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Lexmark, a leading printer manufacturer, had strict requirements during its search for a new problem-tracking system. The ability to run on multiple operating systems, meet tough security measures, and provide an intuitive web-based interface was needed.
After a lengthy search, the Serena® TeamTrack® process management application emerged as the best option. Representing 62-percent less cost than other proposed systems, TeamTrack was up and running in 30 days and helped Lexmark realize a 70-percent increase in efficiency in the first week of deployment. Companywide training was completed in three days and the intuitive, browser-based interface has proven smart and easy to use. Highly configurable, TeamTrack allowed Lexmark to retain the fields and parameters of the old system that still made sense, and easily achieve tough security requirements.
Implement advanced problem-tracking s ystem to increase capabilities and improve efficiency, security, and performance
“I ran the numbers past management and there was no contest, especially after the [TeamTrack] demo.” – Tyler Barnett, Staff Engineer, Lexmark
When Lexmark International began its search for a new problem-tracking system, the printer manufacturer’s requirements were strict. “The new system had to run on Windows, Unix and OS/2,” said Tyler Barnett, the Lexmark staff engineer who headed the search. “That’s a requirement most systems can’t meet.” Barnett also wanted a web-based solution to provide everyone thr oughout the company with a common browser interface, and be highly configurable to meet corporate security needs.
The old Lexmark problem-tracking system was home-grown and its limitations were myriad. Performance could be poor at times, as the system was based on flat files and operated on a single-threaded server. “The old system was fine if you had it to yourself, but nobody ever did,” Barnett said. It also stored the year as two digits, and perhaps the biggest flaw was the systems’ wide-open structure—anyone who could log on could locate any issue, view any issue, and submit any issue. “In certain areas we’re a vendor-driven company and we don’t want different vendors getting into each other’s problems,” Barnett said. “We don’t even want vendors to know that other vendors exist.”
It took more than two years to search for a new 400-user system, which netted Barnett three alternatives. Two options required six months to implement and cost $400,000. “At the time I thought I might have six months, but I sure didn’t have $400,000,” Barnett said. TeamTrack was the sole viable solution. The web-based system doesn’t require users to install, configure or upgrade client software.
And its intuitive web-browser interface also results in reduced user training. The only real cost is for licensing. “I ran the numbers past management and there was no contest, especially after the demo,” Barnett said. Lexmark has purchased almost 500 TeamTrack licenses at a cost that represented a 62-percent savings over the other two proposed systems.
Barnett had the system up and running in 30 days. Companywide training was completed in three days with the assistance of a TeamTrack trainer. An even quicker start-up is possible, but Barnett opted to use an Oracle database, about which he knew little. “If I had known then what I know now about Oracle, we could have b een up and running in a week,” he said, adding that great after-sale support was also of paramount importance to the quick start-up. “There was always someone there to solve a problem or come through with the answer.”
Barnett created a three-tier system. It consists of the browser on each developer’s desktop (an IE 4 browser for those on Windows; a Netscape 4.0 browser for those running on Unix, as well as engineers involved in OS/2 development), an application server running on NT, and a Sun System running Oracle 8, which does the intensive search work and sends the results back to the application server for final formatting and automatic distribution to the user’s desktop.
“The system is so smart that if a developer attaches a description in MS Word or a screen shot of a failing part as a PowerPoint slide, the helper application is launched right from the hyperlink,” Barnett said . Before, if someone wanted to send an attachment, it had to be placed in a common area and the developer had to write down the path in the problem-tracking system. The new system makes adding an attachment as simple as with e-mail, and attached image files can be viewed online.
Highly user configurable, TeamTrack allowed Lexmark to retain the fields and parameters of the old system that still made sense and to discard the rest. Tough security requirements also were easily achieved. “When vendors log onto TeamTrack, they see only what we allow them to see, search or find,” Barnett explained. System access at Lexmark revolves around the concept of groups: the system is never customized for an individual, but for a group. Most business groups configure their security so that every member of the group can view all issue folders, but whether an individual receives the means to access those issues depends on the permission of the group administrator.
The configurable wor kflow also allows each business area to determine how its interface looks and works, while being able to permit other business areas to copy issues back and forth between them. Some business areas want issues routed directly to certain engineers or team leads, while others want issues placed in a problem-group bucket, which permits engineers to pick and choose the issues they want to work on.
Problem tracking with TeamTrack has been so successful on the development side, it’s being considered for use by the company’s 1-800-LEXMARK customer-service network for escalation of issues directly to development. Currently, when the second-level representatives can’t solve a customers’ query, they have to log the problem into Lotus Notes, and then the development engineer has to copy it back into the problem-tracking system. Using TeamTrack would free project-support engineers from having to use Lotus Notes as a communication medium.