I have worked in IT support for much of my career. One of the things I learned early on was that supporting a poor IT product or a poor IT organization is fun and easy. That may seem a little strange, but it is true.
Poor products and weak organizations create many repeatable support incidents. Call center agents and support managers soon have all the answers—many, many answers. Resolution rates are through the roof. You look good.
I remember supporting a particular product when my team and I made code changes over the phone. It was one of the most enjoyable work experiences I ever had because customers loved us. They didn’t particularly like the product, but they loved us. We were brilliant! We were heroes! We worked magic! We had people stop by during vacation trips just to meet us in person because we got to know our customers so well. We were indispensable to the organization. But all “good” things must come to an end.
The development team used the incident information we collected, and the next release was much more solid. Our role changed. Shortly after, an employee approached me and said that supporting the new product wasn’t much fun as before. However, our customers were much happier. As fun as we were, they really preferred not calling—or at least not calling as much.
The world is more complex now and so are the Church’s IT offerings. The Church is a diverse organization. There is not one “line of business,” but many “lines of business.” Our internal service desk supports over 300 IT products and services. These vary in quality, usage, and complexity. The support group at the Church has an interest in operating with fewer, but more reliable, products.
About five years ago I was exposed to Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) at several professional conferences. This is a comprehensive framework of IT best practices. It originated in the U.K. in the 1980s and has caught on in the U.S. in a big way.
We have been using ITIL principles to improve our support process for several years now. We have actually reached a level of relative maturity with our incident management processes—consistent incident recording, better metrics, and more interest in using the data we collect. A certain level of problem management has been applied to major incidents, and they have dropped dramatically in recent months.
Our organization is embracing ITIL more and applying it to more processes throughout support, operations, and infrastructure engineering. Many of us have achieved ITIL certifications at various levels. We are applying what we learn and consequently, becoming a more mature IT shop.
The nature of support will, therefore, change. We are looking forward to the challenge of supporting a great IT organization.
Mike Hanna is a technical support manager for the Church.