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Supportal

This is the first in a series of upcoming blog posts where we will delve into the details behind our Supportal.  As most of our customers are already aware, the Supportal is Jive's Clearspace customization that transforms generic communities into personal communities where Jive collaborates directly with our customers via cases, documents, and projects.

 

This first post will provide the high-level overview, overriding design goals, business goals, and additional benefits to the Supportal.  Future posts will delve into the business decision details, and the architecture.

The Name

People often ask how the name Supportal came to be.  When it comes to overall creativity, I am horrible.  In this project's infancy, I used Customer Portal, Customer Support Portal, Support Portal, and many other terms as names.   Will French, Jive's Senior Support Engineer, and now the Supportal Development Lead, abbreviated Support Portal, to Supportal (likely making fun of me talking too fast), and the name stuck.  It also gets rid of that stigma around the word "portal" as well!

Reasons for the Supportal

The Supportal was created to resolve's Support's own business pains.  Prior to identifying the business pains however, we set 3 main overriding goals for the project:

 

  1. Simplicity: The goal of the supportal is to solve business pain.  Too many other support sites are tough to use and hard to navigate.  Creating a case needs to be as simple and easy as possible. We continue this philosophy on upcoming features, ensuring that additional features add benefit without causing pain.
  2. Accessibility: Customers weren't getting the information they needed, and people within Jive were not seeing the information they needed.  The solution needed to include as many people as possible, while still being private so that only Jive and the customer can see the information.
  3. Usability: Jive prides itself on this, and this is something that's always on our list.  Making the Supportal as usable as possible is also a guiding factor we focused on during the first iteration and continue to improve upon.

 

With the overriding goals set, we identified the following business goals:

  • Create a solution where customers can go to create all their cases, regardless of severity
  • Replace email with an online system as the mode of communication
  • Recreate survey information.  Associate the survey to the case.
  • Integrate Discussions (only community) with cases to provide customers with a single location to get their answer.
  • Provide customers the ability to create public cases, allowing others (outside Jive support) to read, contribute, and resolve, while ensuring that Jive Support will answer your issue.
  • Provide the same functionality (email) for customers who refuse to use the new system.
  • Remove manual customer and contract validation process

 

Solution

With the business goals identified, we realized that we had to integrate with our online community.  Clearspace provided communities (security for each customer), email notification, reply by email, discussions, and a means to replace email as the primary mode of communication.  80% of the work was done for us.  The missing parts were:

  • Auto-creation of customer communities via account, customer, and contract information in Salesforce
  • Validating customer ability to create cases upon user login
  • Adding meta data into customer community discussions, allowing them to become cases.
  • Customizing customer communities to show cases instead of discussions.
  • Synchronizing the cases (specifically the meta data) with Salesforce.
  • Paging for Severity 1 cases
  • Surveys
  • Creating cases via email

 

The following blog posts are going to delve into these sections providing more information behind each business goal, and how we customized Clearspace to solve the goal.

Additional Benefits

As with many solutions, we quickly realized that the Supportal can be used for more than just customer cases.  The first additional use case for the Supportal was identified when our professional services team started using Clearspace's project functionality within the Secure Communities.  This was exactly what Clearspace Projects were intended for, and the Supportal solved our PS department's communication requirements perfectily with no additional customizations.

 

We also have experienced a slight decrease in overall cases due to the increased visibility of the cases.  Managers will frequently apply a community watch so that they receive emails whenever anyone creates a case in their community.  We have had managers reply to a case telling us to disregard the case due to it being something they need to solve internally.  We have also had managers follow up with their team directly when issues are stagnating, allowing us to resolve issues quicker.

 

Finally, the public case feature is being used for about 7% of all of our cases.  Not a huge number, but definitely significant, and each additional case that is made public results in additional information in our community for others to see and use.  This stat is without us pushing the feature at all.

New releases today: 11/17/08

Downloads are available via your purchases page

Clearspace 2.5.4

Full Documentation

This version of Clearspace has added support for DB2 Database server, Windows Server 2003 and IBM JDK 1.5

 

Clearspace 2.0.10

Full Documentation

 

Clearspace 1.10.16

Full Documentation

 

You can expect the next release of Clearspace in roughly 4 weeks.

A Whole New Jivespace about the changes we recently made to simplify Jive's communities. You'll now find four communities -- Support, Features, Developers, and Plugin Downloads -- under one community to collect them all: Jivespace. I'm chiming in this week with details on changes to docs for developers building customizations to Clearspace.

 

Here it is in a nutshell: The latest developer documentation will be in the Plugin Developer community in Jivespace. That community is also the place to post your questions and comments. Other content, including developer content from previous versions, will be on the site where docs have been for some time now.

 

The best part, as I see it -- and really, I think this is fantastic -- is that it's not just docs. There's a lot more information: FAQs, how-tos, links to more information, and more. Internally, we started out calling it a "cookbook" (okay, Greg called it a cookbook and we humored him for a while). But while it wasn't really as procedural and example-driven as software cookbooks tend to be, it was obvious he was on to something. You (and we) really needed a single place to collect the knowledge we develop internally for extending and customizing Clearspace.

 

If you've been to the Developers overview page, you might also have noticed that we've tried to make it easier to get to what you care about. The search box and "spotlight areas" are designed to help you find developer content without leaving the developers' stuff if you don't want to.

 

By the way, there are no longer any Forums or older Clearspace docs on Jivespace. It had gotten to be kind of a mess (a "train wreck," as one of its admirers said). We're thinking it's better to have one version of developer content on the Developers community, and the rest of it where other docs live. See what you think.

 

Here are the links of interest:

 

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