Another type of outsourcing is examined in this segment, technical support for specialized environments or for special populations within your organization.
- [Instructor] I recently did a web search to see what the rest of the world was saying on the topic of selecting outsource technical support service, and the results were pretty much what I expected. I saw an article from Entrepreneur Magazine with a list of warnings about selecting the wrong IT service. And I found several pages of support plans offered by several big name software and hardware companies and a few I'd not heard of. Sprinkled in were a few companies that can be contracted to provide technical support on whatever products you might be using.
And it seems that just about every product or service in the IT industry has a support package, and well they should. How do you as a company that has just recently completed an inventory of their IT assets determine which of those support services have value to your organization? Would it be too redundant if I said to bring your IT strategist into this conversation? Here are the points that you need to discuss to understand your needs.
What products need to be supported and how good is your current team at supporting them? When it comes to Microsoft Office and other common software, your current support team probably has things covered. Your in-house team should also be ready to support everyday use of software that is common to your industry. The more custom the package however, the more you might want to consider getting outside help. The second question to ask is: how many people will use this support? Some support services invite all users to call and get the help they need directly.
Other services want to have a single point of contact within your organization. If you have an in-house IT team, you'll probably want to consider the single point of contact model. And there are at least three noteworthy payoffs to this path for support. If all calls go through your technical support department, even the ones they can't answer, you can remove some confusion on the part of the employees. They're not going to need a directory of who to call for each type of support.
Directing the support calls through an individual or small team will also develop the technical skills of your internal support team. They will see how to resolve issues, even with the company's specialized products, and can become increasingly more useful with each support call. Third, these single point of contact support plans are usually the least expensive and are often offered at little to no cost for a few months to a year after the purchase of the software.
If this timer exists, be sure to encourage tech support calls by users and by the IT team. Be sure to learn as much as possible during this time. The third question to ask is: when do we need support and can our internal team cover those hours? I worked with a small college that was launching online courses. They had an internal IT team sufficient to cover the needs during business hours, but not enough to also staff a 24/7 help line.
Our new product offering came with a new support need that we needed to outsource. Let's consider that scenario a little bit. The first question of what products needed support is an easy one. The online students needed help with basic computer skills, Microsoft Word, web browsers, and our virtual classroom. Our internal team was very good at supporting these products, but the number of people needing support was going to grow quickly over the first year and then fluctuate between a few hundred and a couple thousand, but only one or two support calls at a time.
The timing of their needs was going to align with the time of day that they worked on their online classes. After some analysis, we found out that that meant our peak time would likely begin at around 10 o'clock at night, which brings me to the fourth question to ask when assessing the need for additional support services. Ask your IT strategist if adding this support service will make things more confusing or less confusing for the people that will need help.
Back to the online college. Do students do one thing for help during the day and another at night? Is one service preferred over the other? I can tell you our answer: we provided comfort to students with issues during the day by allowing them to go to IT any time they were on campus. We trained the support techs to call the outside support vendor in front of the student or customer. This helped to instill confidence in the outside provider for times when the students needed to call them directly.
Now, is this the right solution for your company? It is if you're the same type of company with the same customer base going through the same type of paradigm shift that we were. You're going to need to take a thoughtful look at your company's needs and abilities as you discuss these four key questions.
- Including IT in strategy
- What does IT bring to strategy?
- Communicating the big picture
- Selecting and evaluating the effectiveness of training and development activities
- Choosing the right hardware, platforms, and applications
- Who owns the devices?
- Site planning
- External and internal connectivity