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Build a Swarming Pilot Project

Optimize your service support and become more DevOps compatible.

  • While the tiered model approach to the service desk may work in some organizations, for many others it results in a severe silo effect, a breakdown in communication, and tickets being bounced back and forth like a game of ping pong.
  • Despite best efforts, IT department managers are left with a dysfunctional system, with ticket backlogs, resistance to share knowledge, elevated costs and frustrated end users.
  • As web portal usage increases, it leads to the majority of tickets escalated to agents being complex tickets that require further escalations. This compounds the ping-pong effect, increasing ticket time to resolve and further alienating end users.
  • Companies wanting to adopt a DevOps approach will encounter process issues with the traditional tiered model of service support due to the silo effect impacting collaboration.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Don’t try and build the process alone. Set objectives and parameters. Then, involve your team and empower them to building the processes and refining them.
  • Embrace the dynamic nature of swarming. Swarming is not one size fits all. Prepare for your processes to change, especially in the initial phase.
  • Culture will trump strategy every time. Do not underestimate the importance of shifting your company culture to a collaboration-based approach. The best processes in the world won’t work if you don’t get everyone onboard.

Impact and Result

  • Info-Tech’s tools and guidance will help you to minimize risk, optimize stakeholder buy-in for your swarming pilot project, and maximize your growth potential and ability to adapt to your maturing service support system.
  • This project will help you:
    • Create and implement a swarming project pilot project.
    • Increase adoption and evaluate the efficacy of the pilot project.
    • Eliminate ping pong support and get your people finally playing catch.
    • Create a consistent customer service experience for service desk patrons.
    • Increase customer satisfaction.
    • Create an environment that fosters collaboration and skill development.
    • Improve capabilities of solving complex tickets.
    • Decrease time and cost to resolve service desk tickets.
    • Create a stronger and more engaged team.
    • Build a solid foundation for future IT service improvement.

Build a Swarming Pilot Project Research & Tools

Start here – read the Executive Brief

Read our concise Executive Brief to find out why you should build a swarming pilot project, review Info-Tech’s methodology, and understand the four ways we can support you in completing this project.

1. Assess readiness

Determine the readiness of the organization to adopt swarming support practices by conducting current-state assessments of both ticket handling and collaboration, reviewing swarming best practices, and identifying key benchmarks and metrics.

2. Create a pilot

Develop the building blocks of your swarming pilot project by defining your pilot objectives, creating a high-level view of the project, identifying key stakeholders, and building a contingency plan and a communication strategy.

3. Build a process

Develop the building blocks of your swarming process by defining and documenting group swarming processes, creating your evaluation plan, and reviewing support best practices.


Workshop: Build a Swarming Pilot Project

Workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Assess Readiness

The Purpose

Conduct a current-state assessment of the existing service desk and assess readiness of the organization to adopt swarming practices.

Key Benefits Achieved

Allows IT directors and managers to assess the process maturity and level of organizational collaboration and create benchmarks and success metrics for the pilot project.

Activities

Outputs

1.1

Administer the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire.

  • Collaboration Assessment Score
1.2

Run the Collaboration Assessment Tool.

  • Collaboration Assessment Score
1.3

Complete the Service Desk Maturity Assessment.

  • Current State Assessment
1.4

Review service desk and collaboration maturity.

  • Collaboration goals, metrics, and KPIs to track
1.5

Review swarming best practices.

  • Identified target state, project rationale, and framework for swarming processes
1.6

Identify goals.

  • Identified target state and success metrics
1.7

Identify metrics, benchmarks, and reports.

  • Defined how success will be monitored and measured

Module 2: Create a Pilot

The Purpose

Build your pilot project plan, including defining the scope and key milestones for the project.

Key Benefits Achieved

A central repository of all pilot-related details to provide IT directors and managers with an easy way to share their pilot project with key stakeholders to gain buy-in and approval.

Activities

Outputs

2.1

Define pilot objectives, scope, and participants.

  • Pilot project scope and rationale
2.2

Create a high-level project plan.

  • Project plan overview
2.3

Identify key stakeholders.

  • List of key stakeholders
2.4

Identify potential risks and build a contingency plan.

  • A contingency plan
2.5

Review communication best practices.

2.6

Build a communication strategy for the project.

