When you are in operation mode, the following tasks would generally be performed:
- Helping the end-users overcome unexpected obstacles, so they can finish their task(s);
- Execute and oversee regular tasks, for example imports/exports, monitoring or user administration; and,
- Add or change the functionality of the Dynamics solution to either fix a bug, align with new business requirements or apply a Microsoft upgrade.
It is common to structure a support organisation into layers, commonly described as levels or lines, for example first, second and third line Support. The idea is that to provide service-oriented and varied support in the first line – and then enable the team to escalate to the next line, which will be more specialised and so on.
The decision about where to place your Dynamics support in this structure is an important one, because those support individuals will need to demonstrate the skills of both business-aware super users and developers. If you intend to outsource your Dynamics support, you should also consider having a level inhouse as well. Microsoft Dynamics is so closely linked to your business and its performance, that anchoring and protecting the knowledge of your own Dynamics solution in-house, is critical for basic business risk management and for vendor flexibility.
Maintaining a Microsoft Dynamics application requires a varied skillset. Teams with that responsibility must possess knowledge of your specific business, the best practice in your industry, understand the possibilities with the standard functionality of the current version, the feature roadmap from Microsoft, the design and customisations available and a wide array of technical skills and programming languages. It’s an extensive knowledge list.
Relying on a single individual will limit both the range and availability of competences. That person cannot be an expert in all the above areas, could be sick, on holiday or move on from your company. Equally, relying on a team, for example in a large call-centre, will limit the depth of the competences about your implementation.
The key is to find a balance where some people are dedicated and at- tentive, and maintain the ability to quickly scale support to respond to a fluctuating workload, as a result optimising both delivery and costs.
An effective Support & Maintenance set- up requires close operational collaboration and free-flowing, honest communication between all the stakeholders, including business owners, end-users and the IT function. The communication processes will also be important, as each stakeholder group will have different priorities and ways of working. A carefully tailored communication plan is essential to ensure that the right people are talking at the right time about the right things.
A common pitfall when putting Support and Maintenance capabilities in place is to prioritise the business of ticket handling, where each ticket is handled individually and as soon as possible. The result delivers strong performance measures for response and resolution times, but if these measurements are not connected to the total value of the solution, the operation will lack focus and not provide overall benefits to the business. There are plenty of options to introduce quality and strategic alignment into everyday decision-making, and that is what Process Maturity is helpful for. It’s the ability for a Support and Maintenance team to func- tion alongside a solution, focusing on a combination of delivering the high-level solution strategy in place, meeting the overall business drivers that drove initial adoption of the solution and solving individual tasks.
It’s likely that most IT services involve complexities with stakeholders, where perhaps not all individuals are fully assigned to responsibilities and may not work in the same location or even sit next to each other. As a result it’s sensible to define and align everyone as to expected ownership and responsibilities, as well as who verifies whether they are fulfilled. Adhering to the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix could help assist with this.