Development of A Help Desk Support System

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Published on International Journal of Informatics, Technology & Computers
Publication Date: March, 2020

Binde Ponle Gwanmak & Godwin Thomas
Department of Computer Science, University of Jos
Plateau State, Nigeria

Journal Full Text PDF: Development of A Help Desk Support System (A Case Study of the University of Jos ICT Directorate).

This paper reports on development and testing of a Helpdesk Support System (HSS) designed for useful information distribution, efficient management of operations and resolving ICT challenges often encountered by staff and students in the University of Jos. The study sought to understand how the current system works and gather system requirements by conducting a survey on users through the use of questionnaires and interviews are the only methodology employed in this research. The data was then analyzed to obtain reasonable findings used in designing the complete system. A way of improving the efficiency of the predominantly manual current system helpdesk approach through an IT artifact is presented. The process employed to develop a proof of concept helpdesk support system that promises to address the helpdesk challenges of both staff and students at the University of Jos. The tools employed in designing the software were CSS, BOOTSTRAP, HTML, PHP, MySQL and JavaScript. Based on the usability test carried out by the users, the pragmatic analysis shows that the system had an 80% success rate with the admin and 60% success rate with the users of the system welcomed the idea of the new software. The system looks to provide great promise for assisting staff and students in a tertiary institution. Thus, future work suggests a full-scale development and implementation of such a system.

Keywords: Help desk system, tertiary institution and university community.

1. Introduction
The term Helpdesk refers to a one step customer support Centre in an organization that provides information, administrative and technical supports to users, with the view to solving problems that users encounter in the course of using the organization resources or facilities (Akinnuwesi et al., 2014). A help desk or service desk can comprise of an individual or a group of persons that make use of telephone devices or software applications to keep track of problem(s) status and thus provide solution(s) that satisfy the users (Sheehan, 2007).
Helpdesk is sometimes referred to as service desk. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the help desk and the service desk are different. The help desk is an effective support center that assists customers in maximizing their use of technology. In contrast, the service desk is not only dedicated to providing excellent technical support but is tightly coupled with all of the IT processes and concentrates on the business needs of the customer and the enterprise (Roberton, 2015).
Help desk is a customer support center in an organization that provides information, administrative and technical supports to users, with the view to solving problems that users encountered in the course of using the organization resources or facilities.
It can be seen as an information and assistance resource that supports the functionality of an organization by responding to users’ requests in a timely manner (Sheehan, 2007). It is hence, a core sector through which problems, complaints and requests are reported, managed, coordinated and resolved. Thus, the focus of this project, is a step to improve both staff and students services in the University of Jos.

Case Description
The ICT directorate of the University of Jos controls most of the services within the University like managing of school network, software development and other online services. It has been structured into different units which are also sub-divided into various units for easier administration.
The units are;
1. NIS unit
2. CIS unit
3. Maintenance unit
4. ID Card unit
The ICT is headed by the ICT Director; She/he is the ICT Director of the University. This study aims at developing a Helpdesk Support System (HSS) in an attempt to improve students and Staff (teaching and non-teaching staff) services in University of Jos ICT with specifics to helpdesk services.
It would identify the problems encountered by the present system and seek ways to improve on it.
The objective of this research is to develop a Helpdesk Support System (HSS) for the University of Jos that will efficiently process the University’s services as well as integrate helpdesk support functions into the system.
A feasibility study was carried out to find out the requirements of the users. Questionnaires and interviews were used in carrying out this study. At the end of the feasibility study, software was designed using MySQL, PHP, HTML, CSS, BOOTSTRAP and JavaScript that would efficiently address the needs of the users.
The help desk is increasing its importance as companies move to client-server architectures.
The Helpdesk Support System (HSS) provides companies with integrated functionality to manage the customers’ services of the Organization.