  • Communication strategy

Module 3: Build a Process

The Purpose

Define and build the swarming process for your pilot project, including ticket handling guidelines, collaboration tools to be used to facilitate swarming, and your evaluation plan.

Key Benefits Achieved

Create a clear swarming process that can be communicated to project participants and key stakeholders, along with an evaluation plan to measure your success.

Activities

Outputs

3.1

Review support best practices.

  • Framework for how to build swarming practices
3.2

Review and discuss swarming case studies.

  • Clear understanding about how other heavy-hitters are approaching swarming
3.3

Define swarming processes.

  • Swarming process
3.4

Assess and flag recurring tickets for swarming.

3.5

Document group swarming practices.

3.6

Identify existing collaboration tools that can be used.

  • List of existing tools that can be used to facilitate collaboration
3.7

Create your evaluation plan.

  • An evaluation plan to measure success

Build a Swarming Pilot Project

Optimize your service support and become more DevOps compatible.

Table of contents

  1. Project Rationale
  2. Execute the Project/DIY Guide
  3. Bibliography
  4. Next Steps

EXPERT PERSPECTIVE

The approach to service support may not be one size fits all.

“Support organizations with good self-service models are rethinking their support processes and moving from an escalation-based model to a collaboration-based model. They are collapsing their support tiers, creating a single team of people who collaborate on solving customer issues (playing catch). This is replacing the model of multiple teams that toss issues back and forth through incident routing, rerouting, escalation, and rejection (playing ping-pong).” (Greg Oxton, Executive Director, Consortium for Service Innovation)

Our understanding of the problem

This Research Is Designed For:

  • The CIO and service manager who need to increase service support effectiveness and timeliness and improve end-user satisfaction.
  • The service manager who wants to lead the team from a silo-heavy organization to a collaborative and customer-focused environment.
  • The team that requires cross-functional collaboration and demands different skill sets.
  • An organization planning to adopt and scale DevOps or Agile.

This Research Will Also Assist:

  • Service teams who want to increase their own effectiveness and move from a help desk to a service desk.
  • Infrastructure and application managers who want to decrease reactive support activities within the teams.

This Research Will Help You:

  • Eliminate ping-pong support by creating ownership of tickets.
  • Create a consistent customer service experience for service desk patrons.
  • Increase customer satisfaction.
  • Create an environment that fosters collaboration and skill development.
  • Improve capabilities for solving complex tickets.
  • Decrease time and cost to resolve service desk tickets.
  • Ensure tickets are matched with the most-qualified agent every time.
  • Understand and address reporting needs to address root causes and measure success.
  • Reduce ticket backlog.
  • Create a stronger and more engaged team.
  • Build a solid foundation for future IT service improvements.

Executive summary

Situation

  • While the tiered model approach to the service desk may work in some organizations, for many others it results in a severe silo-effect, a breakdown in communication, and tickets being bounced back and forth like a game of ping-pong.
  • Despite best efforts, IT department managers are left with a dysfunctional system, ticket backlogs, resistance to share knowledge, elevated costs, and frustrated end users.

Complication

  • The further service desks shift-left, and as web-portal usage increases, it leads to the majority of tickets escalated to agents being complex tickets that require further escalations. This compounds the ping-pong effect, increasing ticket time to resolve and further alienating end users.
  • Furthermore, companies wanting to adopt DevOps, which is collaboration-heavy, will suffer process issues due to the silo effect.

Resolution

  • To minimize risk and optimize stakeholder buy-in, create and launch a swarming pilot project with a small group in your IT department. By incorporating key benchmarks, metrics to monitor, and evaluation plans in place to test its efficacy with your company you can maximize your growth potential and ability to adapt to your maturing service support system.
  • This blueprint will help you:
    • Assess if your company should consider introducing swarming practices.
    • Create and implement a pilot project.
    • Increase adoption and evaluate the efficacy of the pilot project.

Info-Tech Insight

  1. Don’t build the process alone. Set objectives and parameters. Then, involve your team and empower them to contribute to building and refining the processes.
  2. Culture will trump strategy every time. Do not underestimate the importance of shifting your company culture to a collaboration-based approach. The best processes in the world won’t work if you don’t get everyone onboard.
  3. Embrace the dynamic nature of swarming. Swarming is not one size fits all. Prepare for your processes to change, especially in the initial phases.

