Software products & services companies have a Customer Services need to provide an integrated front and back-end help desk capability. This normally includes the ability to create a support request and have it tracked through to competition. The term help desk may be misleading as it can be stretched to mean all forms of help and dialogue internally and externally to an organization.
Generally speaking back-end bug tracking tools are quite technical and not generally user friendly enough to be exposed to end customers. Indeed they may expose too much detail in too narrower context. Support requests can include questions and enhancement requests, as well as bugs. Dedicated front-end help desk systems can support quite sophisticated support request and tracking systems. Some can also include knowledge bases to support a level of self-service. Feature enhancements, directly or indirectly tend to be less well supported by dedicated systems.
Standards like ITIL have emerged that attempt to support an integrated framework of service support processes. Of particular interest is in the area of Incident Management, Problem Management, and Change Management. It is the separation and linkage of these concepts that may be provide a solid basis.
The emergence of web 2.0 collaboration, as embodied by Clearspace provides a powerful ways to exploit chaotic interaction with the structured world.
No one system is likely to be able to support all the needs, indeed integration between systems is vital. With the adoption of web services and more open platforms an affordable mash-up is a realistic proposition.
The following is an example of a process to integrate support and product management processes. It recognizes how the two processes can work together since lots of stimulus for product management comes down the support route and great reliance is made on the product management process.
The following concepts are required to be supported:
Incidents, Questions, & Suggestions (Stimulus) - raw state, situational, symptoms, ...
Problems - analysed, verified
Solutions - patterns, anti-patterns, documentation, training material, releases
Change Requests - enhancements (features or documentation), bugs,
Resolution Tasking - actioning effort, tracking completion,
The following traceability is envisaged:
Captured Incidents, Questions, & Suggestions lead to known problems + solutions, and raised problems
Problems are substantiated with Incidents, Questions, & Suggestions, analysed, verified, with links to Solutions or Change Requests
Solutions linked (where applicable) to the Problems that prompted the Solution definition
Change Requests link back to Problems and forward to Resolution Tasks
Resolution Tasks linked to approved Change Requests
Whilst made up from a composite of systems, the front-end system should be able to report and navigate traceability.
Clearspace is envisaged as the front-end system, capable through the use of Discussions, Documents, and Blogs to capture Incidents, Questions, Suggestions and to author/publish Problems, and Solutions.
A bug tracking system like bugzilla or Jira for Product Change Requests.
A project management tool like @Task for Resolution Tasks.
There is more of a question mark in regard to product requirements and product road maps. One could either support as documents within Clearspace and/or like to dedicated or commutable systems.
The following high-level capabilities are envisaged:
Integration (creation and representation) of Change Requests and Resolution Tasks using/from external systems.
Means to cross link for retrieval and traceability purposes
Concept typing and extended custom attributes/enumeration on artifacts (Discussions, Documents, and Blogs)
Additional Hierarchical Tag Schema to organise and browse solution concepts
Link selection mechanism to select typed artifacts
Templating for standard document types
Reports and statistics
The above is not intended to constrain the solution, but just some initial thoughts about the possible solution architecture.
The following existing or extended capabilities are envisaged to be used:
Discussion ID's, but need a more human readable format i.e. a tracking no.
Direct email response interaction
+The above is not intended to constrain the solution, but just some initial thoughts about the possible solution architecture