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Track-It!

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The Track-It! Pulse blog is back after a brief interruption in its regular publication schedule. Over the last couple of months, I have been transitioning to being a homeworker. It was important that I was able to get comfortable in my new work environment and be handling incoming Incident tickets without affecting our continuity of service. I hope we succeeded in making the move as smooth as possible, but it did mean my activity in the Community was reduced during the transition. Predictably during that time, the UK support team did see a bit of a spike in incidents reported so it has been both a  busy period as well as an interesting experience.

 

In terms of activity for the Track-It! product from a support point of view, the big news is Track-It! v11.2 has been released. I thought I would have a play around with the Stop the Clock feature, since I have had numerous conversations with customers requesting this enhancement over the years I have been involved with Track-It!. There are also some other bits and pieces of hints and tips I wanted to share that we have picked up assisting customers upgrading to this version in the last couple of weeks.

 

Stop the Clock

I have to admit I have not logged a call for this feature since it has been introduced. This makes me very optimistic! So this is the first opportunity I’ve had to have a little play with it.

I went into Tools > Administration Console > Lookup Tables > Help Desk > Work Order Statuses and added a new one “Hold”. Straight away, I can see a check box labeled “This status stops the clock” so I tick this.

 

Next, into Tools > Administration Console > Lookup Tables > Help Desk >Event Policies, I had pre-configured four Event Policies, high, medium and low as well as the built in default enabled. The high, medium and low policies I had created are all linked to the Priority field, to corresponding Priority names that match my Policy Names. Each have different Due Dates, appropriate to each level of severity (all agreed with my fictional customer) and have different email notification rules, also reflecting how I wish to communicate the progress of the varying severity of Work Order. I edit the policy I have named “high” first.

 

eventpolicy.jpg

1. Service Level Agreements will often include an agreed Response Time for Work Orders. We’ve added the Date Responded into the Work Order form and this is where you can set the target time from when the issue is first saved.

2. The actual stop the clock setting and that this only affects Due Date.


So I have stop the clock activated on the three priorities lined to Service Level Agreements via the Event Policy interface.

 

I created a Work Order and made a couple of changes to it, saving it in an “Open” status each time. On my third save, I used my “Hold” status. Perhaps the end user was unavailable when I went back to them with a question or some hardware was out for a repair with a third party. As soon as I save with me on hold status selected, I am prompted;

 

warning.jpg


… and then for a reason;


reason.jpg


… then throughout the time my Work Order is on hold, if it is displayed on-screen, the title bar of includes a reminder, saying “Work Order is on hold. The clock has been stopped” though the Due Date in the Applicable Policies section of the Classification and Schedule tab does display the original Due Date set.


class_sched.jpg


This date/time is recalculated when a “non hold” Status is selected and the Work Order saved. I am prompted to fill the reason comments once more, if I so wish.

Please be aware of your settings in Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Administration > Operating Hours before embarking on this exercise.

 

Also, just a reflection from personal experience, I remember in a previous life as a Service Desk Manager in a UK outsourcing organisation, on various contracts we had very specific scenarios for when an issue could be placed on hold. This meant an undue proportion of my time was spent reporting on and reviewing on hold calls to ensure that agents were not abusing a “pending” status so that I was not alerted to any lack of progress of difficult and long standing issues. Now in outsourcing, the company providing the service is under a lot more scrutiny than many internal help desk arrangements, with financial penalties written into contracts for missed targets based on Service Level Agreements. I do understand the demand for the on-hold feature and why we responded to demand developing it. But I would say that I would much prefer to factor in “mean time to close” from previous years’ performance, rather than implementing an on hold status for many scenarios. But as long as the rules around its use are clearly stated both for your Technicians and your Users, and understood by them, hopefully you can implement it without being required to police its use too much.

 

The E-mail Monitor

With the 11.2 release, I was pleased to see that an email client such as Outlook is now not required for Track-It! to read incoming email and turn them into Work Orders. Most of the customers I speak to have their own Exchange Server set up within their organisation’s domain. In this configuration scenario, I have been suggesting customer use the IMAP setting. You must ensure that the Microsoft Exchange IMAP 4 service is running on the Exchange server to utilise this protocol.

