Help desk Solutions – A Review of Desk.com

desk-com-logo-white-thumbAre you shopping for a new help desk solution?  We’ve recently made a switch and wanted to write a quick review of the Salesforce desk.com product.  A little bit of history.  We have been a faithful (if not patient) user of the Spiceworks helpdesk platform for the past 4+ years.  If anything, we are a little picky about our tools especially when it comes to cost and features.  Before Spiceworks, we used Kaseya which was a good tool, but difficult to work with and costly for our organization (which at the time was a single site).

As our organization has grown, we needed a tool that would best allow us to handle multiple sites, multiple departments, etc.  After doing quite a bit of “asking around” and research, we found ourselves looking at the new desk.com product that is part of the Salesforce umbrella.  For those of you who who work in the non-profit space and don’t know about the Salesforce Foundation, you really should.  The Salesforce Foundation provides deep, deep discounts on their flagship products for 501c3 organizations.  For example, we are using the Enterprise Edition of Salesforce for one of our ministries at no cost to us.  We actually get up to 10 licenses for free, and additional licenses are deeply discounted.

Ok, enough about that.  Let’s talk about the Desk.com help desk product.  First, the cost.  Today, Salesforce provides an 80% discount for non-profits.  That’s right, 80% off.  Licensing is done by “agents”, not users… meaning you have have as many people as you want creating tickets as help desk users and you are only paying for your help desk workers, or agents.  For us, we started out with 9 agent licenses, which was enough to cover our IT and Facility Operations teams. To give you a scale of the discounting we received… the regular price for these 9 agents would be $4212 annually.  By doing a one year prepay, you save 25% on top of the 80% that you save as a non-profit.  That means that we got a $4212 solution for $626 annually.

Now $626 is not free, which means it is more expensive than Spiceworks.  True statement.  But when you start to compare feature sets, I think it’s easy to see how we made the switch.  Let talk about features for a bit.

  • Cloud based – Desk is cloud based, meaning never having to deal with putting it on one of your servers.
  • Multiple Departments – Desk works well for multiple departments in a single install.  This was difficult to do with Spiceworks, as you almost had to do a separate install for each department who wanted to use it. We now can do that with ease on a single install.
  • Integration – Desk has a ton of built in integrations with other tools.  You would expect this from a Salesforce product, and you won’t be disappointed.  For example, we easily integrated with HipChat (which we use for team communication) so that every time a new ticket is created, we get a message to our team in HipChat.
  • Mobile apps –  Desk just released a new version of their iPhone/iPad app which is really great.  But even without it, their solution is responsive and beautiful using the web version on a tablet or phone.
  • Customizable knowledge base – While users can still submit tickets by emailing the help desk, they can also use the portal and take advantage of the customizable knowledge base.  It’s pretty amazing and really does help prevent tickets from being created for common issues.
  • Email Workflow – Updating tickets generates and manages the communications back to the user, but even better it allows you to change who the email notifications are sent to, meaning you can add other people into the ticket at any time if you need to widen the scope of the conversation.
  • Tagging – You can create custom tagging for tickets, which can be driven by customizable rules.  For example we have tags for tickets that are “waiting on equipment return”, “waiting on equipment order”, “waiting on user”, or specific to a campus “Fort Worth” or “Dallas”  This allows us to filter based on tags.  The tags for location are automatically generated because the user creating the ticket has a campus associated with them.  Ticket tagging in this case is automatic.
  • Search – It’s search.  I don’t need to explain it.  But it’s awesome.
  • API – As you would imagine from Salesforce, it has a solid API which makes integration possible.  For example, we are using our existing login system for our staff users to authenticate them via our portal.  They login and then are automatically connected to the desk.com product using those credentials.
  • Usability – I’ve saved the best for last.  This is simply the easiest product I have used for help desk.  From a UI/UX perspective, they’ve done it well.  Need to see the details of a ticket?  Just mouse-over the subject line.  Need to send a response, update, and resolve a ticket.  One button.  Want to create a macro that will do a canned response to a certain type of problem, send it, note the ticket, and resolve it?  Easy.

Bottom line, we have been very happy with the transition to the new tool.  If you are looking for a flexible, easy to use, help desk product, you should take a look at desk.com.

Should I? What God has to say about the decision making process – Part II

disciplineAs a follow up to last weeks’ post on decision making, here are notes from Blake Holmes’ second message from the “Should I” series.  You can see points one through five in last week’s post here.  I’ve made many mistakes, and without good counsel, I’m prone to making many more.  God wants far better for us.

6) What is the collective counsel of my community? – “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is victory.  Proverbs 11:14″  (see also Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 18:1-2)
a) Understand that looking for counsel is different than looking for confirmation.
b) It takes everyone getting in the room. Avoid having many separate conversations.
c) Recognize the difference between sharing you idea and selling your idea.
d) Know when to open the circle.