The tiered ticket lifecycle leaves gaps in customer service and exhausts your resources

A graphic detailing the cons of the tiered ticket lifecycle. The first graphic is titled 'The Ping-Pong Effect' and says 'Ticket may sit at L1 for some time before being escalated... only to come right back for more information'. The second graphic is titled 'Aging tickets and frustrated end users', and says 'The issue can spend a long time here (Level 1)... when the answer may be here (Level 2)... ...or here (Level 3). Subject matter experts (Level 3 Specialists) are frequently overwhelmed.' Source: Jon Hall, 2015.

Companies wanting to achieve a more DevOps state need to reconfigure their approach to service support

What is DevOps?

DevOps is an operational philosophy that seeks to promote an improved relationship between Development and Operations in order to break down existing silos and better align the groups in providing customer value.

A graphic of two employees, one Development and one Operations, and the hand-off needed between them to create DevOps: 'Collaboration', 'Communication', and 'Integration'.

Collaboration

Development and Operations working together through all stages of the development lifecycle, from design through the development process and into production support.

Communication

Prioritizing high-value modes of communication to break down existing silos and create common understanding and empathy across functions. This approach increases transparency and visibility across the entire development lifecycle.

Integration

Explore methods to integrate the workflows and toolsets between your development and operations groups to become more reactive to changes in business and customer expectations.

Introduce swarming to support the shift to a DevOps and Agile service support environment

How can DevOps help?

DevOps paves a targeted, yet flexible path for the future success of your organization.

It enables IT organizations to:

  • Align to the overarching business objectives.
  • Break down cross-functional silos and remove bottlenecks.
  • Increase cross-team collaboration and transparency.
  • Improve the quality and performance of applications.
  • Enhance the customer experience.

DevOps has helped organizations realize the following benefits (Source: Puppet Labs):

  • Increased release velocity
  • Shorter lead times
  • Reduced time to recover upon failure
  • Improved defect detection
  • Lower change failure rates
  • Reduced deployment failures and rollbacks
  • Increased collaboration
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved ability to innovate

Cisco, IBM, BMC Software, Microsoft, and Red Hat have seen massive improvements since adopting swarming practices

What are the benefits of swarming support?

Swarming support creates an atmosphere of collaboration, improving end-user satisfaction and reducing organizational costs.

It enables IT organizations to:

  • Create a customer-centric approach.
  • Collapse silos and remove bottlenecks.
  • Streamline onboarding times and improve skills development.
  • Bring development teams to the frontline of support.
  • Reduce incident resolution time.

Swarming helps organizations realize the following benefits:

  • Decrease onboarding times by 50%
  • Faster incident resolution
  • Streamline support processes
  • Reduce the skills gaps
  • Facilitate faster root-cause analysis
  • Foster team spirit and skills development
  • Increased collaboration
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • More time for innovation

Swarming creates higher end-user satisfaction with all other IT services

Embrace collaboration.
  • Improves the end-user experience.
  • Alleviates the knowledge and skill dissemination between tiers.
  • Decreases time and money spent on onboarding by 50%.
Increase business satisfaction.
  • Improve confidence that the Service Desk can meet service levels.
  • Create a single point of contact for incidents and requests, with technicians owning their tickets through to completion.
Align work with the right people.
  • Eliminate the game of service support ping-pong by identifying the right agent to solve the ticket.
  • Create visibility to all agents to allow them the opportunity to opt-in and help others solve tickets and foster opportunities for skill building.
Increase efficiency and lower operating costs.
  • Empower end users and technicians with a targeted knowledgebase.
  • Faster ticket resolution times.
Improve skills transfer.
  • Swarming breaks down pesky silos and fosters cross-functional and cross-department learning and collaboration.
Illustration of the 'Old model streaming' versus the 'New model swarming'. 'Old model streaming' is an 'Escalation-based process' and shows three tiers, each getting smaller as they escalate, Tier 1 being the biggest and Tier 3 being the smallest. 'New model streaming' is a 'Collaboration-based process' and shows a spherical geodesic polyhedron with lines connecting points wherever they happen to be in the sphere, there are no discernable levels or tiers.

By conducting a pilot project you can reduce the risk and maximize stakeholder buy-in to swarming practices

What is a pilot project

A small-scale preliminary study used to assess the feasibility of an approach or project and test methods and procedures prior to being used on a large scale.

