The Mission of Tech Support Has Changed


by Roy Atkinson
April 26, 2017

The mission of technical support has always been to get people back to work as rapidly as possible after they have suffered an interruption (incident) or if they need something (service request). We’ve trained for it, planned for it, devised metrics for it, and hired and fired people for it.

It’s not the mission anymore.

In fact, it hasn’t been the mission for quite a while, but the wakeup call is finally being heard. Getting people back to work is a reactive endeavor, and being reactive just isn’t good enough for today’s businesses and institutions. Of course, this isn’t only true for the support center, but for IT in general. We all need to move from the ways we’ve been doing things for many years (and the ways we’ve been taught to do them) to an entirely different mindset, and it isn’t easy.

Here are some facts about the way we do things today:

  • Incident management is the most widely adopted ITSM process
  • The majority (54 percent) of contacts to the support center are for incidents
  • First Contact Resolution is a top metric
  • The volume of incidents continues to increase year over year
The majority of contacts to the support center are for incidents.
Tweet: The majority of contacts to the support center are for incidents. @HDI_Analyst @ThinkHDI #techsupport

While it’s all well and good that we have a process in place to manage incidents and that we measure how many of these we can resolve without delays and escalations, we are still thinking about how good we are at fixing things that are broken, and things are breaking more than ever.

Make no mistake about it: Things will break.

In the incredibly complex web of technologies that make up an organization’s information infrastructure, things can and will go wrong, and we’ll need to fix them. But that can no longer be our primary mission.

In HDI research published last year, we discovered that 73 percent of support teams are dissatisfied with their current level of involvement in the (application) development process. “Support teams want more involvement, earlier in the process,” says the report. Why? Because less than one-quarter of organizations have a process in place to ensure support’s preparedness for a release. Support is constantly blindsided by changes of which they are unaware. This puts support in a reactive position from the beginning.

Generally, support knows more about how customers and users are using their technology than anyone else in the technology value stream. The support team sees and hears about the frustrations and aspirations of people who are trying to get their work done more quickly and efficiently under increasing pressures and shorter deadlines. Those responsible for producing, operationalizing, testing, updating, and releasing new technologies into the production environment should be working closely with support to gather business intelligence and create stable, secure products and services.

Support’s new mission for customers and users: Understand what they do, and help them find better ways to do it.

It sounds simple but requires a real shift in the way we think about everything we do. In future installments, we’ll look at new ways of measuring success and breaking the reactive mold.


Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): supportworld, technical support, research, business of support

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