for a moment to survey the desk in the professor's office.  He notices a gray USB cable connected to the laptop that runs under the desk out of view.  Tracing the cable, he finds an old external hard drive that the professor uses for locally backing up his files - and a bell goes off in his head.  He seems to remember that there are issues with older drives from this manufacturer - he's not sure if there are any printing-related problems, but it's worth a shot.

With a renewed purpose, Jim searches the Solutions in Track-It! Mobile Web for the model number of the hard drive and quickly gets a couple of results.  Bingo.  One of the solutions mentions a lot of problems that can manifest if the BIOS on the hard drive has not been updated to a newer version.  Just as the professor says that he's running out of time and has to go to the lecture hall, Jim asks him for a couple of minutes and grabs the BIOS update for the drive from the manufacturer's web site - the link was in the Solution in Track-It!  Jim runs the BIOS updater utility and it tells him that the BIOS version on the drive is very old - it probably has never been updated.  Thankfully, the process to update the BIOS is a quick one and the two talk about the issue as the drive updates.  Jim explains his theory to the professor - that other technicians were able to get his laptop to print by unplugging the old hard drive but didn't ever connect the dots and realize that the drive was the root cause of the issue.  In just a couple of minutes, the drive reconnects to the laptop with the new BIOS installed.  Prompted by Jim to try to print the handouts for his lecture, the professor clicks the Print button in the toolbar.  They are warmly greeted with the sight of the print dialog for just a few moments and then it disappears.  Around the corner outside his office, they hear the welcome sound of the laser printer start to print out a copy of the handout.  The professor breaks into a wide grin and laughs - he thanks Jim heartily for the quick turnaround on the ticket and for being able to fix the root cause of the issue.  He grabs his laptop and runs out the door to go make copies of the handout before going to the lecture hall.

Jim breathes deeply.  That was a great service call - anytime the help desk can satisfy a demanding user such as that professor, it's been a great day.  Jim goes back to his smart phone and taps the button to insert this Solution into the Work Order.  He then uses Track-It! Mobile Web to close the Work Order and returns to his list of open Work Orders to see which ticket he should go take care of next.  After deciding on the most logical Work Order to work on next, he puts his phone back in his pocket and walks toward the elevator - whistling a tune and wearing a big smile.

Not that long ago, this would have been a difficult service call for Jim.  Before Track-It! Web, he would have had to use the Technician Client to search for Solutions before he left his office - and he didn't have time to do that in this case - plus the clue of the single USB cable led to him finding the real root cause of the issue.  The professor would not have wanted him to install the Technician Client on his laptop and he was finishing up his handout anyway - Jim would not have had access to his laptop to do that had he even been able to setup the Technician Client at all.  With Track-It! Web, things got much easier - no Technician Client to install to be able to access the Work Order and to be able to search the Solutions.  However, he still didn't have physical access to the professor's laptop and he couldn't use a computer in a nearby office because no one was in their office to give him access to their computer.  Track-It! Web is a great interface but is certainly not optimized for smaller form-factor devices like Jim's smartphone.

With Track-It! Mobile Web, Jim was able to access the Work Order, search the Solutions module, insert the proper Solution into the Work Order, close the Work Order and find out what other work he needed to do - all from his phone and without needing access to the professor's laptop.  Jim was thrilled at the simplicity of it all - work the problem, record the notes on the work he did and move on to the next customer.  All on the go.  Highly efficient.  With extremely fast response time for the customer.

We're excited about stories like this that can be told about the Track-It! product family.  And we're continually improving the family and the products within it.  You never know - the next time Jim goes to visit a customer, he might have even more functionality available that he can use to help them.  We are not even close to being done telling the Track-It! story to Jim and the other help desk technicians that rely on us to help them perform their job every single day.  Not by a long shot.

And that sounds like a whole lot of fun to me.

-- You can reach me at benny_morrison@bmc.com or on Twitter (@BennyMorrison) or Google+ --

Benny Morrison

Being a community

Posted by Benny Morrison Employee Mar 21, 2012
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This past Fall, I took a trip with my family and evil dog to my parents in Georgia where we celebrated Thanksgiving, football and napping - not necessarily in that order.  I had a great time and really needed a little bit of time to rest and reflect after the push to get Track-It! 10.5 released.  The Track-It! team worked their tails off and so far the release has gone very smoothly.  I think everyone needed a break and some time to decompress a bit.

