125.0 Support Processes

As we have seen before, most support teams perform a variety of work, including bug-fixes, answering user questions and responding to all sorts of emergencies. Since they know the applications well, most support teams also implement enhancements to the existing applications. Since the support teams have so much going on, how does each team member decide which ones are most important? Even though everything is important, it is possible to put together a prioritization process. The following process is based on the sense of urgency involved in the work and the impact of the work to the client organization.

It makes sense that true support work has priority on a support team. However, there are different types of support work and different levels of urgency. Use the following prioritization process to make sure the most critical work gets done first.

  1. Keep applications running and stable. This is the highest priority work. This includes fixing applications that are down or fixing severe problems with applications producing incorrect results. If there were problems with multiple applications at the same time, the priority would go to the applications that were more critical to the business. For instance, the Accounts Receivable application is probably more critical than a sales forecast report. The sales forecast report is needed for internal use, but the Accounts Receivable application is needed to help generate customer payments. The Accounts Receivable application probably always has users working on the system as well. If the Accounts Receivable system is down, there may be clients that are idle as well until the application comes up again. 

  2. Provide client support (assisting users). These items are required for the business clients to get their job done. This category includes answering questions, researching application logic, validating data, etc. In many instances, these questions have to do with understanding why application information looks like it does. For instance, you may have a report that should show that certain financial transactions are in balance. If the report comes out showing that the transactions are out of balance, the client is obviously going to ask why. There may be information available that will allow the client to determine the answer themselves. However, in many cases, these questions end up going to the support team for investigation. These types of requests are important because there may be some underlying system problem that needs to be addressed, and the business may not be able to run its processes without the situation being resolved and a satisfactory answer being found. In addition, this category includes special requests from the client. For instance, you may be asked to run a special job that only runs on request, or you may have to run a special query to ensure the integrity of certain data fields.

  3. Normal discretionary work. This includes all changes and enhancements that can be scheduled and prioritized. This work includes problems or bugs that are nuisances, but should be fixed at some point. This also includes all enhancement requests for changes in current functionality. The business client can prioritize this work based on what is most important to them. For the most part, normal enhancements are worked on based on the time available after the first three priorities are taken care of. In some teams, the staffing is at a level where many enhancements can be performed. On other teams, there are very few enhancements made because the team is staffed at a level where only priorities one through three can be handled.

Another category of work is support overhead. This work does not need to be prioritized, but it is a part of the workload that must just be worked in as required. This includes time reporting, status reporting, workload planning, administration, etc. This work is not prioritized since the business client would likely think that it is not as important as their work. However, these activities are required by the IT organization and need to be completed as necessary.

Much, but not all of the work associated with the Application Support Group will come from clients using some type of support process. The following is a good example of the concepts around a process for receiving customer requests and ultimately resolving the request. 

Details on the support process are in the following sections.

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