'Top-heavy' second line support pushes up IT service costs

Companies are spending more than they need to on IT support, claims a poll of more than 100 public and private sector organisations.

A survey by IT optimisation firm Plan-Net found that the average IT support team is staffed with 34 per cent first-line service desk analysts, and 66 per cent second-line desktop analysts. With the average second line fix costing up to 600 per cent more than a first-line resolution, these figures indicate that IT departments are too often running inefficient support services that are a drain on IT budgets.

“Organisations that structure their IT services with a one-third/two-thirds ratio or worse in favour of second line staffing, are likely to be spending a significant amount more than they need to on the provision of IT support,” says Plan-Net’s head of service management Derek Elphick. “More focus needs to be given to increasing first-time fix rates by driving up the level of technical skills on the first-line service desk, and changing the ‘face-to-face’ support culture that many companies retain.” With this strategy, companies can reduce the need for expensive second line fixes, which will cut costs and increase productivity, Elphick avers.

According to recent Gartner statistics, the average first line fix will cost between £7 and £25, while a second line fix is more likely to cost from £24 up to £170. Furthermore, a desk-based first line analyst can be expected to deliver a far greater level of productivity than that of a second line analyst who will be moving from user to user.

“Experience shows us that of the desktop related incidents and requests received by the average service desk, 60 per cent could currently be resolved remotely with no change to the Service Desk model, while that figure can easily be 70 percent or higher if best practice is followed and sufficient technical ability is in place,” said Elphick. “In a virtualised environment these numbers become even more startling.”

Despite the cost implications that the Plan-Net survey highlights, many IT managers seem reluctant to change. Their response is invariably that ‘the users like to have face-to-face contact’ or ‘we don’t have remote tools’.

“Many businesses don’t truly understand the value of timely fault resolution or the cost of having expensive technical staff wandering around chatting with users,” says Elphick. “IT directors who believe that they do not have budget for projects may well be able to find additional funds if they took a step back and adjusted their support model.”

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