The small town I'm from is not just small - it's tiny.  3 traffic lights.  A few streets that define a downtown area.  One school in the county.  A Hardees and a Huddle House along with a smattering of local restaurants are your only dining options.  Of course, that doesn't include the 1,728 places on the weekend that sell barbecue - almost always pork and a sweet but tangy sauce.  That's one of my favorite things about going home - I can't get good barbecue like that around here at all.

The one thing that my home town is known for is the high school football team.  The coach has been there since 1972 and is number 2 all-time in wins in the country - not just the state of Georgia, but nationally.  He's a legend and so are the Red Devils.  My Dad sits in the press box next to the referee for each home game and runs the switchboard for the scoreboard.  Yes, he's the guy that hits the buttons that tell you that it's the 3rd quarter, the home team has the ball, it's 2nd and 4 and the score is 35-0.  I generally sit next to him when I'm fortunate enough to be there for a game.  I enjoy getting to spend some time with him and also getting to see other people in the press box that I may not have seen in years. 

For me to see a game usually means that we are in the playoffs and it's around Thanksgiving as we always head up there that week to see my parents.  Fortunately, we're always in the playoffs and almost always are at home because of our high ranking.  This year, we had to travel to play on the road the day after Thanksgiving to play another top team.  I was a little bit miffed as I was looking forward to seeing them play - but my Dad asked me if I wanted to take one of the chartered buses to the game.  I was excited.  I haven't taken a chartered bus to a game since a state championship game in 1986. 

Now, that might sound odd - being excited about getting on a bus for 3 hours to go see a high school football game.  But that's life where I grew up.  My earliest memories are flooded with visions of sitting in the stands watching them play.  I can name winning scores and players from 30 years ago without thinking about it - and so can everyone else who grew up or lived there.  It's how we define ourselves there.  It's how others define people from my hometown.  I can stop for gas within hundreds of miles of my hometown while wearing a hat or shirt with the school name on it and there's a decent chance that someone will comment on it.  It happens again and again no matter where I am. 

Of course, there is one important thing about riding a bus to the game that had me excited about the trip - the food.  Everyone who rides the bus brings food.  And none of it is for them - it's for the bus.  During the entire 3 hour trip down to the game, people walked up and down the aisle with platters, buckets, Tupperware and foil-wrapped packages containing barbecue, chicken, pies, cakes, cookies, sausage biscuits and everything else you can imagine.  I probably gained 10 pounds on the way to the game.  And it was awesome. 

There is only one word that I can use to describe where I'm from - a community.  It's not a suburb like the one I live in today.  It's not a place to go visit to have a lot of things to do as you would in a larger city.  It's a place to come home to.  A place where the people know you and are happy to see you.  Going home always takes me back to a time years ago when my life was different - and the memories are plentiful.  That's what a community is.  And the reason a community exists is because there are people that make it up - the people whose participation shapes the look and feel of the entire thing.  Without the people, it would be a crossroads.  A place you would simply stop to fuel up because there would be no reason to stay.

We have a place for like-minded Track-It! users to share their thoughts and ideas.  To ask questions.  To become a community.  You can go to the BMC Track-It! Community site by visiting https://communities.bmc.com/communities/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it and dive right in.  We are monitoring posts there and responding to them - we want to help our customers grow along with us as we continue to add features and functionality to Track-It!  We would love for you to join us there.  Ask us questions - you might get an answer from someone here at BMC or a customer of ours.  We want to grow this space and to feature it as a major part of the Track-It! community.  I'm excited about the possibilities going forward and about the potential for connecting with our customers in new ways. 

For those of you who have already participated on the Community forums, how has your experience been so far?  What would you change about how they are structured?  Any suggestions for new sub-forums or other ways of improving the experience?  Are we participating enough?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these questions and anything else you'd like to share.  Feel free to comment on this post below and let me know what you're thinking.

It was great to go back home.  To see people I never get to see - family included.  It's nice to know that my community will always be there for me - whenever I can find the time to go visit.  We want to create the same type of environment for our Track-It! users, but we need your help.  Use the forums, tweet, like/post on the BMC Facebook page - just connect with us.  We want to hear from you. 

As for me, the drive back was rough with Evil Dog panting and whining the entire way.  Not to mention the Thanksgiving traffic as we got closer to home. I didn't rest much on the trip and there wasn't much downtime, but that's OK.  The memories were worth it.  And so was the food.

Mind you, I'm not complaining - I'm just saying that I've got some exercising to do.