2. Literature Review
A helpdesk is intended to provide end user with information and support as per their query or related to a particular company or institution’s products and services. According to (Kearsley, 1988) help desk system is one or more programs designed to provide user assistance embedded in a larger program or computer system, Help desk software programs can be used to handle the complaints and issues of your external or internal customers. Some solutions in fact serve both, while other management platforms serve either external or internal customers (Schank, 2011). Thus, a Help Desk represents a single point of contact for end user support.
In developing a successful helpdesk system, the helpdesk contact channels need to be known by the staff and management of the host institution. The leading contact channels for a helpdesk system are mobile device and Internet. A lot of helpdesk systems have been in use across different domains in education, customer service, telecommunication companies, government and banking. Some of the existing helpdesk systems include Zendesk, Mojo Helpdesk, Tender Support System, Fresh desk and Manage-Engine Service desk Plus.
Several researches that relates to helpdesk system exist in literature. The study by Foo et al, (2002) highlighted the design and development of a web-based intelligent helpdesk support environment, WebHotLine, to support the customer service Centre of a large multinational corporation in the electronics industry. Flynn (2014) shed light and attempt to answer the question “what skills best prepare new personnel working in information Technology helpdesk positions”?
It has been established that the University of Jos currently has a functional helpdesk system but more of manual process. The current system though, can be improved upon, and this project work aims at carrying out that improvement by creating a Helpdesk support system that efficiently handle students services at their satisfaction as well as integrating Helpdesk functions into the system.
Help desk design focuses on evaluating the current help desk structures and practices (Tan et al. 2009). It also seeks to ensure that a new service meets both the current and future requirements of the organization (McBride 2009). The design category can be further classified into three high level topics: the background of the user groups (Prensky 2001; Prensky 2009; Vodanovich et al. 2010), the nature of the support models (Kirchmeyer 2002; Lau 2005; Middleton 1999), and the technology types (McAfee 2006).

3. Data Analysis/ Findings
This section will also look at how the sample data will be collected and analyzed after which results will be given. Only two instruments will be used for collecting data however any other instruments are beyond the scope of this research.

3.1 Data collection
A research work being carried out will usually dictate the kinds of research methodologies to be employed in order to collect data. Two types of research methods exist: qualitative and quantitative. Sheldon (2014) explains that qualitative research is an in-depth exploration of what people think, feel or do and, crucially, why – intangibles. On the other hand, he says that quantitative research provides a measure of how many people think, feel or behave in a certain way and uses statistical analysis to determine the results. For the purpose of this research, both research methods are used as a survey to gather quantitative data through the use of a questionnaire for Students and qualitative data by interviewing both academic and non-academic Staff within the institution.

3.1.1 Population of the study
The study population for questionnaire is made up of all students from the University of Jos including off Campus Students and interview for Staff of the institution specific to helpdesk section.

3.1.2 Sampling
Respondents were randomly selected from the population. The inclusion criterion is that respondents must be from university of Jos.

3.2 Instrument design
This section will focus on two instrument designs which are questionnaire and interview.

Questionnaire is a written list of questions that are answered by a number of people so that information can be collected from the answers (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 6th Ed.). A total of 71 copies of the questionnaire were administered to students but only 65 responses were received. Random sampling technique was used in the selection process. The 71 sample space were distributed, thirty-one copies (31) issued to faculty of Natural Science, faculty of Medical Sciences and faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ students, the rest were issued to faculty of art and social sciences (40), Management Science, faculty of Education, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Agriculture. The questionnaires were designed using five point Like-scale where 1= strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = undecided, 4 = agree and 5 = strongly agree. The survey instrument used was questionnaire. It has five sections namely: background information, task completion speed, ease of use and interface navigation with the system.

3.2.2 Interview
An interview is a face to face interaction between interviewer and interviewee. The information gathered from this method is very precise and detailed. The reason for using interviews in this study was to get the employees’ view on the current situation and to deliver an efficient system, a 32-3minites interview was conducted in the institution covering both academic and non-academic Staff with a population of forty (40) workers interviewed, out of which twenty were women, twenty were men including ICT Staff with none of the Staff with age less than 20years. Notes were taken and when possible the interview was recorded. The interview dwells on finding the required characteristics for the proposed helpdesk support system. Staff opinions concerning such characteristics were gathered. They opined that the system should have navigation for user option, admin and others. They also want the system to allow user registration, login, sent message, view message details, delete, reply message and then logout. The admin can register to manage users operations.

