Selecting the right support model for your organization

support excellence model
Support Excellence Model

Selecting the right software solutions for your organization could be one of the most difficult decisions that any IT leader might take, as the market is usually very high on Enterprise IT solutions offerings yet low on deep knowledge or vertical analysis of choosing any of these solutions, however, after selecting the suitable solution, the story is not finished yet, there is another important round, which is selecting the right software support model that fits your organizational business needs, as an IT leader, you don’t have much options in selecting support services as you will be tied to the vendor whom you bought your software solution from, so, knowing the services offering from your vendor before purchasing any software solutions is very crucial to properly be in control of your applications and anticipate growth potentials

Putting the most suitable support model in place not only warrants having your top critical IT business services available, but it enhances and continuously improves your services to be ahead of the steadily changing customers’ demands, expectations and their business needs as well, in the dynamic IT world, improper selection of support service may not only affects your IT services availability and quality, it also may hinder your organizational business objectives and IT strategies success

What I will discuss below, the broad and most important aspects to think about while selecting best suitable software support model that matches your business demands…

Delivering the right service should be governed by a clear and well described Service Level Agreement (SLA), this is the only method to making sure you are getting the expected service, having a clear and well acknowledged SLA shorten the distance to solutions, clears any blurry areas and ensure clarity of delivery

Looking at support service from a single angle is one of the pitfalls that we sometimes see in the market; it’s not a one side simple service, there is a lot more that should be taken into consideration for a proper and well conducted service

This could be clarified in a four aspects model as illustrated in the diagram below, each of these is a must to be regarded while thinking about adopting any support service:

  • Financial Side
  • Technical Side
  • Communication
  • Reporting

Software Support Excellence Model

1. Financial side

Where you must find answers to all your finical related questions, like how much will be the cost of support service, how payments will be scheduled over the service period, what will be the return on support service (ROSS), what will be the payback period (or breakeven point)?

What I want to briefly emphasis here is calculating the Return On Support Service (ROSS) as it might be one of the most complicated yet important factors to consider

In order to have an estimate calculation of ROSS, It should be measured over a specific span of time divided into 2 periods, the first period (let it be period 1) could be a year…more or less, this is the period before having support service in place, the second period (let it be period 2) is the period following period1 after support service adoption, they both should be equal in length, calculating the ROSS depends mainly on the tool used for that and the details of the information available, I am introducing a simple formula here that could be used as a guideline

ROSS= Return value /support service price

The Return value could consist of the following terms summed up:

  • Difference in the cost of downtime before and after getting the service
  • “Return on Quality and Service enhancements”, this might be a bit difficult to calculate, however, it could be the increase of your direct service sales between both periods
  • Cost of saved man hours in restoring and optimizing, this is also very important to consider as your team should consume less hours in restoring any down service, these less hours must be added to the return amount, less time in optimizing and less time as well in almost the daily administrative or operative tasks

So, the Return could be formulated like this:

Return value= Cost of Downtime before support (period1) – cost of Downtime after support (period2) + return on Quality and service enhancements (in period 2) + Cost of saved man hours in restoring/optimizing the system after support adoption (in period 2)

For the payback period, it generally indicates when you should expect a profit from the service, this must be within the range of you overall business goals and profit time metrics, if the payback period is beyond your planned gain timeline it then might affect your overall IT profitability

2. Technical Side

Here you should consider all the details of the technical delivery, this must be also the main part of the support contract SLA, the below points mainly discuss what you will need to consider in this aspect

Personalization and expertise(s) technical level

It is essential to stand on the skills of the personal being engaged in delivering support to your organization, even if there is a huge team in the background, making sure of having the rightly skilled and experienced support candidate as your organization’s first point of contact will warrant saving a lot of time and effort in solving problems and overall support quality level generally

It is also viable to consider asking some questions that will help in deciding the delivery shape that suits you best…Do you need to deal with only one technical consultant as a single point of contact or to generally deal with a board of support engineers? What is the technical level of the people who will pick up your support cases? Entry or intermediate or advanced?

