Organizations spend up to 80% of their IT budgets Application Support — the maintenance of existing solutions. With four out of every five dollars going toward Application Support, there’s a lot at stake, it’s critical to do it right. While the actual technical work of supporting the applications isn’t normally complicated, finding a cost-effective and low-risk way to implement the support process, while delivering top-quality work, can be very difficult. Here are some top pitfalls with common approaches:
- You’ve hired too many people
Often, as new systems are deployed to production, the support team can inherit resources assigned to the original development effort. Over time, this can lead to a large team supporting a variety of legacy applications. Frequently, the applications don’t really need 40 hours of work each week to keep them in good shape, but since the team is on your payroll, you keep them. They are full-time employees with full-time salaries, but they are under-utilized. This situation is even worse when the solutions in question were developed with more than one set of core technologies, since it can be difficult to find diverse skill sets in the same technical resource.
- You’re dependent on Superman/Superwoman
One way to resolve the dilemma of hiring too many people is to try to identify a single resource who has the broad skillset to handle your entire set of application support needs. While this can certainly mitigate the risk of spending more than it’s worth to support your applications, it introduces an entirely new risk that’s very serious. You’re now dependent on a single highly-skilled individual for business continuity in not just one, but several, areas of your business. To top it all off, this person is probably very attractive to other employers given their broad skillset and may be difficult to retain, compounding the risk.
- You’re using 1099 contractors
Sometimes, to resolve the risks of too much hiring or dependency on a single resource, organizations consider using 1099 contractors to provide application support. Often this takes the form of hiring an offshore contracting firm to provider subcontract personnel. This approach can avoid extensive hiring for application support, and due to favorable offshore rates, can enable multiple subcontractors to be employed for the cost of one Superwoman. However, resource stability is typically low for 1099 subcontractors, and in the end you’ll face exactly the same retention and stability risk you did with Superman. Furthermore, you may encounter time zone, language, cultural, and date security challenges when working with an offshore partner.
- You don’t have a structured process
Whether it’s former project team members, a superstar employee, or a set of 1099 subcontractors, they all have one thing in common. They typically didn’t do application support for a living prior to supporting your applications. As a result, they won’t have a tried, proven process for delivering support. You want a well-defined ticket submission process, followed by triage and prioritization to ensure you are working on the right tickets, given that there are always more support requests than you can realistically afford. Then you need source control, solid testing, and structured deployment to be sure that you’re doing the work right, in addition to doing the right work. With individual team members, you’re more likely to get support requests being submitted via phone or email, worked on, tested, and deployed informally. This takes away priority and reliability from your support work, two things you need most. It also reduces management visibility into application and team performance.
- You don’t measure your performance
In addition to a structured process, you want to measure the performance of that process on a regular basis. Otherwise, it’s impossible to tell if it’s working, if you need to adjust your support levels up or down, or to see improvements from changes you make. Ideally, you’d like to measure ticket status and progress on a regular, formal basis to enable this kind of process tuning. In this way, using a structured process combined with regular performance measurement complement each other and produce a virtuous cycle where your support keeps getting better and better. With individual team members, you don’t have a good way to ensure regular measurement and process tuning, so your support doesn’t get better over time, limiting your return on investment.
At CTS, we’ve found that a team-based support approach works best to overcome these challenges and deliver quality application support that’s effective year after year, and helps organizations preserve their investments in existing IT solutions. We maintain a dedicated application support team that provides application support to many CTS customers on a wide variety of solutions. By applying a large team to several customers, we’re able to mitigate the top three risks discussed above. You can easily apply partial resources to your supported applications without becoming dependent upon a single person. Furthermore, our team of W-2 employees also mitigates the stability risk of using 1099 subcontractors since they are committed long-term employees. To top it all off, by partnering with CTS you inherit a proven process that’s been refined over many years with multiple customers and applications. This process includes regular performance measurement to ensure that your application support is working just the way it needs to.