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I wrote this just before Christmas this past year - I think it's worth another read here on the BMC Track-It! Community.

Well, it's that time of year again.  The holiday season.  The end of the year generally means that lots of people in the organization are taking time off to celebrate the holidays.  Some companies shut down for a week or two during this time as well - I used to work at one of them a long time ago and people looked forward to those couple of weeks off with way more giddy anticipation than they ever had for any presents they received.  Those two weeks off allowed us to get re-energized and we came back to work with a renewed focus.  We generally worked very long hours and traveled quite a bit so the downtime we could spend with our family and friends was more valuable than anything else. 

Numara doesn't shut down for the holiday season, but plenty of people are taking time off.  I'm planning to take my first non-working vacation in a while next week and will enjoy hanging out with my wonderful family and evil dog.  Some members of the Track-It! team will be taking time off while others will be here in the office - hard at work on the next version of Track-It!  One team member won't be taking a single day off - but that's because he took 3 weeks off to travel after Track-It! 10.5 was released in October.

Of course, all of this means one thing - if there are people working, there has to be a crew working at the Help Desk to support them.  They might be in a really great situation where they are on call and can stay home if they aren't needed.  However, other organizations - maybe most of them - likely have a crew of people in the office throughout the holiday season.  It's a lonely time of the year to be at work for a lot of people.  I would imagine that there is never a shortage of work to be done wherever you are, however - there certainly isn't here.  Trying to play catch-up for the busy Help Desk technician or administrator is the norm these days - having an opportunity to catch-up on a few projects during a time of reduced call volume is a rare treat and can help you beat the doldrums out of those long days.  There are a few things that you might want to look at with respect to your Track-It! installation that might help you fill some of that time, too. 

Upgrade Track-It! - if you're not running the latest version of Track-It!, maybe it's a good time to upgrade to Track-It! 10.5.  The newest version contains new features like Retire Asset, Email Conversation Management and Track-It! Mobile Web as well as plenty of minor tweaks, bug fixes and enhancements to help our customers in their day-to-day work.  If you haven't moved to at least Track-It! 10 yet, you'll also get Scheduled Work Orders and the brand new Track-It! Web with the new and improved Self Service module if you upgrade to the latest version of Track-It!  The reduced call volume should provide a great opportunity to upgrade if you haven't had a chance because of all those open Work Orders we've been helping you track.  At the very least, if you can't upgrade right now you could create a new virtual machine and install a demo of Track-It! 10.5 to check all of those cool new features out.  You never know - you might find that one of them is a feature that you can't live without and end up upgrading anyway.  You can download the demo here or you can go to http://Demo.TrackIt.com from your desktop browser, iOS or Android device to check out Track-It! Web or Mobile Web.

Look at your reference data - too many times we get caught in that bad place.  Where we entered some test data when evaluating a product, moved into production with it and never had the chance to reevaluate that data.  Do you have reference data such as Types, Subtypes, Categories, user-defined lookups, Departments or other data in Track-It! that you've been meaning to clean up for a while now?  A lot of people do and just don't have the time to clean up their data - it's a chance to apply best-practices and what you've learned in using Track-It! so far to align your Help Desk properly with your metrics and users.  I wouldn't say this is fun, but it will certainly make the time pass much quicker and will be very valuable to you and your organization.

System Health and other system administration - do you have messages in the System Health log that point to potential issues that could be addressed?  System Health in Track-It! can point you toward issues with your database or other areas of the system that need attention and fixing these issues could result in significant usability or performance gains for your Track-It! installation.  There may also be other system administration functions that you've been planning to do but haven't had the time.  Adding more resources to the Track-It! server, swapping out disk drives in the server for higher performing drives or re-working your backup strategy are all common tasks that we seem to never have the time for.

Search the Knowledge Base - a great way to spend some downtime is to search the Track-It! Support Knowledge Base - once you log into your support profile at http://Support.NumaraSoftware.com, you can click the link on the left to search the Knowledge Base to your heart's content.  You might find some tips and tricks to help you out of a jam or you might find some references to best practices that can help you structure your Track-It! environment properly for your organization.  There is a lot of really useful material out there and we would love to see everyone take full advantage of it.

