Supporting Business Applications: Not an IT Support Issue Anymore

Business teams use multiple applications, and they require a very specialized level of support.

How many applications do you use at work? Most days I use twelve, let me list some of them for you:

  1. Email
  2. File sharing app
  3. Instant messenger app
  4. CRM
  5. Marketing Automation software
  6. Invoicing software
  7. Expense reimbursement software
  8. HR software
  9. Design software
  10. Sales software
  11. Project collaboration software
  12. Content management software

The higher the level of specialization within a department or business, the more complex the applications they’ll use. In some cases the applications are customized, adding another layer of complexity for users and support teams. Some examples of complex applications include ERP systems (SAP, JD Edwards) or content management systems like SharePoint or eXo.

Twelve years ago technology spending outside of IT was only 20 percent of total technology spend; it will become almost 90 percent by the end of the decade, according to Gartner.

To compete in business today, companies depend heavily on technology. Your desktops, laptops, and applications are key for business functions. But for most businesses trying to handle IT support either in-house or those who outsource  is not just a challenge – it’s incredibly costly.

Sure, software vendors offer some level of support that may seem to alleviate support costs concerns. According to Gartner: “Software buyers that accept the original (higher) contracted level of support as their default position, can pay up to 30% more than those that challenge this position.”

However, in the same study Gartner mentions that, where available, third-party support (or support obtained from a company other than the licensor) will almost certainly be cheaper than the licensor’s offering, in some cases by 50% or more.

So many options, so little time.

Under the pressure of keeping the business infrastructure going, business units should give IT a break and realize: it’s not an IT issue anymore. Give your IT service-desk a chance to solve complex issues and consider that  they are not there to simply “support” all of your business applications.

The solution to supporting an ever growing number of enterprise applications is to enable business units to support their applications themselves.

According to CEB, 40% of IT spend is done outside of IT.  Traditionally this is not a good thing, it was called “shadow or rogue IT” — I was many times shut down by IT Operations for using an application that wasn’t approved, only to keep using it when my boss said: “Use it if it’s helping”. It was helping, and it was helping us do better as a company.

The other side of this argument, however, is that IT groups are tasked with keeping IT support costs under control, and bringing in new applications immediately threatens their budget and processes. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

According to CEB, 40% of IT spend is done outside of IT.

How much do you spend on IT help-desk? A lot more than you think.

Certain applications are simply a necessity, and require a very specialized (and expensive) level of support that doesn’t need to come from IT help-desk. More on this shortly.
Examples of complex applications by specialty include: Salesforce for sales and marketing teams, SAP for finance and procurement teams, and SharePoint, which is used by many Fortune 500 companies.

How are companies supporting these applications? Well, it varies. Assuming they have internal IT help-desk teams, the ratio of end user to IT service desk worker is 70:1 per Gartner. A different study by Robert Half Technology found actual reported ratios of 136:1. While the average “ideal” ratio reported was 82:1 in the same study.

Let’s take a look at IT service-desk cost breakdown by Gartner:

  • The 2015 average Annual IT Service Desk Cost per Agent Handled Contact is $19.07.
  • The 2015 average Annual Contacts Handled per IT Service Desk FTE is 6,023.
  • The 2015 average IT Service Desk First Call Resolution Rate is 65.4%.

Bottom line: IT help-desk is expensive, and effective in only 65.4% of cases.

49% of tickets are resolved by the most basic level of support.

Let’s solve the IT Support problem together.

Do we need IT help-desk to support specialized applications? No. The solution to supporting an ever growing number of enterprise applications is to enable business units to support their applications themselves. After all, they are the experts.

IT Operations and individual business units should enable experts within each team to answer questions related to the applications their teams are using. Have Salesforce? Let your sales operations people answer their team’s questions. Have SAP? Enable your finance super-users to answer complex how-to questions.

Here is the key to success: make these exchanges available to everyone who needs help, so your experts don’t have to answer the same question twice.

You might be wondering, how am I going to make this happen? The “how” is a simple process change that will save your company money, will alleviate the burden on your IT help-desk teams, and will ensure your teams have the highest level of user satisfaction when using all of their applications.

If you want to know how, we tell you the how and the why in this post:  What is knowledge sharing anyway?”


HDI Support Center Practices & Salary Report 2014

Gartner IT Key Metrics Data

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Chelsea Levengood

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