For many small to medium organizations (SMB) IT support is little more than sending an email to the IT person, or seeing them in the hall, or lobbing in a phone call and hope he/she is in. But as the organization grows the "seat of the pants" approach can lead to chaos. Many SMBs start with a simple email-based IT Help Desk setup, but as they grow and as service requests increase, the quality of service drops drastically. The IT support team gets into a fire-fighting mode, just resolving requests to avoid service failure. After losing track of a few requests, or having software update tracking get out of hand, the IT group can quickly lose credibility in the organization.
Enter Office 365 SharePoint Online - a great platform for a ticketing solution
SharePoint Online has many of the functions that allow you to build a ticket tracking application. You can build a simple issue tracking solution using basic features, or you could take some deep SharePoint training and eventually build a full featured help desk solution if you have weeks to do it. Another option is to hire a consultant to build it, or start with a full featured template like SP IT Portal from SP Marketplace. This article provides a look at the features of a ticket tracking system, and suggestions for how to use SharePoint Online to deliver it.
Basic Function: Issue Tracking
For organizations that already have Office 365 SharePoint Online for collaboration and sharing, the IT support team can implement a simple issue tracking list and exploit the SharePoint issue tracking list and workflow capabilities to track issues throughout the support life cycle. Such a SharePoint based issue tracking list is good enough for teams that receive phone calls about product and service issues. A technician can simply create a new ticket within the SharePoint list, and key in the information as per the phone conversation or copy in email content. Now that the issues are tickets in a SharePoint list you can assign them, report on them in list views and setup notifications for newly arrived tickets to the IT Staff. This is the simplest level of implementation using basic SharePoint capabilities, but also a big step forward from email chaos.
On a next level if you have the SharePoint expertise, you can setup workflows to automate email notifications to end-user or assigned staff. Beyond this point the do it yourself ticketing solution becomes more complex.
Ticket submission options for the end-user
There are several options for your end-users to directly create tickets in SharePoint Online. But not all are supported by standard SharePoint Online:
Let’s look closer at the options and the work it takes to enable them.
Instead of copying and pasting email content into tickets, wouldn't it be nice if users could submit tickets directly into SharePoint. You can do this by giving them a link to the ticket list new item form. From here they can submit tickets directly via a SharePoint form if they are a SharePoint user. An issue with this, is that in standard SharePoint, the end-user will be able to see all ticket fields including those that you want only the IT Staff to see. To get around this you need to add a third party forms package to limit who can see what and how the form is structured.
Some organizations want to have their employees submit tickets to a predefined email address such as email@example.com. Unfortunately, Office 365 does not allow incoming emails into a list. This is where third party products come into play. On our website we have an area of Add-ins that are third party products which add capabilities to SharePoint Online. Cloud2050 is a product that takes incoming emails and allows you to create list items from them. So with this you set it up to parse an email and create a list item. You do need to know how to set up parsing in the product.
The third option is to actually develop an end-user portal from which they can submit tickets, access a knowledge base and see the status of their existing tickets. The great thing about this is that it promotes self-service (users helping themselves) and they can also see IT Announcements, get supporting materials like reference cards or even link to tutorial videos. Obviously there is a lot of work to create this portal, and you also have to set the permissions correctly to limit users to viewing only their tickets.
The SP IT Portal template comes pre-setup to support all types of issue submission.
Ticket Management and Reporting
Using SharePoint has great advantage when it comes to ticket management and reporting. You can create list views with their great filtering, sorting, group and summing capabilities to view my tickets, overdue tickets, tickets by category, or any other view to manage tickets. Also you can export your ticket list to an excel spreadsheet and build your own reports. Additionally is you have higher levels of SharePoint like E3 or Enterprise on premise, you can take advantage of the advanced BI features available.
The SP IT Portal Portal takes it to the next level. It has many predefined views, a built in dashboard which is configurable to your needs and a pre-built Excel worksheet with charts, pivot tables and more.