As the Air Force Enterprise Service Desk (ESD) goes virtual, Team Hill will see a new application on their computer allowing them to immediately tackle and fix their minor IT issues.
The Virtual Enterprise Service Desk (vESD) is an application that allows the user to solve common issues and self-initiate trouble tickets for e-mail, desktop, laptop, and mobile devices and will eventually include network, software, hardware and other user account capabilities. The application allows for status checks of any current trouble ticket, feedback submission and provides further contact information for more help.
The application began rolling out across the Air Force in stages, starting with Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas, and Peterson AFB, Colo., in Oct 2014. After those locations, the app will be implemented across the major commands in stages.
Hill AFB is scheduled to have vESD implemented on Nov. 30.
Users who experienced account or network problems over the last few years have called a central customer service center. With a customer base of over 650,000 people, the ESD’s automated phone system had been significantly overburdened, which led to a cascade of inefficiencies. Not immune to the fiscal challenges so familiar across the Air Force, the 67th Cyber Wing advanced on a new approach to customer service necessary to solve this complex problem.
“Back in February, the average call wait time was around 20 minutes, but during peak periods this could easily run up to an hour,” said Col. Chad Raduege, commander of the 690th Cyberspace Operations Group. “That’s a 60 minute wait just to tell an ESD technician that you have a problem. Coupled with the ESD’s backlog, our return to service time took up to seven days. That’s unacceptable.”
The ESD is transforming to more efficiently empower users to find solutions to their technical challenges as well as leverage new automated programs to eliminate the need for a call center. It is important to note the ESD is not closing. It will still exist. It is simply transforming its business processes to more proactive tasks.
“The ESD continues to modernize and retool in order to address the call wait times and return to service rates,” said Lt Col. Mark Reith, commander of the 690th Network Support Squadron and responsible for the ESD. “It started with an online tool called MyGAL and then we added IAO Express. These tools drastically improved user experience. Today the average wait time is 5-10 minutes and users should expect an average return to service time of about half a day. The vESD app is the final piece of the new IT support model, and it comes just in time before the Air National Guard migration into the AFNET.”
With vESD, the user simply clicks an icon on their desktop, answers some simple questions and the software attempts to repair. The customer has effectively reached a virtual ESD technician immediately. Similar to the human technician, vESD will attempt repair based on the user’s response to questions and will perform its own “health check” of the user’s computer. If it can’t resolve the problem, vESD will automatically initiate a trouble ticket and route it immediately to the appropriate office at one of the Network Operations Squadrons or the local Communications Focal Point, depending on the problem identified.
“Historically, about 70 perecent of all tickets (worked by the ESD) are minor issues that could be resolved through this type of automation,” said Reith. “The remaining tickets are generally forwarded to other offices for resolution because it is beyond the expertise of the first line technician. vESD is great because it either resolves the minor issue or routes the ticket to the right back shop office. Instead of waiting for someone to answer the phone, the tough tickets are created and routed to the right specialist faster.”
The ESD will continue to be an important part of IT support, just not as a call center. The future ESD will focus instead on proactive activities that prevent issues in the first place. One example is the creation of a problem management team. Often cited as an industry best-practice, problem management focuses on finding the root cause of enterprise-wide issues and ensuring that solutions are worked through the engineering and acquisition battle rhythms. Another example is the creation of an AFIN Mission Assurance Center (AMAC) to orchestrate maintenance actions amid real-world operations. These initiatives are key elements of realizing IT efficiencies and maximizing limited IT resources while protecting AF missions.
The 75th Communications Directorate will continue to be an important partner in the new IT support model. The Hill Consolidated Service Desk (CSD) currently resolves 92 perecent of all computer issues at Hill. The remaining 8 percent of Hill’s computer workload is performed by the ESD. Armed with additional IT permissions, the Hill CSD is empowered to work local leadership’s priorities. Users will need to call the Hill CSD when a computer is completely broken, off the network, or for functional application problems.
If you experience any problems with the vESD or have an issue that needs further assistance, please call the Hill Consolidated Service Desk at 801-586-TECH (8324).
(The 75th Communications Directorate contributed to this article)