The 'Pilot Project Life Cycle' is 'Strategize', 'Assess', 'Design', 'Deploy', and 'Maintain'.

Why do a pilot project?

Pilot projects minimize risk, test and validate the benefit of swarming in your unique environment, and get stakeholders to buy into your project.

It enables IT organizations to:

  • Validate cost savings and initial productivity.
  • Minimize risk by being able to test a new approach in a controlled and live environment.
  • Test and validate the efficacy of the program.
  • Increase stakeholder buy-in.
  • Verify the process is technically stable.
  • Identify and address obstacles prior to full-scale implementation.

Info-Tech’s approach to incorporating swarming into your service support model is by creating a pilot project

Phase 1
Assess Readiness
Phase 2
Build a Pilot
Phase 3
Build a Process

1.1

Assess current state

2.1

Build a project plan

3.1

Design swarming processes

1.2

Review swarming best practices

2.2

Build a communication strategy

3.2

Create an evaluation plan

1.3

Identify benchmarks and metrics

3.3

Review support best practices
Outcomes and Deliverables
Current-state assessment Pilot Project Plan Swarming processes
Collaboration assessment Communication Strategy Evaluation plan
Metrics and reports

BMC Software sets the bar high by changing the game of service support with Swarming

CASE STUDY

Industry Software
Source BMC Software

BMC Software

BMC Software is a multinational software company supporting approximately 96% of the Forbes Global 100 companies and 81% of the Fortune 500 companies. BMC produces software and services that assist businesses in moving towards optimized digital operations.

Swarming Initiative

BMC implemented swarming practices as an answer to the two key challenges it was facing: increasingly complex issues and the need to reduce interruptions to support analysts in the form of critical issues. BMC involved the entire team in developing the swarming process and started small with a pilot project as a proof of concept with only 14 people.

Benefits

Some of the key benefits BMC experienced after implementing swarming practices include freeing up managers’ time from being reactive to being able focus on development, fewer escalations to development, improved knowledge sharing, and significant improvement in teamwork and morale. (Source: Consortium, 2010)

Key Findings

  • 8% higher customer satisfaction scores.
  • 2x – Employees doubled their knowledge within a year.
  • 25% faster mean time to resolve (MTTR).
  • Reduced onboarding time by 50%.

Info-Tech offers various levels of support to best suit your needs

DIY Toolkit

Guided Implementation

Workshop

Consulting

"Our team has already made this critical project a priority, and we have the time and capability, but some guidance along the way would be helpful." "Our team knows that we need to fix a process, but we need assistance to determine where to focus. Some check-ins along the way would help keep us on track." "We need to hit the ground running and get this project kicked off immediately. Our team has the ability to take this over once we get a framework and strategy in place." "Our team does not have the time or the knowledge to take this project on. We need assistance through the entirety of this project."

Diagnostics and consistent frameworks used throughout all four options

Build a Swarming Pilot Project – project overview

1. Assess Readiness 2. Create a Pilot 3. Build a Process
Supporting Tool icon

Best-Practice Toolkit

1.1 Assess current state
1.2 Review swarming best practices
1.3 Identify benchmarks and metrics
2.1 Build the project plan
2.2 Build a communication strategy
3.1 Design swarming processes
3.2 Create an evaluation plan
3.3 Review support best practices

Guided Implementations

  • Assess current state of service support and collaboration.
  • Review swarming best practices.
  • Identify benchmarks and metrics.
  • Build your swarming pilot project plan.
  • Build a communication strategy for your pilot.
  • Design swarming processes.
  • Create an evaluation plan to measure success.
  • Review support best practices.
Associated Activity icon

Onsite Workshop

Module 1:
Assess Readiness
Module 2:
Create a Pilot
Module 3:
Build a Process
Phase 1 Results:
  • Service desk maturity assessment
  • Collaboration assessment
  • Benchmarks, metrics, and reports
Phase 2 Results:
  • Pilot project plan
  • Communication strategy
Phase 3 Results:
  • Swarming processes
  • Evaluation plan to measure success
  • Pilot project support plan

Build a Swarming Pilot Project – workshop overview

Contact your account representative or email Workshops@InfoTech.com for more information.

