Transforming IT support

There are many heroes who don’t get the recognition they deserve, either because they keep their achievements quiet, or because people don’t realise how spectacular those achievements are.  

As recent events forced many organisations to rethink their IT strategies almost overnight and homeworking rates rocketed – from 6% of employees before the pandemic to 43% in April this year – an often unsung group of heroes were IT support teams. 

Like any hero, these teams have faced huge trials as they aim to give end-users the information, advice and support they need to minimise disruption and maximise operational effectiveness. As traditional approaches to IT support become less applicable, support teams need to deal with not only these operational challenges, but also major cultural shifts. 

Socially distanced hot-swapping and other trials

To begin with, there are still organisations that have focused entirely on in-person IT support, with little or no need for remote capabilities. These will have faced a productivity crisis, as end-user issues can only be dealt with by taking the individual through diagnosis and potential solutions step by step. Remote support and self-service capabilities need to be a priority so that end-users either get the help they need or can find it themselves. But remote support and self-service can’t solve everything. For instance, we’ve seen examples where a once simple task like hot-swapping employee devices demanded a visit to a pub car park and a carefully distanced exchange. 

At the same time, support team workloads have rapidly increased along with the demand for new devices and software to support flexible working. IDC predicted the computing devices market will grow 3.3% in 2020 with shipment volumes reaching 425.7 million units – arresting years of decline in demand. Along with new software or SaaS services to help remote workers, support teams have had to ensure rollout goes smoothly, whilst also troubleshooting the inevitable issues arising from non-tech-savvy employees getting to grips with new technology in a short period. 

Finally, employees’ ongoing adaptation to remote working has inevitably led to a growth in BYOD, as they attempt to do their jobs with whatever they have available. This has meant that support teams must be more prepared to suddenly encounter unfamiliar technology and solve any issues it presents – whether this means integrating that technology into their operations, or guiding end-users towards a new solution. 

IT support teams assemble

In the rush to transform, many organisations didn’t have time to address a crucial fact of IT support. Like heroes in comics or cinema, IT support teams work best when they join forces. This collaboration is straightforward when the whole team is in a single office, but becomes much harder when it is scattered and working remotely.  

Unless they address this disruption, IT support teams will become less and less effective. Often the easiest way to develop a solution is to tap a colleague on the shoulder to confer – meaning finding solutions becomes harder and often more stressful. And as with other parts of the business, a lack of social contact removes an important release valve for stress, whether that comes from advice, encouragement, or simply a break from the norm. 

With not everyone willing or able to meet in person, you need to do as much as possible to replicate the experience of working in an office. This means making full use of collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, and setting up dedicated peer groups so colleagues can share issues, advice or just jokes with one another. 

Speaking to the masses

An accusation levelled at support teams, often unfairly, is that they lack interpersonal skills. The new remote support environment makes these interpersonal skills much more important. Whether coaching end-users through diagnosing and fixing issues when logging onto a device isn’t possible, to fostering self-service, support teams need more than ever to build relationships and rapport with those they are supporting. 

While most teams will have already used these “soft” interpersonal and people management skills to some extent, investing in them will help support teams become more effective and efficient in supporting a geographically dispersed workforce. 

Building a better business

Ultimately, every hero wants to leave the world a better place than they found it. The pandemic has shone a light on IT support teams’ role as a building block for business resiliency. Investing in maintaining the collaboration that support teams rely on, and in the interpersonal skills that their new role demands, will help IT support teams rise to the challenge and ensure they are flexible enough to adapt to the challenges thrown at them. 

Karen McLaughlin is the Vice President of Services for Insight UK

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