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Distributed User Support and the Gemini Observatory HelpDesk

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Presentation on theme: "Distributed User Support and the Gemini Observatory HelpDesk"— Presentation transcript:

1 Distributed User Support and the Gemini Observatory HelpDesk
Simon Chan and Phil Puxley SPIE March 2000

2 Overview Gemini user support model and rationale for the HelpDesk
Division of responsibilities Desirable features of a HelpDesk Implementation model HelpDesk tiers and structure Remedy AR system Workflow Life cycle of a request Knowledgebase Metrics and user support performance

3 Shared Support Operational context:
Gemini Observatory operates two geographically separated 8m-telescopes (Hawaii and Chile) Gemini partnership includes nine user groups: 7 partner countries (US, UK, Can., Chile, Aus., Arg., Bra.) University of Hawaii Gemini staff Each partner country has established a National Gemini Office (NGO) to support facility development and users Principal issue recognised was that NGOs would not have adequate staffing to cover all areas of expertise and Gemini staff could be overwhelmed by large volume of queries

4 Distributed User Support Responsibilities
Gemini Observatory National Gemini Offices Observation execution and on-site support Including Contact Scientists assigned to each classical or queue program Expert support for user queries Distribute to support network as necessary Before and after observations First point of contact for user queries Distribute to support network as necessary

5 Challenges for Distributed Support Model
Open access and fairness to all potential users of Gemini Efficient and reliable distribution of queries to designated responsible staff and of responses to users Any metric must recognize time zone dependency Accountability to funding authorities Staff training Communications bandwidth Implementation and infrastructure maintenance

6 HelpDesk Solution to User Support
Leverage commercial “help desk” (a.k.a. knowledge database) technology. Undergoing major investment in software, electronic hardware and service industries. Evolutionary step forward from static web page solutions to “problem and knowledge management”: “goal is the control and reduction of calls per person” Provides call management... “the ability to accurately and effectively log, track, hold, forward and escalate calls as necessary, preventing any call from being lost or forgotten” ...and problem resolution tools: “the timely discovery of an accurate solution to a help desk problem” (PHD White Paper)

7 Desirable Elements of a Help Desk : I
(NB: all are featured in existing commercial help desk products) User-friendly web GUI Easy user access Filter and route queries to designated support individuals “Send all GMOS queries to person X in country Y” Accounting and analysis tools Assist management of user support, generate usage reports, efficiency metrics etc. “How many queries about GMOS gratings?” Feedback for updating static web information

8 Desirable Elements of a Help Desk : II
Audit tracking and history Track changes to database information; identify who answered a specific question Integrate existing web-based documentation Complement to primary information resource Intelligent language interface, options include: Natural language queries “What is the best GMOS grating for Ha?” Expert or rule-based systems Efficiently moves through stored set of rules Fuzzy logic Guesstimates a solution when no exact match can be found

9 Desirable Elements of a Help Desk : III
Experience-based learning Resolved problems stored in the database and available to future queries…the system learns! Distributed read and write access to database Support staff located at NGOs (and in some instances more widely) Simultaneous access by multiple users and scalable. Peak access around telescope application deadlines Multimedia capabilities Use video files, sounds and pictures to make complex issues clearer

10 User Support Model and the 3-Tier HelpDesk
User self-support Aim for majority of queries to be addressed by [1] use of ‘static’ web info or [2] Help Desk solutions database (via search engines) Those that can’t are handled by the [3] HelpDesk Tier 1: Front-end support NGO staff field requests for information from their own community Queries that cannot be answered are escalated to Tier 2 support Tier 2: NGO-designated experts and Gemini staff Respond to queries from entire community Queries that cannot be answered are escalated to Tier 3 support Tier 3: Gemini staff

11 Tier-2 Tier-3 Tier-1 local NGO Remedy AR system
puzzled user local NGO phone/ web interface Remedy AR system help desk interface s/w solution found automatically from existing database information no solution found - route to NGO Tier-2 another NGO Tier-1 local NGO Tier-3 resolution Gemini enlightened user request resolved and entered in database

12 HelpDesk Structure Queries are categorised into three broad subject areas: Instrumentation Telescope performance and capabilities Proposal and observing process Subjects are sub-divided further:

13 Helpdesk Responsibilities
Each NGO has assigned support staff personnel to each subject sub-category in Tier-1 look-up table Includes other staff to be notified NGOs with community-wide responsibility and Gemini have assigned support staff in Tier-2 table Generally, partners that are providing the instrument or facility provide tier-2 support Gemini provides tier-2 support for visiting instruments, telescope capabilities and observing process Gemini has assigned support staff in Tier-3 table.

14 Remedy AR System Remedy Action Request system selected for Gemini HelpDesk Very robust and flexible toolbox of HelpDesk components that is readily customised Possesses many of the features of a desirable system Has a large share of commercial market Deployed elsewhere in astronomical community (Keck, STScI, ESO) for various functions Used for internal Gemini Fault Reporting System

15 Implementation of Remedy AR System
remote users & support staff (any modern browser) user interface server AR system hosted at Gemini North queries and knowledgebase

16 Example support- staff form

17 Helpdesk Workflow Design
Tier-1, -2 and -3 escalation New Assigned Work in progress Resolved Closed Requestor logs on to helpdesk (or registers if a new user). Request is routed to their local NGO using Tier-1 table. Staff member is ed that a request has been assigned to them; uses web tool to resolve. Support staff member can escalate the request (using Tier-2 or -3 table) to the responsible individual (within an NGO or Gemini). Requestor can check status on web and is ed on each action or resolution. Resolution is copied to previously-assigned staff in lower tiers.

18 Knowledgebase The knowledgebase (a.k.a. solutions database) is a self-help database Provides a searchable repository of solutions to common requests 2nd stage in user-support model It’s purpose is to reduce the number of similar requests being submitted to the HelpDesk Entries in the knowledgebase are derived from existing HelpDesk requests Currently a simple free-text search engine is used with the knowledgebase Search by sub-category or keywords

19 Knowledgebase Search Screen

20 Help Desk Metrics Remedy system time-stamps status changes corresponding to key events: Submission of request, assignment to responsible individual, changes to work-in-progress log, resolution of the request, closure System also records: User contact details, assigned group, subject category etc These data provide feedback for ‘static’ web pages Update / improve existing primary information

21 Example User Support Performance Metrics
The system data can be analysed in a multitude of ways; some examples: Measurement of load and balance: Number of requests received per NGO per subject category, per country of origin etc. Number of requests escalated (e.g. to Gemini) Measurement of performance: Number (fraction) of responses and response time Measurement of fairness: Distribution of response times by country of origin, by subject category etc.

22 Integrated User Support
web user interface ‘static’ web info feedback improvements knowledgebase populates HelpDesk

23 Integrated User Support
web user interface ‘static’ web info feedback improvements knowledgebase populates HelpDesk

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