I attended UCISA’s Support Services Conference last week. The opening presentation from Barclay Rae talked about the need for IT departments to understand their customers’ requirements. The foundation of the engagement with customers is the service catalogue, listing the services provided and the scope of provision. It is a document that needs to be written in terms that the customer can understand. After all, if you can’t get across to your customers what it is you are providing, you have little chance of engaging them in a discussion about those services.
It is a two way conversation. It isn’t enough to tell customers what it is you are providing – you have to listen and understand what they want. Support and service desk staff have a key role to play in understanding how customers are using IT and so explain what it is they want from services. There needs to be a good mechanism for promulgating that information throughout the department. All too many service failings are down to poor understanding of customer requirements and poor communications. Better understanding of customer needs will lead to better decision making and a better service. And those same support and service desk staff have a role too in feeding back to the customers news of changes that have been made to help the customers.
The customers and key stakeholders should play a role in determining the services provided. It is something I’ve been quite vocal about at the Janet Stakeholder Advisory Board – the main users of the service should play a role in determining the elements delivered and assist in scheduling the deprecation of services where appropriate. In order to do this they need to know the cost of each element. As Barclay commended “you wouldn’t run a restaurant without a menu”. But unlike a restaurant the customers will be choosing which items they want on the menu rather than picking individual items. And they will want to know how often each dish was chosen. The cost information, along with usage figures, will help assess the relative worth of the service elements and help determine the scope of your services in the service catalogue. So 24/7 support might be off the menu if it proves to be expensive and no one is using it. However if there are hundreds of calls at three in the morning, the cost could be justified.
The difficulty is that the cost information is difficult to ascertain. This is something UCISA, with our colleagues at JISC, Janet and BUFDG are looking to address. Hopefully the service catalogue will soon be fully like a menu with prices against each item.