Tech Support Changes

For a number of years, District schools and facilities have been served by a combination of the centralized Help Desk, along with a technician who is assigned to a group of buildings.  Typically, technicians are responsible for 6-10 schools, depending upon school size, and handle almost all types of support requests generated from those buildings.  The three comprehensive high schools are each served by a full-time technician, each of whom also have responsibilities related to the student technician internship program.  

While this approach provides consistency for our schools and other sites – who can generally anticipate being supported by a single individual – it creates substantial challenges in terms of coverage for long-term absences, limits our ability to efficiently specialize support, and makes it difficult to respond to demand surges (at the beginning of the school year, for instance).  

Implementing a New Model

Beginning today, we will be implementing a new model that maintains the high school building technician roles – support services for the high schools will remain largely unchanged – but expands the role of our Help Desk while converting technician assignments to support category-based rather than building based for all other schools and sites.  For example, if a printer-related ticket is submitted by Borlaug Elementary, the technician responding will be one who has printing as a category assignment, rather than a technician who has Borlaug as an assigned school.  

The support categories align with those in opens in a new windowour ticketing system, and include: 

  • Accounts, Software, and Cloud Services
  • Classroom Technology, Networking/Internet, and Printing
  • Hardware Repair and Support

Each category will have two assigned technicians, providing greater resiliency in the event that one staff member is unavailable.  Service will still be delivered via the Help Desk and in schools and classrooms, and this model will allow the department to more accurately assign support requests to the proper technician(s), to target our internal professional development around areas of specialization, and to provide more consistent service throughout the District.  

Chat Support

Along with the new model, we’re able to effectively increase staffing of the always-busy Help Desk, which – in addition to better accommodating very busy times – makes possible the introduction of chat support!  Industry-wide, chat support is consistently rated as the most highly-preferred method of contact for those seeking support.  Further, time to issue resolution is substantially shorter than with other contact methods due to the fact that both sides of the requestor/support technician are actively engaged at the same time.  Our chat support will be an extension of the HappyFox ticketing system, and will launch in the coming weeks.  

Potential Questions

As with any change, we anticipate that District staff will have questions about the transition, and we anticipate that there will be a growth period.  This is one of the key reasons for launching this change now, with a couple of weeks to identify and address issues prior to winter break.  Please read on for the answers to some questions that you might have.  

Q: Why is this change being implemented now? 

We’ve been discussing this structure for quite some time, but the impetus for change at this time is twofold.  First, we have – due to circumstances outside the control of the District – had a number of long-term absences in our client services team, stretching to prior to the start of this school year.  Our building-assigned model – with no backups – made it nearly impossible to staff these absences without substantially compromising service in other areas, resulting in situations where groups of buildings have had to go as long as several weeks at a time with no primary support technician assigned to the building.  The only viable model for addressing this need without increasing staff – for which funds are not available – was to create resiliency within our organizational structure. 

Second, the period leading up to winter break is generally one of our least busy of the year, with relatively few new support requests and major issues historically arising during this time.  This creates an opportunity for the implementation of the new support model when new ticket volume is lower than it will be at the resumption of the academic year in January.  

Q: How will services be delivered to buildings? 

Tech support services will be delivered to schools and sites largely as they always have, with a technician providing primary, in-person support as needed.  If a request for classroom technology support is submitted from Northwest Junior High, for instance, one of the two technicians assigned to the classroom technology category will provide support just as the building-assigned technician would have in the past.  

That said, our structure for hardware repairs is being slightly modified.  Currently, we use a light centralized hardware repair model, where most hardware repairs – not including the high school repairs, which are conducted on site – take place in one location.  We’ll be implementing an amplified version of this model where all repairs are handled by two category-assigned technicians, and will be requesting that buildings use a simple bin system – like the one schools are familiar with for AEA materials – for mobile hardware pickups (we’ll still come to classrooms to grab larger devices, like desktop computers or monitors).  Technicians will coordinate with staff in the building to determine when something is in need of hardware repair, and should be put in the building’s repair bin.  

Q: You mentioned that staffing of the Help Desk will increase; will the Help Desk staff be the same? 

Our current model has two staff members assigned full-time to the Help Desk.  In the new model, all six client services technicians will spend part of their day at the Help Desk, and part of their day on category assignments.  As such, you can expect to speak with different people when you call – or chat – with the Help Desk, but bringing all of our technicians into this role will improve awareness of District-wide issues, and will enhance our ability to engage in regular professional learning for our client services staff.  

Q: Who should I reach out to if I have additional questions? 

If you would like to know more about this transition, or if you have additional questions, please contact Client Services Manager Josh Reynolds at reynolds.joshua@iowacityschools.org.