IT support systems are not exactly known for being the most streamlined or intuitive systems around. From a user’s point of view, they either fill out an overly complicated form, or send in an email that disappears into the ether. Unfortunately, their problem rarely ends there.
The Trouble With Ticketing
After many years of setting up and using quite a few IT support systems, I’ve found that they typically aren’t the most elegant pieces of software. They often boast complex and mysterious interfaces, making it difficult for employees to use. The navigation is often confusing: support tickets are submitted and then drop off the face of the earth. Employees often have no idea if their request even made it to the IT department, let alone if it’s even being addressed.
In short, they’ve consistently lacked two key features: ease of use and transparency. Every system I worked with tried to improve upon those, but would ultimately fall short.
In what may come as a shock, at Trello we use (drumroll please) Trello as our IT support system! This was quite a departure from the dedicated systems I was used to, but having worked with it for a while now I see its strengths as the weaknesses of every other system I’ve encountered, namely in ease of use and transparency.
It’s a Trello board. No special sauce, no magic gizmos.
Click image to view larger sample board.
The board is setup with five working lists, structured left-to-right:
- Incoming – Anyone who needs help can create a card in this list, assign themselves to it, and provide a description of what they need help with. Techs utilize the subscribe feature to receive notifications when a card is incoming.
- Doing – Cards are pulled by techs from Incoming and added to this list when they’re being handled.
- Waiting – Any requests that have a hold-up or aren’t being actively looked at are put in this list.
- Shipping – For cases when equipment needs to be ordered, cards are dragged here after orders are placed.
- Done – My favorite list, where completed cards go after everyone involved is a happy camper.
Save IT support an extra ping about the status of a shipment: use the package tracking Power-Up so employees can see where their equipment is in transit.
There is a sixth static list, which is placed before all others to the left titled “I Need Help With…” That list contains cards with information about common questions like “VPN Access” and “Purchasing Equipment,” with descriptions that act as a knowledge base for those topics.
Ease of Use
Since we use Trello extensively, having it as our IT support system makes it easy and familiar for people to use. If someone knows how to navigate a Trello board, they already know how to use our IT system.
For someone putting in a request, all they need to do is create a card under “Incoming” with a description of what they need. That’s all! They’ll receive updates as Trello notifications when the tech grabs their request and uses their magic technology powers to make everything better.
For a tech, all they need to do is assign themselves to a submitted card, move it to the “Doing” list, and start workin’. The card is where all the action happens (comments, attachments, expressive emoji - the works). This makes it easy for both the tech and people asking for help to keep track of what’s happening with a request.
"Instead of emailing into a helpdesk inbox, or using an unintuitive IT portal, someone looking for help can actually see what’s happening in the same way the tech does."
- Rich Kohlbrecher, Technical Operations Lead at Trello
Because this process is handled on a Trello board, it provides unprecedented transparency for an IT support system. The whole board is visible, thus anyone can see exactly where their card is, who is assigned to it, and what the workflow looks like.
Instead of emailing into a helpdesk inbox, or using an unintuitive IT portal, someone looking for help can actually see what’s happening in the same way the tech does. That might not sound like much, but getting everyone on the same page has been extremely well received.
There’s another benefit that this transparency provides, and it has to do with the “I Need Help With…” list. Since that list is essentially our user facing IT knowledge base, having it right there when you jump on the board to create a card is super helpful. This is anecdotal, but this is the first time I’ve seen an IT knowledge base be regularly used, and its visibility has everything to do with that.
Also, since Trello is a very visual application, it’s nice to see things that appear in the Incident list march rightwards towards the Done pile.
With Trello as our IT Support System, I find myself working much smoother overall. A realistic depiction of this can be seen here.
We’re growing quickly, and I’m always curious as to how well this system will scale. So far, it’s a champ. Recent additions like our tracking Power-Up to use in the Shipping list and the Slack Power-Up to better integrate with our Slack instance have already proven extremely valuable.
Having used multiple systems in the past, I’m extremely happy with how this one is shaping up. It’s a ticketing system that people are more than willing to use, as opposed to walking by my desk and interrupting me, or messaging me on some outside form of communication that will inevitably get lost.
I’ve also never had to generate a card for a user. When people are new to the company, all I have to do is gently nudge them towards the board, and then it’s hands off. They just get it.
IT systems don’t have to be overly complicated. In fact, they seem to work much better when they’re overly simplified. The best way to avoid friction is to find a system that your whole team can use. Otherwise it’s just creating more work for everyone, which defeats the whole purpose.
Here is a sample board of our IT support system workflow. Copy it here.
Trello Business Class offers the ability to track packages, and integrates with Slack, GitHub, plus more. It’s basically an IT professional’s dream come true.
Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!