I've been telling my team to enjoy their family over the next couple of weeks and to make sure to get those batteries re-charged.  It's time to get ready for a tremendous 2012 - we've got some killer plans for Track-It! in the upcoming year and believe that our customers will be very excited about what's in store.  I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season - I truly hope for all the best for you, your family and your friends this year.  Make sure to spend time with those you love and try to get a few extra minutes of shuteye if you can to help catch-up on your rest.  2012 is coming at us like a freight train and there will be no rest for the weary once it arrives.

I'm getting sleepy just thinking about it...

-- You can reach me at benny_morrison@bmc.com or on Twitter (@BennyMorrison) or Google+ --

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I get a lot of correspondence from customers from time to time regarding Track-It!  Lots of it is filtered through Technical Support, Sales or Product Management, but in becoming more visible through this blog and other social media presence, I'm getting more and more direct contact from our customers.  And that's great - I love it.  I might gently nudge someone toward the group here at Numara that can help them better than I can, but sometimes I'm the person they need to be in touch with and I can help them directly.

A while back, I goofed up.  Badly.  I got an email with a question about Track-It! Web from a customer via our Feedback link in the Module Switcher menu at the top left of the screen in Track-It! Web.  As I've gotten older, I've found that relying on my memory is a dangerous proposition.  I've taken to capturing anything and everything about my life in Evernote and rely on it heavily at work for meeting notes and at home for personal information, interesting blog posts, recipes and much, much more.  I read the email, which contained a simple question and I made the mistake of trusting my memory instead of looking up the answer. 

Whoops.

The question was whether or not you can configure the number of rows that are shown for each grid in Track-It! Web.  I replied with what I remembered - that you cannot configure this right now, that we plan to address it and that I was surprised that this was the first person that I had heard of who was asking about this particular issue.  Then I went on my merry way, whistling a tune and thinking that, although the answer wasn't what they wanted to hear, at least I gave them a thorough answer.  I also asked some questions about their environment and the drivers behind them wanting this functionality - I like to do this anytime I have a few minutes of time from a customer if I can so that I can get valuable information that helps us drive Track-It! forward and enrich it with features that really do help our current and future customers.

A bit later, I happened to drop by the desk of one of the Track-It! developers and casually mentioned the question and my answer.  His response was that currently you absolutely can configure that in Track-It! Web and Track-It! Mobile Web.  I knew that we had planned on implementing that feature, but didn't think we had exposed the configuration for it in the product as of yet.  So I sent the following email to the customer who sent me the question:

...you actually *can* configure the page size of the grids in Track-It! Web (and Mobile Web, too).  If you look in the Numara.TrackIt.Application.Web.xml file, you'll see the configuration for Track-It! Web.  This includes a host of configurable options for the grids and there is a link to an article in the file that details what you can do.  One important note is that the grids are listed by number in the configuration file - the article will tell you which grid is which.  One of the configurable options is, indeed, the page size - and you should be happy to learn that you can change this *per grid*.  This points to our strategy - to really try to get inside the heads of our customers and provide solutions that work for everyone.  Just having a single page size configuration option wasn't enough for us - we wanted to handle all customers and all of their needs. 

We even have two different kinds of paging modes - including one called fast paging.  For lots of our customers who have millions of Work Orders in Track-It!, a traditional paging model might cause performance issues when looking at grid views that return lots of Work Orders - like 'All Work Orders'.  This is because the database queries that return the number of Work Orders for the pagination information might not perform well if their database is not tuned and maintained properly.  When setting a grid to fast paging mode, the pagination bar is changed to not show the total number of Work Orders or the exact pagination information - instead it shows the current page number and a link which one can use to retrieve the total number of Work Orders if they want that information.  If you don't click that link, the query that returns the row count for that grid is not executed and the potential performance issue is gone.  In our minds (and the customers we discussed this with), it shouldn't matter *that much* whether you have 3,344,125 Work Orders in 'All Work Orders' or 3,344,126.  However, it's extremely important to know that you have 13 Work Orders in 'My Work Orders'.  And having the freedom to choose how you want that displayed is what we wanted our customers to have.

I wrote this post because I wanted to point out a few things.  First, I wanted to make sure that this information regarding the configuration of the Web grid views was exposed to people - we think that you'll be really happy with the level of customization that is there.  Secondly, I wanted to reiterate just how much we value our customers in terms of their opinions and just how much we think about what we're doing within Track-It! as it relates to what our customers need to do every day.  And finally, I wanted to encourage you all to get connected with us.  Whether you mention @bmcsoftware in a tweet, visit the BMC Track-It! Community, like our Facebook page, comment on blog posts like these or connect with us individually - which you can do with me using any of the methods at the bottom of this post - we want to hear from you and create a connection. 

