Help desk delivers around-the-clock external support

Help desk delivers around-the-clock external support

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

After fielding calls from Defense Department agencies that buy aviation parts but have problems operating their computers, the Defense Supply Center'Richmond in Virginia this spring launched a 12-employee help desk for external support.

The group handles between 50 and 60 calls a day, with 10 to 15 of those calls requiring action, said Marion Price, End-user Computer Support Branch chief at DSCR. The center, staffed by contractors, runs around the clock, and users can contact the staff through the Defense Logistics Agency and DSCR Web sites, as well as by telephone. Assistance is free.

The customer support Web site, at, gives users frequently asked questions, a newsgroup forum, and an opportunity to submit comments or make suggestions, Price said. A banner indicates when the center is having problems fielding calls.

DSCR is the only DOD inventory control point that manages its own information technology help desk, Price said.

'Questions were coming to nontechnical [DSCR] personnel,' which led to the external help desk's formation, she said.''

Price can monitor activity for both the external and internal help desks through SQL Magic 4.0 from Network Associates Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. The product lets her review trouble tickets and make graphs for supervisors, she said.''

Using the Oracle7 Release 7.3.4 relational database management system, Price can make already developed and customized structured query language data calls. 'I can find how many tickets were worked by an individual staffer' down to the hour, she said.

Users can submit an e-mail trouble ticket, and the message goes to a specific help desk group based on how it's addressed, Price said. Help desk personnel can turn certain trouble tickets into projects'such as a software installation request for 10 PCs'for another group to complete, she said. Callers most commonly request how to install printers and how to revive dead hard drives.

The internal help desk support group, with 22 DSCR employees, receives 30,000 calls and e-mail messages a year from DSCR's 2,300 employees, with as many as 40,000 during deployment when DSCR makes a major e-mail upgrade, Price said. During
e-mail deployments, help desk SWAT teams fan out through DSCR to instruct users and answer questions in person.

DSCR uses Microsoft Outlook 97 and Exchange 5.5 for messaging. The internal group provides coverage from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and handles 60 to 80 trouble tickets a day, she said.''

In addition to migrating to Oracle8, Price plans to deploy the Web version of SQL Magic, she said.

Contact the DSCR Information Technology Help Desk at 804-279-4357 or

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