How to color outside the lines with IT support

By: George Herbert

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The smartest business technology teams are becoming more agile as they respond to an increasingly competitive market. To provide effective IT support, they must learn to color outside the lines.

IT departments are blurring the line between the data center and the business as they use technology to reinvent business processes or create entirely new ones that delight customers. In this effort, tech teams are experimenting with new ideas through rapid prototyping and pilot testing, and they’re learning from the results to refine future experiments.

Open source and mobile blur the lines

One technology driving this rapid iteration is open-source software, which uses collaborative tools to develop software. Volunteer developers quickly create new functionality in an open-source project. This enables businesses to introduce new services to employees and customers.

Traditionally, employees could only access corporate computing resources from the desktop on the company network. Mobility enables companies to blur the lines between home and office — and between the corporate network and public internet. Crossing traditional boundaries with mobile computing gives employees access to the data and applications they need, when they need it. This allows them to collaborate and respond more quickly, which means the business can respond more quickly, too.

IT support issues

But coloring outside the lines of traditional IT in this way can create its own challenges. IT teams need someone to call for support when handling open-source software. These projects each have their own release cycles, and some are more closely controlled by a central team of organizers than others. How can enterprise customers manage versioning, security patching and bugs? How will they request new feature requests while relying on an amorphous, anonymous crowd of volunteer coders?

Some companies package open-source software with support contracts, but this isn’t always the case. Evaluating support options for this software requires planning and an understanding of how critical it is to your business.

Meanwhile, mobile support introduces a separate set of problems. Mobile devices are critical personal tools for executives. While IT departments work to provide exemplary support for mobile platforms, traditional support models break down in this category. Brand loyalty to mobile platforms is notoriously fickle. A mobile operating system or hardware vendor that works for an enterprise today might be gone tomorrow. Users may require different device formats such as phones, tablets, hybrids and dedicated laptops from different providers. They may even choose to bring their own devices.

IT support is challenging for companies dealing with traditional IT infrastructures. They’re struggling with the prospect of refreshing inventory, handling product end life and improving device availability. They’re constantly grappling with inventory and warranty management. On top of all that, these enterprises often transition to OPEX models with device-as-a-service contracts.

The answer? Single-vendor support

How do you handle eclectic, chaotic technology ecosystems that increase the complexity of your IT support? A single support provider brings order and simplicity to this intricate, multiproduct support process. It offers an enterprise a single contract and a holistic view of its entire support and training landscape.

A trusted partner can identify employee groups that are having issues with a technology and train them to improve their productivity. It can provide a single interface to the open source community. It may even have its own developers involved in that community who can provide valuable technical contributions to product functionality.

Coloring outside the lines is an important part of modern IT governance. It helps companies to turn IT from a cost center to a profit center by reimagining the way that they use technology to drive business. This innovative, risk-taking approach can create amazing results in your company. Formalizing your IT support relationships will ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to maintenance and training.

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About The Author

George Herbert

Business Manager for Technical Support Services, IBM

George started at IBM 27 years ago as a customer engineer. Having spent time in almost all aspects of IBM's technical support business, he is currently a member of the IBM GTS Technical Support Services US Offering Development team. His main focus is on education and providing awareness of the TSS portfolio. George is a... Read more

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