Workshop Day 1 Workshop Day 2 Workshop Day 3
Activities
Assess Readiness
  1. Administer the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire.
  2. Run the Collaboration Assessment Tool.
  3. Complete the Service Desk Maturity Assessment.
  4. Review service desk and collaboration maturity.
  5. Review swarming best practices.
  6. Identify goals.
  7. Identify metrics, benchmarks, and reports.
Create a Pilot
  1. Define pilot objectives, scope, and participants.
  2. Create a high-level project plan.
  3. Identify key stakeholders.
  4. Identify potential risks and build a contingency plan.
  5. Review communication best practices.
  6. Build a communication strategy for the project.
Build a Process
  1. Review support best practices.
  2. Review and discuss swarming case studies.
  3. Define swarming processes.
  4. Assess and flag recurring tickets for swarming.
  5. Document group swarming practices.
  6. Identify existing collaboration tools that can be used.
  7. Create your evaluation plan.
Deliverables
  1. Service desk maturity assessment
  2. Collaboration assessment
  3. Project rationale and framework
  4. Target state and success metrics
  1. Pilot project scope and rationale
  2. Pilot project plan overview
  3. Key stakeholders
  4. Contingency plan to mitigate risk
  5. Communication strategy
  1. Framework for how to build swarming processes
  2. Evaluation plan to measure success
  3. Support best practices for moving forward

Use these icons to help direct you as you navigate this research

Use these icons to help guide you through each step of the blueprint and direct you to content related to the recommended activities.

A small monochrome icon of a wrench and screwdriver creating an X.

This icon denotes a slide where a supporting Info-Tech tool or template will help you perform the activity or step associated with the slide. Refer to the supporting tool or template to get the best results and proceed to the next step of the project.

A small monochrome icon depicting a person in front of a blank slide.

This icon denotes a slide with an associated activity. The activity can be performed either as part of your project or with the support of Info-Tech team members, who will come onsite to facilitate a workshop for your organization.

Info-Tech delivers: Use our tools and templates to accelerate your pilot project to completion

Sample of Info-Tech's 'Service Desk Maturity Assessment' Sample of Info-Tech's 'Collaboration Assessment' Sample of Info-Tech's 'Communication Strategy' Sample of Info-Tech's 'Pilot Project Plan'
Service Desk Maturity Assessment Collaboration Assessment Communication Strategy Pilot Project Plan

PHASE 1

Assess Readiness

Step 1.1 Assess current state

Phase 1:
Assess Readiness
This step will walk you through the following activities:This step involves the following participants:

1.1

Assess current state
  • 1.1.1 Service Desk Maturity Assessment
  • 1.1.2 Collaboration Assessment
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)

1.2

Review swarming best practices

1.3

Identify metrics and reports

Outcomes

Alignment on the challenges that the service support faces, an assessment of the current state of service desk processes and technologies, and baseline metrics against which to measure improvements.

DELIVERABLES
  • Service Desk Maturity Assessment
  • Collaboration Assessment

Assess the process maturity of the service desk to determine if swarming is a viable option for you

Supporting Tool icon 1.1.1 Complete the Service Desk Maturity Assessment

Where do I find the data? Consult: Service Manager, Service Desk Tools

The Service Desk Maturity Assessment tool helps organizations assess their service desk process maturity and focus the project on the activities that matter most.

The tool will help guide improvement efforts and measure your progress.

  • The second tab of the tool walks through a qualitative assessment of your service desk practices. Questions will prompt you to evaluate how you are executing key activities. Select the answer in the drop-down menus that most closely aligns with your current state.
  • The third tab displays your rate of process completeness and maturity. You will receive a score for each phase, an overall score, and advice based on your performance.

The tool is intended for periodic use. Review your answers each year and devise initiatives to improve the process performance where you need it most.

Download the Service Desk Maturity Assessment.

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Measure the current culture of collaboration to create a baseline to measure success of the pilot

Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire

Collaboration Assessment Tool

Sample of Info-Tech's 'Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire' Sample of Info-Tech's 'Collaboration Assessment Tool'
Download the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire Download the Collaboration Assessment Tool

Administer the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire

Supporting Tool icon 1.1.2 Administer the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire

Output: Collaboration Assessment

Participants: Infrastructure Manager, Service Desk Manager, Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 Technicians

Overview:

Administer the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire to all technicians prior to the launch to assess the current level of collaboration. Use this questionnaire at the end of the pilot and administer it to both the pilot and non-pilot groups to measure the pilot’s efficacy.

