Saturday, May 22, 2010

Support Model Woes

I find it ironic that folks claim to understand ITIL Management processes yet do not understand the levels of support model.

Most support organizations have multiple ters of support. For example, there is usually a Level 1 which is the initial interface toward the customer. Level 2 is usually a traige or technical feet on the street. Level 3 is usually Engineering or Development. In some cases, Level 4 is used to denote on site vendor support or third party support.

In organizations where Level 1 does dispatch only or doesn't follow through problems with the customer, the customer ends up owning and following through the problem to solution. What does this say to customers?

- There are technically equal to or better than level 1
- they become accustomed to automatic escalation.
- They lack confidence in the service provider
- They look for specific Engineers versus following process
- They build organizations specifically to follow and track problems through to resolution.

If your desks do dispatch only, event management systems are only used to present the initial event leading up to a problem. What a way to render Netcool useless! Netcool is designed to display the active things that are happening in your environment. If all you ever do is dispatch, why do you need Netcool? Just generate a ticket straight away. No need to display it.

What? Afraid of rendering your multi-million dollar investment useless? Why leave it in a disfunctional state of semi-uselessness when you could save a significant amount of money getting rid of it? Just think, every trap can become an object that gets processed like a "traplet" of sorts.

One of the first things that crops up is that events have a tendency to be dumb. Somewhere along the way, somebody had the bright idea that to put an agent into production that is "lightweight" - meaning no intelligence or correlation built in. Its so easy to do little or nothing, isn't it? Besides, its someone elses problem to deal with the intelligence. In the
vendors case, many times agent functionality is an afterthought.

Your model is all wrong. And until the model is corrected, you will never realize the potential ROI of what the systems can provide. You cannot evolve because you have to attempt to retrofit everything back to the same broken model. And when you automate, you automate the broken as well.

Heres the way it works normally. You have 3 or 4 levels of support.

Level 1 is considered first line and they perform the initial customer engagement, diagnostics and triage, and initiate workflow. Level 1 initiates and engages additional levels of support trackingt thingts through to completion. In effect, level 1 owns the incident / problem management process but also provides customer engagement and fulfillment.

Level 2 is specialized support for various areas like network, hosting, or application support. They are engaged through Level 1 personnel and are matrixed to report to level 1, problem by problem such that they empower level 1 to keep the customer informed of status and timelines, set expectations, and answer questions.

Level 3 is engaged when the problem becomes beyond the technical capabilities of levels 1 and 2, requires project, capital expenditure, architecture, and planning support.

Level 4 is reserved for Vendor support or consulting support and engagement.

A Level 0 ia used to describe automation and correlation performed before workflow is enacted.

When you breakdown your workflow into these levels, you can start to optimize and realize ROI by reducing the cost of maintenance actions across the board. By establishing goals to solve 60-70% of all incidents at LEvel 1, Level 2-4 involvement helps to drive knowledge and understanding downward to level 1 folks why better utilizing level 2 - 4 folks.

In order to implement these levels of support, you have organize and define your support organization accordingly. Define its rolls and responsibilities, set expectations, and work towards success. Netcool, as an Event Management platform, need to be aligned to the support model. Things that ingress and egress tickets need to be updated in Netcool. Workflow that occurs, needs to update Netcool so that personnel have awareness of what is going on.


  1. We have a dispatch orientation in our level 1. Can not seem to make things better.

  2. Chaundra GonzalesMay 24, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    I've been touting the same for years. From a customer service perspective the end user doesn't want to have to leave their information with someone (Tier 1) and wait for someone else (Tier 2) to get back to them. They want someone capable to resolve their more simple problems upon first contact - but why aren't more help desks utilized in this fashion?! Why hire entry level kids with little to no IT experience who barely know how to enter the customer's contact information into a database properly? Because IT folk tend to feel technically superior and haven't yet realized that whether they like it or not, tech support IS customer support, and in the end the customer is what drives the business!

    Granted we're not wearing the "customer service red vest" at walmart, but IT folks need to take advantage of the tools available to them, up their knowledge base, and focus on the customer as the final level of satisfaction instead of being the helpless desk that we're so known for!

    - C