3.3 Data Analysis Results.
Seventy one questionnaires were distributed and respondents were asked to complete them and hand them in at the spot to ensure that all are returned. The following information was found from analysis of the completed questionnaires.
I. 100% of the respondents normally contact the ICT helpdesk manually.
II. 73.3% of the respondents meet ICT staff for their request.
III. 13.3% of the respondents like manual submission
IV. 90% of the respondents like online helpdesk
V. 66.7% of the respondents have intermediate skills
VI. 33.3% of the respondents are novice.
After a successful analysis of the questionnaire, the result is shown below using pie Chart.

Fig 3.1 Students’ response to questionnaires

3.3.1 Findings
This section analyzed the raw data gathered from the questionnaires in order to yield a set of results. The result from the questionnaires has led to several key findings. Results from the analysis indicated that majority of the students prefer online process of request in the university.
Requirement gathered from interview give a clear view of how the system should be. These findings as a whole have emphasized the need for the university to have online helpdesk system owing to the derivable benefits as indicated under literature review and the respondents expect the system to have navigation for users, Admin panel where support staff can be added by the Admin. This system was build based on the requirement gathered from the expected users of the existing system.

3.4 Research Design
This chapter describes the method utilized throughout this study. This research design chapter contains the research methodology used in this research, the research design, the classification framework used, the data collection procedure, details of the analysis and the required ethical approvals for the research to be carried out. Furthermore, the limitations of the research design are also specified.

3.5 Methodology
This section of the research constitutes the preferred method used to implement the system. Research methods are used to fulfill the research objective (Jenkins 1985; Mingers 2001). There are a number of different research methods which can be used for research, such as: archival analysis, case study, experiment, history, questionnaire, interview and survey.
The research questions and the overall objective of the research is a fundamental component of determining which research method to utilize. The archival analysis and survey methods seek to answer the research questions that pertain to ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’. Whereas, the case study and the history methods seek to answer the research questions pertaining to ‘why’ or ‘how’ the phenomenon of interests occurs. The experiment research method also seeks to answer the same style of questions through controlled manipulation of dependent variables (Yin 2013). The history methodology does not focus on contemporary events, but the case studies do (Yin 2013).The research methodologies used throughout the research are interview and questionnaire, as these method provides the answer for this research that served as tools for system design. There are diverse methods used to implement any kind of system but in the course of this very research, waterfall model was used because each phase must be completed before the next phase.

3.6 System Modeling
A use case diagram is part of the unified modeling language set of diagrams, a standard notation for the modeling of real-world objects and systems. It shows the important actors and functionality of the system. Actors are represented by stick figures and functions by ovals.
Use case models are used to represent each interaction with the system. A use case is a methodology used in system analysis to identify, clarify, and organize system requirements. Use case diagrams are employed in (Unified Modeling Language). They model the dynamic aspects of the system. It provides a user’s perspective of the system. (Tanko, 2016).
For this system it has three users namely: Admin, Customer and Support Staff each with a specific function illustrated by a use case diagram.
The figure below shows the use case scenarios of the helpdesk system for customers and support staff.

Fig 3.2: Showing use case for Customer and Support Staff
The use case above illustrates the functions that Customer and Support staff can perform using the system. All these modules exist on the designed system.

Fig 3.3: Admin Use Case, it showcase the operation of an admin when using the system.
This use case demonstrates the functionality/activities that admin will perform while using the system.

4. System Design
This helpdesk support system comprises of three main users – Customers, Support Staff and Admin. From the manual system in existence couple with the questionnaire and interview carried out, it path way to a better conceptual model of the system as shown below:

Fig 4.1: This figure shows the structural designed of the entire system

4.1 Sequence Diagram
Sequence Diagrams are interaction diagrams that detail how operations are carried out. They capture the interaction between objects in the context of collaboration.

Fig 4.2 Sequence diagram for Customer

This showcase the workflow for a customer accessing the system, the steps a customer will follow when using any function in the system, first Register, sent message and others but it connect the user communicating with the system while storing the user information in the database.

Fig 4.3 Sequence diagram for Support Staff
The sequence diagram demonstrates the series of action a support staff can follow to perform any function/activities within the system. The support will first sign in, change password, delete messages and all these processes are stored in the database as shown the support Staff connecting the system to the database above.