Also, during set-up, you will note in Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Administration > E-mail Configuration > Incoming E-mail Configuration , there are some options under “Incoming E-mail Settings”;

 

  • Mark e-mail as read,
  • Delete e-mail from the server
  • Move e-mail to folder

 

It appears from my first few engagements to assist with this set-up that these are rules to be applied on completion. I have seen a couple of instances where we configure “Mark email as read”, mirroring how Track-It! would process email in the previous “Exchange Server” or “MAPI” configuration, but now it wants to process all of the old, read emails once more when I go to the Automated Schedule dialogue and click now. So just a tip, please housekeep all old messages to the email monitor out of the mailbox you have been using if you intend, as I suspect most customers do, to keep using the same mailbox you’ve always used for your email monitor’s primary mailbox.

 

Auditing

There has been a change to the audit components in v11.2 that require a PC to be running .NET 4 if you intend to audit that machine. This dependency has postponed one or two of my customers’ plans to upgrade. For one such customer it was necessary to carry out this little test.

 

If, for example, a group policy/login script is used to trigger audits, where the audit executable is not called from the Track-It! server, in this kind of configuration;

 

distributed audit.JPG.jpg

 

… you could retain the old version of audit.exe (or even older, audit32.exe) with the auditcifg.ini and the asset data generated by these components will still merge into the Inventory. track-I

 

So that’s it for this month. As hinted at earlier, you can now expect a regular post towards the end of each month. This post is intentionally early due to the forthcoming Christmas break.

I plan to continue the theme of version 11.2 in late January, depending on what activity we see across our support teams. If there is anything you would like me to cover then, or expand upon from this post, please do post a comment.

 

In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!

 

christmas_bells.gif

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Track-It! 11.2 was released in late November and is now available. Thank you to all of our loyal Track-It! Beta testers for once again kicking the tires and helping to get the product ready. You can learn more about the product by visiting the What's New area of the Track-It! site.

 

Some highlights of the new release are:

12-13-2013 2-23-13 PM.jpg

 

  • Manage SLAs and end user expectations with Stop the Clock.
  • Keep accurate record of time spent on tasks with the Work Order Timer
  • Track time to first response with the First Response SLA
  • Create integrations with other software/systems with the Track-It! Web Service
  • Detect installed anti-virus products, versions and whether definitions are up to date
  • Obtain regular PC inventory information from users who work remotely using disconnected audits
  • IMAP and Exchange Web Service support added for e-mail monitoring
  • Further refine which emails Track-It! will accept with the new White-list

 

 

We work hard to deliver things that our customers ask for and we hope you like this release of Track-It!

 

Now on to the next one!

 

Learn more about Track-It! help desk software at http://www.trackit.com

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I recently posted some options open to users of the Track-It! Inventory when they want to audit many computers in the environment, rather than doing it on each machine individually. I was keen to follow that up and think about what can we do to troubleshoot. Here’s some bits and pieces I've picked up working with Track-It! users in the UK…

 

What?

A manual audit

 

Why?

To ensure a machine can be audited at the most basic level

 

Where?

Preferably physically on the PC that needs to be audited, or via a Remote connection

 

How?

Take a copy of this file from the Track-It! server;

 

:\Program Files\BMC Software\Track-It!\Track-It! Server\audit.exe

 

Create a folder named “audit” somewhere on the PC you intend to audit. Save the audit.exe file there.

Run the audit.exe from this location. Because the file that contains all of your settings set in the Administration Console’s audit settings is not present (auditcfg.ini), you will be presented with an audit dialogue which you  click through.

manaudit.jpg

 

Once this is complete, your “audit” folder will contain a subfolder named “data”. Copy the contents of this folder to;

 

:\Program Files\BMC Software\Track-It!\Track-It! Server\data

 

… then run Merge Audit Data from within the Inventory Module of the Technician Client

mergefoder.jpg

So hopefully we have established that if we have removed all of the automated, environment influenced aspects of auditing, an audit can take place.

What next?

The Auditing configuration

 

Why?

To see if any information has been logged against recent historical attempts to audit

 

Where

The Technician Client, logged in as an Administrator in Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Inventory > Auditing

 

How

adminconsole.jpg

Click on Queue, then the Queue History tab. If you have a reasonably recent entry where the Status is Audit Failed, click it and then click the button labelled “View Extended Information”. Here’s an example where there was a problem with the Setup Credentials;

 

error.jpg

 

Go to Setup Credentials and click Test Login. Nb, this will only test these credentials on the PC you are working on, which might be fine. With errors like the one above, it’s probably just a matter of resetting a password in AD and entering the new password into Setup Credentials.

