Very little in a modern company's operations functions without technology. It's not just the obvious communications and marketing tools: behind every production process or delivery truck is a piece of software. Service management just doesn't happen without technology.
And that's only half the story. Today's IT is integrated, with much value and efficiency coming from the fact that previously disparate systems are connected. Many IT managers find themselves juggling multiple intertwined systems, some well past their sell-by date yet critical to the business; so much so when things do go wrong, it's painfully slow and expensive to unpick. Yet evidence shows that the cost of downtime to midsize businesses now exceeds 40,000 pounds per hour. Business continuity is therefore a major priority and expense.
Microsoft Technical Account Manager (TAM), Doug McKillop, says "There are two ways to look at first-line support: what can we do to prevent problems, and what can we do to solve them. Reactively, Microsoft Services Premier Support is a great escalation point for customers. They have a single point of contact, who can be on-site. And, uniquely, TAMs have access to the people at Microsoft who actually wrote the software. That's great, but an ability to be reactive is the last resort; a safety net. We'd much rather prevent problems from happening in the first place."
Crucially, proactive business continuity does not mean endless technology investments in an attempt to achieve an elusive 100% protection from downtime. An engagement with Premier Support is both more strategic and more economical: a broader approach which accounts for people as well as the technologies they use, and seeks to commercially de-risk operations rather than expensively insulate them in cotton wool.
Come to us if...
- Downtime is affecting business operations
- Your downtime response depends on a few 'heroes' with specific knowledge
- You're stuck in a break/fix cycle
- Minimise business exposure to IT challenges
- Build resilience into your daily operations
- Improve your downtime response
- Fix today, learn for tomorrow
Indeed, technology is usually the last consideration. Says TAM Jon Cranton: "We'll assess your IT holistically. We build a dependency map, listing out and colour-coding every piece of hardware and software, who owns it, what other services rely on it and where the dependencies are, so that we can tell who else is affected if one part goes down. Everyone knows who to go to and when, and what remediation is required. That means problems need never turn into crises."
TAM Catherine Matthews adds, "Service catalogs and solution maps also allow us to match technology with the real demands of the business, and that can save money, too. An HR system might need to run seamlessly on payday, for example, but there might be plenty of wiggle room for the other 29 days of the month. What we don't want is the 'perfect storm' of two critical applications - say, payroll and invoicing - running on the same server at the same time. The point is, you can only look at IT infrastructure usefully by understanding the business processes that infrastructure is designed to support."
IT with military precision
Few organisations can put greater weight on continuity and uptime than the Ministry of Defence (MoD) . The MoD's Information Services Team (DIST) is responsible for the continuity of information infrastructure and the reliability and availability of core applications to more than 300,000 MoD user accounts. Users are often based in remote and inhospitable areas and they work in difficult, often hostile, conditions. Doug Banks, Microsoft Service Delivery Manager at the MoD says simply, "We can't afford to deploy an application anywhere to find out that it doesn't work or is unreliable."
A long-standing relationship with Premier Support has led to some innovative solutions in this respect, for example the creation of the Application Compatibility Environment (ACE). This is a testing environment that replicates the unique MoD information infrastructure. Dave Neale, Head of Applications Governance at the MoD, says "We can't afford to risk live deployment until we're certain of compatibility. This is exactly what ACE delivers-a high degree of certainty that any application will work, or early notification of any development that's required. Not only has ACE allowed us to de-risk application deployment, but it's also helped save time, resources, and money,"
ACE is the result of applying best practice and planning resource to problems before they occur. In the words of Service Management Consultant, Simon Hall, "80% of downtime is caused by people or misaligned processes. When you hear about system failures - like the recent online banking stories - you can bet the root cause is human. So it's not a tech investment answer all the time; it's often about asking, 'how can we make changes without interfering with the system', taking the time to assess risk and implement good practice."
A team from Premier Support will use best-practice health-checks and process reviews to help you understand your at-risk areas and minimise critical support incidents. You can be sure that they will have faced the same problems as you across many industries, and so will have current and realistic solutions to offer. To prevent issues arising, your TAM can connect you with expertise across the world if necessary; and since nothing is 100% predictable, they will skill up your team to deal with problems effectively in-house on the rare occasions they do occur.