So, my apologies to the customer that sent the question that prompted this post.  I've gotten to the point where I can't rely on the old noodle anymore for everything.  And I'm OK with that.  I do sometimes wish that I could forget some of the millions of facts about old high school football games, old golf courses I used to play and who the drummer was for that band that put out that one record when I was in junior high school and then broke up right afterward.  If I could do that, I could shove some more useful work-related things in my head.  Because my problem couldn't be that I'm getting older.  Right?

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

-- You can reach me at benny_morrison@bmc.com or on Twitter (@BennyMorrison) or Google+ --

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Recently we celebrated Christmas and for those of us with small children, that means a day of watching them ignore the toys you bought them to play with the boxes those toys came in.  We have a choice when watching them.  We can either get angry after realizing that we could have bought them a bunch of crumpled paper and cardboard or we can smile and watch them, content in knowing that they are happy and having a great time.

As difficult as it may be, I generally take option 2 and just enjoy my time with my daughter as she plays with whatever she wants.  This Christmas was very interesting for me, however.  She's getting old enough now to start getting some really interesting gifts and I love watching her using them for the first time to see how she reacts.  As a techie, I love putting technology in her hands and seeing how she reacts to it.  I especially like to just hand her something and see how she figures it out with no instructions from me at all.  She's only 7 and sometimes it takes a little help from me to get her pointed in the right direction, but usually she's able to pick things up pretty quickly.  It didn't take her much time a couple of years ago when we first got our Harmony One remote to figure out how to use it effectively.  Actually, I think she picked up on how to use the remote quicker than we did.  This year, there were a few gifts for her that I couldn't wait to have her open and starting playing with.

She may be 6, but she is a voracious reader.  Instead of taking tons of books with us on trips, we decided to get her an eReader.  After weighing all of the choices, we decided to spend a little more and get her a Kindle Fire so that she could play a few games, read books and go to a few kid-friendly websites as well.   So far it has worked out extremely well - we've put a number of free ebooks on it and she is devouring them rapidly.  More importantly, she's not begging to play any games on it - she loves just having all kinds of choices when she wants to read something.  We haven't even gotten to the point of talking about any other rich content that the Fire supports such as magazines.  She would enjoy that sort of thing but Amazon provides such a large number of free ebooks that we can put on the device that we don't need to worry about any other content right now.  I would rather see her reading something like Treasure Island, her current favorite, than some magazine anyway.

I handed her the Fire.  She squealed.  We smiled.  With no prompting, she looked around the device until she found the power button, press it and slid the bar on the screen to unlock the device.  Within a few moments she had played with the navigation, found Angry Birds and tapped on an ebook to begin reading it.  No ifs, ands or buts.  Just that quick.  She started highlighting phrases, entering notes about highlighted passages, setting bookmarks and playing with the font size all without my intervention at all.  I was impressed - not just with her being able to pick the device and use it so quickly, but with how intuitive the interface is on the Fire.  I have an Android phone and tablet and, even though the Fire is based on Android 2.3, the user interface is totally different.  Amazon designed it to mimic a bookshelf and they explicitly place applications and content such as books and videos on the bookshelf together.  She had no trouble understanding this or in navigating the device at all.

The second gift I wanted her to play with was a Kinect for our Xbox 360.  Now, I'm not a gamer.  We had two Xbox 360 consoles for our house and we didn't even own a single game for them.  I bought them used a number of years ago and we use them to stream media to the TV sets in two rooms.  They worked extremely well from the start and have grown along with us as Microsoft added support for Netflix and other new content that we have ended up consuming over the years.  I didn't just get the Kinect sensor for my daughter - I got it for our whole family, thinking that it would be something that we could all play with and have lots of fun with together.

The Kinect sensor came with a couple of games in a bundle for a really good price and we bought a couple of other games as well.  I hooked up the sensor the night before and did the proper setup that was needed so that we didn't have to deal with an impatient child on Christmas day who couldn't wait to play with their new toy.  The next day, I turned on the Xbox, put in one of the games, sat back and watched.  The screen told her to wave to engage the sensor and when she did a hand appeared on the screen.  She immediately moved her hand which in turn moved the on-screen hand over a menu choice.  She then paused, noticed that a circle around the on-screen hand began to fill up and then watched as the choice was selected when the circle was completely drawn around the hand.  Done.  From that point there was no stopping her and she needed no instructions whatsoever.  It was amazing to watch how quickly she came up to speed on the interface.  In general, the games are all similar in the way that they function as well - this helped her navigate menus and game options easily no matter what she wanted to play.

