After years of metric mania and budget constraints, the support center has gotten very, very good at helping people recover from all kinds of unplanned interruptions, aka incidents. It used to be that many of the incidents had to be resolved by sending someone to the deskside, but now, through the use of remote tools, online software stores, systems management tools, the shift-left strategy, and better knowledge sharing, the support center is often able to remediate without escalation. That’s a good thing in terms of efficiency and cost control. It’s also a good thing in terms of getting people back to work at full capacity.
We often speak about the amount of work it takes to “keep the lights on” for our organizations, but the lights simply don’t stay on all the time. They flicker, blink, and go out quite often. More than half the cases handled by support are incidents—53 percent according to the HDI 2017 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report. In other research, we found that the number of incidents is increasing in 55.9 percent of organizations.
This does not mean that the IT department is getting more shoddy; it means that the technical environment as a whole is getting more and more complex and diversified. The demands put on infrastructure and resources are increasing daily. IT is, more often than not, playing catch-up, trying to provide the best technology it can while absorbing enormous amounts of change and—yes—keeping the lights on.
IT is playing catch-up, trying to provide the best technology it can while absorbing enormous amounts of change.
Our HDI 2017 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report tells us that the top reasons for increasing ticket volume year over year are:
- The number of customers
- New applications and systems
- New equipment and devices
- The number of devices and equipment
- The number of applications
While the DevOps movement has placed increased emphasis on quality, stability, and security built into the organization’s production environment, not all organizations have gone this route. Still fewer have really emphasized the Ops side of the equation.
- Not every organization has “infrastructure as code,” and hardware errors and failures are often to blame for incidents—some involving multiple users and/or critical systems and services.
- Virtual desktops (VDI) is not a viable solution for every organization, or even every business unit within the organization.
- Cloud (computing and/or storage) is not a ubiquitous solution.
- Not all applications are web-based, nor are they mainframe-based.
This is not to say that there isn’t change. Change is happening at amazing speeds. It also isn’t to say that there aren’t better ways to do things. There are, and the role of continual improvement is not limited to ITIL® processes; it should be applied to everything.
There is, however, this pesky factor called budget. In public sector organizations, budgets are often set and approved years in advance and will reflect the priorities of the administration that submitted them, which may or may not be the same as the current administration. In the private sector, priorities can change with the advent of new C-level leadership; the outgoing CIO may have been all about information security, while the incoming one is all about clearing the project backlog. The upshot is that failures, mistakes, breaches, and the unforeseen will continue to happen and will continue to require the support center to assist.
President Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We might modify that a little to say, “Improve what you can, with the resources you have, where you are.”
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. 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 @RoyAtkinson.