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Working the FS Geospatial Helpdesk

The United States Forest Service (USFS) is a multi-faceted agency that manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico. The Geospatial Technology and Applications Center (GTAC) provides leadership to geospatial science implementation in the USDA Forest Service. This work involves “…exploring and developing emerging technologies, working with partners to demonstrate their application in land and resource management, providing solutions to inform decision making, and building capacity to support the Agency Mission.” 

Since 2010, GTAC has provided geospatial helpdesk support to Geographic Information System (GIS) users across the nation. The goal is to promote appropriate use of geospatial technologies via the GIS helpdesk, the knowledge resource for all levels in the agency. These services include top tier (level 2 & 3) geospatial helpdesk services including the Esri GIS platform, geospatial applications on the desktop, enterprise Data Center, mobile GIS, GPS, and web GIS. All units of the USFS under the auspices of the Information Resources Decision Board (IRDB) are provided these services. Clients of the helpdesk are also provided coordination with additional helpdesk requests (e.g. for ArcGIS Online, ESRI helpdesk, and GPS, with Trimble Helpdesk). The GIS helpdesk offers support for best practices, geospatial workflows, and guidance on enterprise processes, analysis, modeling, and data management.

Xentity is providing sustained level 2 and 3 helpdesk services for the following queues: GIS, Mobile GIS, and GPS. Services are provided to all units of the USFS via the GIS helpdesk and other personal communication methods available to USFS personnel.

Changing of the Guard To Continue Providing This Service

GTAC’S GIS helpdesk had already experienced multiple positive changes over the years as usage has increased.  From 2016-2017 for example, the volume of incidents reported to the helpdesk increased  from 2015-2016’s numbers, reaching several thousand. October 2017 in particular saw an increase to several hundred calls. This was not an isolated incident, as season variation patterns have changed as well. There used to be a lull from Thanksgiving into mid-January, but in 2018 that “lull” GTAC expected never occurred due to a growing customer base.  In spite of this growing workload, GTAC had experienced a good response time record (less than 2 hour response times). The helpdesk team also received excellent customer service stats that average a near-perfect rating. This occurred even as staff hours remained the same and usage increased over time. 

Xentity is providing various helpdesk services, including troubleshooting, software installation, configuration and licensing for GIS applications. They are also providing other services such as advising end users in a variety of topics. These topics include data assessment, analysis geospatial tools, enterprise geospatial systems, cartography, and informing end users regarding appropriate geospatial standards, workflows, and applications specific to the agency. More advanced services include investigating, developing and maintaining documentation for technical geospatial issues, workflows and support requirements. Xentity is providing oversight for contracted operations of the GIS Helpdesk. This particular service includes analyzing and reporting issues and incidents on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Xentity is engaging with groups and stakeholders, providing representation for the GIS helpdesk to ensure the GIS helpdesk’s resource availability.

Building On An Already Growing Helpdesk Service

As mentioned before, GTAC had already experienced good response time records (less than 2 hours) for support. Also, excellent customer service stats rated near-perfect on average. Xentity expects GTAC’s customer base to continue growing. Xentity is more than confident in its ability improve GTAC’s response time record. They are also confident in maintaining that near-perfect customer service rating. No “lulls” throughout the business year? No problem.