In this article Greg Moss, our Head of Service Operations, details how we provide support services for products and solutions that deliver sustained value over an extended lifetime.
It’s Day 1 for your sparkling new CMS, website or application. Everyone is delighted. The required features have been delivered and you’re already starting to get value from your hefty investment. But how long does this feel good feeling last?
The world moves on. Competitors catch up. Customers' expectations dial ever upwards. Smartphones incorporate more features. Then problems start occurring: you can’t scale to meet demand; you have outages; key features fail; integration APIs change etc etc. Generally things aren’t so sparkly anymore.
In the past the solution was to apply some patches, fixes and workarounds, generally set ‘realistic’ expectations with your user base and customers and wait for the next opportunity to start from scratch with another hefty investment.
This scenario is never sustainable and in today’s transformational marketplace it can be business and/or career ending. But there is another way: Sustainable Development and Support.
Longer term value
The key is to focus on extending the lifetime of the digital products we develop and ensuring they continue delivering value at the same levels of better.
Sustainable Support is all about designing and delivering services which evolve the products in a consistent and controlled manner, with a focus on delivering incremental value over just ‘change’. This means a better product, an extended lifetime with reduced risk of large cap-ex investment.
It’s still about the people
Sustainable Support requires a focus on people. Particularly on large scale projects that depend on many individuals rather than a handful of techies.
Consistency and continuity of key development resource is crucial for long term value. Ideally, a Sustainable Support service would be delivered by the engineers who developed the supported product.
In a perfect world the development team becomes the support and optimisation team. These are the people who understand the solution and where and why compromises were made. Most importantly they understand what has added value during development and they continue building on that for future iterations.
If a key development resource does have to move on, a complete handover, including full documentation, should be undertaken. Departing engineers should share their knowledge and experience.
Client teams should be trained to use the solution effectively. This guards against wasting budget on simple queries. Training can take many forms but we’ve found that recorded webinars, along with FAQs and other knowledge bases, are extremely effective.
Also key to Sustainable Support is an ethos that things are never done. This applies both to the product being supported and the services built around it.
This means measuring, monitoring, alerting and reporting on the right things with a focus on their impact on the value of the product.
Efficient processes are required to analyse and act upon this information. A Sustainable Support service should be focused on spotting and dealing with issues before they become incidents. Products should make smooth and elegant progress throughout their long lifetimes, not lurch from one stressful crisis to the next.
Whenever issues and incidents occur there needs to be a consistent focus on understanding the underlying cause and a commitment to developing a sustainable solution. A tactical fix might be necessary to get things working but it cannot be allowed to remain in place without proper analysis as to whether it’s the best solution.
Obviously constant improvement doesn’t just come from reacting to issues and incidents. The sustainable product and solution needs to evolve with additional features over time to support the changes in business focus and strategy.
The incremental changes should be focused on adding value – both to the customer and to the product – and should always be done sustainably to help extend the lifetime of the product
Teams should be set up to manage larger scale, complex changes in parallel to ‘always on’, day-to-day fixes and future enhancements. These two workstreams should operate in harmony, rather than silos to create the most valuable outcomes.
Sustainable Support in action
London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is a UK train operating company that runs the InterCity East Coast franchise. We’re responsible for the strategy, design, development and support of their website and critical ticket booking tool.
During development of the ticket booking tool we created a real-time dashboard which enables both AmazeRealise and LNER to respond to any issues in real-time, improving the customer experience and reducing the risk of lost revenue.
The solution involves many third-party integrations and data feeds which can make diagnosis and fixes more difficult. The dashboard allows our teams to pinpoint where problems are occurring quickly and accurately and develop fixes which can be deployed effectively.
This means that our integrated development and support teams can use the clients’ budget efficiently and effectively and more is preserved for optimisation. It has also freed up LNER’s digital team as problems can be diagnosed and fixed before they become apparent to the end user.
We work closely with the digital teams to train them and support them with the CMS, so that they can bring tasks in-house. This frees up their budget to do bigger, better things.
To achieve sustainability we need to deliver on the promises of Digital Transformation by continually delivering micro-transformations of the products we develop. This gives assurance that these solutions continue to deliver consistent and increasing value from day 1 to day 2,000 and beyond.
Get in touch with us below to discuss how our approach to Sustainable Support can help your business to succeed.