Help Desk Is Spelled: R-O-I
You finally got those funds for new technology. To achieve your best return
on investment, let your help desk 'market' technology smarts to users.
LSU'S 'DON'T BE A TAD' campaign encourages students to use technology wisely and better
utilize campus resources-- which, in turn, means a higher ROI for the help desk.
PROTECTING YOUR INSTITUTION'S TECHNOLOGY
assets and resources is all about maximizing return on
those investments-- and that means driving users to take
full advantage of new technology rollouts, and not sapping
or overburdening help desk resources because users are
not fully versed in and encouraged to use the new tools.
That means you'll need to consistently push effective technology
use to your technology users. In other words: Get
your help desk behind ROI!
More Than a Tad of Help
That's just what Louisiana State University IT help desk
pros have been doing-- sending a message to students.
And their mantra is: Don't be a Tad. That message, which
implores users to learn from bad examples set by a bumbler
named Tad, appears in cartoon advertisements on
buses, billboards, and posters all over campus, and
implores students to use technology wisely. Two recent
ads, for instance, have highlighted Tad's experiences after
failing to install antivirus software on his laptop, and the
consequences he faced from his involvement in a phishing
scandal. (LSU's Don't Be a Tad campaign was recognized
with a 2007 Campus Technology Innovators award.)
According to Brian Voss, the school's vice chancellor for
IT and CIO, the campaign was designed specifically to
get students to take advantage of an outsourced creditmonitoring
service from Equifax and
antivirus technology from Symantec,
to keep endpoints secure. "In order to make the hardware
and software pay off, we need to add a critical third element:
'humanware,'" says Voss. "This is delivered via a variety of
means, but in the end it stands for employing efforts that
inspire others to make effective use of IT."
Voss is not alone in his mission: In fact,
this kind of help desk marketing effort
appears to be a growing trend on campuses
across the nation and around the
world. With national economies everywhere
hitting new lows, now more than
ever it's vital for higher education institutions
to demonstrate that technology
investment in the help desk is providing a
positive return on investment. Schools
such as National-Louis University (IL)
and the London School of Economics in the UK recently have launched concerted
marketing initiatives, as well.
Still, perhaps no campaign anywhere in
the realm of higher education is as creative
as LSU's, where the effort launched in
2006 when one of Voss' colleagues in the
IT department suggested that the help
desk devise a cartoon character to market
new technologies and promote more
responsible behavior online. The campus icon "Tad" was born when the first advertisement debuted
later that year. Since then, the LSU help desk has run nearly
a dozen Tad ads. Voss says the campaign has "worked wonders"
raising awareness about new services.
London School of Economics technologists organized Virtual IT
Assistance (VITA) 'introduction days' for faculty and students.
Participants each got a VITA stress ball to push the idea
that instead of getting stressed, they can get help.
And it turns out that Tad has friends. As the school has
added numerous tools and technologies, the IT department
has built help desk marketing campaigns around other
cartoon characters, too. Moodle, the
school's new course management system, is now depicted
by a cartoon bison in a Superman costume, while cartoon
monkeys have become symbols for general technology
problems. Late last year, the school even printed T-shirts
emblazoned with, "Fear the Monkey, Don't Be a Tad."
"The whole idea of these efforts is to make students stop
and pay attention to what technology is available to them,"
Voss says. "The more they know about, the more they'll use,
and the better our ROI will be."
Learn While You Lunch
While LSU's in-house help desk marketing efforts focus on
students, a new campaign at National-Louis University is
targeted at staff and faculty. The initiative, dubbed "Lunch
'n' Learn," comprises a series of monthly get-togethers during
which faculty and staff members can receive tutorials
on emerging learning technology areas such as blogging,
social networking, and podcasting, to name a few. The sessions
take place both in-person and online; on average,
about 30 users show up for each. Those users who attend
the in-person sessions on NLU's main campus in Wheeling
are invited to bring lunch. Online users, who follow along
via Centra Web conferencing from Saba,
are encouraged to eat lunch while they watch, as well.
CIO Bob DeWitt explains that the sessions are designed
to familiarize users with new technology-- a process that
usually begets higher usage levels and therefore greater
ROI. "We're trying to ensure that faculty members are so
comfortable with the technology that they'll use these tools
every day," says DeWitt (who, as an outsourced resource,
receives his paychecks from SunGard Higher Education). "The more people using a particular
technology, the more the total cost of ownership goes down."
This past December, for instance, a Lunch 'n' Learn lesson
detailed new developments in podcasting. During the session,
participants learned how to use applications like Audacity and other audio editing
software in which NLU has invested. Beginning with that session,
NLU began offering podcasts as a third medium of distribution
for Lunch 'n' Learn pointers and marketing messages.
Users can now download this content on-demand.
Help From Afar
Overseas, even international institutions are thinking of
ways to maximize help desk ROI. At the London School of
Economics, for instance, help desk services revolve around
remote assistance technology from software-as-a-service
vendor LogMeIn. During a 2008 CT webinar about delivering real-time IT services (see "Web
Extra," below), Amber Miro, the school's assistant director
of IT services, explained the process by which the institution
markets this service.
First, upon implementing the technology, Miro and her colleagues
branded it "Virtual IT Assistance," or VITA. Subsequently,
the IT department has called attention to the service
with colorful advertisements in an IT Services newsletter, and
has promoted user groups and demonstrations across campus.
At the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year, London
School of Economics technologists organized these
demonstrations into an series of "introduction days" for faculty
and students alike. Everyone who participated in the
demonstrations received a VITA-branded stress ball.
"The whole idea was to tell them that instead of getting
stressed, they can get help," Miro quips. "There's no point in
having good service if nobody knows about it so that they can
Webinar: How the London School of Economics
Delivers Real-Time IT Services to Remote Users Anywhere.
This CT webinar, sponsored by LogMeIn, deals with the subject of delivering realtime
help desk services, and marketing the technology to
do it. Access the archived event on-demand here.