102.0 Caveats and Assumptions

This page describes assumptions that were made in the development of SupportStep to put this material into better perspective. This includes a certain set of terms and terminology that need to be agreed upon so that the rest of SupportStep can be better understood. These include:

Terminology

  • Support: The term "support" is the generic name being used to describe the care and feeding of production applications, tools, systems, and processes. There are other terms that might be used in your company, such as "operations", "maintenance” and "baseline." The term "support" is used in SupportStep. 

  • Clients: Everyone has customers, and in some companies they are called by different names. In SupportStep, the term "customers" refers to the external customers who purchase the products and services your company produces. SupportStep uses the term "business client" or "client" to refer to the internal customers that are the direct beneficiaries of the services provided by the support team.

  • Applications: The term "applications" or "business applications" refers to the software systems that are used to automate otherwise manual business processes within your company. Examples of applications include payroll, accounts payable, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, time reporting, inventory management, etc. In some companies, these entities might be referred to as "systems." Applications can be internally developed, or they can be packages purchased from an outside vendor.

  • Support Analyst: This term is used to describe the person or persons responsible for supporting a particular application. The primary support person for an application is called the Primary Support Analyst. The backup is called the Backup Support Analyst. It is possible (and likely) that a person could be the Primary Support Analyst on one or more applications and be a backup on others.

Support, Enhancements and Projects

Most organizations like to allocate people based on high-level work categories. There are a number of ways that the categories can be defined. The general categories used in SupportStep are:

  • Support. The purpose of most of the SupportStep framework

  • Discretionary. This is work that can be prioritized and will be completed based on having the resources available. This work includes enhancements, but also includes maintenance work that is not critical. Discretionary requests can be considered small projects and are explained more fully in 161.0 Discretionary Requests, as well as the TenStep Project Management Process (www.TenStep.com).

  • Projects. Support staff may be asked to work on projects as well. Projects have a defined start and end date, and result in the creation of one or more deliverables. These could be large projects or small projects. They could be enhancement projects, process improvement projects, environment-related projects, mandatory projects etc. Your support team may bundle up many small changes into a product release. The release is organized and managed as a project. Projects are explained more fully in the TenStep Project Management Process (www.TenStep.com).

Management Soft Skills

The SupportStep Application Support Framework includes a section in the methodology for managing the application support function. In general, this could also be taken to mean the management of the support team. However, the primary focus of the management function is in the area of managing processes, not managing people. There are many people management aspects that must be taken into account by the managers in the support organization. This includes skills such as listening, leadership, conflict resolution, etc. However, the soft skills for managing a team are not within the scope of SupportStep. 

Focus on Internal Application Support – Not External Customers

The SupportStep Framework focuses on the internal support of business applications. If your company sells software, you will also have an organization established to deal with the support of your licensed customers. Although organizations that support external customers will still find value in SupportStep, this framework is probably not the best overall model for that kind of support. There are many complexities associated with external customer support that are not designed into the SupportStep Framework. 

Support Function vs. Support Organization

It is important to distinguish between the support work function and the support organization. It is very likely that the support organization at your company does more than just true support work. Most support organizations also perform small and/or large enhancements. It is possible that projects can also be executed in the same groups that do support. SupportStep contains information for managing the discretionary enhancement work (small projects). However, this aspect of work is covered more exhaustively in the TenStep Project Management Process (www.TenStep.com). SupportStep focuses entirely on setting up and managing the support function.

Different Types of Support Organizations

Most of the general content of the SupportStep process can be used by any support organization, regardless of the specific products and services that your company produces. However, much of the specific content in SupportStep is targeted at the support of business applications (see definition of “applications” above). If you have a team that supports your ongoing sales and marketing programs, for instance, they could also benefit from much of the content of SupportStep. However, some of the material, including templates, would not be of specific interest to them. On the other hand, you could use the basic SupportStep templates as the starting point to create other related templates that would be of more value.  

Low-Tech Templates

Most of the templates in SupportStep are simple MS Excel and Word documents. The templates are in this format so that you can easily see what information is on them and what the value of the information is. The templates do not have to be implemented in this format in your organization. If you use Excel, for instance, you will likely want to combine a number of related SupportStep templates as multiple tabs in one larger spreadsheet. Also, if your organization has access to more sophisticated tools, you can implement the templates in that technology instead. For instance, many of the templates would be good candidates to place in MS ACCESS, Lotus Notes and HTML/web. 

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