The Inria Helpdesk project team : Research Support Department Award

Publish on 29/01/2020
The Inria information system user support service has been unified around a single point of contact: the Helpdesk dialogue portal. Straightforward for users, it has been completely revamped based on a service catalogue, consolidated processes, a methodology and a common language. Its deployment required the coordination of 15 support teams. All of the actors received training prior to the launch in January 2015.
Equipe Helpdesk
© Inria / Photo G. Scagnelli

There is a "before" and an "after" Helpdesk. Before, the support service was organised by isolated centres and business functions. As a result, there was inconsistency with regard to organisation and the service provided to users. "After Helpdesk, the service has been optimised, shared and processes have been unified ", explains Marie-Christine Plançon, director of Information Systems. Following a pilot phase with the users at the Saclay centre, the Helpdesk was opened to all Inria staff on 19 January 2015. It replaced a series of forms, applications and processes that were at times disparate. Helpdesk, which can be accessed via the Intranet, has now made the user support service happen.

The portal makes it possible to formulate a request in a clear and simple manner. A problem with a telephone that doesn't work? The user defines a request in just a few clicks using the tree view or keywords, then, behind the scenes, the teams are immediately set in motion. The user does not know who, in which centre, or which resources are implemented in order to repair the telephone, and is simply informed of the main stages. The incident is classified using the tool, and the intervention team is automatically selected depending on the nature of the problem.

"Helpdesk is used to track and facilitate Inria's technical and functional support activity - it is the tangible result of the catalogue of services proposed on the information system ", explains Marie-Christine Plançon. The project has enabled an entire community of functional and technical actors - who did not know each other well - to work together. "Helpdesk is a success and a challenge, because it required a lot of effort beforehand in order to coordinate 15 support teams spread over eight research centres and four business functions - or a total of 130 actors located in several regions. We worked on the methodology in order to provide quality support ", Marie-Christine Plançon continues.

What the user does not see is that the tool also enables the actors within the support chain to understand what the other is doing, and to discuss joint actions so as to respond to a support request: and all within a reasonable time-frame.

A new phase is planned for the second half of 2015. The intention is to extend Helpdesk to other business function catalogues, in particular general services. That way, there would be a consistent approach for all centres - as shown by the information and scientific publishing teams who are already using the solution and integrated their service catalogue into Helpdesk in June 2015.

Philippe Giot

Head of the support centre, IT department, Inria SaclayÎle-de-France.

"At the Inria Saclay Île-de-France centre, we had already been using the Request Tracker (RT) solution locally since 2007. Benefiting from this experience, we therefore offered to be the pilot site for the implementation of the national Helpdesk. As head of the support centre, I was obviously in the front line of this pilot phase, assisted by my SIC (IT department) colleagues at the Saclay centre. I first took part in the pilot launch meetings, as well as the first tests, a week after the launch of the pilot at the Saclay centre and SEISM - a team from the Information Systems department (DSI) responsible for creating and managing applicative services concerning Inria's scientific information system. I also presented the solution to my SIC colleagues as well as the administrative staff, for even if we were familiar with the tool, the processes for the creation and follow-up of requests - or "tickets" - were new to us.

During the test phase, which lasted a month, I worked on reporting any bugs to the project team and made suggestions on how future versions of the tool could evolve and be improved. For example, the possibility of putting senders in copy when a ticket is opened, or the request to externally de-filter access to the tool. This pilot enabled the project team to check the solution's performance with real users and to improve it prior to its general implementation.

We then managed the support provided to the Saclay centre users. The new Helpdesk has received a very warm reception, in particular the submission portal which enables a ticket to be accurately directed towards our SIC or a DSI department, and which is shared by all centres. As far as the SIC is concerned, the processes that have been implemented have improved communication between the IT or DSI departments, making the processing of requests more efficient.

For me, receiving this award is an honour, and also recognition for the work accomplished on this project."

Hassan Qamar

Helpdesk project leader, head of the Services centre - Information Systems department.

"The Helpdesk project was initiated in 2012. Working groups studied the tools, the approach and the processes...and defined two building blocks: the submission portal for users and theopen sourceticket management tool (Request Tracker). When I arrived in June 2014, my roadmap was therefore clear: we had six months to make the Helpdesk a reality and to launch the service centre (CDS). In order to respect these time-frames, we sometimes had to make some bold choices, but all decisions were taken in connection with the centres' IT departments (SIC) and the application support teams.

Setting up the Helpdesk was not easy given Inria's matrix-style organisation. On a hierarchical level, the SIC managers report to the centres and, on a functional level, to the DSI. They had different tools and practices, so this cross-disciplinary project required very close cooperation. This cooperation was eventually achieved, our approach was convincing and the result is there to see. When it was launched, the solution proved to be very robust. Its added-value is the fact that it is a single, centralised entry point for our users' requests.

We are now working on the continued improvement of the service and on its growth. We also bring the support managers together in order to review their activity and harmonise their practices. The Helpdesk has simplified service provision by concealing its internal organisation and by optimising the directing of requests to the right team.

I joined Inria a year ago. To receive this joint award is very encouraging, both personally and for all of the support team actors. The work that we have done has been recognised, and I have learnt that we are being encouraged to continue in this virtuous circle of improving services. It is rewarding to know that what we do is useful, and it is very motivating to be a link in a chain that works with - and thanks to - others."

Juliette Hamon

Human Resources Development officer, Careers division of the Human Resources department.

"In anticipation of the Helpdesk project, it was necessary to implement good practice with regard to support services. That is why we devised training aimed at supporting the harmonisation of the support processes, according to the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) frame of reference. This made it possible to address methodology and ITIL good practice in the field of internal client support.

In 2012, we organised a public tender in order to identify a competent service provider to meet our requirements and achieve our goals. Together with two colleagues from the Information Systems department, we drew up the specifications of our expectations, combining our respective skills in terms of teaching methods and IT expertise. We established a bespoke programme with the selected trainer in order to address our issues. All in all, around 50 people from different business functions required training. In order to combine visions and enrich interactions during training, the groups were made up of staff members from both IT and functional support teams (Human Resources and Financial Affairs).

We then moved on to the logistical preparation.  The training took place in Paris, Rocquencourt and Grenoble over two days and with several groups. After every session the training was assessed by each participant, followed by an overall review with the trainer and on-the-job feedback from those trained.  This training proved its worth, as it made it possible to unite a group of business functions around common goals: improving the quality of internal processes and sharing a common language and practices.  This first step played a part in the successful implementation of the Helpdesk. 

The feedback was excellent, so we decided to include this training in the on-boarding process for new arrivals to the SIs.

On a personal level, I really appreciated working on this project with such involved and conscientious colleagues - it was a condition and factor in the success of this project. We wanted to put in place quality, effective and practically applicable training."

The Helpdesk project team

  • Cyril Giffard
  • Philippe Giot
  • Juliette Hamon
  • Pascale Laurent
  • Philippe Lecler
  • Hassan Qamar
  • Jean Denis Séméria
  • Daniel Terrer
  • Elisabeth Verplanken