The final gift that interested me was a gift from my parents - it was a set of two messaging devices that looked like a pair of old cell phones with a full Qwerty keyboard.  According to the package, you could send messages between the devices and they looked pretty cool.  However, I worried about the fact that there were a large number of keys on the device that were not part of the keyboard.  To me it looked pretty complex.  We opened the package later that day and tried not to slice our hands off with the sharp, thick plastic of the blister pack.  I put some batteries in the devices and opened the instruction book.  The 47 page instruction book.  To describe how to send "text messages" between the two devices.  Wow.  I started reading and immediately got a headache.  The more I dug into the book, I realized that the devices actually did a number of things other than just sending messages between each other.  However, I couldn't figure out how to do them.  I took the devices, pointed them at each other and dove in.  It took a while, but I finally was able to send a message from one to the other - but it was a hollow victory.  I had to create a profile on each device.  Each profile had to have a secret key that matched.  Each time I turned them on I had to re-enable the profile and make sure that I could see the other device.  To send a message, I had to press 7 keys just to get to the point where I could type the message and then hit 2 keys to send it.

Wow.

Now, you might be thinking that my daughter waved off this toy because it was too complex to use.  In fact, she loved it.  After I showed her how to use the devices, she carried them around for the rest of the week, sending messages to anyone she could con into holding the other "phone".  The problem was that I had to give her so much instruction on how to use them.  The interface for the devices was just not intuitive at all and contrasted against the easy-to-use Fire and Kinect, the difference was magnified greatly. 

I really started thinking about Track-It! and what it takes for a customer to use it.  Track-It! is a complex piece of software because it does a lot for the customer on a lot of fronts.  We've tried to make it as easy to use as possible and especially in creating the new Track-It! Web and Mobile Web solutions, we spent a lot of time ensuring that existing customers were able to just pick them up and use them.  I was very proud several months ago when we held a bug bash for Track-It! Mobile Web and some people from another product team who had never seen Track-It! before in their lives were able to use the Mobile Web during the bug bash with no instructions at all.  To me, that speaks volumes about the ease-of-use of the product in certain areas - areas that we have developed recently and where we have placed a very high priority on the interface and how easily it can be navigated.  We've also gotten rave reviews from customers who have been using the new Mobile Web and that's really what is important to me.  Making Track-It! easy to use is in the forefront of our thoughts now as we look at new features.  Implementing them in the Web or Mobile Web makes that easy to do as we are building on a platform that was created to provide a simple, clear view into your Track-It! data.

I would be interested in hearing from you regarding the things that make software easy to use for you.  Is it the platform on which it is built?  Is it the user interface?  Great performance?  Wizards or guided tasks in the interface that help you learn how to perform common tasks?  A great community around the software?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

It's time to get back to work.  I've gotten used to the Kinect sensor on the Xbox and have caught myself waving at the TV while watching regular channels more than once.  I guess that's a sign that using the sensor is pretty natural to use. 

Just don't expect Track-It! for the Xbox 360 anytime soon...

-- You can reach me at benny_morrison@bmc.com or on Twitter (@BennyMorrison) or Google+ --

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I am a task management nerd.  I admit it.  I wasn't always this way, but several years ago I decided to take the step from fairly organized to overly organized.  I was primarily motivated by some conversations with my wife about things that needed to be done around the house or things that were part of some long-term projects for our family.  As we discussed the status for some of those items, I realized that I had a huge problem - I knew exactly where I stood on getting those things done, but my wife had no clue.  And how could she possibly have been able to figure it out?  My lists of tasks were complete but were scribbled on sheets of paper and I had the same problems then that many people do today.  I had no access to my tasks unless I was in my office at home, no way of easily conveying the status of various things to anyone else, re-organizing projects or even a list of tasks meant re-writing all of them on a different sheet of paper - the list of problems with my organization method was longer than my task list.

I started researching organization methods - Getting Things Done (GTD), Zen to Done (ZTD), Covey's methods.  I looked at a lot of them.  And quickly realized one thing - I believe that any one method works for one and only one person.  Period.  Even well-established methods like the ones listed here only exist because their creator refined them over time, put them down on paper and shared them with others.  People who follow them to the letter of the law might find - as I have - that deviating from those methods slightly to create your own personal management system works best for them.  I've taken elements of many different methods to form my own system and I continue to tweak mine as I learn more about myself and as I see different ideas from other systems and other people.

