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The Enormity of Small Business

September 25, 2017

My Customers never cease to amaze me.

Within the last few months, I made the move from working within Microsoft to joining Select Technology. As I made the transition from the world’s largest software vendor into the SME partner world, I knew that I would no longer be working with the blue chip, headline brands that I have been fortunate enough to interact with over the last few years.

That said, despite the concerns of others, I had no doubt that the conversations I would be having would be equally as exciting and invigorating as any I have had before.

And Boy, did my new customer base ever prove me right!

Throughout this and next year, Select Technology will be participating in the Microsoft Partner Workshop Programme. In Microsoft’s own words “These hands-on events are led by industry and solution experts. Their small classroom setting provides lots of opportunities to learn from and share with peers and experts in your region.” In other words, they allow us to deliver real value to our existing and potential customer base by delivering a series of half day Events.

However, the real value in these events has been the opportunity for me to see into the minds of the brave small business owners that employ more than 15.7M people in the UK.

Without the structural support and financial security inherent in being part of a larger organisation, these SMB entrepreneurs feel the impact of EVERY decision they make. Against the backdrop of professional and personal risk experienced by a small business employee, the agility and imagination displayed has really caught me by surprise. The level of creativity and imagination is far beyond the majority of what I have seen over the years from much larger businesses. Despite knowing that one wrong move could have serious consequences for their business, the key players within these organisations continue to embrace technology, deriving new and exciting ways to utilise, adapt and re-purpose what is already available in ways that most larger customers would never imagine was possible.

Small Business really is the key to the future of technology. Agility in this space is not optional. These organisations need to be innovative to survive. This drives a hunger for technology unlike anything I have ever seen before.

Each time we host a Workshop, the individual that seems to learn most is me. Maybe it’s time for some of the larger Vendors out there to appreciate and embrace Small Business. It is apparent that the true value in any deal is not the ‘value’ of the deal. It’s the innovation and creativity that builds solutions that can be taken forward to deliver industry relevant solutions that benefit hundreds of similar businesses in the future.

I look forward to whatever working in this exciting sector can teach me next.

The Power of Love (Feedback)

September 20, 2017

Providing Managed Support services to multiple clients all with varying levels of IT needs provides us with different challenges every day.  On a regular basis we have to deal with an array of issues and requests ranging from Cyber Security threats to password resets.

Whilst we endeavour to resolve our client’s issues beyond their expectations, how do we truly know if we have happy clients?

Historically we would have regular calls and client meetings, along with periodic lengthy satisfaction surveys.  Whilst this did provide valuable feedback, it was too infrequent and denied us the opportunity to act immediately.  In addition, more often than not, we were engaging with senior management which resulted in disjointed and sometimes historic feedback which frequently created a chain of miss-interpretation.

We were clearly missing a very important part of the puzzle… the staff themselves!

In order for us to be fully in tune with the client sentiment, we realised we had to understand how the staff were feeling about their Service experience.  We realised that by getting agile feedback from everyone who consumed the service first-hand was crucial to our success.

To address this, we implemented an intuitive simple pulse survey tool called CrewHu.  So how does it work?  It’s really simple, as soon as a support ticket is completed, CrewHu will email the client with the most important question “How did we do on this request?”  And the best bit?  To submit feedback it’s just “one click” on one of the faces.

Once feedback is submitted, we can very quickly gain an insight into how we performed on a specific issue, for a specific person.  In addition, there is opportunity to provide further written feedback if a client so wishes, although this is optional!

CrewHu will send out real-time alerts to the right people when someone has left a rating.  Our team will quickly follow up to deal with the situation where a client isn’t 100% happy. This rapid interaction allows us to be responsive with addressing any concerns and helps us improve our client relationships.

So why is feedback so important to us?  Simple.  Our continued success relies on delighted clients, and so feedback is an integral part of our improvement cycle.

The beauty of such a simple and effortless feedback system is that it encourages more people to use it which gives us a greater and broader insight into service trends which leads to improvements such as process enhancements and even helping us identify training opportunities.  Feedback is a key ingredient for us and means we are always listening to our clients which in turn shapes the future services we provide.

We’re proud that we consistently achieve higher than average positive feedback and that’s why we publish our feedback live:

http://www.itsupport.co.uk/livefeedback/

Our consistently great feedback is due to our dedication and commitment, we constantly challenge ourselves pushing the boundaries, driving innovation leading to service improvements all built on the foundations of this crucial feedback from our clients.  And not forgetting our Services team who are fundamental and committed to delivering service excellence and helping our clients make sure their businesses run smoothly with reliable and efficient IT Systems.

Written by Nick Potter, Director at Select Technology – Nick began his career at Select Technology in 1998 as a network engineer. His ability to develop long-term client relationships prompted a switch to client management, using his technical skills to align technology with positive business outcomes. Nick is integral to the leadership team, but still lends his expertise to this vital strategic planning role.

Workflow automation: a step closer to the paperless dream

September 11, 2017

For very nearly forty years the myth of the truly paperless office has been a tantalising goal, remaining just out of reach. However, with readily available workflow automation tools, such as Microsoft Flow, the myth is closer to becoming reality than ever before.

The difficulties in implementing a paperless work environment are many and varied. Compatibility concerns, copyright regulation and the complexities of digitising existing hardcopy records, the ultimate goal of “going paperless” is still shrouded in the transitory future. The omnipresent use of email in today’s workplace, and the ability to carry your office with you in the form of a smart device, has had a significant impact for the vast majority of businesses. Even without consideration being given to enterprise oriented social networking platforms such as Yammer, the ability to send a bulk email rather than print off multiple copies of a memo, for example, has edged the dream a little closer. As has a generational shift in workforce, younger workers are statistically more likely to be comfortable reading a document on a screen, rather than an original hardcopy, or even printing out a softcopy prior to processing it.