We might need to do further testing to ensure this admin user is the appropriate for the task at hand.

 

So what now?

An in depth test of the user set in Setup Credentials

 

Why?

To ensure it has the correct level of access to the machines you are trying to audit

 

Where?

The Track-It Server

 

How?

Log in to the Track-It! server using the account saved in Setup Credentials.

 

If the machine has been discovered but not audited before, can you connect remotely to the admin share and create a file? Click;

Start > Run > \\hostname\admin$ (swapping “hostname” for the name of the PC we are troubleshooting).

  • Are you able to create a file and a folder there when browsing from the server?
  • Is there are directory present named TIRemote?


Run registry editor and then click File > Connect Network Registry. Are you able to connect to a machine in your Inventory’s registry?

Run services.msc and right click on the server’s services in the left hand panel. Select Connect to another computer and enter it’s hostname. Can you connect? Can you see the Secondary Login Service ruinning on that machine?

Other things to check while logged in on the server… Early in the audit process, Track-It! goes to DNS to do a reverse lookup to resolve the IP Address of a machine wuth it’s hostname and then verify it. On the server, from the command prompt, type;

ping –a hostname

... after the (hopefully) successful ping by hostname, use the IP address returned in the previous set of results in;

ping –a ip_address

Ensure that both sets of results match. If they don’t, flush the cache in DNS.

Also, ensure that File and Print sharing is enabled on all your PCs and that port 10597 is open and accessible to the Track-It! server.

Next up we’ll look at the various log files Track-It! writes to and see how different auditing issues get logged to the different files. In the meantime, this article on our Knowledge Base gets referred to a lot when we are figuring what's not quite right when auditing;

http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/articles.asp?how=%20AND%20&mode=detail&kcriteria=3929&ID=4045

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Auditing

 

Over the next month or so, I am going to post some bits and pieces focusing on the Auditing functionality in the Track-It! Inventory module. First up, a number of customers identify they need to automatically audit their user’s PC. Track-It! can schedule audits, but there are drawbacks to this, identified below. So what alternative is there?

 

Scheduled Audits vs Logon Scripts

The audit can be scheduled to automatically run on specific days of the week, a specific day of the month or on a specific date, or a combination of these settings.

 

sched_audits.JPG.jpg

 

However, your user base may not all be logged in at the same time, some may be off site, using a laptop. There are quite a few reasons why a PC might not be available in the environment to be audited at the appointed time that Track-It! is configured to carry out this task.

 

One alternative to using the schedule set in the Administration Console is to use logon scripts, set up in Active Directory. The benefit of this is that you will no longer be queuing audits blindly for a machine that may or may not be available for auditing. This excerpt is from an article supporting an older version of Track-It! (hence references to Windows 2000) but they are still valid and the support team often shares them with customers who have identified that this solution is the most effective way of updating their Inventory;

 

To Implement Logon Scripts on a Windows 2000 Server (Active Directory):

 

  • The logon script itself must be present in the sysvol share (%winroot%\sysvol\sysvol\domainname\scripts) of whatever domain controller the user authenticates on. If you want to implement a logon script and you have replication set up among your domain controllers, save the script in the %winroot%\sysvol\sysvol\domainname\scripts directory on the primary domain controller (PDC) in order to replicate it across the other domain controllers.

 

  • Open the Group Policy snap-in:
  • Click Start  Run, type mmc in the Open field, and click OK.
  • Click File  Add Remove Snap-in from the Console's main menu.
  • On the Standalone tab, click Add.
  • Select Group Policy from the list, and click Add.
  • Either click Local Computer to edit the local GPO or locate the GPO that you want to edit.
  • Click Finish, and then click OK.

      

  • In the console tree, select Policy_name Policy/User Configuration/Windows Settings/Scripts (Logon/Logoff).
  • Click Scripts, and then double-click Logon in the right pane.
  • Click Add.
  • Configure any of the following settings that you want to use, and then click OK:

     o   Script Name: Type the path to the script or click Browse to locate the script file in the Netlogon share of the domain controller.

     o   Script Parameters: Type any parameters that you want to use in the same way that you type them on the command line.

