Have you ever been that kid standing nervously by the edge of the pool? You really want to go swimming. You know it’ll be fun. But the water’s cold and you’re afraid to take the plunge.
While you’re standing there, that other kid (maybe an older sibling) sneaks up and gives you a shove. Dilemma resolved – you’re swimming!
Today, many mid-sized businesses have experienced a similarly bracing – but ultimately rewarding – shock to the system. By forcing a dramatic and rapid shift to remote work, the past few years have opened the door to some deep-seated flaws in traditional IT service delivery and end-user computing models. The disruptive process of adapting to new requirements, meanwhile, has presented an opportunity to drive fundamental and innovative improvements.
The End of Shoulder Tapping
Mid-sized businesses have traditionally relied on in-house IT service teams to provide end-user support. Typically, these teams are insulated from competitive pressure and industry best practices, resulting in immature incident management capabilities. The task of troubleshooting user problems, meanwhile, tends to be an ad hoc activity added to a long list of responsibilities. Rather than submitting a ticket, users experiencing problems track down an IT staff member, who drops what they’re doing and applies a fix. While highly inefficient, the model tends to be popular – users enjoy prompt, hands-on service, while IT team members value being viewed as critical problem-solvers.
The shift to remote work was a day of reckoning for this “shoulder tap” approach to end-user support. For one thing, “Joe from IT” was obviously no longer down the hall to provide immediate assistance. Moreover, employees unaccustomed to working from home had lots of questions, and routine upgrades and refreshes fell by the wayside. As a result, IT service teams with sub-optimal incident management capabilities were in many cases overwhelmed.
Recognizing that a better approach was needed, many SMBs have acknowledged the importance of applying incident management and other end-user support best practices; relatedly, evolving IT outsourcing models that offer enterprise-level capabilities at affordable prices are getting a second look.
Outsourcing Scales Down
One reason that smaller businesses have been slow to adopt IT outsourcing is that options have traditionally been limited. At the high end, SMBs were a poor fit for tier one service providers whose delivery models are built around high volumes and economies of scale. Conversely, “geek on wheels” operations lacked the talent and resources to address the increasingly complex needs of mid-sized organizations.
Driven by a “just right” delivery model, service providers are developing innovative approaches designed for SMB requirements. One key is to leverage nearshore resources to enable flexible access to top-notch talent at affordable rates. In addition, pooling arrangements that share resources across several clients can deliver responsive service by optimizing utilization and limiting the overhead costs of keeping resources on the bench. Streamlined contractual models that minimize laborious (and costly) negotiations are also essential.
In terms of IT outsourcing capabilities, SMBs’ top priority should be Service Desks that integrate technology, processes and skills to optimize Level 1 to Level 4 Help Desk support. Remote Monitoring and Management capabilities are essential here, as are automation tools and chatbots to streamline basic, labor-intensive tasks. In addition to this foundational functionality, critical requirements include procurement, delivery and configuration of devices – to traditional business centers as well as remote employees. And once end-users are set up, providers must be able to deploy smart hands technicians on site, even to areas of low demand.
A Clean Slate Look at the User Experience
At a strategic level, the past few years has enabled a fundamental re-think of how businesses are structured, specifically in terms of organizing workplaces and defining roles and responsibilities. Rather than focusing simply on going back to how things were before, many executives are asking probing questions about how to do things differently – and better.
The basic issue of whether we work in traditional office settings or in remote locations requires flexibility. While some people relish the independence of working from home, others yearn to get back to the structure of the office and daily commute. By demonstrating that people can in fact be productive working from anywhere, businesses can now expand the definition of the “optimal” user experience, and to recognize the benefits of addressing individual needs, obligations and preferences. In a fiercely competitive job market, tailoring workplace conditions to individual choice is likely to become increasingly common. And that’s good news for end-users.