A helping hand

5 Jul 2004

Not all software companies in Ireland are branches of multinationals. Over the past few years, the indigenous software industry has grown significantly with many small and medium-sized companies carving out niches for themselves. One such is Careworks. In business since 1997, Careworks employs 30 people in its offices in Dublin and the UK, and specialises in software for the healthcare and social services sector in Ireland and the UK.

“We supply to approximately 50 customers in the UK and to six or so of the health boards here,” says Deirdre Pender, software support manager at Careworks. Pender work out of the company’s offices in Sandyford, Dublin and part of her job is to manage the calls for assistance that the company receives.

Because many of those using the Careworks products are non-technical – social workers and so on – it is important to provide a comprehensive technical support service. For the first three years or so of the company’s existence this was easy to provide. Pender was able to track calls and emails manually, however as the company and its client base grew, it became necessary to introduce a degree of automation to the technical support service.

In 2000, Careworks decided to install Helpdesk from Touchpaper. Touchpaper is a UK-based company with offices in Ireland, Germany and North America, and specialises in IT service management and customer service and support solutions. “We had heard from some of our clients that they were using it for their helpdesk software,” recalls Pender. “And our managing director had seen it in use with another company here.”

As Pender recalls, the installation and associated training was relatively painless. “It was fairly straightforward,” she says. “Initially, when we got the system, there were only 10 of us here so it was very easy to install and get the users up and running on it. As time has gone by any new staff that come in are given an hour’s training. It’s that easy to use. With the new technicians it’s just a matter of showing them how to log in and access their case load.”

The software runs on a standard Microsoft Windows Server and the technicians access it via a standard web browser. This allows them to see their outstanding jobs and they resolve them via that interface. Pender as administrator, however, uses the Helpdesk desktop software. When a call comes in either by phone or email, Pender is able to log it and assign it to the appropriate technician. She can then use the software to analyse calls to see which ones are open or resolved and if any of the open calls have passed their due date for resolution. She can also use the desktop software for administrative tasks such as creating new users or managing passwords.

She can also break down the calls by technician, by type of problem, by product or even by module within a given product. These latter two categories are quite useful as they allow the company to identify possible software or training issues associated with a given product or module.

One aspect of the Helpdesk software that makes Pender’s job easier is the Infomine module. Here records of previous problems and their solutions are kept. When a call comes in and is logged, based on keywords Pender enters, the system throws up a list of similar problems and their solutions and Pender is then able to suggest these to the client.

The Helpdesk software is now vital to the efficient running of the company. “If I didn’t have it I’d be in bits,” jokes Pender. “Seriously though, just having one point where you can go in and get the information is ideal and if I’m not here anyone else can access the system and get the information they need.”

“I would certainly recommend it to other companies that need to offer technical support,” says Pender. “I find it’s great myself. I can pick a call and see where it is, what’s being done on it, who it’s been assigned to and again if something similar comes up you have the knowledge base there you don’t have to go through the whole procedure again of ‘What did we do? How did we fix it?’ It is all there in the call record. And Touchpaper has been very good. Any time we’ve had to call it has been very quick to come back to me.”