Support Centers Need to Justify Their Existence - or Perish
February 04, 2014
Robert Stroud
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The Enterprise IT support center has become a feature of almost every enterprise, but it is becoming commoditized and may be displaced by external service providers unless it can justify its existence.

That's the takeaway from a report of 205 North American technical service and support professionals, entitled Show Me The Value: Support's Mandate conducted by HDI and sponsored by CA Technologies.

The technical service and support industry keeps hearing the same thing — that they need to show their business value, but for most internal support centers, there's a conundrum. Too often, support is simply considered to be a cost center, and it has a difficult time justifying requests for additional resources and budget. It may be even considered a target for elimination.

The good news is that a number of support centers are working to demonstrate their value, and better support emerging technologies and new ways of doing business.

As the report points out, support centers are adjusting roles, increasing customer focus, and changing their metrics. But the question remains as to whether they are really in sync with the strategic vision of non-IT executives in their organizations. And if they're not, they may be viewed as a service that adds little-to-no value and is subsequently considered an irrelevant and unnecessary burden.

To deliver relevance and value, today's support centers transition from being reactive to proactively focusing on servicing the business. When support centers are viewed positively by the larger organization and are able to expand and improve the services they offer, their business value increases.

The support center fundamentally needs to understand the business strategy and how it translates into the end-to-end business process and its impact on the customer. For example, support centers need to demonstrate how their phone, email, chat and even person-to-person interactions are helping the business achieve its strategic goals.

Metrics need to be expressed in terms of increased productivity, effective and quality delivery of the business services and accelerating innovation. In reality, support centers must transition to proactive delivery and continuity of service rather than just fixing random problems as they occur, in the order that they occur.

For many organizations, the success and even survival of the support center depends on the ability to demonstrate business value in three key areas — people, process and technology — in terms of the metrics that quantify them.

In order to transition, metrics must transition. Alarmingly, 54 percent of respondents in the survey have not changed their metrics to better measure business value. Forty percent have added metrics, while 12 percent have subtracted metrics that did not show business value.

Some change is occurring with job titles and roles transitioning in forward thinking support organizations. Forty percent of support centers have added new job roles to address changes in their relationship with the business — including director of customer relations and service desk director — based on established ITSM frameworks, especially ITIL.

Just like in our personal lives where our communication is transitioning with Facebook, Twitter, Chat, Video calling, etc., support centers are looking to leverage these capabilities. More than two-thirds of respondents have purchased fully-featured ITSM tools and other solutions in areas such as social collaboration and analytics and reporting to address their changing relationship with the business, or plan to do so within the next year, according to the report.

To succeed, support centers can no longer wait for the phone to ring. They need to put in place processes and enable users to be a self-sufficient as possible to proactively preempt calls to the service desk.

They can also push for automation that correlates events and points to potential issues before they occur. And they need to report to the business on metrics that point to the business value derived from the Support Center.

ABOUT Robert Stroud

Robert Stroud is Vice President Strategy & Innovation, IT Business Management, CA Technologies.

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