     For example, if the script includes the //logo parameter (display banner) and the //i parameter (interactive mode) parameters, type;


//logo //i      

 

  • In the Logon dialog box, configure any of the following settings that you want to use, and then click OK:
  • Logon Scripts for: This box lists all of the scripts that are currently assigned to the selected Group Policy object. If you assign multiple scripts, the scripts are processed according to the order that you specify. To move a script in the list, select the script, and then click either the Up or Down key.
  • Add: Click Add to specify any additional scripts that you want to use.
  • Edit: Click Edit to modify script information such as the name and parameters.
  • Remove: Click Remove to remove the selected script from the Logon Scripts list.
  • Show Files: Click Show Files to view the script files that are stored in the selected Group Policy object.

 

Important Notes:

In the Active Directory Users and Computers dialog, it is recommended that you select a group, because it contains multiple users.

 

Please bear in mind, when logon scripts are triggering the audit, the data will not merge to the Inventory automatically. You will need to set the merge to run on a schedule. Go to Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Inventory > Merging > Schedule

 

Set to “Automatically Merge Daily” and set for a time outside of peak use times for the Track-It! application. Merging audit data can have quite an overhead on system performance. So if assets have been audited at logon at various points throughout the day, set the merge to run overnight and you will see updated record in your Inventory grid view the next working day.

 

Next

We’ll take a look at some hints and tips that are regularly used to troubleshoot the auditing feature.

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As a member of the Customer Support team, I thought it would be good to take a look at what has been trending over the last three months since we released Track-It! 11.1. I used this data to identify three areas and I would like some share some tips I’ve learned from working closely with our Track-It! user base on each of these.

 

Self Service

The Self Service portal had a makeover back in Track-It! 10 but there are some things you can do to make it “your own” with regional settings, logos and company branding. These articles in our Knowledge Base provide all you need to know;

 

Article ID: TIA05444

How to change the currency, date, time, and number format in New Track-It! Web

http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/articles.asp?how=%20AND%20&mode=detail&kcriteria=5444&ID=5573

 

Article ID: TIA06397

How to add a company logo to the Track-It! 11 Self Service page

http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/articles.asp?how=%20AND%20&mode=detail&kcriteria=6397&ID=6535

 

Article ID: TIA06383

How to change the company name shown in the welcome message in Track-It! 11 Self Service Web

http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/articles.asp?how=%20AND%20&mode=detail&kcriteria=6383&ID=6521

 

Inventory

Often, customers Discover Assets on a schedule in the Network Discovery tool. In theory this is fine but this can present problems, so here’s an approach to avoid them. Issues arise after multiple discoveries have been run without consolidation to the Inventory. We should be running “Manage Discovered Assets” after each discovery. To assist with running your asset discovery successfully, please consider this;

 

Either;

  •        Configure your automated discovery to notify a technician when it has completed in Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Inventory > Network Discovery > Automated Schedule,
  •         Or navigate to the above configuration dialogue to disable the scheduled Asset Discovery. If you choose to disable it, you can then manually run "Discover Assets Now" when you know that new equipment has been activated in your environment and you wish to add it to your Inventory.

 

admin discovery.JPG.jpg


Note that the interval between automated discoveries is set to one week (10080 minutes) to give me time to manage the last set of results for discovered assets. This is often set to 1440 (1 day) which I would suggest does not give sufficient time to carry out the task of managing the assets to the Inventory before the next Discovery

Email Monitor

We can troubleshoot most E-mail Monitor issues by analysing logs created on the Track-It! server in;


C:\Windows\Temp\Track-It-TIServiceManagement.log


... (there may be slight variations in that file name in different environments but you will note a file with a similar name and with the extension ".log" as one of the most recently modified in that location if you have been experiencing email monitor issues).

 

If you edit that file in Notepad, you may be able troubleshoot the issue. Here is a simple example;

 

2013-08-21T11:21:57.434 | SERVERNAME |  28 | ERROR | PlugInRequestMonitor | Numara.TrackIt.Core.ServiceManagement.ServiceManagementImpl.PlugInRequestMonitor+TIHostExecutor.Run() | Could not execute TIHost.exe.  Reason: Could not log user on: Logon failure: unknown user name or bad password |  |  |

 

To resolve this, you should log in to the Technician Client on the Track-It! server itself. The Windows account associated with the mailbox Track-It! reads from should be a local admin on the Track-It! server. You should log in with this account to troubleshoot E-mail Monitor.

 

Once done, please go to Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Help Desk > E-mail Monitor > Monitor Configuration (in this scenario either Exchange or Mapi is selected in the "E-mail Type" drop-down).

