In the course of doing some work for one of our partners – we were asked to take a look at the existing workload for their ECM team. This particular ECM team has done a great job maintaining and integrating ECM components from a variety of vendors. As typical in such an environment – we found that everyone on the team had primary support duties for at least one component, and was involved in customer support issues or updating /enhancing one or more of the company’s ECM products on pretty much a daily basis.
Additionally, over the years the team, as expected, had developed a wide variety of applications, forms, workflows and integrations into LOB systems. Once in production, the support for these applications were added to the ECM team’s responsibilities.
Adding up the time spent on support related activities showed that this team was now spending over 50% of a typical day away from development tasks. Increasingly, projects were taking longer and the development pipeline for new ECM projects had grown to three dozen items.
Hire more people would be the usual response; but as we know, ECM expertise is hard to find, (some markets and products more so than others.) This particular company has had an open position they have been unable to fill for months.
So if you can’t throw more people at the issue, the current answer has to be focus on efficiency.
- What can be done to minimize distractions and interruptions? Mixing both project development tasks with answering support calls is definitely inefficient. Because support work can be unpredictable in both urgency and scope, it can have significant impacts on project deadlines. Is it possible to triage support questions/issues so that only urgent issues require a developer to switch gears. Can other support queries be queued for a response at a particular time of day?
- Is your most proficient developer handling support calls/issues? If so, your support costs are higher than the salary costs associated with your star developer because every support call additionally impacts your company’s bottom line by delaying the benefits from projects that haven’t been completed.
- Good communicators resolve support issues with better results and better customer satisfaction than poor communicators. Do you have the right ECM team members answering support calls?
If you look at the job listings in most markets – you’ll find that programmer/developer jobs have higher requirements (and make more money) than support jobs. Typically in most IT surveys – developers don’t like to have to deal with support activities. The reality is that for most ECM teams it will always be a juggling act as your team will have to deal with both development and support activities.