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Case Studies : Sitka - Alaskan School District
The School District
Sitka is a unified city-borough school district on the west side of Baranof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Alaska Panhandle. With an estimated population of 8,986 in 2005, Sitka is the fourth-largest city in Alaska. The name Sitka (derived from Sheet’ká, a contraction of the Tlingit name Shee At'iká means "People on the Outside of Shee," Sheet’-ká X'áat'l (often expressed simply as Shee) being the Tlingit name for Baranof Island. Until 1867, Sitka was the capital of Russian America, and during this time was known as Novoarkhangelsk, or New Arkhangelsk.
The Sitka IT environment is nearly all Windows PC based, with 600+ PCs and 20+ Windows 2003 servers running on a VMware 4 virtual environment backed by a Dell Equalogic enterprise-class SAN. Agents and customers are integrated via Active Directory LDAP, as the sole authentication DB. Agents include IT Director Paul Hill, and non-tech staff including teachers, receptionists, librarians, and principals.
While a relatively small school district with only 1300 students and 200 employees, Sitka maintains a complete education curriculum, from pre-school through high school. With only a single-person IT staff, the school district also had to rely on computer teachers as the first level of contact and support. With no tracking system in place, notes were often written on Post-its and emails disappeared, despite heroic efforts to keep up with requests.
Sitka’s operational requirements includes a reliable well-supported product, a short product-selection-to-production timeline, ease of access using existing staff credentials, multiple options to access support (email, web, telephone), auto routing of work to appropriate technicians, and in-house hosting and customization. They also needed to extend to student users in the future, engage with a reliable professional services group, and fit their strained budget.
Above all, Sitka was looking for an open system with the flexibility to conform to unusual staffing challenges and keep up with ever-changing needs, without incurring burdensome maintenance and licensing costs. A vibrant user support community was also an essential requirement.
Sitka staff examined several helpdesk, ticketing, and CRM options, including SchoolDude, Web Help Desk, DeskPRO, Spiceworks, MSCRM, TigerCRM, and SugarCRM. Upon experimenting with the OTRS community edition, they found it to be a mature, reliable, well-supported product that best fit their requirements and budget.
After downloading and configuring OTRS, and becoming familiar with its capabilities, Sitka then brought in the OTRS deployment team to conduct an implementation workshop as part of an overall infrastructure improvement project, and set up the system. Any minor issues encountered during implementation were quickly resolved.
Their system has queues for each "dept/school" and a tier 2 queue. Tier 1 agents review all incoming tickets, collect info, assign responsibility, change queues, if necessary, and work to close the tickets.
In the first week of the new school year, the district already generated over 300 tickets in the new OTRS system. New hires were easily set up with email accounts, and access to buildings and the grading system.
Users access OTRS via the Sitka intranet, their web portal at http://tech.ssd.k12.ak.us, or by emailing email@example.com. They can also call 90-747-TECH, and if nobody answers PhoneFusion will transcribe their voicemail and email in a new ticket!
When asked if the new OTRS system met all of Sitka’s operational requirements, and resolved all issues, Paul Hill replied, "Yes, it even resolved an issue I did not anticipate, fixing, tracking of assets." Likewise, he was very pleased with OTRS support.
The system has a perfect record of stability, with no outages or performance issues in more than six months of operation. They installed the iPhone package when released, and were up and running in about one minute: "There was no digging chest-deep into config files, syntax checking, or chasing down error messages. Nothing. It was click, click, click … done!"
Of the $200,000 the Sitka school district received for improvements, the OTRS ticket system was the smallest expense, with the greatest positive impact on teachers, parents, students, and staff.
When asked for his overall assessment, Paul Hill responded, "OTRS exceeded my expectations and helped to redeem my faith in open source software. As a system administrator, you come across open source solutions that are far from refined and so problematic that the amount of work they save aren’t worth the time and effort to get them up and running. OTRS was a pleasant change."
When asked if his users are happy with OTRS, Paul answered, "It’s one of those things … you don’t know how you got by without it before."
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About OTRS Inc.:
OTRS is an open-source service innovation suite, providing a Help Desk, an ITIL V3-certified IT service management (ITSM) solution, an associated iPhone app, and an underlying technology platform, delivered as an on-demand Help Desk or as freely downloadable open source software.
Published: Sunday, November 28, 2010