Instructions:

  1. Review the template.
  2. Modify the questions as needed.
  3. If you have a survey tool you use, transfer the questions to your existing tool, otherwise send the survey out to your team.
  4. Once the survey has been completed, input the answers into the Collaboration Assessment Tool.

Download the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire.

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Run the Collaboration Assessment Tool to create a baseline metric for your pilot

Supporting Tool icon 1.1.3 Run the Collaboration Assessment Tool

Output: Collaboration Assessment

Participants: Infrastructure Manager, Service Desk Manager, Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 Technicians

Overview:

Use the Collaboration Assessment Tool to help you understand the issues that are impacting the success of collaboration and shift towards DevOps in your organization. Gain a prioritized list of collaboration drivers and key action steps for moving forward.

Instructions:

  1. After administering the Collaboration Assessment Questionnaire, average out the answers for each question and input the averages into the fields at tab 4.
  2. Have all managers fill out the “Management Assessment” at tab 3 to identify which collaboration drivers are pain points.

Download the Collaboration Assessment Tool.

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Step 1.2: Review swarming best practices

Phase 1:
Assess Readiness
This step will review swarming best practicesThis step involves the following participants:

1.1

Assess current state
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)

1.2

Review swarming best practices

1.3

Identify metrics and reports

Outcomes

In this step, we review swarming best practices and establish the rationale for your pilot project that will form the basis of your argument to incorporate swarming practices into your service support model.

OUTPUTS
  • Swarming project rationale

EXPERT PERSPECTIVE

To make swarming work, you have to give your teams a lot of autonomy to figure out what is working and what measures they want to improve.

“Discussions around swarming are really important because we need to be out in the DevOps community to help them understand what value add we can bring to them.

Swarming is about setting guard rails and guidelines, not rules. You want people to be able to make great decisions and be flexible in a swarming situation. This is not an advisory board, it is a dynamic and network-based way of working.” (Jon Hall, Principal Product Manager, BMC Software)

Use swarming to lower service support costs, bridge the skills gap, and improve your end-user experiences

Benefits of Swarming

Flexible: The team responds to internal disturbances and external challenges.

Robust: Tasks are completed even if some agents fail.

Scalable: From a few agents to millions.

Decentralized: There is no central control or hierarchy in a swarm.

Self-organized: The solutions are emergent rather than pre-defined.

Adaptable: The swarm system can not only adjust to predetermined stimuli but also adapt to new stimuli.

Speed: Changes in the network can be propagated very fast.

Modularity: Agents act independently of other network layers.

Parallelism: Agents' operations are inherently parallel.

“Swarming is an opportunity to fully utilize the skill sets of each support agent – to create a seamless experience for both internal and external customers.” (Anonymous)

“There is a growing body of evidence that shows that organizations with flat structures outperform those with more traditional hierarchies in most situations.” (Thomas Malone, MIT Sloan School of Management)

The current IT skills gap costs everyone

Swarming reduces time onboarding new technicians time by 50% and bridges the skills gap between technicians through collaboration sessions (BMC).

93% of managers believe there is a skills gap among IT staff.

80% of organizations say the IT skills gap affects at least one area of business.

43% of CEOs say staff productivity is negatively affected by the IT skills gap.

33% of CEOs say security is negatively affected by the IT skills gap.

31% of CEOs say customer service is negatively impacted by the IT skills gap.

31% of CEOs say innovation is negatively impacted by the IT skills gap.

(Source: CompTIA)

Info-Tech Insight

Use swarming to reduce the skills gap and help you achieve your mission and vision as an organization.

Swarming creates the most value in moderate-to-high complexity environments

As companies shift towards automation and self-service, the nature of work that reaches the funnel shifts to a higher percentage of new or complex issues, which require escalation and lead to a bottleneck effect. Swarming allows you to eliminate frustrating escalations, reduce your resolution time, and improve skills transfer.

