A History of Help Desk Software

Help desk software has been around since almost before the word "software" existed to describe it. Even before companies had workers using individual desktop computers, they had workers using other technical equipment, such as dumb terminals for mainframe computer access, and/or typewriters, dictation machines and telephones. Any of these could develop technical issues. Any company that employed staff whose job it was to help fix those issues needed a way for that staff to track those issues and their work.

Mainframe help desk software relied on physical issue submission. Issues would have been submitted by paper forms, or by telephone to help desk staff, who would type issues into a dumb terminal for tracking by technical staff. Communication with the users about their issues would also have been by paper or on the phone.

Desk top computers and email brought significant advances to help desk software systems. Users could submit issues by email, forgoing paper forms and interoffice snail mail. More important to user satisfaction, is that the help desk process became less of a black box. Users could also get status updates by email and interact with help desk staff without resorting to the telephone. Email interaction also saved support staff time, by lessening the amount of time spent taking phone calls from users looking for status updates.

Even though email and desktop computing helped to make help desk software less of a mystery to end users, it wasn't until the internet and networked software systems matured to be fully interactive systems that help desk software came to be participatory for the users submitting and tracking issues.

Lotus Notes was one of the first systems that allowed the end users to view their own support tickets, to add information, and to search for help with issues on their own. Lotus Notes was a harbinger of web client technology.

Currently, web-based, cloud computing and social networking is making its own mark on help desk software evolution. Modern help desk software systems are interactive, they include community support elements, they provide real-time status updates, and they have the capability of remote access to desktops, permitting help desk staff to detect and correct computer software issues remotely.