The IT Value Journey starts on the road from the Maintain state to the Enhance state. This article presents a clear, repeatable formula to ensure a quick and safe journey.
Our May 10 article summarized the IT Value Journey and the three key mileposts:
- Maintain the infrastructure and systems,
- Enhance the infrastructure and systems to keep up with business needs, and
- Transform the business.
Our May 2 article discussed five measures to determine the value of IT.
How do we put these together on the journey from Maintain to Enhance?
IT organizations in the Maintain state generally lack structured processes and almost never have appropriate metrics. They tend to be reactive, struggle to keep up with any but the most basic business needs and are deemed by the CEO as costing too much and taking too long. These IT teams spend nearly all their time “keeping the lights on”, delivering only the most basic IT service.
This article explores how we excel at Customer Service, the first requirement for navigating from Maintain to Enhance. We’ll also see how tracking and communicating the right metrics can earn IT the trust, credibility, and respect to cross over from the Maintain state to the Enhance state. Infrastructure Management, and Project Prioritization and Management will be covered in upcoming articles.
IT Customer Service
Research that we did a few years ago showed that 80% of employees believe the Help Desk “is” IT. That’s likely because the Help Desk is the only part of IT that’s visible to most people. They probably aren’t involved in software development projects or new system implementations, and the infrastructure is just a black box to them.
If 80% of employees only deal with the Help Desk, and not the rest of IT, then wouldn’t it make sense to improve the Help Desk, or IT Customer Service, first? That is exactly how we start every IT turnaround in the past 20 years.
We typically focus on three areas, that build on one another, to improve IT Customer Service:
- Push call resolution to the lowest tier,
- Never escalate the same type of call twice, and
- Measure customer satisfaction and service cost.
Push Call Resolution to the Lowest Tier
Many IT organizations in the Maintain state will have programmers and network engineers resolving help desk tickets. If a ticket is escalated from tier 1 (the Help Desk) to tier 2 (Technical Support) to tier 3 (software developers and network engineers), then two critical things are happening. First, it takes longer to resolve the ticket and, second, resolution costs more because higher paid resources get involved.
There are two ways to push call resolution down. One is to have a monthly, or even weekly, meeting to review the most frequently occurring issue that comes into the help desk, and challenge all of IT to figure out how to make that issue go away.
In the old days, password resets were the most frequently occurring issues. We created automated password reset, took those issues out of IT, and pushed them down to tier zero, the end user. The result is faster resolution at a lower cost and higher customer satisfaction.
Never Escalate the Same Type of Call Twice
The second way to push call resolution down takes us to our second focus area. Every time an issue reaches tier 3, the person that resolves the issue must teach the tier 2 resources how it was resolved. When an issue reaches tier 2, they should teach tier 1 how to resolve it. No similar issue should ever be escalated again. Once more, we improve customer satisfaction and lower the cost.
While this concept sounds great on paper, be realistic and give it some time. Tier 3 and Tier 2 want to get back to more challenging work. But they also don’t want to be continuously disrupted with tickets. Use that as an incentive to encourage them to take the time to train their colleagues.
And remember, a knowledge base is no substitute for peer-to-peer training. Knowledge bases require full-time support, or they quickly get out of control. People are in a rush and don’t take the time to search for similar issues, so you end up with a lot of duplication. And people tend to write in a style that’s meaningful to them, even if nobody else understands what they are documenting. In the long run, training is far more valuable than an unmanaged knowledge base.
Measure Customer Satisfaction and Service Cost
The third focus area meshes with the first two. We measure customer satisfaction and compare that with the cost of delivering service. Our goal is to continuously improve customer satisfaction while continuously reducing the cost. This requires a tracking system and plenty of discipline.
Whether you use a spreadsheet or a full-blown service management system, the tool is only as good as the data that goes into it. Yes, it takes a few minutes longer to enter a ticket, track escalations, and to close it properly when the issue is resolved. It is well worth the time to do so because that leads to fewer tickets and a more manageable environment.
You should survey your entire user base annually and survey the end user on a small percentage of tickets every day. Surveys should be brief, even one question – “How satisfied are you with the service you received?” – and provide a 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 scale. It’s that simple.
So, what do we do with these processes and data?
Report, every month, to your executive team and employees. Show them how many tickets came in, how many were resolved within your Service Level Agreement (SLA), if you have one, and show the aggregate cost of delivering that service. Cost is determined by looking at each person that was involved with a ticket, how much time they spent, and multiplying that by their hourly cost (annual salary divided by, say, 1,080 or 2,000 hours, depending on how your organization works). Finally, graph the average customer satisfaction from your surveys versus the total cost for that time period (e.g., year, month, week). Over time, you should see satisfaction going up while cost goes down.
These reports are a built-in public relations machine for IT. Celebrate the wins and take ownership of the setbacks. Show people that IT is trying to improve – aiming to create more value for the business. Let them know when the metrics slip. It happens. Your ownership shows accountability and further increases the confidence of your business colleagues.
The IT Value Journey starts on the road from the Maintain state to the Enhance state. Two important things are happening throughout the journey. First, IT is continuously improving its processes and services, freeing up resources to shift to work that creates more value for the business. Second, IT is building trust, credibility, and respect with their business colleagues.
You saw, above, how simple reporting serves as a PR machine for IT. Don’t wait for people to recognize the improvements. Their focus is elsewhere. But, if you gently point out how IT customer satisfaction is going up while the cost of delivering service is going down, people will notice. And IT will be recognized for the Value Journey that you are on.
How Are You Doing?
Please complete a brief, 3-question survey to see where organizations are on their IT Value Journey, where they need to navigate to, and how they plan to get there. We’ll publish the summary results in a future article.
Larry Wolff is the founder & CEO of Wolff Strategy Partners, a boutique consulting firm specializing in Enterprise Strategy Management and Digital Transformation. Larry has served as CEO, COO, CIO, chief digital officer, and management consultant for public, private, international and emerging growth companies. His specialties include corporate and IT strategic planning, technology led business transformation, business and IT turnarounds, merger integration and large-scale project rescues.