Tiered Support Model

Illustration of the 'Tiered Support Model' showing three tiers, each getting smaller as they escalate, Tier 1 being the biggest and Tier 3 being the smallest.
—›

Swarming Support Model

Illustration of the 'Swarming Support Model' showing a spherical geodesic polyhedron with lines connecting points wherever they happen to be in the sphere, there are no discernable levels or tiers.
Tiered Support Model
  • Traditional service support has been organized into three tiers: Tier 1 (service desk), Tier 2 (technical teams) and Tier 3 (applications and IT ops teams)
  • Hierarchical and escalation based
  • Predefined, linear process
  • Limited opportunities to collaborate
Swarming Support Model
  • Swarming has no hierarchy
  • Centers around collaboration between technicians
  • No escalations within support
  • Allows technicians to opt-in
  • The person who takes the case owns it until resolution
  • Managers act as coaches
(Source: Consortium for Service Innovation)

Automotive companies are using swarming to improve customer satisfaction and decrease ticket times

CASE STUDY

Industry Automotive
Source Genuine Parts Company

Challenge

GPC provides support to over 5,500 NAPA stores, fielding approximately 800 support calls per day.

Found its current tiered model to service support didn’t support DevOps and the company’s goal to bring the development team towards the front line.

High rate of end-user dissatisfaction with their current level of support and slow resolution time.

Wanted to roll out a new service support platform that embraces the DevOps model.

Solution

Started small using existing collaboration tools (24/7 telephone bridge and group chat), that technicians can dial into at any time they have a complicated ticket for group discussion.

Introduced “squads”: small areas of expertise who have scrums 1-2x a week to identify key problems needing attention.

Allowed technicians to sign up for areas of expertise they are confident or passionate in.

Involved key stakeholders from the beginning to maximize buy-in.

Results

Net promoter score increased from -25 to 63 within nine months of deploying swarming.

Net promoter score has remained consistent in the 60-63 range to date.

Created buy-in from other areas in the organization, who are now adopting swarming practices.

Lessons learned in swarming from experts in the field

You may need to rethink your metrics. If you have a lot of metrics focused on individual people and teams it could break your reports.

Give your team autonomy. In order for swarming to work you have to give technicians (who you hired as experts) the space to figure out what is working, what they want to improve, and to self-organize.

Prepare for swarming processes to change frequently and quickly in the early stages. Swarming is a dynamic process, and not a linear routing, and the processes need to have built-in flexibility to respond to the environment.

You may need to incorporate customer service skills training. Technicians who are not used to being in a customer-facing position may need some soft skills training.

Give yourself time to get it right. Success comes through iteration, and that takes time. Give yourself a timeline of at least 3-4 months to see the true benefits of swarming.

“Swarming is really about the cooperation and collaboration between the development group and the operations group. One of the key components is to get the developmental people involved more with the operational group, and the operational group more involved with the development group.” (Paul Dooley)

Illustration of the 'Swarming Support Model' showing a spherical geodesic polyhedron with lines connecting points wherever they happen to be in the sphere, there are no discernable levels or tiers.
Swarming

Info-Tech Insight

Not all issues are worthy of collaboration. Collaboration targets the 30-40% of issues that can’t be handled by the initial swarm (end user and support technician).

Assess readiness before launching changes to increase adoption

Just like NASA would never launch a shuttle without doing extensive pre-checks for readiness of both the astronauts and shuttle, so should you take the time to assess the readiness of your team prior to launching changes when possible.

  • Processes and standards are well defined and documented.
  • Stakeholders believe the new tool and processes can support and improve their practices.
  • Users see the value and benefits of the change and are excited for new functionality.
  • All relevant users have received proper training and communications and understand any changes expected of them.
  • New technology has been tested and is ready.
  • Users believe the tool is easy to use to perform the work they are responsible for.
  • Governance has been well established.

Info-Tech Insight

By assessing readiness before launching changes, you’ll be able to act proactively to resistance and pushback from your team, instead of going into firefighter mode.

Step 1.3: Identify benchmarks and metrics

Phase 1:
Assess Readiness
This step will walk you through the following activities:This step involves the following participants:

1.1

Assess current state
  • 1.3.1 Identify key metrics to track
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)

1.2

Review swarming best practices

1.3

Identify metrics and reports

Outcomes

In this step we review metric best practices and identify key metrics to track to monitor success of the pilot, as well as determine an ideal target state.

OUTPUTS
  • Key metrics to track

Use service support metrics to build a business case for the pilot and track service support improvements

Metrics allow you to quantify success. Select a few key metrics to ensure you’re not over-burdening yourself with work, but are still getting a balanced picture of how your team is doing. Continue to monitor these key metrics throughout your project to monitor progress.

