The ITIL 4 Foundation guide describes one of the most significant challenges with IT support as the “watermelon SLA effect”. It refers to a mismatch between the service provider’s perception of its own service performance and the client’s perception of said performance.
This can be a significant issue in application management services (AMS), where the AMS provider monitors a service dashboard and sees a screen of green icons leading it to believe all is well.
The client’s reality can be very different, with their results dashboard filled with red icons as project milestones are missed and scope creep increases.
The result is a watermelon effect: green on the outside but, upon close inspection, quite red on the inside. Welcome to the “service abyss”.
This affects AMS, as traditional models do not always create win-win outcomes for the provider and the client. They can skew much more favourably towards providers, due in part to the compensation structure of an AMS contract and how the contract is often delivered via remote, outsourced consultants.
For existing AMS providers, making this model profitable relies on maximising the number of hours spent on the client, which can also encourage more tickets to be raised. The model is not judged on how quickly tickets are resolved – and even if rapid ticket resolution is listed as a goal, it is often hard to deliver because providers tend to avoid using highly skilled (and costly) engineers to reduce the impact on their margins. Without experienced engineers managing support issues, providers spend more cycles (and hours) just to keep projects on track.
AMS is also often delivered by multiple suppliers supporting different applications, which leads to inefficiencies. Together, this can create performance and compliance issues, which will affect both the IT team’s reputation and the performance of the business.
In terms of governance, Rimini Street is constantly updating legal, tax and regulatory requirements for clients around the world because if the system isn’t up to date, it could bring unwanted regulatory scrutiny.
Most importantly, if the AMS provider relationship isn’t working, it draws the IT team into solving problems when precious resources should be used to modernise IT systems to support the business.
Rimini Street’s engineers analysed tens of thousands of tickets from its clients’ managed services ticket queues – going back as far as possible, up to three years prior in some cases. The analysis revealed a number of priority areas where both provider and client should focus to improve the value of AMS services.
1. Manage ticket volume to ensure project milestones stay on track
Support is Rimini Street’s only business, so we always welcome clients who raise tickets, but it does require sophisticated processes and expert engineers to deal with ticket volumes.
The research found one common issue with existing AMS models was scenarios where case volume was growing but enterprise resource planning (ERP) project loads and upgrades were decreasing. If you don’t keep the ticket queue under constant review, backlogs soon build.
2. Enlist preventative maintenance skillsets to mitigate performance issues
The research also indicated situations where too many things were breaking repeatedly. This can be addressed with proactive problem-solving skills and preventative maintenance methodologies, but this is only possible if your provider has the right expertise and tools to proactively flag potential issues.
Unsurprisingly, performance falls when you don’t stay ahead of the issues.
3. Deploy consistent service delivery to meet compliance requirements
The research identified several scenarios where AMS providers offered inconsistent service, leading clients to lose confidence in the supplier’s ability to deliver projects on time. This can also lead to concerns for a client’s risk and compliance team, as failure to keep up with regulatory and tax updates may expose an organisation to scrutiny.
If the AMS provider does not have a track record of delivering consistently, it could lead to costly implications for a client.
4. Avoid overspend on IT resources for user administration tasks
The research also found scenarios where all managed services had previously been handled in-house. For one company with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) environment, this led to stalled user adoption and reduced sales productivity.
A common cause of these issues is IT teams having to spend too much time on user administration. If the team is buried in a queue of enhancements, and with skilled resources scarce across the industry, it dramatically limits the capacity to be proactive.
5. Proactive, integrated support
Rimini Street views AMS in quite straightforward terms: it is a support issue, and it should be dealt with by a specialist support provider.
An AMS delivery model should not only handle the volume of tickets, but also be measured on resolving them. Therefore, any company considering AMS needs to address some fundamental questions:
- Is the AMS provider keeping up with the volume of support requests?
- Does the provider have the right skills to solve problems?
- What is the cost benefit analysis of an outsourced AMS model – can you afford the performance impact/cost of delays in resolving tickets?
- Are you confident the service provider is accountable for SLA delivery?
The future for AMS is a converged product support and AMS strategy. The best ticket is the one that is never opened. AMS providers should proactively look to solve IT support and business process problems to keep things from breaking in the first place. Get it right and clients will experience improved service levels, reduced incident backlogs and faster resolution times for increased productivity.
This is only possible when the AMS provider has skilled engineers focused on reducing escalation and a streamlined management and support model to eliminate inefficiencies, as well as tools such as artificial intelligence-enabled root-cause analysis.
With this framework in place, an AMS provider should have the confidence to offer highly competitive SLAs with shortened guaranteed response times. Such an approach will ensure clients no longer have to stare into a services abyss.
Emmanuelle Hose is group vice-president and general manager EMEA at Rimini Street.