We have all been there, a critical piece of hardware goes down and suddenly a large group is without the tools they need to do their jobs. Looking out over a sea of employees playing Candy Crush instead of producing is enough to make any executive team cringe. It gets worse when downtime impacts customer-facing systems. Just one bad experience can have customers searching for other solutions. CA Technologies found that $26.5 billion in revenue is lost each year as a result of IT downtime, that is roughly $150,000 annually for each business in the survey.
To mitigate the downtime risk, businesses purchase far-reaching and seemingly, all-encompassing service level agreements. These contracts can promise everything from remote technical support to on-site equipment replacement within hours of the reported issue.
However, what happens when the support agents behind these agreements begin to point fingers? Most companies employ hardware from several providers. Your infrastructure of routers, switches, and servers is likely a combination of products from Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, and other manufacturers.
Getting all of these players to work together during your moment of need can be difficult. It may seem that just as you begin to unravel an issue, the troubleshooting leads to a piece of equipment from a different manufacturer and you are back at square one. This can quickly turn into a vicious cycle of blame.
18% of firms say that IT outages had a ‘very damaging’ effect on their reputation. (Click to Tweet)
How to Stop the Cycle
The easiest way to end the blame game is to get all of your support participants on the same call. Ask Vendor 1 to hold while you patch in support from Vendor 2 and even Vendor 3, if needed. With everyone on the call, explain the issue and let the collaboration begin.
While this is the simplest way to bring together support from multiple vendors, it is not always possible. Some support experts are not permitted to hold, even for the few moments it takes to patch into another call.
In this scenario, begin requesting case escalations. This will allow you to push through the tiers of support quickly. As your case is escalated, the priority associated with it goes up as well. This gives the support team the freedom to be more flexible and accommodating.
Only 2% of organizations say they recovered from their latest incident in under an hour. (Click to Tweet)
Understanding Your Support
Support falls into two categories:
- Service Level Agreements
- Service Entitlements
Service Level Agreements are separate contracts purchased to provide a specific level of support. Service entitlements are the services included in the purchase of the equipment. This could include anything from remote support to full-equipment replacement.
The best support contracts include policies that are flexible, mutually advantageous and work against the blame game. Such as:
- Allowing support personnel to work directly with other vendors to resolve issues
- Ensuring cases are open until it is clear that a second vendor has taken over the resolution of the case
- Triggering reimbursements if the mandates of the agreement are not met
- Allowing the customer to cancel the agreement AND receive a refund for the remaining months of the agreement
- Creating a dedicated team to support your company’s needs
- Guaranteed support from a specific set of engineers with direct contact information
Each of these policies mitigates the risk of your vendors pointing fingers during a downtime crisis. Including policies that mandate a dedicated support team or specific engineers can add to the cost of the agreement; but has the benefit of working with a consistent set of support personnel that understands your business needs and your infrastructure.
Understanding the level of support available in your current agreements and entitlements gives you the power to navigate quickly and efficiently during a crisis.
The Right Provider is Critical
When systems are down, getting back online is your single priority. Your vendors and their support staff should have the same priority. To ensure that you have the support your business needs, carefully assess what downtime means to your business and then evaluate your service entitlements. Finally, select a provider that fills in the gaps and promotes a collaborative approach to support.
The costs and support provided by vendors can vary widely. It is important to vet providers thoroughly and thoughtfully. With businesses reporting an average of 14 hours of IT downtime a year and downtime costs topping $5,600 a minute, even a savings of $80,000 a year can quickly be eaten-up by inadequate support.
In addition to lost revenue, productivity, and availability consider contracts with your own customers. For example, Northrop Grumman was forced to pay the Commonwealth of Virginia nearly $5 million for a network outage that lasted a week. The outage was the result of a combination of errors including an electrical fault, human error, and a lack of industry best practices. The restitution paid by Northrop Grumman reportedly made the Commonwealth whole after the incident. However, reimbursements for downtime are not the norm and even when achieved, rarely cover the entire financial loss associated with the downtime.
To prevent the OEM blame game, ensure that your service level agreements are supportive of vendor collaboration and include penalties for the vendor when the agreement is not followed. In a downtime event, your vendor’s top priority should be getting you back in business, not pointing fingers.