Dealing with one person could be the best option for many, however, dealing with a pool of support experts is also a favorite option for others, there is no better choice here, it is you who decide how this to be conducted; personalized support anyways should be an option for you to choose from and it is your decision to select what best matches your organization

Scope of the technical engagement

Standing on the scope of the technical delivery must be well known, it is to answer how far or how broad can the technical engagement be, it can never be limitless; will it cover only support on product defects? Will it cover information sharing? Will it cover licenses installation? Will it cover customization tasks? Will it cover integrations? These are samples of many questions that could be raised here depending on your business needs, being aware of the technical engagement scope is a crucial part so that you can make ready of what to expect from support service, thus avoiding any frustrations or dissatisfaction resulted from wrongly built expectations

Technical tools used

Here we are focusing on knowing what will be the tools that the service provider will use to access your systems and provide support, will it need any special security permissions? Will there be any security vulnerabilities? Are these tools sufficient for a fast problem troubleshooting and fixing?

Sometimes we see delays resulted from customer’s inability to use support tools that most of the time essential for a proper and seamless delivery

Bug fixing and code changing process

Fixing Software vulnerabilities and responding to code change requests are carried out by the service provider’s development departments, having your application bugs fixed must be a priority for your service provider, knowing the process of getting your application fixes will help you having a clear understanding of how your support cases will propagate till the coding level within your service provider

3- Communication

I believe that the communication portraits more than half the service overall shape, having clear and effective communication plan saves everybody’s time and prevents service losses, the brief points below will help defining the communication aspect of the support service you can expect

Defining the communication channels

Some questions to raise here, Will the communication be only via emails? What can be the frequency of phone calls? And how can you reach your support service provider technical personal? Will this be covered through a 24×7 model? Do the communication methods change along different times of the day?

Communication hierarchy and Escalation process

This is mainly to define how will your support cases propagate within your service provider’s different support teams, What are the escalation channels and processes, how to approach the escalation team And what should you expect from the escalation process

Frequency of meetings and visits

Here to define whether you will have onsite meetings during your support period or not, and how this will be quantified and what will be the scope of these visits

Generally, as a customer you expect a FAST response to your cases and queries from your service provider

Thus FAST is Fault targeted, Accurately communicated, Solution oriented and Team based

Fault targeted: Support response should be very sharply targeted to the fault as to restore the service in shortest time

Accurately communicated: To avoid any miscommunication, or communication gaps, support communication should be shared with the right stakeholders who have direct attention and authority on your systems in a clear and efficient way

Solution oriented: support communication should have an ultimate goal that is always to fix the problem regardless of any political or other external factors

Team based: a one man show can never continues for long, a stable and strong support service should be backed with teams that must be aligned with your support personal

4- Reporting

Reporting is usually a favorite for top management, it broadly enables interesting executive overviews of the systems and gives indicators of the quality of the service; it can also contribute in pointing to top management the next strategic initiatives, control methodologies and even enable more proper people management

In other words, reporting is the mirror of your overall IT structure performance, it should serve and enable you understanding the overall situation with your environment, with the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), agreed reports contents and proper trend analysis you can make a better understanding of how reporting you need should look like, they are all important parts to consider for efficient reporting

KPIs

Management needs usually reports that show the overall statuses of systems, so you will have to define with your support service provider the key KPIs that you are interested to know from your organization’s support historical cases trends and analysis, most commonly requested KPIs

  1. MTTR: Mean Time To Restore, it’s the average time needed to restore back your services/system, this mainly a viable indicator of responsivity
  2. RCA: Root Cause Analysis of errors occurred, having this metric reported is an essential core for continuous service improvement process and knowledge management
  3. TTFC: Time To First Contact, this defines the Service Level agreement you get from your service provider in responding to your support cases according to severities, comparing the actual TTFC with the agreed TTFC is one of the key elements that you will need to stand on the quality of the support service you are receiving
  4. ACLT: Average Case Life Time, this mainly defines the overall lifetime of your support cases from being opened till getting closed

Reporting contents

You should agree with your service provider on what metrics you are expecting to see in the reports that will be sent to you, these metrics can contribute to other area’s of development for your organization, problem management, knowledge management, release control…etc.

Trends and analysis

Reports that are just numbers centric are not that important to management, analyzing numbers and trends is what matters most; providing trend analysis in reports helps a lot in having a clearer overview of the overall performance, and shaping of strategic future initiatives

Conclusion…

Software support is a very important piece of your overall IT infrastructure picture, considering the main four aspects discussed above, will make it easier to take the right decision adopting the most suitable model for your organization, keeping your services up and ready for expansion

All rights reserved to the author Mohamed Nada

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: