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Nigel’s Back! (And this time it’s “Personnel”)

by Rob Addy  |  August 6, 2012  |  Submit a Comment

Most support providers suddenly get squeamish when I ask them what they are doing to actively reduce the internal IT operations labour requirement for their customers. They stare at their feet, start mumbling into their coffee cups and generally do anything to avoid making eye contact. I’m not saying they need a “Sack a Sys Admin” policy, nor do they need a “Death to the DBA” programme, let alone an “Abolish an Administrator” campaign… Well, I’m not saying that directly. What I am saying is that they need to look at their offerings from their REAL customer’s perspective. They must be pragmatic and recognize that their historic “customer” (i.e. the technical rank and file support service consumer) is probably no longer the one calling the shots (if indeed they ever were). New buyers just want it to work. They want it to work better and more effectively than it did in the past. And the new buyers would much rather there were significantly fewer of the old buyers needed to keep it running smoothly.

A while back we met Nigel, the Total Cost of Support elephant. Nigel is a big ol’ beast and could most definitely do with losing a few hundred pounds. Whilst the real costs of systems failure usually dwarf all other costs, the costs of internal IT Operations are still routinely cited as consuming 65-80% of ALL IT spending. Now we could get into the semantics of whether much of this spending could and should be truly attributed to IT systems failure related costs (as many of these people are there to fiddle and tinker with systems creating the environmental changes that ultimately fuel the incidents which then cause them to run  around like headless chickens when the proverbial brown stuff hits the proverbial fan) but let’s park that particular philosophical debate for today.

IT Operations cost a heap of cash. Everyone will agree with that. Operations methodologies and processes haven’t materially changed in twenty years. Sure, we have had incremental improvements through the use of automation but the underlying mantra have remained – Current is good. Consistency is good. Control is necessary. Keep everything controlled, current and consistent. ITIL (the alleged best practice for IT Operations process) has done little to reduce the amount spent keeping the wheels of the IT machine turning. So how can this impasse be overcome?

Nigel knows that if he is to slim down, he must be willing to exercise… Climbing the pyramid of efficient efficacy is just the start!

He must be willing to make sacrifices. He must forego his peanuts. He must be willing and ready to do what needs to be done. Nigel knows that the only way for him to be fitter and more agile and ready for the challenges of the world is for him to slim down dramatically. He knows in his heart of hearts that switching from full fat milk to semi-skimmed probably won’t be enough.

He also knows that theoretical weight loss is not helpful. Work (or at least the “activity” that often masquerades as work) expands to fill the time available for it. For example, reducing the time taken to patch a system by 30 seconds may seem incredibly useful to the casual observer (or an over eager Support Service Product Manager / Marketing Executive). But in the grand scheme of things it is often pointless.

Nigel needs to change his lifestyle. He needs to remove himself from situations that put temptation in his way. He must accept that his old way of doing things is what got him into his current predicament and he must be willing to change how he looks at the world. He must stop doing things because “he always has” or because “all the other elephants are all doing it”. He knows that he must work at it. He is old and wise enough to know that there really aren’t any magic slimming pills that don’t have scary side effects. Sure he can go on a crash starvation diet for a while. But ultimately he will suffer and relapse to a state often worse than when he started.

Change is hard. We all know that. Nigel knows it too. But he knows that he must and he what is more, he is willing to accept the help and assistance from people who work with other elephants so that he can benefit from their experiences. Nigel isn’t a trusting fool that will try out the latest fad diet on a whim. No. But he will consider any and all viable options and providing there is sufficient evidence of their value he IS likely to give it a go.

Help your customers to shed a few pounds. They will thank you for it…


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Category: support-messaging  support-strategy  support-value  

Tags: crash-diets-vs-lifestyle-changes  gartner-product-support-maturity-scale  processes-and-methodologies  support-as-a-weapon  tcos  total-cost-of-support  trkfam  value-proposition  where-does-support-fit-in  

Rob Addy
Research Vice President
5 years at Gartner
More years than I care to remember in the IT industry

Welcome to my blog! I post about all things services related from the provider perspective. End-users are welcome to read but please be aware that you may sometimes find its content unsettling. I will endeavour to post frequently (as it's a lot cheaper than a therapist) but please forgive me if other more mundane activities occasionally get in the way...Read my official Gartner bio here

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