Why VIPs Shouldn’t Get the Best Tech Support

Two Unisys studies indicate there’s a wiser use of your IT resources.

In most large organizations, CEOs and senior management get the best technology and the best technology support, but this practice may actually put revenue at risk, according to two Unisys Corp. studies conducted over the last year. Employees who “touch” revenue every day and need real-time information to do their work —typically salespeople, customer service reps, finance workers and field service people — require the red-carpet treatment from technology support. Yet in most organizations, these employees are pushed aside when senior management has a problem.

In two surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007, Unisys polled more than 900 organizations around the world. The study compared the survey responses of organizations that rated their IT support as excellent “support leaders” to those of organizations that said their support was only satisfactory, poor or unsatisfactory “support laggards.” Of the leaders, only 64% gave the highest tech support levels to top executives — a lower percentage than the laggards (71%). Moreover, four times as many of the support leaders gave high levels of IT support to their sales function than did the support laggards. More than twice as many support leaders gave red-carpet treatment to customer service employees than did laggards. And nearly twice as many leaders gave high levels of tech support to finance than did the laggards. It was clear that the laggards had a VIP mindset. In 71% of these companies, top executives got the best tech support and no other function was close.

The organizations with the best tech support were far more likely to determine who received support based on the economic value of the function to the organization. For example, Underwriters Laboratories Inc., a $680 million nonprofit product testing company, has two levels of tech support that are based largely on a function’s effects on organizational success and daily revenue. These types of successes lead to four recommendations for better management of tech support capabilities.

First, segment support levels in your organization just as you define customer segments and which products and service levels they get. Two factors should dominate your tech support segmentation: how close the function is to daily revenue and its need for real-time information.

Second, provide not only “break/fix” support to these functions, but also improve the way the employees in them work and identify how information and technology could dramatically improve their productivity.

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