New helpdesk helps Bodleian stay on top of maintenance

The system gives us a lot more control – it helps us stay on top of things and make sure that jobs aren’t neglected.’ Scott Foulon, Facilities Manager at the Bodleian Libraries

Bodleian Library


The Estates Services Systems Administration team provided the Bodleian Libraries with helpdesk software to enable its maintenance team to manage their work more effectively.

The challenge:

Until recently, Bodleian staff were using a bespoke software system based on an Access database to track maintenance requests made by staff, but this was more than a decade old and increasingly difficult to keep running, with very limited technical support available. The precariousness of the situation was highlighted when a power cut brought the system down in such a way that it was not initially clear whether it could recover.

A temporary email-based system was put in place to enable staff to report problems that the maintenance team needed to fix but was far from ideal, as emails could easily get lost in the inbox and it was hard to track progress on solving problems over time.

The solution

Bodleian maintenance staff approached the Systems Administration team in Estates Services to ask about the possibility of a replacement, on the basis of the team’s expertise in maintaining systems that track a much larger range of maintenance tasks across the whole University.

Tracey Iles, Systems Administrator, worked closely with the Bodleian staff to understand their needs. She then set up a smaller-scale implementation of the Planon database that the University uses to hold information on everything from maintenance jobs across the estate to catering orders and bus pass requests. The new system went live at the end of November 2017.

In setting it up, the Systems team drew on their experience of using the Planon software on the Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) and Facilities Management helpdesks. Many of the issues that the Bodleian wanted to solve were similar to those already faced while setting up these earlier helpdesks: for example, the Bodleian maintenance team wanted the option to monitor response times and the ability to escalate a problem to the DLO directly from their helpdesk rather than rather than having to log on to FacilityNet and re-submit it as a new job. This saves them time as well as letting them continue to track progress on solving the problem even after it has been passed on to the DLO.  The system can also produce reports to show the volume and type of requests that the maintenance team are being asked to do – one of their initial requirements.

Another advantage of the new system is that it lets users who have reported a problem keep track of progress on fixing it. With the previous system they had no way of doing this, which meant that if the maintenance team were working on a solution but ran into a delay such as having to wait for a part to arrive, other building users could easily form the impression that nothing was happening. Under the new system, users can log in and see exactly what had been done and what the next steps are.

The outcome:

The new helpdesk software is a huge improvement over the email-based system it replaced. It helps Bodleian maintenance staff manage their workloads and ensure jobs are done in a timely fashion. ‘The system gives us a lot more control,’ says Scott Foulon, Facilities Manager at the Bodleian Libraries. ‘It helps us stay on top of things and make sure that jobs aren’t neglected.’

Because staff can see the progress that is being made, they are more engaged with the system and more likely to report maintenance issues in future.

At present the system only handles reactive maintenance requests at the central Bodleian sites, but the library’s facilities management team are now working with Systems Administration to incorporate planned preventative maintenance as well to help them understand and plan for the full range of jobs that need doing.