If so, you do realize that you have a very flexible, capable solution most likely sitting there idle on your SBS2k3 network? It’s called Windows SharePoint Services . . . Seriously.
I’m not just rambling here – we’re using Sharepoint internally to manage our service calls, projects and customer data – and it’s proving to be a perfect solution for us right now for several reasons: 1) you can’t beat the price! :^) 2) It is very easily customized and adapted to our specific needs. 3) Since it is based on SQL server, we know that we will have access to our data if/when we grow out of it. It’s a great stepping stone for when Outlook just isn’t enough anymore, but you’re not ready to invest in a complete management software package.
OK you say – but just how do you do this? Well, there’s no set formula, but I’ll share some tidbits with what we’re doing:
1) Added additional fields to the built-in Help Desk list so that we can use it for scheduling service calls. We added fields for Customer, checkboxes for home user / high-speed internet, service call date / time, end date / time, time on site, service call notes, mileage and a checkbox for billed.
2) Created new views for the Help Desk including a calendar view based on both the Service Call date/time & End date/time. This way when viewing as a single day, you get your Outlook-like functionality where the time slot is blocked off. Another view we created is ‘My Active Tasks’ – this will display all calls for the current user that are not marked completed. I use this to see what calls I need to finish my notes for and complete so they can be billed. Yet another view we created is ‘Ready to Bill’ – which shows the calls that are marked completed but not marked as billed. This is great for Amy, as she can see what calls need invoiced without having to dig.
3) I created a Document Workspace (not document library), and customized it for customer data. I added Web parts for Tasks, Contacts & Links to the main page, then created several different document libraries to organize customer files. (e.g. ‘Correspondence,’ ‘Proposals & Quotes,’ ‘Service Agreements’ & ‘Technical Documentation’) I then saved this site as a template. We have since created a separate Workspace for each customer, using this original template. The big benefit of this is that we can assign permissions on each Document Library, which allows for techs to access the technical documentation, but not the legal service agreements for example. On the links webpart on the customer workspace, we enter a variety of links, including links to that customer’s RWW, OWA & Sharepoint sites, links to other tech partners they may work with (LOB software vendors, etc.), links to software they’re using, and a link to a web-based map of their location. (Saves you from having to look up the address, copy it into MapPoint, etc. . . . two clicks from the main Companyweb page and voila! you’ve got a map to their location . . . :^)
4) I created a new links list that includes a link to each customer workspace. Added this list as a webpart to the main page (showing customers in groups of 15). Only catch here is that this list isn’t auto-populated. We have to manually add the link once we’ve set up the customer workspace. Remember back in #1 where I said we added a customer field to the Help Desk? That customer field is actually a lookup on this link list . . . so every customer in the link list automatically appears in that drop-down in the Help Desk. Not only does this speed up entering Service Calls, but it also gives us great sorting capabilities on the Help Desk, and makes it very easy for me to generate Service Call History reports for customers from Access 2003 (or SQL Reporting services) by simply linking to the Help Desk list in Sharepoint.
5) Forms Libraries! Infopath rocks!! Right now, we have a forms library that holds all of our Site Surveys. I created an Infopath form that allows us to gather all pertinent information from a Site Survey. The beauty of forms libraries is that you can save your empty Infopath form on your laptop, and then when you’re doing a site survey where you don’t have a good internet connection, you can fill out the form locally, and then upload it when you are able to connect to the office. Right now, I’m thinking of adding a form library to each customer workspace, and having a separate form for each machine on the network . . . so we have our own little repository of machine data The final step with this functionality is to generate a script that takes advantage of WMI to inventory a lan automatically and store it in an xml format so that it can be directly uploaded to the form library. That is assuming XP SP2 doesn’t make running a script like that too difficult . . . :^)
6) The last major plan for our site is to create a knowledge base. And considering how simple it was to accomplish everything else that I’ve done so far, I don’t think it will be too difficult.
If any of you guys are interested in this as a solution, post some feedback and I’ll see if I can’t tie up a few loose ends and post a template or two for you to use . . .