If your CIO asked you today to justify having the IT support center, how would you respond?
Don’t roll your eyes. It could happen.
You know that a well-functioning support center is more than just responding to contacts and closing tickets. But consider that, to some within your company, that’s all the support center may represent. And there are many managed services providers that offer support center services.
How would you respond if your CIO asked, “Why do we need to provide an in-house support center?”
It would be easy get a bit emotional about such a question. After all, the support center is what you do, and you enjoy doing what you do. But to answer the question, you must be objective and look at the support center from the business perspective.
Answering the Question
If all you’re reporting is that you’re answering contacts and closing tickets, then your support center is on the path to being outsourced. While answering contacts and closing tickets are important for managing the support center itself, it has little influence on the business perception of the support center. It doesn’t answer the question “why do we need to provide an in-house support center?”
The first step in answering the question is to provide meaningful, business-relevant measures and reporting. Measures help separate the facts from the emotions and enabled data-driven decision-making.
In A Foolproof Guide for Identifying and Selecting Measures, I stated “the closer you can relate what you’re doing to how it supports or enables your business, the more successful you will be.”
For the support center, this means that you must report measures that have meaning and relevance to the business. If you have Service Level Agreements (SLAs), report on the SLA target and what was achieved. But here’s the problem: for many organizations, SLAs and reported measures are all about “IT things” and not about “business things.” And just reporting on IT operational measures or SLAs won’t answer the CIO’s question.
Understanding MVG Will Help
How can you relate what the support center does to how it enables or supports your business? First, have a look at the company’s mission-vision-goals (MVG) statement. MVG defines what is important to the organization. MVG is also a reflection of what the organization values.
Now that you understand MVG, identify two or three support center key objectives, initiatives, or projects and relate them to business goals defined in the MVG. Then define a strategic framework for each support center objective that discusses how that objective enables or supports achievement of those selected business goals.
Using a strategic framework helps you look at the support center objectively and from the business perspective. It will help you define the approach for your objective or project to meet those defined business goals. With these business goals in mind, identify the measures that would illustrate progress toward achieving the business goals and how these measures will be captured and reported.
But the greatest benefit of using a strategic framework in this manner is that it helps you articulate—in objective terms—the contribution that the support center is making to MVG. This helps senior leaders, who are focused on achieving those business goals, understand the critical contributions and impact of the support center. But there’s more you can to do win over hearts and minds and justify your support center.
Measures Are Only Part of the Answer
Part of the CIO’s question is really about the value of having an in-house support center. You know that good support centers provide value. But how does your support center provide value? Measures can only provide a part of the answer. Measures are objective and indicate things like volume or quantity.
But unlike measures, value is subjective. Value is a perception. And what’s valuable to you may not be valued by your business colleagues—or by your CIO for that matter. You have to influence the perception of value. So how can you do that?
What’s valuable to you may not be valued by your business colleagues—or by your CIO for that matter.
Here are four things you can do to influence the perception of the value of the support center.
- Support Center as-a-Service. I am a huge believer in “you telling your own story.” And telling your own story is a great way to market the support center. Perhaps an effective way to market your support center is by taking a page from those managed services providers and promote the support center “as a service.” Discuss what the support center does in terms of business value and outcomes. Tell the compelling story about how and why your support center “makes a difference” and is the right solution for your company.
- Tip of the Week. The support center is continually solving issues for consumers. And many times, the issues that are being solved are not first-time issues. Use this knowledge to develop and publish the support center “Tip of the Week,” a subtle, but effective way to promote the value of your in-house support center.
- Publish a Request Catalog. Have you formally defined and published your service request catalog? The service request catalog lists the activities and products that can be requested and (typically) fulfilled through the support center. Publishing the request catalog provides a great way to illustrate how support center activities enable productivity within your company.
- Develop the Business Case. What would a world without the support center look like for your company? Answering this question will provide some great input into a business case that discusses the need, value, benefits, and justification of your support center.
WIIFSC (What’s in It for the Support Center)?
Relating support center efforts to MVG and taking actions to influence the perception of value provides a rock-solid justification for what the support center does. What else is in it for the support center?
- Enables a "business-like" discussion of the support center. Taking this approach removes the emotion and facilitates a business conversation about the support center, with an emphasis on value.
- Reframes the support center conversation. Taking the above actions changes the conversation from “Why do we need an in-house support center?” to “Why wouldn’t we have an in-house support center?”
- Elevates the perception of the support center. Your support center is more than just answering contacts and closing tickets. Your support center provides real value, and your strategic frameworks and your consumers can articulate how and why!
Don’t wait to be asked; justify your support center now!
Doug Tedder is a strategic, innovative, and solutions-driven IT service management professional with more than 20 years of progressive experience across a variety of industries. He’s a resourceful and hands-on leader with track record of success implementing ITSM and IT governance processes. Doug is a certified ITIL Expert and ISO/IEC 20000 Consultant Manager and holds many other industry certifications. In addition, Doug is an accredited ITIL Foundation trainer and HDI Support Center Analyst and Support Center Manager instructor. Follow Doug on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.