This article is posted with permission from Sophicity’s CitySmart blog and shares non-technical, municipal-relevant insights about critical technology issues, focusing on how technology reduces costs, helps better serve citizens, and lessens cybersecurity risks. Sophicity is solely responsible for the article’s content.
When we talk to cities about their IT support, one frustration they often bring up is responsiveness. Your IT support may be talented and knowledgeable, but if they do not respond quickly when you need and depend on them, the money you pay them is too much—and may even be wasted.
Responsiveness involves a few areas critical to a successful relationship with those who help your city with information technology. In this post, we’re providing you a way to assess the responsiveness of your current IT support by examining four factors.
1. Slow or no response
Starting with the basics, it’s easy to look at response time. How much actual time does it take for your IT support to respond? It’s not uncommon to hear a city tell us that many hours (or even days) go by without a response. IT issues are usually urgent and timely, so this amount of time passing by without a response is unacceptable. Yet, cities put up with such a response time because it’s been the status quo for so long.
Instead, response time should be immediate or within an hour as a best practice. For example, an IT helpdesk picks up the phone when you call or responds immediately when you start a chat session with them online. Sometimes they may get busy, so responding at least within a certain timeframe (such as an hour) is acceptable.
The point? Response time needs to be relatively quick. A staffed 24/7 helpdesk is preferable over an overworked, on call IT support vendor (who you may even have to wake up out of bed late at night) that cannot respond to you in a timely manner.
2. Lacking or inefficiently using resources
Even if an IT support vendor means well, some simply cannot provide you quality service because they do not have the right resources such as:
- Enough IT support technicians to handle the volume of work they receive.
- A lack of mid-level or senior engineers, which means the work falls on entry-level or junior IT support technicians.
- No or limited remote support capabilities. If everything must become an onsite visit, then the scheduling, travel, time, and additional cost spent to deal with a high number of minor IT issues from various clients is harder to address in a timely fashion.
- Proactive monitoring capabilities. A reactive approach to IT support means everything is a crisis and your IT support vendor cannot plan, schedule, or address issues efficiently.
With these resource issues, it becomes more difficult for your IT support vendor to respond to urgent issues. Let’s say you have a server failure. If your IT support vendor doesn’t have enough people, relies too heavily on junior-level people, or doesn’t have any idea your server might fail until you told them it died, then you are not using an IT support vendor that meets your city’s needs.
3. Poor communication
Even if you do get your IT support vendor on the phone and they send over people to resolve your problems, communication can become another area where poor responsiveness hurts you. A few examples of poor communication include:
- Script reading: You call up your IT support vendor and explain your problem. Instead of listening to you, they read off a script that covers troubleshooting clearly irrelevant to the issue at hand. When you ask them about something off-script, they stumble, cannot answer you, and tell you someone “higher up” will get back to you.
- Jargon: Conversely, a technician may respond to your IT issue by throwing a lot of technical jargon your way. You become more confused, ask for clarification, and they double down on the jargon—sometimes even sounding upset at you.
- Professionalism: Instead of addressing you with clear questions and answers, following a process, and treating you respectfully (even if you happen to be angry or frustrated with the issue), some IT support vendors may act like arrogant adolescents or lazy adults complacent in their technology knowledge.
- Failing to provide you business continuity: When addressing an IT issue, fixing the problem is only one aspect. If a server fails, it’s not enough to tell you they will eventually fix it. What’s the plan for your currently dead server that you use to run payroll? Your IT helpdesk needs to communicate a plan for business continuity while they fix the bigger problem.
Sadly, we hear too many stories about IT support vendors that want to get away with doing as little work as possible. Accountability is important, and an IT helpdesk should step up to help without prodding or begging. Examples of common accountability issues include:
- The blame game: If an IT issue occurs, then somehow it’s not your IT support vendor’s fault or problem. They blame the hardware vendor, the software vendor, another technology vendor, the police department, the city clerk, etc. Instead, an IT helpdesk needs to take ownership of an IT issue and objectively get to the root cause.
- Laziness: Laziness manifests itself in the way an IT support vendor investigates and “solves” an IT problem. Simply telling you to restart a server or computer that’s always having problems is not acceptable. Ignoring red and yellow flags raised by software that monitors your systems is unacceptable. Giving up quickly after spending a few minutes helping you is unacceptable.
- “Non-Vendor Management”: We always prominently list “vendor management” as an important part of IT in a Box. That’s because we want to make clear that the Sophicity helpdesk takes ownership in working with your hardware and software vendors to resolve issues. You should not be dealing with those issues. Yet, many IT support vendors tell you it’s not their responsibility and that you should call those vendors when you’re having problems with your hardware and software—a version of “It’s not MY problem!” This is unacceptable.
Responsiveness is crucial from your IT support when resolving issues. Based on the four areas above, how would you judge your IT support vendor’s responsiveness? Are they worth the money you’re spending?