If your organisation is starting to sell its services to external customers, you need to read our views on the IT Support Model.
Lately we’ve been seeing an interesting trend. There’s a change happening in organisations who have a “traditional” IT operating model, characterised by internal IT teams supporting internal business users. These organisations are beginning to develop and subsequently sell their services either on a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-customer (B2C) basis.
The scenario is often that the organisation has developed an in-house solution to a specific business process Over time this evolves into a proposition that can be offered to external customers.
We’ve seen this scenario in insurance, accounting and retail sectors and it’s causing some interesting challenges to the teams involved.
Often, IT support organisations have a fairly informal way of working. It’s not documented, nor is it measured or actively managed. It just works. There’s a huge dependence on knowledge that exists in people’s heads, as well as the need for organisations to retain their staff so as to prevent this knowledge walking out of the door.
What’s a support model and why do organisations need one?
A Support Model is a critical element for any organisation looking to move to offering services to an external audience.
The key to offering external services is consistency of customer experiences.
A support model formalises the support model and drives consistent outcomes by:
- Documenting processes and ways of working
- Adopting a set of workflows for support, which are codified within an IT Service Management tool
- Introducing performance measures to drive consistency
- Actively managing and governing support processes to introduce more consistent outcomes
The main elements of a Support Model are:
- A set of documented processes
- The development of a service proposition, which describes the characteristics of the service (e.g. scope, hours of support, support channels, performance targets (see below), etc.)
- The adoption of IT Service Management tool
- Experience / Service Level Agreements (XLA / SLA) between the organisation and its customers, which are underpinned by Operating Level Agreements (OLA) or contracts with internal and external support providers respectively
- A governance approach to ensure consistent measurement, reporting and review of performance against the relevant measures (XLA, SLA, OLA, Contract) described above
Why is implementing a Support Model so hard?
Many believe that the definition of processes and the development of supporting workflows is probably the hardest part of all of this. However, in our experience the hardest aspect to any support model project is the business change element. The environment into which we’re implementing these changes can often be hostile to such change. This is primarily due to inevitable changes in working practices which are necessary to formalise the Support Model and drive consistent outcomes to the customers.
There is often fear of what these changes might entail and there is nearly always resistance to the introduction of measuring support outcomes. But whilst this element is difficult, it should not be avoided, as it is the most critical element of all in terms of professionalising the provision of IT support services.