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Management article
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Reference no. SMR49203
Authors: Joe Hogan
Published by: MIT Sloan School of Management
Published in: "MIT Sloan Management Review", 2007
Length: 3 pages
Data source: Field research

Abstract

In most large organizations, chief executive officers (CEOs) and senior management get the best technology and the best technology support, but this practice may actually put revenue at risk, according to two Unisys Corporation studies conducted over the last year. Employees who ''touch'' revenue every day and need real-time information to do their work, typically salespeople, customer service reps, finance workers and field service people, require the red-carpet treatment from technology support. Yet in most organizations, these employees are pushed aside when senior management has a problem. In two surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007, Unisys polled more than 900 organizations around the world. The study compared the survey responses of organizations that rated their information technology (IT) support as excellent ''support leaders'' to those of organizations that said their support was only satisfactory, poor or unsatisfactory ''support laggards''. Of the leaders, only 64% gave the highest tech support levels to top executives - a lower percentage than the laggards (71%). Moreover, four times as many of the support leaders gave high levels of IT support to their sales function than did the support laggards. More than twice as many support leaders gave red-carpet treatment to customer service employees than did laggards. And nearly twice as many leaders gave high levels of technology support to finance than did the laggards. It was clear that the laggards had a very important person (VIP) mindset. In 71% of these companies, top executives got the best technology support and no other function was close. The organizations with the best tech support were far more likely to determine who received support based on the economic value of the function to the organization. For example, Underwriters Laboratories Inc, a $680 million non-profit product testing company, has two levels of technology support that are based largely on a function''s effects on organizational success and daily revenue. These types of successes lead to four recommendations for better management of technology support capabilities. Firstly, segment support levels in your organization just as you define customer segments and which products and service levels they get. Two factors should dominate your technology support segmentation: how close the function is to daily revenue and its need for real-time information. Secondly, provide not only ''break / fix'' support to these functions, but also improve the way the employees in them work and identify how information and technology could dramatically improve their productivity. Big gains in the productivity of these employees, who may represent only 5% to 10% of the total work force, will produce outsized gains in productivity and revenue. Also, it is important to measure the effectiveness of technology support not just by the traditional service-level agreements, but also by how much it increases the productivity of the company''s key employees - for instance, how many more prospects your salespeople can call on, how much better customer service reps are at helping customers, how much easier it is for finance to collect on invoices and so on. Finally, because you will wind up spending more on technology support for the employees who are closest to revenue, create significant efficiencies in the way you provide technology support to the rest of the company to prevent an overall increase in your technology support budget. This can be accomplished through knowledge management systems and remote diagnostics systems to fix employees'' devices from afar. By implementing these strategies, a company can break the cycle of senior management sapping resources from revenue-producing areas without sacrificing overall technical support. Instead, IT can become a source for driving profits and promoting customer satisfaction.

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Abstract

In most large organizations, chief executive officers (CEOs) and senior management get the best technology and the best technology support, but this practice may actually put revenue at risk, according to two Unisys Corporation studies conducted over the last year. Employees who ''touch'' revenue every day and need real-time information to do their work, typically salespeople, customer service reps, finance workers and field service people, require the red-carpet treatment from technology support. Yet in most organizations, these employees are pushed aside when senior management has a problem. In two surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007, Unisys polled more than 900 organizations around the world. The study compared the survey responses of organizations that rated their information technology (IT) support as excellent ''support leaders'' to those of organizations that said their support was only satisfactory, poor or unsatisfactory ''support laggards''. Of the leaders, only 64% gave the highest tech support levels to top executives - a lower percentage than the laggards (71%). Moreover, four times as many of the support leaders gave high levels of IT support to their sales function than did the support laggards. More than twice as many support leaders gave red-carpet treatment to customer service employees than did laggards. And nearly twice as many leaders gave high levels of technology support to finance than did the laggards. It was clear that the laggards had a very important person (VIP) mindset. In 71% of these companies, top executives got the best technology support and no other function was close. The organizations with the best tech support were far more likely to determine who received support based on the economic value of the function to the organization. For example, Underwriters Laboratories Inc, a $680 million non-profit product testing company, has two levels of technology support that are based largely on a function''s effects on organizational success and daily revenue. These types of successes lead to four recommendations for better management of technology support capabilities. Firstly, segment support levels in your organization just as you define customer segments and which products and service levels they get. Two factors should dominate your technology support segmentation: how close the function is to daily revenue and its need for real-time information. Secondly, provide not only ''break / fix'' support to these functions, but also improve the way the employees in them work and identify how information and technology could dramatically improve their productivity. Big gains in the productivity of these employees, who may represent only 5% to 10% of the total work force, will produce outsized gains in productivity and revenue. Also, it is important to measure the effectiveness of technology support not just by the traditional service-level agreements, but also by how much it increases the productivity of the company''s key employees - for instance, how many more prospects your salespeople can call on, how much better customer service reps are at helping customers, how much easier it is for finance to collect on invoices and so on. Finally, because you will wind up spending more on technology support for the employees who are closest to revenue, create significant efficiencies in the way you provide technology support to the rest of the company to prevent an overall increase in your technology support budget. This can be accomplished through knowledge management systems and remote diagnostics systems to fix employees'' devices from afar. By implementing these strategies, a company can break the cycle of senior management sapping resources from revenue-producing areas without sacrificing overall technical support. Instead, IT can become a source for driving profits and promoting customer satisfaction.

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