7) Have I honestly considered the warning signs? – “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who forsakes reproof goes astray.  Proverbs 10:17″ (see also Proverbs 16:25, Proverbs 27:6)
a) Be mindful of the signs through His Word, the counsel of others, and the Holy Spirit
B) Don’t think you are the exception to the rule.
c) God’s way is always the best way.

8) Have I considered the possible outcomes for my course of action? – “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1″ (see also Proverbs 14:15, Proverbs 27:12)
a) Do the “long math”
b) Assess the potential risks
c) Have a contingency plan

9) Could this decision jeopardize my integrity or hinder my witness for the Lord? – “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. Proverbs 25:26″ (see also Proverbs 10:9, Proverbs 20:7, Proverbs 22:1)
a) Work towards the center rather than flirt with the edge.
b) Would this pass the “newspaper” test? What if this decision was on the front page of the newspaper?  How would you feel about it?
c) Keep short accounts. When you blow it, it is okay to say you blew it.

10) Is there a better option that would allow me to make a better impact for God’s kingdom? – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls Proverbs 11:30″
a) Don’t always take the easier option.
b) Ask “What story could God be writing?”
c) Don’t assume that because it is hard it is not God’s will.
d) Understand how God has uniquely gifted you.

Should I? What God has to say about the decision making process.

disciplineWe made lots of decisions every day.  Should I eat pizza for lunch?  Should I buy that new gadget?  Many of the decisions are small, but other decisions can have a huge impact on our lives.  Should I marry this person?  Should I buy this house?
What does the Bible say about making decisions?  A lot actually.  Today at Watermark, Blake Holmes shared how to apply Biblical wisdom to decision making in Part I of his series “Should I”.  Here are some quick take-aways. (NOTE:  You can listen to the entire message HERE)

1)  What biblical principals should inform my decision?

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:6″

a) What does the Bible say about that?
b) Who can help me better understand God’s word?
c) Make sure you’re not the only one who holds this opinion of what God’s word says.
2)  Do I have all the facts?
“He who gives as answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. Proverbs18:13″
a)  Ask a lot of questions.
b)  Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
3)  Is the pressure of time forcing me to make a premature decision?
“Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet errs. Proverbs 19:2″
a)  Don’t let the fear of missing out drive you.
b)  When in doubt, leave it out.
c)  Have you made sure you have all the information?
4) What are the possible motives  driving my decision? 
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.  Proverbs 16:2″
a) Acknowledge that you have blind spots.
b) Honestly assess your motives both good and bad.
5) How should past experiences inform my decision?
“Like a dog that returns to it’s vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.  Proverbs 26:11″
a)  Look for patterns of behavior. Triggers.
b)  Understand how your family background informs your thinking.

“Things I’ve done wrong and things I’ve done right” – Lessons from Tommy Nelson

tommynelson

“Things I’ve done wrong and things I’ve done right”

This morning as we kick off our annual staff retreat, Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church came to bless us with lessons learned from decades of ministry.

The essence of ministry is your own personal quiet time. Do basic things well ALL of the time.

  • Tommy gets a new bible about every 18 months and begins marking it up. He sits down 3 times a day to spend time in the word. The Bible is the wisdom of God in your hand. The greatest advantage is having God’s truth. You can only be a parrot of others for a while. You need to know it.

Study in depth.

  • Read others. Read Schaffer, CS Lewis. Have a deep reading life.

Know your spiritual gifting.

  • God has made you to strike a certain key. Learn to strike it. Know what you do. Know who you are.

Protect.

  • Protect your nights. Protect your days off. Protect your weekends as best you can.
  • When you go home, rest and replenish. The American culture has turned night into day. We have no rest. As a result, Americans have invented burnout. God didn’t make you to be this way.

Play every day.

  • Look forward to what you delight in. What do you love? Ecclesiastes says 7 times to enjoy life.

Lay hands on no man too hastily.

  • Don’t put someone in leadership based on initial impressions. You are saved by grace, you progress by legalism. You earn it. You can’t be 4 out of 5. A bad leader will sink you. Make certain it is the real deal.

Be friendly with all men, but don’t make friends too quickly.

  • Certain people will hide who they are to use you. People earn the right to your council and trust. Be careful with the council of your friends.

Teach.

  • The reason you are in the ministry is because you delight in God, you delight in people, and you delight in bringing the two together. Do it. Don’t be too covered up in duties to do what you delight in. Invest your time in those who want to get after it.

Allow in your ministry for the stars to rise.

  • Your inside track needs to be for the stars. 1 out of 5 people in your church won’t be obedient no matter what you say. But there are some who will lead no matter what. You can’t frustrate them no matter what. Open up the inside track for them. Otherwise they will find someone who will. Churches tend to be Kmart. We only teach at the lowest level. It shouldn’t be. Parachurch and seminaries exist because the church won’t teach deep truth to those stars that want it.

