How to evaluate and select help desk software

There are so many options when it comes to selecting IT helpdesk software.  How do you know which software solution is right for your business?  Helpdesk software is such an important investment to any business, and by its very nature, it will change and affect the way that you do business, for better or for worse.  Take the time to not only understand the software, but also the way you configure it, implement it, and evaluate it.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that all software is similar in scope and ability.  The marketing of solutions on vendor websites is just an indication at best.  The only way to really understand whether the software is going to work is to download it, install it and use it.  A web demonstration is good, but never rely on this method alone.
Below are some general guidelines to help you evaluate HelpMaster.  If you would like any assistance during your evaluation period, please contact PRD Software or your local HelpMaster distributor and we'll be happy to help.  Remember that during your evaluation period you are entitled to unlimited free technical support, so if you have any installation, configuration or usage issues, please let us so that we can help you.

1. Get the team involved

Helpdesk software is team software - it's been designed to be used by workgroups of people, all sharing information, jobs, notes and other data.  One of the best ways to evaluate HelpMaster is to get the entire helpdesk team involved.  Hold a meeting to discuss what you're looking for in Helpdesk Software.  Talk about your current situation - what works, what doesn't work.  Discuss where you'd like to be and the kind of service you would like to provide to your clients.  Write down some of your service and support goals.  Have a team understanding of what you would like your helpdesk software to accomplish.  Treat the whole evaluation as a team exercise, after all, everyone will be expected to use the software if it is chosen. 

2. Import any existing / legacy helpdesk / client data you may have

One of the best ways to evaluate HelpMaster is to use it with your own familiar data.  Use the powerful import wizard to import your client lists, helpdesk jobs, knowledge base articles, sites, contact details etc.  Once you have your own familiar data to use, HelpMaster will make a lot more sense to you and your staff members.  If you need help with importing data, please refer to the helpfile, or contact PRD Software or a local distributor for help. 

3. Spend time on your design

All helpdesk software require configuration to make it work.  Things like "Priority codes", "Job Types", "Issue Hierarchies", "Resolution codes", "Knowledge Base types" etc. are all basic requirements of all such software.  Spent time with your team to discuss what codes you use.  Don't just use codes that you've always used - perhaps it's time to re-think your classification structures and approach.  Learn what the software can provide, and take time to understand the implications.  The codes that you use and the way you configure the software will have a big effect on the automation capabilities and efficiency of the reporting system. 

4. Get people using HelpMaster

The best way to evaluate HelpMaster is to get people using it!  Install HelpMaster Desktop on each workstation within your support environment and encourage staff to give it a go.  Use it in a "live" environment.  Log calls, update data and really get to know how the software performs in a real setting.  Get people using it and regularly seek feedback.  The evaluation version of HelpMaster is able to be used by all of your team members in a distributed environment for as long as you reasonably need.

5. Provide basic training for your staff

The HelpMaster helpfile contains much information and screen-shots of how to use HelpMaster.  Moreover, it contains a useful  "Quick start guide" that will be useful to both users and system administrators of the software.  This helpfile is a good place to start to learn how to use HelpMaster.  Use the Index and search features to find what you're looking for. 

6. Get your clients involved

Once you start using HelpMaster, ask your clients what they think of the new level of service they are getting.  Do they like it?  Are they getting better information and response times?  Get a feel for how your evaluation is affecting the rest of your organization.

7. Get feedback from your team

Stay in touch with your team.  Meet regularly to discuss how the evaluation is going.  Seek to understand where HelpMaster fits, where it doesn't fit and how your staff are coping with the change to automation and helpdesk best-practices. 

8. Get feedback from other companies using the software

There is nothing more insightful than actually speaking to an existing user of the software.  Cut through the vendor marketing, sales-speak and web site information, and get to the real-life, real-use feedback.  Ask the vendor to send you references to check.  PRD Software is always happy to refer prospective clients to existing users of our HelpMaster software.  Just let us know.

9. Run some reports

Once you have entered some data during your evaluation period, try running some reports.  HelpMaster ships with many different reports that provide summary, detail and statistical reports.  Running and viewing reports will give you an insight into your support operations and how your team is affected.  Find out where your support bottle-necks are, who is a team player, who is taking too long to respond to calls.  The reports will help you to determine if HelpMaster is going to provide the data you need to run an efficient support desk.

10. Check the community

Any decent helpdesk software should have a healthy community eco-system.  This means forums, discussions, tweets, blogs etc.  When users of the software contribute to the community, this is a healthy sign.  When the vendor also participates in a meaningful way, this is also great.  Check out the HelpMaster discussion board, the news and the blogs at our community page.

11. Get help from your local HelpMaster re-sellers or PRD Software, or go on-line

Need help during your evaluation?  Talk to your local HelpMaster re-seller, or PRD Software and we'll be happy to assist you.  Additional help resources are available through the PRD Software website, including a world-wide on-line discussion board for HelpMaster.  Talk to other HelpMaster users.  Discuss installation, configuration, or share ideas about helpdesk best practice.