You can throw around all the buzzwords you want about what the future of support will look like. But when all is said and done, it will always come back to people and how we work together that will separate the good from great.
Earlier this year, I had a conversation at a service management conference with an IT operations director who was having challenges with his business-facing support team. He explained to me that a few years back his organization made the choice to outsource their service desk as part of the financial restructuring of their IT department. The reason for outsourcing this team was not only to reduce the operating cost, but also to leverage a managed service to facilitate after hours support more effectively. He admitted that while initially the cost savings looked great on paper, over the long haul they had issues with the MSP, which ultimately impacted business operations, having a negative impact to the bottom line.
As time went on, the service seemed to continue to deteriorate, so much so that they began to look at in-sourcing the service desk. This was a driving factor for the IT operations director to be at this conference, to help him determine what type of team he would need over the next few years.
He reviewed the current challenges for service delivery to the organization. The most consistent message from the business revolved around the handling of issues by the outsourced service desk. The feedback was, “It always felt like we were a burden and that the analysts tried to get through the call or the request as quickly as possible, without regard for quality.” Because of this, the business would leverage self-service or email escalations wherever possible. The challenge with this channel was that their experience lacked communication details in the status of the escalations. In their words, “We weren’t sure if things were even fixed at all.”
The IT operations director knew that changing the support model from outsourced to insourced was something that the business had requested, but he also knew that the real issue wasn’t with outsourcing itself. It was an issue with the company they dealt with. That was the past. Given this past, he knew that as he built out his new team, it would be under serious scrutiny and that he needed to get the right people online for support.
This director had a lengthy career, and his past experiences would have told him to source out the top technical people for his new team. However, his experience also told him that service delivery has changed over the years due to different business needs and the technical aptitude of those in the business, so he needs to look at his support team from various perspectives.
This requires that before even hiring a single person, his team needs to see themselves as a service provider rather than strictly a support organization. The challenge is that, in the service provider model, we strive to provide the service we have outlined, but that’s as far as that service delivery goes. This does not facilitate discussions with the business or build out the way that the operations team will work with the business. The goal, after all, will be that as a service provider the operations team will generate true value as a strategic partner.
To start to get to that milestone, the operations director’s first step will be to work with the business to understand exactly what the business they support does and what impact services have. In doing this, they will be able to make the necessary improvements to ensure that those business-facing services enable the business to achieve its goals.
Knowing the what and the why, the operations manager will now be able to see what skills in his team are in abundance and the skills he needs to build up in order to look for the right people to get on board. For the most part, they will need to have a blend of technical aptitude while still being able to translate business needs into technology terms at a base level. These new analysts will be more customer centric so that all interactions with service delivery can be more on a conversational level. The activity of discussion or the “we are in the trenches with you” mentality also boosts the businesses confidence that you are working with them to benefit the organization.
The bottom line for the director is that he needs to understand the business better. Once he identifies what their needs are, he can line them up to the level of support that they require. In fact, you will find that over the next number of years while the need to be technically adept will still be in demand, there will also need to be an ability for the support analysts to be customer-centric. But to get the right balance you will need to understand the business you support.
So what skills will he be looking for?
Technical Skill. Technical aptitude will still be required; however, the type of technical skill may change given the way you provide service to your business. As your IT team leverages cloud services and so forth, the interactions within the IT support model will also change.
Customer Service Skills. Because the conversation with the business will change given their technical knowledge, we need to ensure that the service desk analyst also can speak with the business in common terms. Think about your current experiences with your service desk. The most sought out analysts are those who you can easily talk to.
Adaptable. Your business is ever evolving and, in an effort to stay ahead of the competition, they need to be scalable enough to meet demand requirements. For them to do that the service delivery also has to be scalable. Your service desk will also have to be flexible enough to deal with change in this way.
Ability to Learn. In the future, those who are adaptable and able to learn will ultimately be those who will excel in these roles. The need to learn the business and how it operates should also be included for those in these roles so that they continue to blend these skills together.
This advice applies to, not only the IT operations director who I spoke with, but to any support organization. Your team’s ability to provide service should already have a continuous improvement cycle built in that asks if you are providing the right service now and in the future.