We have observed a growing trend over the past few years where companies are consolidating their IT teams and moving to ‘hire-on-demand’ for non-critical resources. For a variety of reasons, cost effectiveness primarily, companies are retaining their most highly-skilled and specialized resources and reducing the number of lower-skilled resources. In many cases, the IT resources that are retained tend to be geographically centralized, rather than distributed across the company’s global footprint.
What hasn’t changed, is that companies still have critical technology present at all their locations regardless of whether they are a regional, national, or a global company. There’s an old IT joke that says, “if it’s hardware it will eventually break, and if it’s software it will eventually work!”. A reality for IT teams is that IT equipment, at some point, will require onsite technical assistance to perform any number of routine tasks, such as upgrading the hardware, rebooting, changing configurations, etc.
Some companies will have onsite technical support, or perhaps a local “super user” who the IT organization can enlist to help with occasional tasks. For companies that don’t have this localized support, they either have to; 1) fly someone from the in-house IT team to address the issue or 2) enlist the help of an IT service provider.
Depending upon the distances involved and criticality, the first option can be expensive and is a very inefficient use of highly skilled resources. Option 2 is likely a more convenient and cost-effective solution, but there are several aspects to consider when evaluating an IT service provider.
We believe there is merit in companies wanting to engage with the fewest number of IT service providers capable of supporting their entire geographic footprint. This in effect simplify the ongoing management of service requests.
We have observed that a ‘one size fits all’ pricing methodology, while simple to administer, does not provide the cost efficiencies and flexibility needed to service ‘real world’ requests. A method of pricing based on aligning the appropriate resources to the required work effort has received good market affirmation. This pricing approach recognizes that the work to be performed will dictate the level of skill required. For example, dispatching a technical resource to check an error light or reseat a communication cable does not require the same skill as a request for advanced troubleshooting of a network router. Offering different levels of resources (priced accordingly) provides better outcomes and help control costs.
Sub of a Sub of a Sub Syndrome
Ideally, we believe companies would like to work with a provider that has a significant pool of direct employees. It is important to recognize however, that NO single IT vendor has direct employees that can cover a global footprint. The biggest players in IT services all leverage a network of regional or local subcontractors in order to provide the needed coverage. The key differentiator to look for is whether the IT services provider has an established, pre-vetted subcontractor network whose performance is continually reviewed and monitored.
Method of Ticket Initiation/Tracking
An important aspect of a viable IT service is the ability to initiate and track tickets using a single system. Whether this takes the form of a web-portal, mobile application, or custom application, the need to initiate a request and track the resulting actions and utilization over time is a key requirement.
Another key aspect of IT services performed at remote locations has to do with whether the requirement for remote tasks occurs on a predictable basis. Our experience has shown that this distinction will dictate the type of service provided. Ad-hoc requests that arise periodically are approached quite differently than those tasks which are predictable and more suited to project-based work.
An example of these different approaches is as follows:
“Dispatched” service requests are typically staffed from a pool of available technical resources. It is worth considering a few of the more common challenges as you determine the appropriate approach for satisfying IT service requests:
- Individual dispatch requests do not guarantee that the same technical resource will be assigned to each request for a given company – resource availability on the date/time of work requested will determine whether that same technical resource can be dispatched.
- In some instances, a ‘named’ resource may be available. This may apply where site access/security requirements preclude using a ‘pool’ of available resources. In such cases, a higher price is usually required.
- The resource dispatched may not be familiar with the local contact, the layout of the work site, the installed IT equipment, or site access procedures. For a first-time resource, this will add time to the total site visit.
- Work direction and oversight falls completely with the company requesting the service. The IT service provider will not typically assign a Project Manager to oversee the activities of the technical resource.
- Immediate or same-day requests are particularly difficult to fulfill. IT service providers will generally have work for their pool of technical resources already on the calendar. Immediate requests are often handled on a ‘best effort’ basis and not under a specified Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Regardless of the challenges mentioned above, most companies can benefit from the ability to dispatch technical resources on an ad-hoc or as-needed basis. It is cost effective and an IT service provider’s processes and procedures for handling such requests will enable this method of engagement to succeed.
What are some of the ways in which you have addressed the need for technical resources in your company’s remote locations? We would love to hear from you.