Freezing Tech Support…Again!

Ever get that feeling that something really bad is about to happen? Your not quite sure what it is but you know that it can’t be good. With all of the economic bad news that we see everyday there is one thing we know for sure…..there will be a freeze on tech support spending. It is true and it happens every time that there is the slightest mention of an economic downturn. Get ready to freeze tech support spending because here it comes again. You can be sure that there will be a hiring freeze, a travel freeze, and an overall spending freeze in your not-to-distant future. So what can we do about it? How do we continue to deliver top-level services when we are financially hamstrung?

First of all, we should be used to this by now. Tech support spending has been the target of every CFO on the planet earth who is looking to make a big number a smaller one. We have seen techniques to reduce headcount, eliminate technology purchases, and limit our ability to get out to see customers, but, we still have to push forward and deliver great service. My simple message is “get over it and get on with it”. This “accordion effect” of squeezing dollars out of technology services and then releasing the pressure until the next financial threat shows up is something that we have seen over and over again. Managing tech support is a difficult job but doing it with pennies is even harder and a lot less fun.

Today, based on the current financial news, we should be preparing for the worst and putting a plan together to either down-size or reduce our future hiring. We will need to figure out how to do more with less but we are experts at it after all of these years. For example, one way to manage a hiring freeze is to shift resources within the company into tech support. Yes, I can hear you saying “sure that will work…NOT!” But, it is an option and if you are going to maintain your service levels you will need people and they can be found in product development, training, sales support, and other technical departments. You can survive a hiring freeze by looking for help within your company.

Expense freezes are a different matter. In fact, if there is one department within your company that knows how to do more with less it is tech support. We have been pinching pennies forever so not being able to purchase that next piece of technology is a pain but not the end. If we can’t spend then we are going to have to get creative and use the resources that we have in our support centers. If we can’t buy it then we are only left with the option to build it. Using the technical expertise of your support staff and some help from product development and IT there is virtually nothing that we can’t build. Set up a special task force to design and develop your technology solution that can’t be purchased due to a spending freeze. Building any service solution is a real pain but remember, we have no choice here. The alternative is to just do without but if you really need that web to CRM interface or a knowledge management database or a service dashboard then build it. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think that you should ever build technology solutions if you can afford to buy them but remember that we have no money to spend.

When tech support gets frozen it is a different kind of business…a lot less fun! But, we have all been here before and we know how vital our work is to the overall success of the company. We can and will survive an expense freeze or a hiring freeze or travel freezes. We just need to be creative and get busy planning out our efforts when the knock on the door comes. And trust me, it will come.

What do you think and what can we do collectively to make life easier for ourselves and our people during these pressing economic times?

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One Response to “Freezing Tech Support…Again!”

  1. Eric Harrington Says:

    Good article Bill. I would mention however that SaaS offerings for the support group is a great way to obtain a better tool set and have zero impact to the capital budget – nor the IT department.

    While there will be times for pinching pennies, rather than build something yourself and have to support it and rely on developers to make the needed changes down the road (been there, done that), go search the web for a SaaS solution that is cost effective.

    I would much rather my development team focus on products we can actually sell and generate revenue from and not strap them down to a “home grown” solution.

    Before SaaS – sure, I would tap the developers because the older non-hosted solutions were very expensive and had a severe impact on IT and adoption.

    There are great SaaS support solutions that may add as little as (depending on the support need) 2-3k a year in operational expense. Much less than the dollars and time needed for a home grown solution when you think about it.

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