Over the years I’ve worked in a variety organizations both as consultant and in IT departments. I’ve worked with some great professionals that helped me better understand the support structures required to operate and support an application/service effectively. Sometime an afterthought, meeting ongoing support expectations in today’s ever changing business environment can be a having sufficient budget, sponsorship, managing contractors, full time staff and service organizations (Outsourcing) can be a headache. Though not the focus of this blog, I will outline the required support infrastructure and highlight risks where appropriate related to sourcing.

Where do you star? What do you have in place that you can leverage? Help Desk? Training? Communications? SharePoint user group? Great places to start assessing your current investments effectiveness and costs. For example:

  • Help Desk – what does you help desk current support? Volume of calls? Satisfaction levels? Its ability to onboard a new application or service?
  • Development and support – SharePoint’s one of the products that people want to heavily customize beyond simple branding. A design and development team will be required. Have team or third party provider?
  • Training – what training is offered today? Satisfaction levels? Its ability to onboard a new application or service?
  • Communications – what does the commination group do today specific to awareness? Simple corporate communications or do they have a role in end user education? Promoting new applications and services?
  • SharePoint user group – have users groups formed organically or through official channels? What feedback do they have about support and training?

Thinking about the aforementioned items you could easily get to a state of analysis paralysis trying to boil the ocean as they say so how do you avoid it? Here are some key areas to focus on:

  • Define the Support Infrastructure requirements, offerings, roles and responsibilities, deliverables, reporting and measures and game plan
  • Corporate communications – this team will help you market your offering and collect feedback as you define, deploy and operate. Utilizing intranet, surveys, newsletters, emails to name a few the teams will help you engage end users.
  • Training materials – for training materials you may choose to adopt materials that can be purchased from a third party such as Lynda.com or create your own. There are pros and cons with either approach such as customized environment or your organizations own processes which vender such as Lynda.com won’t have. They will have however a robust library of documents and videos available on demand which can take organization considerable time and cost to assemble. Weigh the pros and cons and go with what’s best for your situation.
  • Videos and Documented guides and policy – At a minimum you’ll require usage policy that users must sign off on and comply with while using the applications. This could be data and security policy compliance and simple instructions regarding what to use the application for and what not to use it for. I suggest ongoing yearly recertification and sign off enforced by HR and managed through a Learning Management System (LMS). In addition, user guide must be available as the guide for using the application/service. The guides usually take the form of written documents and videos.
  • Lunch and learns – these are events that communications or the product management team would chair. These are interactive forums for launching applications/services and conducting surveys.
  • User Support/mentoring Groups – user groups are an effective tool for reaching deeper into an organization to educate and collection feedback on application/service related topics. Everything from how to get help, how to best use features and obtaining firsthand information from business regarding their priorities and expectation regarding the application/service.
  • Help Desk – to assist with call handling, simple troubleshooting, monitoring and routing the help desk will require scripts and education. Make this a focus area and not an afterthought, not having a solid help desk will be problematic.
  • Third Party – if you’re in a situation where you don’t have services to offer and must use third party provider to either provide all services or to augment when elasticity is required based on demand, suggest reaching out via RFI to determine which provider can best service your requirements.

Finally, the shit structure should match the operating requirements, specifically you will require teams to “follow the sun” as they say. For example:

  • First shift – this team works from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.
    • This might be the prime shift that covers majority of user population. For example North America based company.
  • Second shift – this team works from 5pm-1am Monday through Friday.
    • This might be a secondary shift that provides support for off hours related work during maintenance windows which are usually after normal business hours. e.g maintenance window 8pm-6am.
  • Third shirt  – this team works from 1am-9am Monday through Friday.
    • Same as above.

As the title suggests this is a summary, to execute on creating your infrastructure could be a simple operation if your organization has mature ITSM process, experienced staff and budget. Or you might be in a situation where limited resources exist and in that case a third party is required. Having solid plan in either case will help whereby the stakeholders are actively involved and onboard greatly helps in the efforts.

Have feedback or ideas, contact me roncharity@gmail.com