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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.

The IT Service Value Paradox – How not calling your IT Support Company is actually better value for your business

August 21, 2017

Having spent the last 10 years working in the IT Services sector, I have seen first-hand the transformation of the Managed Services Provider or the MSP as we are commonly known.

Back in the early 2000’s, IT Support was very much based around maintenance contracts with a break/fix approach.  Customer satisfaction was largely based on how quickly an IT company could respond and fix a reactive issue and these reactive issues were simply billed in time and materials.  Looking back, this was quite a negative service because the IT Company benefited from the clients misfortune and with no commitment very little incentive to be preventative.  Something had to change.

A few years later we saw the emergence of the Managed Service Provider (MSP) and the Service proposition became very different.  Managed Services are typically designed around delivering a fully unlimited managed service for an all-inclusive fee.  This became desirable to clients because for a simple flat fee everything was taken care of and it was easy to budget for too.  This “all you can eat” model changed the dynamics of IT Service Delivery because no longer did the MSP make money from the clients misfortune (like in the break/fix model), but now with an “unlimited service”, downtime became mutually painful for both parties, after all, the risks were now mutual.

This change in dynamic was the catalyst which forced MSP’s to re-think their proposition and this led to a need for the service to be more proactive which has defined the modern day MSP.  MSP’s had to get more proactive thus reducing risk for both themselves and the client with added benefit of becoming more efficient, reducing risk and increasing service quality.  This led to the introduction of more intelligent IT tools which could monitor infrastructure so small issues could be detected mitigating the risk of a major outage.  The trouble is, even though the monitoring software may well prevent a bigger issue emerging later, if you weren’t expecting an alert from the monitoring software, this is still by definition ‘reactive’ time.

So fast forward to today and where are we?  The Managed Services model continues to evolve and while new ingredients are added to the MSP services, the same goal is always there – to increase the quality of service and also the efficiency.

MSP’s are having to keep innovating to offer the best service whilst still remaining competitive.  As a result, smaller MSP’s can suffer from a lack of resource and require their techs to “wear multiple hats” which can be the enemy of true proactivity.  As a busy MSP it’s all too easy for tech’s to get pulled into the reactive support vacuum.

But, to be truly proactive, we believe the answer is dedicated delivery areas outside of a reactive support desk.  This very structure allows us to provide a sustainable proactive service to our clients and this key differentiator sets us apart from an average MSP.

We have “Behind the scenes” delivery areas driving efficiency, preventing issues through best practices and processes.  Our best practices are distilled from all the collective technical brilliance across our Senior Techs.  Using this super database, we have scheduled proactive time on our clients infrastructure, leaving no stone unturned and comparing our findings against these best practices.  We meet quarterly with your leaders and discuss your business not just statistics showing that we are delivering the service we said we would.

Although having more delivery areas making up the Service could mean a higher entrance fee, the benefits of being part of this far out weight the costs. Paying less for a reactive service is not going to help your business.

When an MSP becomes truly proactive not only will the client see the benefits through increased reliability and greater productivity while enjoying less reactive tickets and less business risk.

So we can conclude that not calling your IT Company is better value for your business.

Written by Simon Moore, Technical Services Director – With 20 Years’ experience in technical roles, including the investment banking sector, Simon combines and obsession for customer service excellence with a passion for technology. Since joining Select Technology in 2006 he has transformed our services business and now focus his time on the strategic direction and leadership.

Cloud Agility Vs On-Prem Deadweight

August 14, 2017

“Why should we move our IT infrastructure to a cloud based model, when we can purchase on-premise physical hardware and not have to worry about it again for the lifecycle of the equipment?” – a question our consultants in the Professional Services Team are often asked by Clients.

In our minds, the answer is “Why wouldn’t you?”.

Traditionally, IT infrastructure hardware (physical servers, networking equipment, etc.) has been considered to be a necessary burden that is accounted for as a CapEx purchase made only when absolutely necessary, i.e. when the assets have been “sweated” for the highest return on the investment possible, or when they have ceased functioning as required (or even at all).

When taking total cost of ownership into account, factoring in “hidden” costs directly attributable to on-prem environments (examples of such being power, cooling, hardware warranties, downtime for patching and routine maintenance, etc.), a very different picture emerges regarding the size of the investment.

Physical infrastructure also increases a reliance on a geographical location, reducing mobility and impacting resilience and reliability at a time when patterns of work are evolving to allow users to work anywhere, anytime, on anything. A key variable in improving work/life balance, and increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

The migration to a Cloud based infrastructure, charged on a rolling/usage basis, is a big step to take in the short term, but a highly rewarding one if implemented correctly. Whilst some may see the increase in monthly overheads as undesirable, when considering the TCO considerations mentioned above the impact is significantly lessened. Indeed, a key point that is often overlooked in comparisons between Cloud Vs On-prem is capacity planning. When designing a physical infrastructure refresh, the highest expected load over the entire lifecycle (possible up to five years) must be accommodated. Therefore, every second a piece of physical infrastructure is running at less than peak utilisation, it is incurring additional cost to the business rather than adding value to it. Predicting capacity requirements with any degree of accuracy over a timescale of 3-5 years is a challenge in itself.

Consider the alternative… planning for the lowest usage, and scaling up as and when required, and back down when demand has reduced. Only paying for what you actually use, rather than what you could potentially use. In businesses that require development and test environments, not having expensive equipment lying dormant and depreciating when not in use, and simply creating entire development architectures when required (and shutting it all down when no longer needed). The ability to be truly agile as a business, with happier, more productive, staff that are no longer constrained by geography. Enjoying the peace of mind inherent in knowing that your critical business systems and data are protected by the highest levels of resilience, redundancy and security, rather than in a room (or even cupboard) in the same building as your users.

The benefits of a business strategy based on the ‘Digital Transformation’ mindset cannot be overestimated, and provide a paradigm shift in Clients business processes and goals.

Viewing IT as an operational expense (that acts as a business enabler), rather than a capital expense (that increases drag and reduces agility), results in the question posed at the beginning of this post rapidly transforming from “Why should we…” to “When can we…”.

Written by Scott Relf 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.