Do you have enough Techs? Or Too Many?
Even within the same company, the debate rages on –how do you know if you have enough or too many?
Then add the complexity of what we do – Incidents, Service Requests, Projects, Network Administration visits…and the list goes on. The challenge is then quite logarithmic, making it even more exhausting.
Now the question is not staffing, but instead: Are the Techs being assigned when and where Customers need them? The answer is typically no. Otherwise, you would not be pulling Sr. engineers from projects to fix something that only they can do or pulling them for a key Customer.
The Solution: Resource Planning (RP)
The solution is Resource Planning (RP) for an MSP, which is different than Resource Planning for Projects or any other IT Industry. Why? Because we do not only schedule Projects – that would be easy. Plus, our Techs and Engineers are billable, unlike in an Enterprise IT Support Center. For these two differences, Resource Planning for an MSP is very specialized.
So, what is RP for an MSP? Resource Planning for an MSP is a proactive Resource scheduling technique based on historical data to forecast future requests, also called future demand or demand for short. It is used to improve the Employees’ Quality of Work-Life, the Company’s bottom-line, and Customer satisfaction.
The combination of Customer’s needs: Incidents, Service Requests (including Changes, Installs, and RCA’s), Projects, and Recurring Visits; while pulling Resources from the same pool of people, causes chaos in the workplace, which leads to a host of problems:
- Stress on the workforce
- Workflow disruptions and inefficiency
- Disappointment to Customers
Driving Chaos out of the workplace: A Case Study
The best way to drive chaos out of the IT Support workplace is by segmenting the requests into four workflows. You can then proactively pre-position (also called reserve scheduling) the right skilled Resource for anticipated Incidents and Service Requests, based on historical data. This leaves plenty of room for projects, without disruption or disappointing Customers.
Here is an actual example of a Resource Planning system that was built at an MSP:
Case Study – Critical Priority Service Requests for Contracted Managed Service Customers
In the beginning, the remediation response (for Critical and High Priority requests from Managed Service Customers) was in a reactive mode. The Customer call came in, and the dispatchers looked for someone who could be freed up to engage. This method of scheduling resulted in Service Level Agreements with our Contracted Managed Service Customers being met less than 63% of the time.
By looking at our historical data, we were able to determine that 24 hours per day was needed to meet these types of requests. Critical requests in the IT Support environment meant there were network, server, email, firewall, or some other critical network devices that were not working and required a higher skill level to remediate.
Based on ITIL’s Urgency and Impact matrix, we knew there was a major impact on production, and it needed to be fixed immediately. We needed to reserve 3 to 6 of our most highly skilled Resources every day to meet our most important Customers 24 hours per day needs.
This proposed reserve schedule did not go over well with Management. They felt strongly that we were removing the highly skilled billable Resources from very valuable, billable time (Projects). After much debate, and without full approval, the proactive reserve scheduling was implemented.
I can still remember the day when my supervisor pulled me into a room to discuss the issue. The pre-positioning reserve scheduling had been in place for about a month, Executive Management had noticed, and they were not happy.
We sat down and looked at the utilization reports. Sure enough, one of the resources that had been heavily scheduled using this technique was, in fact, less billable. But the rest of the resources were significantly more billable, mostly due to fewer disruptions of their highly valuable project time.
The end result was this: in a very short period of time, the SLA’s for our Contracted Managed Service Customers went from 63% to 86%. As the culture changed, the reserve scheduling program grew, and today it is still maintained; providing SLA performance in the upper ’90s%.
Resource Planning for IT Support, Step–by–Step
Here are the Resource Planning for IT Support steps in a nutshell:
- Identify Pain Points – Identify the types of Customer requests that cause disruptions to workflows, stress on the workforce, and/or disappointed.
- Determine Hours Needed – Determine the number of hours required to meet this type of service request. (for more information book a 30-Minute Coaching Call with Steve)
- Schedule – Proactively schedule the right skill set for the next 4-8 weeks to meet this type of service request in advance.
- Release – Release the reserves for today when the critical service request call comes in and schedule the billable time in its place.
- Report, Report & Report – There are three levels of reporting, each with their own rhythm.
- Daily : for those responsible for intaking the service requests, so they know where the reserve availability remains.
- Weekly : to Sales and Resource management, so they know where project availability remains.
- Quarterly : (or at least annually) to Executive Management, so they know how the program is working and changing to meet the needs of the Customers.
6. Monitor and Adjust – Re-validate the hours, schedule usage, impact, and other changes over time.
- Quarterly identify changes in the data and true up the reserve scheduling.
- Impact of new Reserve Scheduling models as they are realized or requested.
- Monitor the reserve usage, if they are not being used as expected:
-Check data to see if there has been a change.
– Monitor dispatchers to see if additional training is needed on how to utilize the reserve program.
- Top-down, an annual review.
So where do you start?
Begin by identifying the type of service requests causing the most disruption to the workflow, stress on the workforce, and disappointment to the very customers you are so desperately trying to serve.