The Pandemic – One More Reason to Outsource End-User Support
Jun 11, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic presented businesses with the challenge of rapidly shifting office-based employees to a remote model. Specific tasks have included providing the connectivity, collaboration, support and security tools needed to work effectively from their homes.
There have been some bumps in the road, to say the least. One issue has been simply to deliver and implement devices during massive disruptions to logistics and supply chains. Another – ensuring adequate bandwidth when neighbors and other household members compete for scarce network capacity. The heightened vulnerability of home-based workers to cyber attacks presents a constant worry.
Providing end-user support to remote workers, meanwhile, may be the biggest headache of all, particularly for businesses that manage their IT services in-house. Internal IT organizations have typically lagged when it comes to adopting best practices around process optimization and deployment of technology. One reason: lack of metrics around IT support spend. Senior executives assessing their internal IT function often lack context around what alternatives would look like. Absent meaningful benchmarks, investment in new tools becomes harder to justify.
Another factor is that IT teams often prioritize customer service and going the extra mile to assist their colleagues, at the expense of process discipline. Rather than train end users to submit tickets and follow the rules, helpful IT staffers drop what they’re doing and say, “Sure, let me take a look” when a user has a problem. While generating goodwill (“Jennifer in IT is awesome!”), this dynamic leads to an ad hoc, “shoulder tap” model of support characterized by significant inefficiencies.
These inefficiencies were dramatically exposed when businesses deployed work-from-home models in response to the pandemic. For one thing, help desks experienced a massive spike in demand, as remote users struggled to connect new devices and deploy applications from their makeshift offices. Help desk staff, meanwhile, were locked down along with everyone else, and their home offices typically lacked the technology needed to provide remote support. In other words, teams faced the triple-whammy of increased demand, depleted resources and inadequate tools. Finally, with the recourse to shoulder-tapping obviously no longer an option, both users and IT teams had to uncomfortably adapt to a process-driven and remote support model.
The lessons learned of recent months can help businesses define more effective strategies for a post-pandemic workplace. Notwithstanding uncertainty around what the “new normal” will look like, a return to traditional office spaces in a pre-COVID-19 sense appears highly unlikely. Indeed, it’s reasonable to expect that significantly higher numbers of employees will work remotely – at least part-time – than did so before the pandemic. As such, the ability to provide efficient, high-quality end-user support to remote workers will be imperative – as will the ability of help desk teams to themselves work from remote locations.
For the reasons discussed, in-house IT organizations will continue to struggle to deliver on these requirements. For third-party providers, meanwhile, the technology and process expertise essential to remote end-user support are requisite core competencies in a brutally competitive market. Despite the cost and productivity benefits of outsourcing, however, many businesses have continued to rely on internal support organizations, largely out of inertia and a reluctance to disrupt established ways of doing things. In the post-pandemic era, that luxury is no longer affordable.