We all know the way IT support works (or doesn’t work) nowadays in large organizations. Most likely we often have a team of offshore outsourced 1st line “generalists”, 2nd level support line organized in specific teams (like network, applications, etc.), and 3rd line support from product vendors.
What is the frequent problem with this kind of setup?
- 1st line is often ‘not learning’ or improving – most of the time they act as queue/incident/ticket ‘routers’. Usually, they do not improve customer satisfaction, as they get a lot of tickets (per ‘head’) and fail to really support the end-user by resolving 80% of their issues ‘on the spot’.
- 2nd line support teams fail to communicate between each other and tickets tend to “spend” a lot of time being tossed between teams, as issues are often ‘cross-team’ resolved and ownership is thus not defined.
- 3rd line support is extremely costly, large software vendors like SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM charge a lot of $ for a single hour of their engineer, and there are no solution guarantees in their agreements.
- Modern technologies based on the cloud make it even harder – 1st and 2nd level support’s knowledge is not keeping up with the pace of change in technology. We had a customer asking our 2nd level support for IP addresses of servers or a DR test, when the solution we delivered was based on Cloud PaaS 🙂
How to approach the challenges in IT support?
We work with many organizations that employ 50 to hundreds of thousands of people and we support them on 2nd and 3rd lines in several key IT areas, like identity and access management, security, intranets, application development or data analytics.
We also internally, as a 70-people organization, have a 3-level support structure, and this is how we manage support:
- Keep your 1st line ‘close to the business’. This means that for smaller organizations (less than <1000 employees) we would recommend keeping it in- house. The 1st line should understand the business very well and know, in general, what current IT systems in the organization allow. This way the 1st line becomes an IT advisor to the business user. Without this transformation, this role is likely to be fully automated by bots in the near future.
- 2nd line support should have 2 goals: automate everything that is possible for the 1st line (do not build lengthy charts and manuals, but easy to use scripts and tools that the 1st line can run), and be on top of the newest technologies in their area to cut down on operational costs. If your 2nd level support does not embrace new technologies and focus on automation, your IT support costs will hinder your competitive edge.
- 3rd line support should be kept ONLY as a backup – a kind of ‘insurance policy’ for your business. It’s recommended for critical, complex systems that rely on specific vendor products (e.g. ERP, financial systems). Ensure that contracts with software vendors grant you quick access to the product groups developing these products because if you get your 2nd line right, the moments to engage 3rd line will be rare and will require inside knowledge of specific products/online service with access to code/internal vendor knowledge base. However, the 3rd level support line must also understand the business needs and industry well. Why? Because finding a root cause is often about asking the right questions. Work with a service provider that understands your industry and can propose solutions that fit based on their experience in that industry. 3rd line support should be based on top technology experts that also understand your business.
How we do it in Predica?
The above 3 bullet points describe how we built our internal support. We have 4 people on the 1st line support rotating on shifts, who know all our internal systems and have basic access to do some simple troubleshooting. We track all our tickets and allow each user to reply via email or portal (Freshdesk). As a 70-people organization, we cannot, of course, afford them to do only internal support, so they also do the support for all customers. But this is beneficial in both ways, as internally we use almost the entire Microsoft online offering (Dynamics365, Office365, Azure, EMS) and our 1st line is often equipped with the latest knowledge on these products and thus acts as the customer’s 2nd line support.
Our internal 2nd line support is with our software developer leads. We have a lead in each of our business units, who has deep and up-to-date knowledge of the technology as well how we use it internally.
For 3rd line support we use direct vendor support, which as most of our systems are SaaS or PaaS based, we get ‘in the subscription price’, as an additional benefit we have direct contacts to some of the product groups and we see them every year on MVP summits to pass our feedback and get inside knowledge.
What is “Predica Care” and how you can benefit from it?
We understand that transforming a large organization support model is challenging, as we have worked and are still working with a few organizations on such transformations. If you have a solution that is running on code developed by us during a project, you probably already have or have been offered a 3rd line support contract. If not, and you run some critical workloads on the Microsoft Cloud platform (Office365, Dynamics365, Azure, EMS), consider getting in touch with me directly to learn how you can benefit from our “Predica Care” package. We have 3 models of engagement, and I would suggest you engage in the following order:
- “Free trial“: simply send us your NDA agreement (or we can use ours) to sign, and share a problem/case/incident you’ve been working hard to resolve but been unsuccessful with your current support setup. We will analyze it and if feasible, with a time-cap of 8 man-hours effort at no charge we will do our best to resolve your issue, or propose an approach to dealing with it (workaround, change, next actions plan). Be prepared to jump on a screen sharing session with one of our engineers. If the proposed solution or action plan resolves your issue or gets you going further, we will invite you to continue working with us, but there is no commitment whatsoever.
- T&M with SLA: you can treat this contract as an insurance policy, giving you access to top consultants and software engineers in Microsoft technology (3 MVPs, 11 ex-Microsoft employees) in your 3rd line support. We also have experience in several industries: retail, transport and logistics, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, energy, real estate, professional services and many others across the globe. This contract simply has a flat, monthly or quarterly retainer fee, that includes a number of pre-paid support hours. If the number of hours exceeds the already acquired pool, a specific rate is applied. Pricing on this contract depends on a few factors: availability hours (we offer both business hours and 24/7), guaranteed response time (from 15mins to 8 hours) and the number of hours in the pool (the more hours are pre-purchased, the lower the price per hour). This contract is ideal for 3rd level support of key Microsoft-based systems/platforms regardless if they run Predica’s code or not. Just contact me directly and I can provide a quote for you within 1 business day.
- Managed service: if you have worked with us for some time, we are both ready to enter a closer business partnership. A managed service contract provides financially-backed advanced SLAs on multiple ITIL processes: incident, problem, availability, release, change management and service request fulfillment. The SLAs can cover things like response time, resolution time, service availability, change request realization time, etc. This support model is best suited for 2nd line support.
Moreover, the two last models, allow you as a customer to acquire Microsoft Online services directly from us, as we are a Tier-1 Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider, thus having 1 invoice for the entire system (subscription + support) from 1 vendor.
If you find any of these (or other) challenges with IT support in your current organization, do not hesitate to contact us directly or post in comments below.