Managing close to a million square feet of convention space can be quite a daunting task. The calendar is filled with events scheduled over the coming months, even years. Convention sales, event management, logistics, catering, design and implementation, maintenance management, and parking control, all rely on an infrastructure that most never see and take for granted. Welcome to the world of the City of Milwaukee, Convention Center Department.
Meet Darren L. Rutherford, Sabina W. Rhinehart, and Roger Wilson. These three ensure that the Convention Center’s IT infrastructure is available at all times to those who depend on it. They are the people who keep all the services up and running and ensure that the show always goes on.
The Milwaukee Convention Center is located in the heart of Wisconsin, a growing city of approximately 1.7 million. The different facilities within the Convention Center are booked throughout the year, hosting all manner of gatherings.
According to one report by the Travel Industry Association of America, the National Business Travel Association, and the Institute of Business Travel Management, the Milwaukee Convention Center has ranked as the 19th busiest in the country, outpacing even those in New York City; Seattle, Washington; Tampa, Florida; and more.
“Milwaukee has become a very popular city on the tradeshow circuit and is known for its vibrant culture and cosmopolitan crowd,” said Darren Gonzalez. “Our facilities reflect the architectural diversity of this historic and vibrant city.”
Darren heads the IT team at the Convention Center. He has Sabina who heads the service desk and desktop team. While Roger Wilson leads the network team. Together, they deliver a dependable infrastructure (read, always available).
The Convention Center Department, as part of a city administration, faces some unique challenges. However, many of the challenges Darren and the team face are the same as those faced by IT professionals in the private sector. For example, finances need to be optimally managed. “It is like we have a lot of eyes on us and we have to make sure our budgets are not overshot or mismanaged,” Darren devoted time to researching help desk systems and demoing different solutions.
I looked at ITDEVTECH’s Tikting and I liked it. I liked the idea of having built-in modules that we can purchase when we need them and expand the program. We downloaded the trial version and tried it ourselves.”
Darren also appreciated ITDEVTECH’s quick installation process. As deadlines approached, he needed a system that could be up and running fast. Darren got his team together, loaded the Tikting software, and ran the configuration wizard.
The help desk team began with a pre-rollout test using a limited number of users. “It helped us understand how end-users liked the new system and gave us time to understand the system better and make sure everything was configured right,” Darren said. This pre-release exercise also helped Darren and the team to educate the broader group of end-users about the new system. The IT team built slideshows and screenshot presentations to explain to end-users the workflow in Tikting . ‘I think we were very successful in getting end-user buy-in to the system because of the education process we invested in. Our people appreciated the new system and because we gave them a month before launch, they were pretty comfortable with it when Tikting rolled out.”
Before Tikting , Darren and his team used a homegrown app, with limited success. “We would get 70 to 80 tickets logged in there. We were sure that was not the correct number because most tickets never even got logged. Then when we started using Tikting , those ticket numbers doubled and sometimes even tripled because everything got logged. And it is so much easier to report on those numbers.”
According to Darren, that reporting, and accountability, are one of the biggest benefits he has seen with Tikting.
“It was amazing to see how people put in tickets and our support team would be eager to work on these tickets. It was there for all to see. If anybody had any questions or needed clarification, we could look up the record in Tikting, check the status of a ticket, and see who was working on that ticket right then, for example.
“Sometimes, ticket resolutions would require input from multiple technicians or teams. So we would have these different individuals working on the same ticket, and they can each track and document their work in Tikting. It became easy for anyone to follow up on any ticket, at any time. We did not have that in our old system,” Darren said.
Roger added, This comes in handy when somebody asks you why their ticket has not been resolved for two weeks. I can go into Tikting, read my notes and tell them that | tried calling them five times and left voicemails each time, but they never responded! | love the transparency this provides.”
Darren and the team have now transferred the responsibility of creating a ticket to the end-user. With that the process is established, the IT team better understands what needs to be worked on, and end-users know that submitting a ticket through Tikting is the way to a fast resolution.
“I love it when | can walk down the hallway now and the old ‘shoulder-tap tickets’ are gone,” Darren said with a smile.
“Microsoft licensing alone can take up to 15 percent of our annual budget. Now we get to ask questions like, ‘do we need this particular software? Can it be replaced by a less-expensive alternative?’ Because every small bit of savings makes a difference.”
Tikting ‘ mobile interface was also something Darren and the team – especially Sabina – found to be beneficial. Sabina is often working off-site. Access to the system is very critical for her since she oversees the assignment of every ticket. The mobile interface allows her to work remotely just as if she were at her office desk, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by her coworkers.
“She (Sabina) will be at a conference and we can see that all our tickets are being assigned in the system,” Roger said. “We all know that she is using the mobile interface.”
“It is a life-saver for me not to be dependent on my laptop all the time,” Sabina added.
Darren and the team have extended Tikting beyond the IT help desk, allowing end-users to submit other types of service requests, such as telecom service; or even requests for meeting supplies, such as projectors, screens, and more.
Tikting has demonstrated its value daily and played an important role in helping the Milwaukee Convention Center IT Team to consistently perform at a high level.
“Tikting has lowered my stress level a great deal,” Darren said. “l know that everything | need to know is in one place. It used to unnerve me before because things would be in my voicemail, email, and even post-it notes on my desk,” Darren said. “With Tikting, you know it is in your queue and you are confident you haven’t forgotten any shoulder tap requests. Tikting gave our end-users’ confidence too. They know that their tickets are being taken care of.”
“The accountability that Tikting provides is priceless. You just cannot put a value on that.”
“Yesterday was about shoulder taps and break fixes. Today is about upgrades and new features. It is about strategy and about what we can do better. We have built-in more discipline and priority. This is more long-term, strategic, and where we want to be.”