The answers from the helpdesk that get a college class back up and running and the automatic monitoring of a facility’s collection of A/V and IT gear go hand-in-hand. With a control and automation system in place, the replacement of a projector lamp, or other maintenance issue, is anticipated and resolved without an instructor or corporate presenter realizing it was almost time for a new one. While at the same time, the reassurance of knowing there is a knowledgeable tech on the other end of the instant message session or session initiation protocol (SIP) call goes a long way for an instructor pressing every button and the projector still doesn’t turn on.
Turn on the HelpDesk
Making a helpdesk functional is a matter of linking components that are already in place on a network. The requirement for an A/V integrator is to have a working knowledge of how to make that happen. “At the minimum there is the ability for the helpdesk tech to see what the problem is through the control system from a remote location,” says Rod Andrewson, manager of Engineering at CCS Presentation Systems, based in Scottsdale, AZ. For most clients in the corporate or higher education space, the backbone has already been installed to provide audio, SIP and video support. “We just have to know how to manage it and how to set up the interaction between the IT department and the helpdesk support team,” he says.
From the perspective of a manufacturer like Extron, the helpdesk function is another layer in the cake when end-users are making decisions about what technology goes in their facility. “This convergence of IP and A/V interests has a great benefit when it comes to resource management and monitoring,” says Derek Joncas, product marketing manager for Extron. “Being able to justify the right technology, like Extron’s GlobalViewer Enterprise, so meetings and classes run smoothly, is the real goal of these folks when it comes to their boardrooms, presentation spaces or communication spaces.” Day-to-day, there is an expectation that A/V devices will work in any given room. “They are just as prevalent as chairs, desks and tables now and have become an essential part of everyone’s meeting,” says Joncas.
End users are seeing the value in and requesting helpdesk support more and more. “The challenge is that, in order to have an effective helpdesk solution, end users need to make sure that the A/V and IT departments are fully integrated,” says Jeff Kindig, vice president of Marketing Strategy at AMX. “It is becoming obvious that collaboration between these two departments is essential in providing the best experience for the end user.” Plus coordination eliminates issues when it comes time to respond quickly and efficiently to requests.
In the education market, the helpdesk is particularly valuable considering the constant influx of faculty and students to campus on a regular basis and the sheer volume of rooms that need technical support. Resource Management Suite (RMS) Enterprise from AMX is software for IT and A/V managers that provides remote management capabilities for assets and building systems on the A/V and IT network system.
At Texas Woman’s University, a plethora of tools are used to manage and maintain its classrooms. “The main drive for RMS originally was to monitor and control projectors,” says Casey Foulds, the school’s Instructional Operations Systems Administrator. “Projectors and projector lamps were a huge cost and time-consuming effort.” The rooms themselves have always been integrated within its own system. Each room had a simplified way to turn on devices and switch sources. “With RMS, we were able to integrate all the rooms together and monitor usage, device status, and inventory from a single connection.”
To justify the cost and quantify a product’s importance, via functions such as deriving statistics about the performance and usage patterns, are particularly important. “Usage data allows them to make and justify not only purchasing decisions but technology spending and budgeting,” says Joncas.
The “HelpDesk” Button
The RMS helpdesk button on the AMX touchpanel in a Texas Woman’s University classroom is the pride and joy of the Support Services department. “The technology of RMS is the right complement for the support we offer,” says Foulds. “We know from a human standpoint that getting through two screens on the touchpanel is the typical maximum for an instructor or student hitting the helpdesk button.” A virtual touchpanel representing the touchpanel that is in the classroom where an instructor is having a problem comes up on the tech’s screen so that the tech can see what the instructor sees.
The helpdesk button is something that CCS Presentations has implemented for many clients. “But it has also been an issue for a lot of clients,” says Andrewson. “We’ve been careful to coordinate and train the end user regarding the button. It can be inadvertently pressed or it can be over-used. That immediacy of help via a button on a touchpanel can sometimes be a hindrance to effective use in a classroom.”
CCS has worked with clients who felt that the instructors and students were leaning too heavily on the button when they get a response from somebody live on the SIP interface on the touchpanel. To counteract that, the one who needs help is empowered to figure it out.
“We developed within our touchpanel applications, a group of pages that walks somebody through what the problem is,” says Andrewson. “For example, a problem with a laptop connection: ‘Are you sure you used the function plus LCD display key on your laptop?'” At the end of the discussion, if the problem is not resolved, they have the ability to ask a tech for help. “This process helps to fast-track that helpdesk support person. The tech knows that the instructor hitting the helpdesk button followed the instructions and is still having a problem. “This way the helpdesk knows that maybe this is something more serious.”
The goal is to manage resources most efficiently. The helpdesk button, the built-in help pages on the touchpanel, or even something as simple as a laminated quickstart guide on the wall have allowed organizations to save costs on manpower and leverage the technology that an integrator provides. “Many clients are very excited to know that the helpdesk capabilities were already there,” says Andrewson. “They just needed to give us direction on their helpdesk needs. They also need to have staff that knows how to leverage from a remote location what we just hooked up.”