Anti-pattern: Using the IBM Rational Jazz Tools in Place of a Help Desk Suite

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Strongback Consulting
A common anti-pattern for the Jazz tools (RTC, RQM, and DNG) is using them in place of a true help desk application. Help desk apps are designed to handle the recording of calls to the desk, categorizing the problems, and assisting the call agent with remediating those problems. In some cases a help desk system can offer self-service functions to the end user, alleviating the load on the help desk. 
The Jazz tools are designed to manage software application development lifecycle, collaboratively. As such they have specific functions, and subsequent licensing that should not be exposed directly to the end user (these licenses are not cheap). Rather, a role of the help desk should be separating help desk calls from true software defects. With a help desk system, an organization wants to capture the nature of EVERY call. Using RTC to capture the contents of every call is ludicrous (and expensive). It is like using a screwdriver, when you need a hammer. RTC makes for a mediocre (at best) help desk. 
Help desk items tend to have multiple different types of calls:
  • User error (RTFM)
  • Inquiry (“How do I do this? Where are the manuals? When is training?”)
  • Facilities management questions (“The accounting department’s A/C is not working”)
  • Occasional wrong number
  • Defect in COTS (which requires remediation by the vendor of the product) 
  • Defect in actual software that is written by the organization, and needs to be remediated
  • Request for enhancement (which can be further categorized)
As you can see, all but the last two categories are not relevant to any of the Jazz tools. As such, the Jazz tools should not be used as a first line of defense for help desk. However, for these two last issues, there is an opportunity for collaboration, whereby the data entered into the help desk can go right into RTC as a defect, or task and save on data entry errors, while capturing linkage between the RTC defect and the help desk ticket. 

The key here is having a help desk system that is capable of doing just that. That is where the IBM Control Desk comes into play. Control Desk is a suite of components including one that integrates with the Jazz tools via OSLC. The Service Request Management feature provides full help desk management functions, including routing of tickets to appropriate queues. 
Here is an overview of Control Desk’s Service Management features:
The Tivioli Service Request Management is a piece of Control Desk that allows integration with the Jazz tools. This video belows describes how, in the process of a help desk call, the CCR can route a ticket into RTC as a software defect. By using the OSLC interface, the CCR creates a defect in RTC, via Control Desk. The work item is linked to the ticket and vice versa. This is very helpful for the software developer, as he/she can navigate bidirectionally to understand the nature of the problem, and the collaboration that has taken place previously (without having to wade through hundreds of email chains).
The cost of Control Desk makes this a highly competitive solution, and considering its features, a more complete solution than using RTC as a help desk. While you can customize RTC to act like a help desk, it will never provide sufficient features for the audience. When one considers the licensing cost, it especially makes sense. 
If your organization has another help desk system, it is possible to integrate the two via the OSLC bridge API, which we have worked with in several prior engagements. However, it is important to understand that one must use the right tool for the right job, not customize a tool designed for a different job, when a cheaper, and more appropriate tool is already available. 
For more information on RTC customization and help desk integration, contact us, and we’ll be happy to work with your needs. 

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