As has been reported previously, the UPC has been investigating ways to streamline its User Support process. The overall object of our investigation is to transition to a new system that:
Our approach was to identify existing support systems that, at a minimum, offer features contained in our existing inquiry tracking system and provide key features or facilities to implement features that were deemed mandatory in a new system including the ability for the end user to open, modify and close their own inquiry, and comment on support that they have received.
After reviewing eight helpdesk packages for features, extensibility, and cost effectiveness, two were brought in-house for testing:
eSupport v2 was chosen for detailed investigation since it appeared to offer virtually all of the features that we consider mandatory in a support system while providing features that we may want to take advantage of in the future.
The UPC has been monitoring the rapid development of SupportSuite (eSupport v3 with the addition of Live Support capability), during its rapid development since initial release in September, 2005. With the release of the "Gold" release (a non-beta version declared to be stable by Kayako developers) in December, 2005, we felt confident enough to test transitioning our end-user support process to use of SupportSuite. An important part of our transition was the maintaining of a "backoff strategy" that would allow us to easily revert to our traditional support methods in the event of serious system (SupportSuite or web server) failure or uncovering of SupportSuite security issues. In early-mid December select UPC staff began using the new system in a test mode. After the successful initial testing, the decision was made to begin transitioning to the use of SupportSuite on a topic-by-topic basis. Since January 26, over 670 community member "transactions" (new inquiries and follow-ups) have been sent processed through SupportSuite.
Comments by Unidata staff indicate that transitioning to use of the new system has occurred without difficulty. It typically takes only a small number of interactions with the system before it feels natural to the UPC staff providing end-user support.
The UCP's transition to the use of a new inquiry tracking system was announced to the community in Unidata Transitions to a New Inquiry Tracking System. We are interpreting the fact that we have received no end-user comments about the new system to mean that the transition has been smooth, error free, and painless for the community. This was one of our original goals.
The next phase in our transition will be the integration of web-based access to the new system by end-users. This effort will require integration with our single sign on management system (CAMS) and conversion of the user interface to the look-and-feel of our website. We expect to unveil the web-based access by the time of the Users Workshop in July.
Above are histograms that portray the number of Unidata email responses for categories of support for a one year period ending March 30, 2006. The histograms are arranged by yearly activity averages with the highest on the left and lowest on the right. Each quarter year within the period is depicted from oldest to newest from left to right. The number of responses has been normalized to weekly averages so that the support load over the various periods can be easily compared.
Total support averaged 151 responses/week over the entire year; 149 for the first quarter; 159 for the second quarter; 137 for the third quarter; and 158 for the current quarter.
Individual support activities included in the categories depicted above are listed in the following table.
|Category||Packages, Groups, and Lists|
|data||casestudies, casestudies-list, conduit, c2-linda, craft, level2-linda, craft-nws, craft-ty, datastream, difax, level2, level2-ty, noaaport, noaaport-ty|
|dods||dods, dods-core, dods-list, dods-tech|
|idd||idd, idd-antarctic, idd-brazil, idd-caribe, idd-inject, idd-status, scoop, suominet, tigge, venezuela|
|idv||idv, idvlist, idvsteering, metapps, visad-list|
|mcidas||mcdevelop, mcidas, mcidas-list|
|miscellaneous||misc, license, network, notrack, platforms, wxp, wxp-list|
|netcdf||data-models, netcdf, netcdf-miss, netcdfgroup-list, netcdf-hdf-list, netcdf-java, netcdf-perl|
|outreach||agu-linda, agu-ty, ams-linda, announce, barbados-ty, cbmet-ty, chile-ty, egrants, egu-linda, external, iai-ty, meteoforum-ty, noaa-linda, nws-linda, unidata, workshop|
|utilities||decoders, ldm-mcidas, udunits|
These numbers and conclusions should not be taken too literally, for several reasons: