In a recent blog, I shared that Smart Dolphins IT Solutions has undergone an operational renovation over the past few years. A business-friend replied to this post:
“Ok, that sounds good, but what did you actually DO during the renovation?
What fundamental changes in philosophy and process do you make?
Not trying to challenge you Dave, I’m just curious (and yes 80% NPS is awesome).”
I try to keep my blog posts succinct so getting into the “DO” in the original post was not possible. Let me share a little more detail.
So a fundamental change was made to control the chaos of the firefighting nature of our work. It is difficult to install sprinkler systems while a building is on fire. We’ll always need to put out fires, but we decided to isolate the chaos of the reactive work to a subset of our team – our service IT helpdesk. We want the other part of our team to ignore the ringing phone and focus on being proactive. This meant better role definition. We methodically set out well-defined proactive roles and put those hats on people in a full time capacity.
We have five major IT service delivery areas:
- IT helpdesk (reactive)
- Centralized services (proactive)
- Project services (proactive)
- Virtual Chief Information Officers vCIO (proactive)
- Network administration (proactive)
I’ll review these areas in more detail in the future.
Process and tools
Telling our Network Administration employees to “go be proactive” or even “apply best practices” to our customers is a far cry from actually describing in detail HOW to do this and giving them the best tools for getting the job done. Documenting processes in detail and reinforcing these with tools was critical for us to get consistent results. Without this structure, a business is at the mercy of individual decision making. You usually get chaos, or at least a lack of coordinated effort. We’ve always had great Dolphins, but providing clear process and integrated tools was a huge part of our renovation. This got us all consistently rowing in the right direction.
Standards and best practices
“Being proactive” can be “fluffy” in the world of technology. We all know how to be proactive with our cars and teeth, but what about our IT networks? I can dust off your keyboard and call it proactivity, but is there really value? There is a lot of this fluff in our industry because of the lack of understanding about what actually produces results versus proactive lip service. From what I’ve seen, even many folks in the IT support industry don’t know which proactive activities actually has an impact on IT infrastructure stability.
We started by reverse engineering our reactive experience and determining what were the root causes and how these things could be prevented. With this understanding, we started developing the Smart Dolphins Standards. Our standards basically describe the ideal configuration of the various elements of technology in a business environment. With these standards it was a matter of creating a series of best practice checklists that allowed our proactive Network Administration Dolphins to compare our idea standard to each of our customers’ environments. We would then either correct the misalignment or bring awareness of the misalignments to the business owner if they require a major change.
There are a few other key changes we made in our operational renovation, but I will save these details for another day.