One central tenet of any system is how you choose to store your tasks.  Hey - writing them on paper is perfectly fine.  Many people do that with great success.  However, I want mine stored electronically and I want them backed up regularly.  I shudder to think about the nightmare scenario of having hundreds of projects and tasks in a notebook and then losing that notebook or having it be destroyed somehow.  I've tried many different online task management systems and I also wrote my own system that I used for a long time.  All of them have their pros and cons when I look at them in the context of my management system - some have way more cons than pros, too.  Some people can't live without subtasks - I don't use them.  Some people use tags for everything and others just want a few fields that they can use to classify their tasks.  Some people use due dates for tasks and others think that practice is evil.  There are enough online tasks management web applications out there to suit everyone and their needs if they look hard enough.

One of my main requirements for my system is constant access.  I want to be able to see my tasks from any browser - especially from my mobile phone.  For the last several years this has meant having a native application on my phone that synchronized with a central repository to provide me access to my tasks.  The ability to add a task as quickly as possible wherever I am is paramount as is the ability to see what I need to work on and be reminded of it at any time.  Most of the time, there are many native applications available for any one web application and there rarely has been a clear-cut best-in-class choice for me - I've typically tried them all and chosen the one that had most of the features that I needed.

Now I'm seeing a new trend - one that we've predicted here on the Track-It! team for some time.  A number of online task management sites are rolling out HTML5 mobile web sites that work with the new HTML5 local storage APIs to provide full off-line capabilities for your tasks instead of providing a native mobile application.  With these HTML5 applications, typically when you first login to their site, you are asked if you want to allow synchronization of your data.  Once you agree, your data is downloaded into local storage in your browser.  The mobile web application then works with the data in the browser local storage and this data is synchronized with their site on some recurring basis.  This affords you the same ability provided by native applications - it allows you to work with your tasks when you don't have network access.  And the huge benefit is that this mobile web application works on all of the major mobile platforms - you don't have to write several different native applications to support all of your customers.

In my mind, the advantage to this model has always been around the platform and architecture of the application.  A native mobile application relies on a public API and, in the case of a third party application, that API may not provide all of the functionality that the full web site does.  A cloud-based, HTML5 application that is deployed alongside a full web site should have access to the same information and resources as the full site.  I actually have seen an instance where the mobile site for a particular product did not support certain functionality provided by the full site because it used their public API instead of another way of integrating with their site.  I immediately dismissed the site as a possibility for my use because of this - there's not much excuse for this approach.  Now, I'm not saying that a mobile web site should have every bit of functionality as the full product - actually, that's not the case at all.  A mobile web site should be carefully constructed to expose the key functions that a user would need to access on the go.  I've seen mobile web sites that were very difficult to use because they didn't adhere to this rule.  The point is that an HTML5 mobile site should be constructed so that it can provide any functionality that the user might want or need - that it shouldn't be limited by the architecture of the system.

We designed Track-It! Mobile Web from the ground up to do just that - to expose the key functions that a Help Desk technician would need as they work on tickets every day.  We are looking at other functionality that could be included in our Mobile Web that customers and others have asked for.  From my standpoint, I'm thrilled because we are not limited in what we can put in the Mobile Web.  Sure, we have to rethink certain things - our users are in love with the grids in Track-It! and they are way too heavy to render in a mobile browser - but re-thinking them means that we are able to come up with solutions that work on a smaller form-factor device.  It certainly doesn't mean that we have to figure out how to provide the functionality in the product - just how it will look and feel as our customers use it.  And that's a beautiful thing.  We aren't wasting our time re-writing things so that they work in the mobile web.  Instead we're spending lots of time with customers and other internal resources figuring out exactly how our customers use the new mobile web and asking them what they think will make it work even better for them every day.

I'd like to know if our customers would like to see off-line support for Track-It! Mobile Web.  Do you think this would help you each day?  Do you find yourself without network access and needing to manage your Track-It! work queue often?  Do you think this would help you if your company has strict policies that cover whether or not you can access Track-It! Mobile Web from outside your firewall?

I'd love to hear your answers to these questions and any other thoughts you have on this topic.  Post a comment here - send me a tweet - post on the Track-It! Forums - whatever you want to do.  I'd love to hear from you!

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