 

Correct the credentials you are prompted with after clicking the Settings button. You may have to reset the password for the corresponding account in AD and then enter the new password here.

 

If after analysing the Service Management log file, you are unable to identify the cause of the interruption, please attach this file if you wish to raise a call your local Support Team.

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I am very excited to announce that the new release of our award winning Track-It! Help Desk and Asset Management software, Track-It! 11.1 has been released and is now available for download.

 

This release was focused on more functionality in Track-It! Web, Track-It! Mobile and some key usability enhancements that should make customers very happy. Here are a few highlights from the release.

 

Track-It! Technician Client for Windows and Track-It! Web updatesRichText_Solution.png

  • Rich Text Solutions was added to the Windows and Web clients, allowing Track-It! technicians to generate solutions containing rich content, custom fonts, font colors and embedded in-line images. Work order resolutions now support rich text formatting as well.
  • Conditional Required fields are now available to allow administrators to required certain fields to be populated when work orders are closed.

 

Track-It! Web and Mobile updates

  • Two Track-It! modules, Training and Reporting were added to Track-It! Web. Technicians can now manage their end-users training course schedules and history from the web as well as have access to print and preview any of the Track-It! reports that are available in the system.
  • The Track-It! Web and Track-It! Mobile interfaces now support work order templates for commonly occurring work orders.

 

There are many other usability enhancements that were also included in the release. For more information or to download a trial, please visit the what's new section of the Track-It! page here.

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We recently had a few new partners asking about what type of resources it takes to setup and manage Track-It! I realized that it had been a little while since I had blogged about this type of thing so I figured it was time for a refresher.

 

Some time back, I started talking about this Zero to Help Desk in 60 minutes concept with prospects and partners and the idea was picked up by marketing shortly after. The reason this has resonated so well with customers and prospects is because as we all know, most IT shops are overworked and understaffed and the idea of saving time and money while also implementing a tool that helps save time and money, is a very welcome thing. Track-It! is extremely easy to install, configure and maintain and takes most users less than an hour to setup and configure so the tag line stuck. After that, it only takes a small part of one persons time to manage the system from then on. Many of our competitors have products that require a dedicated resource or multiple resources. That is not true for Track-It!  The product is specifically designed to be easy to manage and use.

 

Ease of Installation

Lets talk about installation first. The full Track-It! installer is the same one that you can download right now from BMC.com and try out in a demo mode. The demo is the full product with some limitations on the number of users that can log in, the number of devices that can be scanned and with a 30 day expiration. Track-It! includes the free Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express edition for customers that don't want to buy or cannot afford to buy the full blown MS SQL server product. SQL Server express works fine for most Track-It! implementations. The entire installation process takes about 15 minutes to install all the components. If you installed the product in demo mode and wish to then move to production later on, the process is very simple. When you purchase a license for the Track-It! product, a license file will be e-mailed to you. Once that license file is copied into the Track-It! server directory, the product becomes a live version. NO reinstall required.

 

Accessing the application

Help Desk Technicians can use the Windows client, Web client or Mobile client and Self Service end users can access the self service web portal. All 3 interfaces are included with the base product. Administration functions must be performed with the Windows client but it is installed on the Track-It! Server by default during the main installation.

 

Configuration

Basic configuration is simple. You can manually enter your users and create accounts or import them from your LDAP or Active Directory server. Once the users are in the system, a few other items like Priority levels, Work Order Types, Departments and Locations should be configured and then you are ready to start managing your IT Assets and using the Help Desk. This process takes a very short amount of time and usually takes most users longer to decide exactly which work order types and priorities they want to create than it does to actually create them in the system.

 

Immediate ROI

The entire system in a basic setup takes less than an hour to install and configure. If you have a complex environment where you want to split the IIS server apart from the database and Track-It! servers, things can take slightly longer but not much. If you are scared of systems that require consulting services and full time management, then Track-It! is what you are looking for.

 

Support and Online Community

If you have any questions or need pointers while installing or using Track-It!, there are two great places to get help.

First is the tech support portal for registered users located at http://support.numarasoftware.com

The second is the Track-It! Community on BMC.com https://communities.bmc.com/communities/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I would be happy to answer them for you.

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ideas.jpg

 

Track-It! 11 was just released 2 weeks ago and you may have noticed a

change to some of the ideas posted on the Idea tab here in the BMC Track-It!

community.

