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Creating An RFP Can Help Identify The Right Help Desk Software For Your Company

A quick online search for tracking / help desk software or issue management software can provide you with dozens of software packages available to the Help desk, Support Center, or IT Department. Whether implementing a help desk for the first time or adding additional components, identifying a product that will meet the company's needs, as well as evolve with today's rapidly changing technologies can be a labor-intensive task. Preliminary research can help determine which software packages meet your basic requirements and are within your price range. However, this may still leave you with a large number of potential help desk software vendors. To simplify your decision-making process, save you time, and clearly identify your company's requirements and goals, consider creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) for your purchase of tracking or help desk software.

A Request for Proposal solicits information from potential software vendors to help you make the best purchase decision possible. Creating an RFP should be a group effort, and include first level support, project managers, field agents, and help desk administrators. Ask these groups to list software features that are required in their job function as well as features that may improve service levels, productivity, or cut costs. An RFP saves you time by putting the work of evaluating software features, functionality and cost into the hands of the vendor. A well-written RFP will allow you to gather information that applies specifically to your organization's needs.

Provide the vendor with some basic information about your company, such as, the size, rate of growth, whether you have multiple office locations, and whether you will be using the software for internal or external use. Next, create a detailed list by category and group of software requirements. Include clear instructions for completing the proposal. The format of your RFP may be a matrix, where you weigh required features and functionality by their priority level, or a questionnaire with simple "Yes" and "No" check boxes. Vendor responses should be based on the software's current functionality. If a prospective vendor's software does not contain a required feature, check to make sure that feature is not currently in development.

Some general guidelines for what to include in a help desk software Request for Proposal:

Vendor / Product Information:
Software Vendor Name:
Current product release available:
Projected date of next product upgrade:
Release date of original version:

Operating Environment:
Verify that the software will integrate with your company's current operating system.

Database System:
The software should be scalable to accommodate enterprise database systems.

General Help Desk Software Requirements:
Ability to log and track issues within a central reporting database.
Ability to customize tracking fields, screens, toolbars.
Standard graphs/reports, as well as a flexible custom reporting package.
Query or search tool to retrieve issues.
Hotlist of pertinent issues to the logged on user.
Workflow control to determine routing of issues based on status or rules.
Web access to the issue tracking system.
Provide varied security levels.
Audit / inventory component.
Email/notification functionality from within the software.
A knowledge base that is easily created from your issue list.
Ability to create unique, dynamic, tracking fields.
Ability to page from within the software.
Provide online help, documentation, tutorials.
Provide automatic alerts.
Provide issue templates.
Ability to attach documents to an issue.

Help Desk Agent Requirements:
Friendly graphical user interface.
Ability to quickly log fields.
Provide hotlist of logged on users issues.
Automatic work escalation.
Ability to search database by keyword, Boolean string or string of characters.
Ability to search attached documents.

Administrative Requirements:
Ability to analyze trends, evaluate performance levels.
Ability to customize software.
Ability to determine security permissions available to groups or individual users.
Ability to import an issue into the knowledge base.

Reporting Requirements:
A number of standard reports included in the software.
Customizable reports through a flexible reporting package.
Provide real-time update for reports.

Web Requirements:
Standalone web component.
Provide various security permissions.
Easily customizable.
Costs associated with hardware and software requirements.

Audit/Inventory Requirements:
Accurately track installed software products.
Ability to audit a PC from any location.
Maintain a central reporting database.
Ability to track the history of any PC.
Ability to create reports/graphs to analyze trends or distribution.
Ability to inventory and track invoices.

Workflow Requirements:
Workflow routing based on email delivery.
Notification available through email, paging.
Ability to prioritize tasks.

Available technical support Options: phone, fax, email, online chat.
Access to a knowledge base of incidents.
Does vendor have onsite training.
Documentation, guides, product tutorials.
Hours of operation for support department.

Software upgrades should be available for download or on CD.
Structure of pricing policy.
Server or Workstation license.
Is license dependent on platform or number of concurrent licenses.

Contract Samples:
The Vendor should provide a copy of :
Enduser license agreement
Technical support options
Annual maintenance

The RFP should include the date of the RFP release, deadline for vendor submittal, and the date of vendor selection. Include contact information and e-mail or mailing addresses. Costs associated with preparing the RFP are the responsibility of the vendor. Also, include a brief statement concerning the vendor evaluation process. Make sure you have considered the costs associated with features that may be included in the core product, but are offered at an additional cost for other vendors. Generally, the vendor whose software meets required functionality at the lowest cost will be selected.

A Request for Proposal can save you time, help you clearly identify software needs within your organization, and provide accurate information in your software selection process.

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Looking for the right match in help desk software?  An RFP may help you sift through the software vendors and products on the market.

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