How to choose the right help desk software: a step-by-step guide

Documenting feature needs and requirements is the most important step in the process of purchasing any new software or cloud service, including help desk or customer service software. It is also the most difficult step, and one that requires input from multiple team members. Here’s how to get started.

Ask for input

It’s important to solicit feedback on requirements from everyone who will be using the new system. Using this approach, all stakeholders will be part of the purchasing process and feel ownership for the new system, making them much more inclined to fully embrace the new cloud help desk software.

Try scheduling 45-minute meetings twice per week with appropriate stakeholders until you have fully documented and prioritised your new product requirements. It is often difficult to get started on this kind of project because the everyday tactical responsibilities and distractions can consume your day.

> See also: How to get employee buy-in for new software

Before beginning, make sure to get a firm commitment from senior leaders so they support the process and the necessary time required. Put a deadline on the requirements gathering process, work diligently toward that goal, and provide updates to senior leaders during the process.

It is also important to consider your security requirements of your help desk software, if you want to select a cloud vendor. Today, every organisation should strongly consider purchasing a cloud product to reduce costs and speed implementation.

Do you need HIPAA compliance if you are a hospital or healthcare organisation? You will need this certification if you are handing patient/private health information or PHI. Also, do you need a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) from the vendor? Many state and country laws require this. Do you need PCI compliance? You will need this certification if you are handling credit card information.

Prioritise your list of help desk software requirements

You may not be able to find a vendor to meet all your feature requirements at a price that your company can afford. A prioritised list of help desk software feature requirements will help you better understand tradeoffs and compromises your stakeholders are willing to make.

Asking people to prioritise requirements is an important exercise as it makes them focus on the 'must haves.' This minimum feature set is an important 'stake in the ground' from which you can begin to include or eliminate vendors and compile a vendor shortlist.

It is imperative to create a vendor shortlist of no more than three vendors, so that you can engage in a deeper analysis.

State your case

After completing your prioritised help desk software/cloud services feature list, share it with senior leaders, and make sure they understand the results of this exercise. The result of your work is that your team has put together a list of the minimum features required for a new help desk system that the company may purchase.

Of course, you may want more features, but if all those features cost too much, then all the stakeholders would still be pleased with the minimum feature set.

In today’s economic environment, all software and cloud services purchases are going to be carefully analysed, and it is going to take significant effort to build a business case. A minimum feature set for new help desk software is important to establish and will bring a lot of credibility to the requirements gathering team.

It takes only a little effort to put together a long list of cool, interesting and compelling features that you may find by combing vendor websites and industry sources. However, does your company really need all these features to get the job done on a day-to-day basis? Many independent research studies conclude that only approximately 10% of features are used in most software or cloud services. That is a telling and compelling statistic to encourage your team to further prioritize your list of requirements.

With a prioritised list of feature requirements, you are communicating to check signers that this is the minimum amount of functionality required for the help desk software that your team agrees upon and that you made numerous tradeoffs.

You may receive some pushback and questioning. Check signers may ask, 'Why do we need this feature, and what’s the value/benefit to the company?' Make sure to have answers and justification for all your 'must have' requirements. This will increase your credibility with senior level check signers.

Create a rating system

The requirements gathering process is very time-consuming. It is often very difficult to start with a blank piece of paper.

A good Needs Assessment Tool can be modified as you see fit. It might includes the following: a description of each requirement, additional comments or examples that help clarify the requirements, priorities associated with each requirement.

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In addition, this might include a Vendor Performance Score for each requirement, rating each on a scale from 'meets requirement fully' to 'does not meet requirement.'

You can then multiply the 'Priority' ranking with each Vendor’s Performance score to come up with an overall performance score. Generally, this gives you a more objective picture than a simple review of each vendor response, helping you make your final decision based on how well your most significant requirements are met.

After you modify this tool, you can share this spreadsheet with each vendor that you are interested in and ask them to score themselves. When the vendor performs a demonstration, you can ask them to show you each product feature line by line, then revise the vendor’s score as you see appropriate.

Keep in mind that your company’s cloud help desk software requirements are going to change over time, and you can’t always predict how they will change. Avoid falling victim to 'analysis paralysis,' piling on the features in an attempt to predict what you’ll need in the future.

Instead, make sure that you purchase a product from a vendor that has a reputation for continuing to enhance their products and for listening to their customers. This approach is the best insurance policy for your future success.

Sourced from Ron Avignone, founder, Giva

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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