Fig 4.4 Sequence diagram for Admin
The figure above illustrates the basic operation that admin will perform or the privileges given to admin as demonstrated above.

5. System Implementation
This is the phase where programmers write the codes for the modules in a procedure-oriented design, or write the program units that implement classes in object oriented design (Professor Tanko Ishaia, 2018). The former was adopted while developing the prototype.
The following tools were engaged in the system development: XAMPP as the web server, Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) as server side programming language, MySQL as database, CSS, HTML, BOOTSTRAP for designing the front end of the system and JavaScript. The application can be used by any institution that is willing to take advantage of the evolution of information technology to fast track the process of supporting users in ICT environment.
The Helpdesk support system has several advantages over the existing manual helpdesk system in use. The major advantages are as follows (i) the system gives a simple approach to users to help themselves and rapidly solve what they require, and minimize their disappointment, and
(II) Provides structured and on-time handling of all changes in IT organizations.
However, the new Helpdesk support system has some demerits such as (i) Connection: If the support staff, technician or server is not connected to the internet. The home page (see Figure 5.1)

Figure 5.1: Showcase the home page for the system prototype

The registration form (see Figure 5.2) contains a form which requires all users to register before they can gain access to the system. All information filled in the form is saved into the database.

Figure 5.2: The Register Page form, for all users before having access to the system

Figure 5.3: user page
The user page (see Figure5.3) enables the user to send complaints after login.

Figure 5.4: The announcement page for all users.
The announcement page (See Figure 5.4) for all users to see news from the school as well any changes.

Figure 5.5: The admin Page

The admin page to view users’ messages/complaints messages (see figure 5.5).From the admin page, message with blue button indicate Read message, Red button indicate unread message, delete message has Red button and the reply button with blue button.

The Helpdesk system will enable administrators, Students and support Staff to enable them easily perform their work and resolve problems. It aims to effectively reduce manual administrative processes within the university so that computer systems can be effectively utilized with little or no down time. The system also reduces paper works and delays in meeting lifeline for solving ICT related problems. The adoption of this Help desk system will enhance the efficiency required of the institution’s administrative and technical processes. University is aiming to assured of smooth management of problems or complaints, thus bringing them into the realization of their desired vision.

5.2 System Testing
This is carried out to ensure that the system conforms to its specification and meets the requirements as proposed. The test involves the direct users of the system. The test was carried out in line with Usability testing which is a technique used in user centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users, this gives direct input on how real users use the system.
The users of the system are staff of the University of Jos (teaching and non-Teaching Staff) and students (Customers); they are classified into three categories
I. Administrative staff- this group has privileged rights to the system, they can log in and access all system modules.
II. Customers- this group can only access selected modules.
III. Support Staff-they can only access selected modules.
The following tasks were created for the various users of the system to perform
I. Register and Log in (Admin, Support Staff and user)
II. Add new Support Staff (Admin)
III. Sent complaints message(User)
IV. View customers list(Admin and Support Staff)
V. Add Announcement(Admin and Support Staff)
VI. Update profile (Admin, User and Support Staff)
VII. Reply, Delete, read Mail(Admin, Support Staff and User)
VIII. View Sent messages(All Users)
A total of fifteen people were selected to participate in the usability test, five were to serve as admin, and five were to serve as support staff while the other five were to serve as users of the system. The following table highlights the results of the test:

Table 1.1 (Register and Log in Result)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 Log in Success rate 5/5 4/5 5/5
2 Task times 0secs-1 minute 0secs-1.5mins 0secs-1 minute
3 Error task NA NA NA
4 Problem experienced Users inputted wrong log in details Users inputted wrong log in details Users inputted wrong log in details
5 Comments/recommendations Constant use of the system to enhance familiarity Constant use of the system to enhance familiarity Constant use of the system to enhance familiarity

From the table above, all users of the system have equal privileges to register and Log in to the system.
The Log in testing was successful but some users inputted wrong Log in detail and they found error because their information must match with the one captured in database.

Table 1.2 (Add New Support Staff Result)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 Add New support Staff Success rate 4/5
2 Task times 0secs-5minutes
3 Error rates
4 Problem experienced NA
5 Comments/recommendation Constant use of the system to enhance familiarity

The functionally of adding new support staff is done by admin alone as shown on the table. Admin found it interesting to test this module and it was successful without having any difficulty during testing.

