As a former systems administrator, I can share a lot of stories about things that can (and will) go wrong when dealing with various customer requests. So, is cloud computing the secret weapon that can relieve many of the common customer service complaints?
Consider this: You’re a systems administrator who’s received a request for a new application server for a hot proof-of-concept project for a client. You fail to realize the customer marked the request urgent, so you acknowledge their request and it is added to your queue.
The customer is impatient, since they have no idea what’s going on. You explain that you will get to this request ASAP. Later, your manager calls to explain the customer called demanding the request be completed ASAP. Now you realize the request is urgent and you must reprioritize.
It’s not going to be easy. Provisioning a server involves many groups that must approve, verify, and test, which can take weeks under normal conditions. How can you convince other departments to reprioritize their work? You must either shortcut your company’s procedures, or postpone the customer’s request, jeopardizing an important business opportunity.
The customer calls again. You explain the request can’t be completed in a day, even if you started on it immediately, but that you will try and do the best you can.
Disappointed, the customer recalls an outside service provider who can provision multiple servers in less than an hour. I’m sure you can guess what happens next…the customer has a new server in thirty minutes, and wonders why their own IT department can’t be this savvy.
So, what are the repercussions? Here are just a few:
- The customer now takes a dim view of their IT organization and rumors soon spread.
- The person unknowingly violated company policy by introducing unsecured equipment into the company network.
- The service provider has no knowledge of company security policies, and the equipment cannot be scanned for vulnerabilities or receive policy updates and configurations to operate smoothly and securely on the network.
Ignoring company policy and taking matters into your own hands has consequences, in terms of lost time, lost productivity, and even potential security and compliance concerns.
So, what can cloud computing do to help this system administrator and the rest of the IT team do things better and faster, and to avoid rogue IT purchases in the first place?
In the end, it looks like this team needs more automation. There are tools available for firms building their own private clouds with converged infrastructures that can help address these issues:
- Customers’ urgent requests – With a customer-facing, self-service interface and with only a few people needed to complete the provisioning process instead of dozens, the server could have been automatically provisioned within an hour.
- Correctly provisioned servers – What’s needed here are fully tested and secured virtual machines that can quickly be provisioned for the customer. The customer’s panic decision to use an outside service provider and unknowingly introduce unsecured servers into the corporate environment would have been avoided. Functionality of third-party applications would have been pre-tested and verified.
- Repurposing IT staff – Traditional server provisioning processes– securing budget, gathering approvals, navigating through dysfunctional groups and processes, and security checkpoints – shouldn’t be a part of a systems administrator’s tasks, nor should it delay service delivery of virtual machines. With an automated server provisioning process, end users can make their own self-service decisions, whenever they need them. This enables IT staff to focus on tasks that have a more significant impact on the company, rather than individual concerns.
- Improving customer perception – An important but understated point from this scenario is how the customer perceives its internal IT department. Imagine if that same customer could have chosen from a selection of servers, with a few mouse clicks, and with confidence that they can get what they want when they need it. Empowering the customer is critical in building positive attitudes toward the IT department.
This case focused on rapid server provisioning, which is a customer necessity and a key to their satisfaction and perception of IT. Systems administrators should rejoice knowing there is a solution that can relieve them of the server provisioning process, make their lives easier, and restore a founding principle of IT service often ignored these days – putting the customer’s needs first.
Keith Allen (@landru11) first joined CA Technologies in 2000 as an experienced senior systems administrator where he worked on redesigning and implementing mission critical IT business services for CA Technologies worldwide. He is currently a product manager focused on driving development of new VCE solutions.