Business processes themselves can be guilty of perpetuating the need for physical hardcopy documents by their very nature. If a document requires approval or authorisation, and needs to be passed between multiple individuals, it can be very tempting to print a copy to pass around for signature or initial, prior to final processing.

In my last blog post (Cloud Agility Vs On-Prem Deadweight – Aug ’17), I mentioned Digital Transformation as a paradigm shift, a completely different way of thinking. Rather than emulating an existing process and merely introducing more technology, the idea is to examine what you are trying to achieve and the desired outcomes, then using the tools available more intelligently to facilitate the required output. The new process might be fundamentally different from the original, but the output provides what is needed, cutting down on waste (both in terms of time and material) and increasing efficiency.

Tools such as Flow, included in most Office 365 subscription levels, and SharePoint’s integrated workflow functionality, make automating business processes simple and effective. When business decision makers hear “customised process automation”, concerns could be raised that specialised (and expensive) development is about to be proposed. This does not have to be the case. Flow allows quick and easy implementation of a wide variety of automation, via provided templates or built from scratch using intuitive blocks. Flows can interact with over 160 different online services, both Microsoft and 3rd party, and with a handy mobile device app, Flows can also be made available on-the-go. Approvals and authorisations can be gained in real-time, rather than gathering dust in an In-tray.

A very simple Flow that can take minutes to implement, and is a great solution demonstrator, adds rows to an Excel Online spreadsheet with date, time and postcode, upon the click of a button in the Flow mobile app. Rather than completing paper records of business journeys conducted for expense reimbursement, the travelling employee need only click ‘Depart’ and ‘Arrive’ at the beginning and end of a journey. All of the relevant information is then available in real-time to the Accounts department, ready for processing. It may seem almost trivial, but the time saved in completing forms, and the accuracy assured by the automation, is appreciated by all involved.

In the case of implementing automated workflows such as the example above, the sky is literally the limit (and brings the “paperless office” ever so slightly closer).

Written by Scott Relf, Projects Manager

With a background in Operations Management, Scott has applied his expertise to our Services and Service Desk functions since joining in 2014. He now leads our Project Consultants as they provide specialist implementation services.

A day in the life of a Service Delivery Manager

September 6, 2017

The Service Delivery Manager role is a busy and enjoyable role.

Every day starts with a management Service Desk review where I can determine the health of the Service Desk.  Real-time data on our Service Dashboards gives me a quick insight into everything that is happening so I can gauge the current climate, and make informed decisions and allocate appropriate resources.  The morning is often spent making plans with the team, and helping with their next actions on sticky support issues.  The Service Desk health is carefully monitored throughout the day to ensure we are progressing through the workload efficiently.  We know what our end target is every day, so if we are not within acceptable thresholds we’ll quickly make a plan to rectify.  As you can imagine, it is critical we end the day in a good place because with Support it’s a certainty that more tickets will come in the next day adding to the previous day’s unresolved total, so if we aren’t on top of our tickets on a daily basis, our workload could quickly become unsustainable.

Constantly reviewing and improving the quality and efficiency of the team, to ensure we always deliver an excellent Service, is the top priority.  Traditional support is naturally very reactive, which means every day is different and it can be hard to predict how much capacity each team member has at any given moment, it only takes one major unexpected support ticket to impact everyone’s day. A big part of my role is working with our processes, products and people to develop new and improved ways of working to reduce the amount of reactive support we do; a more proactive approach helps us gain control over the quantity of reactive support we have to deal with. We are currently in the process of implementing new delivery areas within the services team to focus on ways we can effectively reduce the number of reactive tickets that are logged which will result in providing our customers with an enhanced end user experience.

Using our business intelligence data tools, part of the proactive teams role is to look for patterns and recurring issues and to ask the philosophical question “knowing what we know now, what could we have done to stop this ticket being logged?”. This is an important question that can lead us down a few different avenues. For repeated issues, one of three conclusions could be drawn; either a configuration change is required or perhaps a new product or service might be needed, or there is a training requirement for us to manage.  Sometimes we may develop self-healing automation processes which, after sufficient testing, could be rolled out as a preventative measure to all our managed devices giving all our  clients the benefits of our proactive work.  All of this positive effort helps improve our knowledge and efficiency within the services team, ultimately resulting in an enhanced end user experience to all our customers.

Our latest investment in the team involves a concept called “Gamification”. We have had pulse feedback solutions in place for a while where clients can click happy or sad on every completed ticket, however, we have updated our system to include Gamification where the guys get points for every positive feedback they get, a natural evolution in my eyes.  We are at the stage of developing rewards for the team and they’ve come up with some great ideas so far.   Very simply, points accrued can be saved up and exchanged for rewards of their choosing.  Ideas we have so far range from free lunches, 2 hour lunch breaks to various gadgets.  I am really excited by this addition, and how it will add an extra dynamic for encouraging and rewarding the team.

So to summarise, my role at Select Technology is varied, often fast paced and very rewarding.  Of course as part of my role to continually strive to improve our service, I’m always keen to hear from our clients first-hand about their experience of our Service, and I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to drop me a line anytime.

Written by Chris Malyon  Chris joined Select Technology in 2011 as 3rd line engineer and is now responsible for all Service Delivery. He has a talent to grasp new concepts quickly and masters technical detail.