Best practice when determining which service levels an organisation requires is to categorise its locations by availability requirements. The highest service level requirement might be data centres, which would need a 7x24x4 entitlement to ensure maximum uptime for business-critical systems and processes. On the other hand, a satellite location might require only an 8x5xnext business day entitlement due to its lower importance to the overall business.
When we do the location-versus-support analysis with some of our clients, we often find that their service level coverage is not the right fit in many locations. In a few cases, it may be set too high, but, more often, organisations have opted for cheaper options with less support than they really need.
Short on skills
One of the most important reasons why organisations need external support services is because they don't have the required technical skills in-house. This is exacerbated by the general shortage of technical skills worldwide - a problem that is particularly acute in developing geographies into which international organisations might want to expand.
However, the single biggest challenge in terms of this skills shortage is the sheer pace of technological change. Given the day-to-day pressures on in-house IT support teams to ensure maximum business continuity, not much time or budget is left to up-skill employees on the latest advances.
For example, when IP telephony first emerged, there was a lack of expertise and knowledge in this area. As the market moves towards the new software-defined network approach, the same problem is likely to occur. Knowledge and expertise can only be gained over time and generally always lags behind the introduction of new technologies.
The problem is also that the different technologies involved in organisations' estates is so wide-ranging that they simply cannot afford to skill up each time there's a change or new development in the market.
Proactive support saves money
The hidden costs of support include not only what the organisation pays, but also the potential loss of revenue when its support doesn't meet its needs and downtime occurs. This is where proactivity comes into play - i.e. spotting problems in the IT environment before they occur and taking preventative action. Proactive support services therefore aim to minimise the average time needed to repair faulty equipment and minimise downtime.
One example of a proactive support component is a monitoring service. This can provide more accurate fault information, more quickly, in order to resolve issues. It's therefore a valuable component for an organisation to have as part of its total support package: it has the potential to save costs. A branch of a commercial bank may keep normal business hours and may not realise if an element of its network has failed overnight until the branch is about to open the next morning. Only then is a call is placed to the bank's internal helpdesk, which may first attempt to solve the problem itself.
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