In two of my previous posts, I briefly described two maturity models for technical support domain: “Operational Maturity Model” and “Engagement Maturity Model.” This time around I will talk about how these maturity models are inter-connected and how the progress on operational maturity ladder depends on advancement along engagement maturity levels.
When a support organization is at ‘Reactive Support’ level of operational maturity, it can adopt ‘staff-augmentation’ mode of engagement with the partner. Outsourced services partner does not own any project management responsibility beyond providing skilled engineers. Product companies want absolute control over the support engineers under contract, as they need them to keep up with the dynamic changes. To this extent, it needs to bear higher cost of project management.
Once the support organization moves to “Organized Operations” with processes optimized and streamlined, it will be able to engage the partner in a much efficient manner. A specific chunk of support activity can easily be identified and transferred to the partner. Partner would also be able to transition delivery ownership to the new team much more smoothly as processes, workflow and interfaces are clearly defined. Apart from independently owning a piece of action, partner will also begin to shoulder significant amount of delivery management. Since the KPIs, SLAs are thoroughly discussed and mutually agreed upon, reviewing the partner’s performance becomes a lot easier. As you can already see, a product company whose support organization attains higher level of process maturity will be able to engage its partner in a more meaningful way, enabling the partner to add more value.
But, it gets tricky when you go further to “Demand Reduction” level. Product company’s goal would be to proactively reduce the incoming support request volume. Now, it is easy to see that this goal directly conflicts with the support partner’s business interests, as the partner thrives on increasing call volume. In such situations, can you depend on a partner to support your demand reduction initiatives? Well, if the partner is a tactical operator, then you can count on them to sabotage your scheme of things. However, a partner who thinks strategically will see a win-win in this situation. After all, end customer satisfaction will increase as support demand reduces. If the partner is able to add higher value (through knowledge management etc.) by reducing demand, they can arguably earn a premium on their services. In true ‘Support Partnership’, they earn your loyalty and lock in future business as well. If you are introducing a new product line, you will definitely think of this partner for supporting it.
So, look for a partner who can work with you in any engagement model and can help you scale up the operational maturity ladder and grow with you.