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Help Desk Software, Bug Tracking Software, CRM, Oh My!

I saw the post by Dharmesh in the BOS forums and thought I’d throw my 2 cents in. I generally try not to pitch in threads that specifically ask about HelpSpot so I’ll leave my 2 cents over here.

The basic gist of Dharmesh’s post was what he should do in terms of bug tracking software vs help desk software. Could he use the bug tracker (FogBugz in this case) as a help desk tool, should he use HelpSpot (or similar) as a bug tracker, or does he really need both. For purposes of the discussion here I’ll also expand the conversation to CRM as well since that normally enters these types of discussions.

My personal opinion is that about 80% of software companies and 99% of other companies need all 3 to be separate applications. So you should have a bug tracker, a help desk tool, and a CRM solution all relatively independent.

My main reasoning behind this is that these applications normally serve separate staff within an organization. Even in a small organization the programmers have their own needs separate from your customer service people, separate from your sales group. While having all 3 applications mashed together sounds like it should be more efficient it really isn’t. Your sales team will hate seeing “bugs”, your programmers don’t care about the last time you mailed a customer a holiday card, customer service also doesn’t care about bugs or this years sale conversion rates and so on.

Sure you’ll always have some people who overlap and for those few people it may be useful to have these apps together, most of the time that’s not the case. And by having them all together you’re getting a very bloated UI for everyone involved. Even in a dedicated piece of software the average user is only using 20% of it. When you mash these 3 apps together the average use is now probably only using 5%. That means the 95% they’re not using is simply in the way.

My other issue is that most systems which try and do everything end up doing nothing well. I’d rather have a top of the line help desk, bug tracker and CRM as opposed to a half ass do everything application.

Now specifically on the help desk front, my experience has been that using a bug tracker doesn’t work well if you have dedicated support personal or if the people doing support are not the programmers. I’ve sold many HelpSpot licenses to groups moving away from this very model. That said, you can get by using just a bug tracker if your programmers are your support team. In that scenario the added convenience of one application can be helpful. If you’re not planning on having a customer service portal and you’re really only dealing with email then this can work.

Personally I don’t do this and actually use separate apps for each, but that’s my preference. I simply feel it makes my life much easier to do so. Also using HelpSpots Live Lookup API I can integrate with my home grown CRM and pull in all the data I need. I could also integrate with my bug tracker if that was required, but I currently don’t.

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