 

Several of those ideas had their status changed from Active to Delivered as they were included with the new Track-It! 11 release.

 

This is a very exciting time to be a product manager or a customer of BMC Track-It! For the first time there is true visibility into features that customers are requesting, which features customers like and don't like, which features are likely to go into the next release and ultimately which features are actually delivered.

 

Thank you to everyone who submitted an idea, commented on an idea and/or voted on an idea.

 

You are all helping to shape the product for the benefit of all users.

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Every so often I hear questions from customers and prospects about deploying a Track-It! Server in a test environment. Some of our customers have processes in place that require any changes, updates, patches, etc, be tested in a staging environment before being rolled into production. The question we usually get is whether it is ok to install a 2nd copy of Track-It! into this staging environment even though they only own 1 copy of the product.

 

The answer here is pretty simple. Yes.

 

If you own a copy of Track-It!, you are licensed for one production installation of the product and if your production processes call for a test staging environment, you are permitted to install a 2nd copy of Track-It! into that test environment as well. As long as the test installation is really for testing, then you have nothing to worry about.

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Are you interested in talking to other Track-It! users about how they use the product or about issues they struggle with in their IT departments? Are you interested in meeting and getting together with other Track-It! users in your area from time to time so you can discuss and learn face to face? Are you interested in discussing best practices, implementation strategies, reporting and other topics with another IT person just like you?

 

If so, BMC Communities can help you get started. You can utilize BMC Communities to start and manage your own local user group. We will help you set up the group, invite some members, show you around and train you on how to manage your group, then you take over from there. There are no costs to you or anyone in the group to participate and you can accept as many members as you would like. Use the community site to discuss topics of interest and then if desired, periodically set up local meetings in your area. 

 

We just recently started a new user group for Track-It! users in the Washington DC area. If you are interested in starting a local Track-It! user group on the community, let me know and I will help you get started.

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The Product Management and Marketing teams are pleased to announce the general availability of BMC Track-It! version 11.  We invite you to learn more about the new capabilities in BMC Track-It! version 11. With this release, we are taking a customer centric, concierge approach to ensure each and every customer has a seamless upgrade experience. If you're a BMC Track-It! customer, currently on maintenance, you'll be hearing from the BMC tech support organization shortly with instructions on how to upgrade.   

 

With this latest release, Track-It! 11 can help you more easily manage the help desk and deliver IT services on-the-go while enjoying security, administration and usability enhancements. 

 

More specifically, Track-It! 11 offers:

 

  • New Mobile Capabilities including Inventory, Announcements and E-mail Conversation Management making it easier for you to do your job on-the-go
  • New Web Capabilities including Purchasing, Library, Change Management and Work orders can now be accessed via a direct link
  • Scheduled/E-mailed Reports make it easy to keep track of important metrics and keep others up to date automatically
  • Usability and Security Enhancements making it easier for your IT staff and users to navigate the solution.

 

To learn more about BMC Track-It! 11

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I love to hear feedback from customers on how Track-It! has helped them and here is another great story.

 

This one is from Douglas County Libraries in Colorado. Great stuff!

 

http://www.bmc.com/news/press-releases/2012/CUSTOMER-SUCCESS-Library-Finds-IT-Easier-with-BMC-Software.html?c=n

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Over the last few months we have been testing an Ideation module for the BMC Community that would allow users to log their own requests for feature enhancements as well as review and vote on feature requests logged by other users. The Ideation module is a great way for users to directly input their requests, see comments back from other users or from the product teams here at BMC, track the progress of their request and see how it fits in order of priority with all other user requests.

 

ideas.png

 

Starting last week, a few product teams turned on the Idea module for their product communities and I enabled the option for the BMC Track-It! communtiy. In just a few days, it is already taking off and the participation and feedback has been fantastic. This is an exciting way for us to be more transparent and accessible to help our users across the world.

 

The new Ideation module for the BMC Track-It! Community can be found here.

 

I hope you all like the new Ideation module and will use it when you have a new feature suggestion.

 

Thank you for being part of the BMC Community.

