TROUBLE MANAGING VARIABLE IT DEMANDS? THE SECRET MAY BE IN YOUR IT ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE. by Justin Stefano

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1 TROUBLE MANAGING VARIABLE IT DEMANDS? THE SECRET MAY BE IN YOUR IT ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE. by Justin Stefano

2 When system or infrastructure issues occur, many organizations business-critical IT programs also suffer typically because the same resources tasked with advancing those initiatives are diverted to handle variable issues as they occur. Moving from a traditional twotier IT organization structure to a three-tier structure can help address variable demands on your staff and keep your most experienced engineers and architects focused on programs that can advance your business. This article outlines a potential three-tier model and a way to make it work efficiently.

3 Many organizations have two primary types, or tiers, of technology resources: tier 1 help desk analysts responsible for initial end user support and tier 2 information technology (IT) engineers, architects or developers tasked with developing and maintaining infrastructure and critical business applications. In theory, this seems like a practical approach that is, until the help desk personnel encounter issues that they can t fix and must pass on to tier 2 for resolution. Given the growing complexity of today s business environments, however, many organizations IT resources are already fully tapped or, in a lot of cases, overbooked just managing current and future business demands. When the same resources have to step in and handle these variable and unpredictable issues, it can seriously jeopardize the IT function s ability to keep critical projects and responsibilities on track, as well as delaying resolution of users issues. PROCESSES AND TOOLS HELP MANAGE IT DEMAND Understanding, tracking, and managing all of the demands placed on an IT department are challenges for organizations of any size. To manage those demands effectively, you need to make sure that you allocate key resources to the most important, most strategic projects and programs. How can you help the person responsible for delivering on a critical IT project one with a work plan, milestones, and deadlines keep that project on track while also assisting with unpredictable daily operational issues? The key is to understand where and when each fixed and variable resource request is submitted and then to assign those requests to resources who have availability and are able to dedicate a majority of their time to one type of request. There are a number of established IT demand management processes and tools available to help you aggregate IT requests, evaluate them against set criteria, and prioritize both human resources and dollars. These include project and portfolio management, request management, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) demand, incident problem and change management, among others. Robust and flexible tools ( tools with the rules ) from recognizable vendors such as CA Clarity and Service Management and HP s IT Strategy, Planning and Governance and IT Service Management suites, as well as point solutions such as Compuware ChangePoint and Planview Enterprise, can facilitate many of these processes. With planning, process, tools, and strong discipline, capturing incoming demand and assigning priorities based on business need is achievable. But is a great process and supporting tool enough?

4 ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE IS THE CRITICAL ELEMENT Processes and tools are important, but an organization structure that optimizes resources is perhaps the most important factor in meeting variable demand effectively. Anyone who has worked in or managed an IT department knows that you cannot completely distance your department and your resources from day today operational tasks and support. The key is finding the right balance in staff time between fixed resource allocation efforts such as projects and variable resource allocation efforts such as responding to IT issues and outages. As noted at the beginning of the article, many organizations have help desk analysts who handle first line support and engineers who handle escalated issues, service requests, and projects. This structure, however, often results in very senior and experienced IT resources spending an inordinate amount of time on fairly simple and routine outages and issues and takes time away from business critical projects. Adding a buffer support layer between the help desk and engineers/architects in essence, moving from a two tier structure to a three tier structure can help address this issue. A THREE TIER MODEL FOR EFFECTIVE IT SUPPORT An effective three tier support structure includes: A tier 1 team solely responsible for end user support related issues and initial triage A tier 2 team primarily responsible for handling issues escalated by the tier 1 team that also assists with handling routine and repeatable service requests A tier 3 team that spends the majority of its time on project related tasks This model can work effectively for infrastructure as well as application teams. It is important, though, to retain access to some of the tier 3 team s time for advanced outages and issues, and this must be included as part of staff planning and resource assignments. CREATING THE THIRD TIER OUTSOURCING MAY BE THE ANSWER For most organizations, establishing the resources for a new tier of support is easier said than done. Not only is it expensive to staff up, it can be expensive and time consuming to put in place the necessary processes to make this approach effective. Outsourcing can be a viable solution for establishing any one of the missing tiers but, in particular, it can be effective for handling tier 1 and tier 2 responsibilities, which include largely commoditized activities related to handling issues and repeatable service requests. In many cases, outsourcing providers have the staff and processes in place to provide these services more cost effectively than maintaining them in house.

5 In addition, they have the capability to increase or decrease support resources, as needed, to meet demand. Perhaps more importantly, an outsourced model allows your most experienced in house resources those most familiar with the inner workings of your business and culture to focus on advancing critical business initiatives on schedule and according to management expectations. DEMAND MANAGEMENT IS ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE Regardless of the method used to establish a tiered support structure outsourced model or internally developed having dedicated roles and with dedicated time is critical to handling the variable demand placed on IT efficiently. Effectively segregating fixed timeline, project related tasks from unpredictable dayto day support will improve productivity, enhance relationships with the business, and improve overall satisfaction with IT.

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