Table 1.3 Sent complaints message/ Request (User)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 Sent mail/ complaint Success rate 4/5
2 Task times
3 Error rates
4 Problem experienced Menu colors are too dull
5 Comments/recommendation Constant use of the system to enhance familiarity

Only the user is allowed to send complaints/request to support staff, both admin and support staff can access their request for resolution. They encountered the problem of some navigation menus’ colors to be too dull and an effective correction was made on the system.

Table 1.4 (View customers list)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 View Customers List Success rate 4/5 4/5
2 Task times 0secs-2minutes 0secs-2minutes
3 Error rates
4 Problem experienced NA NA
5 Comments/Recommendation Admin is becoming familiar with the system Support Staff are becoming familiar with the system

Admin and support staff have the right to view list of customers at any time and he/she can archive their list if so wish in this functionality. The testing was successful without error and problem experienced in this module.

Table 1.5 (Add announcement)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 Add announcement Success rates 4/5 4/5
2 Task time 0secs-4minutes 0secs-4minutes
3 Errors rates NA NA
4 Problems experienced Admin found it difficult to work with the time format Support staff found it difficult to work with the time format
5 Comments/recommendation users are becoming familiar with the system Users are becoming familiar with the system

Functionality of adding announcement can be done by both Admin and support Staff. Support Staff perform this task if he/she is registered by admin as a Support Staff. The problem they faced during testing was users found it difficult to work with the time format.

Table 1.5 (Update profile)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 Update profile Success rate 4/5 4/5 4/5
2 Task times 0secs– 12minutes 0secs-15minutes 0secs-15minutes
3 Error rates
4 Problem experienced Incomplete information cannot be updated Incomplete information cannot be updated Incomplete information cannot be updated
5 Comments/recommendations Users are becoming more familiar with the system Users are becoming more familiar with the system Users are becoming more familiar with the system

All users can update their profile at any time as shown on table 1.5.Most of the users found it very difficult to update their profile if the required field are not filled.

Table 1.6 (Reply, Delete and Read mail)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 Reply mail Success Rate 3/5 4/5 4/5
2 Task time 0sesc-5minutes 0secs-7minutes 0secs-6minutes
3 Error rates NA NA NA
4 Problem experienced NA NA NA
5 Comments/recommendations Users are becoming more familiar with the system Users are becoming more familiar with the system Users are becoming more familiar with the system

All users can reply, delete and read incoming mails. In the process of testing, most users had no error and problem experienced instead they are becoming familiar with the system.

Table 1.7 (View Sent Message)
Task Rating Admin User Support Staff
1 View sent messages Success Rate 4/5
2 Task time 0secs-3minutes 0secs-4minutes 0secs-3minutes
3 Error rates
4 Problem experienced
5 Comments/recommendations Users are becoming more familiar with the system Users are becoming more familiar with the system Users are becoming more familiar with the system

The functionality of viewing sent messages as shown on table 1.7 was carried out by all users of the system. During testing all users were able to complete task within the allotted time without error and facing problem.

5.1 Conclusion and Recommendations
In this study, a Helpdesk Support System (HSS) was provided towards efficient management and resolution of ICT challenges in higher education specified University of Jos. The system was evaluated to determine the service level among students and faculty in academic institutions. The usability attributes includes, task completion speed and interface navigation had a comfortable usability factor. However, the ease of use was low as a result of the effect of network connection.
Problem management processes and activities are robust and dynamic as such, there will be a need for future review and improvements on the system. It is worthy of note that the system should be placed within the institutions internal network to fully effect the goal of making it primarily for the university. As an institution, University of Jos should explore the mobile helpdesk system to service ICT related products. When setting up the new mobile helpdesk, the installation should be considered from three different perspectives: process, people and tool.
This research has identified the critical aspects needed to develop a helpdesk system. The knowledge level of a sample was determined and finally a system that served as a proof of concept was designed and showcased. Therefore, the research can be said to have achieved it target objective. It is hoped that this system will be appended to larger society not just University of Jos.

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