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This week I'm in Europe visiting some of my colleagues here.  Skype is a wonderful tool - however, there's no substitute for looking directly into someone's eyes, spending quality time with your team and understanding how they work in their environment.  It's been a wonderful week so far and we've had a tremendous visit - great food and fellowship have been shared by all.  I'm also taking the opportunity while I'm here to meet people who aren't on the Track-It! team.  I'll be flying back Saturday morning and will be glad to be home with my family, but I will definitely miss everyone here - we've bonded quite a bit this week.  This trip has been a huge success for that reason alone.

 

I've been talking to the team a lot this week about Track-It! and some of the basic tenets of a Help Desk.  How does a Technician do their daily work?  How can Track-It! help them organize their work and optimize their Help Desk performance?  I brought this blog series on getting organized up to the team and discussed the basic premise of the series with them - that some customers of ours are buying help desk software for the first time and don't understand some of the ways that Track-It! can help them get organized and exceed customer expectations.  This morning, I discussed my idea for this week's post - the top 3 myths about organizing your Help Desk - with the team.  It was an interesting conversation and I centered it on coming up with a few key words that describe the essence of each myth.

 

Organizing your Help Desk is easy - there are some companies out there that say that it's easy to setup and run your Help Desk.  Well, it's not.  There's a huge difference between your software being easy-to-use and your Help Desk being easy to setup and organize.  Even following a very specific set of best practices and using Track-It! to manage your Help Desk is not nearly enough to debunk this myth.  It may be very easy to get started in a lot of cases, but best practices are designed to provide initial direction.  Problems seem to rear their ugly head when that initial direction is not pointed where you want to go.  And in that case, the further you move in that direction without any sort of course correction means that you will be that much further away from where you want to be.  I believe in being done before being perfect - however, there are some decisions that directly influence the way that you are able to measure your performance and status that must be made.  A lot of these decisions have to do with initial setup and reference data such as your Types, Sub-types, Categories, Priorities and other fields used as metadata in your Work Order.  Setting these up correctly is very important - you can't report on data that you don't measure.

 

Your Help Desk requires little maintenance - this is a myth of omission.  It is true that on a week to week basis, you may not need to do much maintenance on your Help Desk or your IT software, but you must always be ready to review your setup and find ways to optimize and improve your processes.  This is something that is sometimes easy to overlook for a lot of organizations - however, it might be the most important thing that you can do for your team and your company.  As the size and complexity of your organization changes, you must be ready to adapt.  Similarly, as the skill-level and awareness of your users change, you must also change your approach accordingly.  Failing to do so would mean that you are providing them with services and solutions that are not at all geared to their needs - and your satisfaction scores will certainly reflect that over the course of time.  Reviewing your data and processes on a regular basis will ensure that you are taking into account the changes that are surely coming around the corner and will allow you to protect yourself against failing to recognize just how significant some of them may be to your Help Desk.

 

There is one True Way to organize your Help Desk - no matter what anyone says, I do not believe that a single process can possibly work in every situation.  People and groups are too different in too many different ways to gain the same benefits from a single process.  Sometimes a company finds this out after implementing a new piece of software or process and finding that it doesn't provide them with the visibility into their organization or the ability to adapt to a changing environment that they need.  And sometimes they don't realize this until some time has passed.  Without flexibility in your Help Desk to change how Work Orders are processed, tracked and otherwise managed, you will be stuck in a very bad situation.  It is critical to spend time identifying what your most important needs are very early when establishing how your Help Desk will be organized.  Choosing a solution or process that is weak and rigid in the area that is the most important to your organization increases the risk of failure immeasurably.  Making this mistake can doom a project before it ever starts by not giving you any way of correcting the small mistakes that you are bound to make early on in your implementation.

 

The ease of use and flexibility of Track-It! is a great guard against these scary myths.  And our Track-It! user community is a tremendous resource for your questions regarding how to organize your Help Desk to suit your needs.  Recently I've seen some detailed discussions around this very topic - we're really happy that our customers are starting to get involved in the new BMC Track-It! community.  And I hope you've noticed that we've been jumping into those discussions, too.  After all, we love talking about help desk and asset management software just as much as our customers do - and we really love being able to help you utilize Track-It! to grow into a mature and sophisticated IT organization.

 

Well, another couple of days and I'll be hopping on a plane for about 20 hours of travel to get back home.  I've been Skyping with my wife and daughter but it's nothing compared to being with them in-person.  Of course, that's why I'm here in the first place - to show our team in-person just how much they mean to us.  And it's been well-worth the trip.

 

But I sure am looking forward to some big hugs when I get home...

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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...

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