Admit it. Most of us don’t think of the Coast Guard’s Centralized Service Desk (CSD) until we have a problem. Can‘t log into a workstation, or suddenly find your cutter’s navigation system has gone out? Time to call or submit a ticket to CGFIXIT and wait for one of their army of technicians to make things work again.
Before taking over as CSD branch chief in July, Lt. Cmdr. Ian King shared this view. But with a staff of just 50 employees, and 80 contractor analysts doing most of the troubleshooting, there’s no doubt his new branch has a big job. King recently talked to MyCG about what the CSD does and how to get the most out of this critical support resource:
What is the CSD’s primary function?
We provide first call support and initial troubleshooting 24-7 for Coast Guard Information Technology (IT) and electronics. That’s approximately 400 systems, everything from your workstation and cell phone to VPN connections and ship radios. On average, we handle 200,000 tickets annually. These come from someone filing a ticket or calling into 855 CGFIXIT.
What do you wish people understood about the CSD?
That CSD is not staffed to be a call center. Yes, we are staffed 24/7 and we do handle phone calls, but our staff levels are more appropriate for handling tickets that come in through our incident and request management system, CGFIXIT.
What happens when a call reaches CSD?
I like to say what the CSD does is like being an emergency medical technician (EMT). The CSD takes the initial call or ticket. If there’s an obvious fix we can do, we do it, just as an EMT may be able to stitch you up so you never have to go to the hospital. But if the issue you’re experiencing is challenging, if it’s beyond our skills or certifications, we’ll refer it to where you can get help right away—usually another team within CGCyber or the C5I Service Center.
What kind of problems does the CSD send out to resolve?
Recently, creation of new user accounts has become a challenge. Previously, the CSD had been able to resolve these problems, but now we share authentication with the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide better interfacing with their services. As a result, the Coast Guard on its own has a little less control over certain aspects of the system – particularly the account creation process. Our people can’t fix things because they don’t have the permissions needed to access all the systems.
How do you decide which issues to try to resolve first?
Generally, we work on a first in first out basis with a few exceptions, unless you are a designated VIP or you don’t have access to your workstation.
The phone tree for 855 CG FIXIT points you to where you can get help the most quickly. If you’re locked out of your computer or commanding an ongoing operation, we’ll generally get you right to an analyst. If you’re working on hurricane contingency response or some other named government operation, let us know. We end up getting a lot of these calls and give them priority due to the impact of the incident on the entire Coast Guard.
How successful is the CSD solving issues people bring to you? How long does a typical request take?
On average, we resolve 70% of tickets that come to us and seek additional support for the rest. We might send a simple email with instructions you can do yourself. If you want to be added or removed from a distribution group or “bang list,” for example, you no longer need to submit a CGFIXIT ticket. So, we’ll tell you to just contact the owner of the group. Other times, the resolution takes more work. Depending on the size of our current incoming ticket volume and backlog, we resolve most tickets within two days of submission.
How can we make easier for you to help us?
If you’re submitting a CG Fixit ticket, try to use the most accurate workflow. Instead of selecting “general issue”, include as much detail as you can. When did the problem first arise? Have you taken any troubleshooting steps, or if anyone else in your building/unit is experiencing problems.
Before you call us, you can try Tech Tips on CG-FIXIT or look at the C5I SC SharePoint sites. It’s also useful to check out Pixel Dashboard for up-to-date alerts and outage information. Often, we already know about the problem. But if there is a big outage, and we have published a workaround, please still submit a ticket. This helps CSD, and the rest of CGCYBER and C5ISC track the full extent of the impact, which helps all of us improve service in the future and avoid the same problems.
What does CSD get called about the most where you can’t help?
New functionality. We get a lot of calls about DoD365 Teams. People will have questions about how to use it. Or they don’t like a function. While our analysts are there to be helpful, there’s nothing we can do to change these systems. We can refer people to user guides. C5ISC also periodically publishes calendars with in-depth training on these new tools.
We’ve had to learn these new products and work with them as well. When the Covid 19 pandemic happened, we were figuring out VPN and VDI with everyone else. Our customer service improves over time as these services become more established.