Do the work of an evangelist.

  • If you aren’t winning people to Christ, you and God aren’t on the same page. If you don’t focus on evangelism, you build big heads instead of burning hearts. Make fishers of men, make burning hearts. Seek and save the lost.

Know the difference between things that must not change and things that must.

  • Don’t change you doctrine, your purpose, your standards. There are things we don’t want to be “relevant” in. You are anchored to the rock. Does the audience change? Sure. Your methods must change.

Take the position of God and draw it out.

  • Don’t avoid sections of scripture. Bible exposition keeps you honest. You can’t avoid it and you can’t hide behind it. Then put your bible into compartments, don’t build your own and shove it into.

Christianity is deep magic.

  • It is the most amazing story ever. Because of that, you run your ministry on magic. You pray. God does amazing thing. Ministry is not just imposing morality. We are asking God to open hearts and set captives free. Do you feel like you have to “resort to prayer”. You should pray first. Be in touch with the magic of the story.

Do not sacrifice your family.

  • People go to church until someone puts on a better show. Don’t sacrifice your family to put on a better show. Don’t make your kids hate your church because it took their daddy. Keep your family together. When you are home, be home.

Beware of money.

  • Money will get you in trouble. Stay away from it. Money has screwed up a LOT of ministries. Don’t touch it. You are in an occupation that is not known for great wealth. Money is the last thing on the agenda. You have to be smarter than most. You may have more money in your family tree than most. You won’t make money like other smart guys like you can make. Can you live with that? Can you go to your 20 year reunion and be ok with that? Doing ministry for money is an abomination.

Beware of the “killer d’s”

  • Deception, disqualified, distracted, division, discouragement.
  • You have to get along with people, don’t get shipwrecked.

Beware of adultery.

  • We are an occupation that lends itself to adultery. Whatever part of our brain that responds to spiritual truth is what responds to romance. Encounter leads to enjoyment which leads to expediting, which leads to expression which leads to euphoria which leads to experience.
  • If you think you can’t do it, you are in trouble. Watch your heart.

Stay conservative in your theology and liberal in your outreach.

  • Don’t be quick to change things doctrinally, but in the area of ministry we want to throw our money away liberally in mission and evangelism.

We aren’t going to establish utopia while we are here.

  • Things are going to get worse and we are going to be combatting it.

Ascend to the ministry, don’t jockey for position.

  • Most of you are going to move around. Don’t be sitting around ready to jump to a new position. Don’t do that. Move because you are so good at what you are doing and because you can grow something else with what you know.

Don’t say anything ever that you are afraid of being repeated.

  • It’s scary when you are worried about something that you have said.

Never try to cover things up

  • Christians don’t tolerate scandal. Deal with it and make it public. Don’t hide it.

How to be Peyton Manning, and why it matters.

Seasoned veterans in the technology field know that we are often forced to deal with incomplete information.  Regardless of efforts to be on the same page with senior leadership, decisions will be made without input from IT and we will be left trying to figure out how we will make it happen.  It can be a mad scramble.  Being reactive instead of being proactive is never fun.  That’s why it is important to be Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning, one of the most successful (and record setting) quarterbacks in NFL history, is known for his ability to read the defensive scheme and call an audible.  Need more proof?  Read this article here.  Manning Master of the Audible.

That’s what I tell my team regularly.  We often stand at the line of scrimmage not knowing exactly what is coming at us.  It might be a full out blitz, and none of us want to get a concussion…  So what do we do?  We look at the defense and change the play.  It’s expensive, it takes more time, and it’s risky.  Certainly it would be better to know exactly what is coming so that you can just run the play as called, but that rarely happens.  Peyton is a highly paid player because not only can he throw the ball with accuracy, but because he can see what’s coming and execute the offense in spite of what’s coming.

IT leaders must realize that they are valuable because they survey their surroundings and make the best decision possible given what they see.  This is true for every person on the team.  Is your leadership giving you the ability to make that decision?  Are you allowing your team members to call audibles?  If not, that needs to change.  Just ask Peyton, here are the words from his Offensive Coordinator… “Hey, if you see something out there, you call it. You change it and I have your back,'” Manning says. “Some coaches tell their quarterbacks, ‘Hey, you can change the play, but it better work.’ That is not confidence. That is a threat.”

“He sees those things so well that I can’t even explain it,” Indianapolis right tackle Ryan Diem says of Peyton.  Can that be said of you and your team?  Are you training your team to always run the play as called in the huddle, or to be flexible to change right before the ball is snapped?

You, like Peyton, are more valuable if spend time in the film room.  You need to know what might be thrown against you, you need to read the defensive scheme, you need to read minds.  It’s maybe the most important thing you can do.  Be flexible and be ready to call an audible.

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