  1. Average Cost per Ticket

    Average cost per ticket is the total monthly operating expense of the service desk divided by the monthly ticket volume, and is one of the two foundation metrics of service support.
  2. Average Time to Resolve

    Time elapsed from when ticket is “open” to “resolved.” Distinguish between ticket resolution vs. closure, and measure time for incidents and service requests separately.
  3. End-User Satisfaction

    One of the foundation metrics of service support. Measure customer satisfaction in the end-user feedback surveys automatically sent out after ticket resolution.

Ensure you are measuring the right metrics, and remember one metric will never give you the whole picture

Don’t put too much emphasis on a single metric. At best, it will give you a distorted picture of your service desk performance. At worst, it will distort the behavior of your agents as they may adopt poor practices to meet the metric.

The solution is to use tension metrics: metrics that work together to give you a better sense of the state of operations. Tension metrics ensure a balanced focus toward shared goals.

Key metrics to think about:

  • Time to resolution
  • Time between customer logging problem and you providing a solution (temporary or permanent)
  • # of days/hours it takes to resolve a problem
  • Quality of the fix
  • Technical knowledge of the analyst

Don’t forget to include end-user feedback

  • Survey customers on a frequent basis
  • Follow-up with customers whether it is good or bad feedback

Rely on key internal metrics to build a business case for the pilot and track service support improvements

Think about the watermelon effect – what we want to do is focus on the bigger picture and customer service and collaborative approaches.

In addition to the three key service desk metrics, you want to consider how else as a business you can identify success.

For instance…

  • Employee morale and feedback from pilot project participants
  • Increasing collaboration score
  • The whole team is showing up to meetings for work distribution
  • Team members are comfortable coming forward if there is something they feel isn’t right
  • Comfort in approaching management about concerns
  • Generation of creative new ideas

Watermelon Effect: when on the surface everything looks green and you’re left with the belief everything is fine, however, when you dig deeper you discover the status is in fact red, not green.

Info-Tech Insight

Don’t overdo the metrics. Pick a few key metrics that will help you track your progress and celebrate your success.

Establish baseline metrics and the future goal

Associated Activity icon 1.3.1 Identify key metrics to track

Baseline metrics will give you the foundation to validate that the changes brought on with the swarming pilot are effective.

  1. Identify 3-5 key metrics that you want to track to measure the efficacy of the pilot.
  2. Record your current metric.
  3. Identify your future goal metric.
  4. Throughout your pilot, reassess your progress in achieving the future goal metric.
  5. At the end of the pilot, review your hypothesized magnitude of improvement (future goal) and your actual magnitude of improvement to measure the efficacy of the program.
    • If you achieve or exceed your future goal metrics, you know the pilot was successfully in meeting the desired needs and can make considerations to expand the project
    • If you fail to reach your desired outcome, troubleshoot as a group to determine how you could improve the pilot to reach your ideal target state.
Metric Description Current Metric Future Goal
Percentage of calls resolved during first contact: 74% 85%
Percentage of calls resolved at Tier 1: 65% 75%
Average time to resolve an incident: 37 min 30 min
Average time to escalate an incident: 32 min 25 min

Document in Pilot Project Plan

If you want additional support, have our analysts guide you through this phase as part of an Info-Tech Workshop Associated Activity icon

Book a workshop with our Info-Tech analysts:

Photo of an Info-Tech analyst.
  • To accelerate this project, engage your IT team in an Info-Tech workshop with an Info-Tech analyst team.
  • Info-Tech analyst will join you and your team onsite at your location or welcome you to Info-Tech's historic Toronto office to participate in an innovative onsite workshop.
  • Contact your account manager (www.infotech.com/account), or email Workshops@InfoTech.com for more information.

The following are sample activities that will be conducted by Info-Tech analysts with your team:

1.1.1

Sample of activity 1.1.3 'Run Collaboration Assessment Tool to create a baseline metric for your pilot'. Review maturity and collaboration assessment

The analyst will:

  • Review the service desk maturity assessment score.
  • Discuss the collaboration assessment score.
  • Review the results of the diagnostic surveys.

1.3.1

Sample of activity 1.3.1 'Establish baseline metrics, and the future goal'. Identify key metrics for the pilot project

The analyst will:

  • Provide an overview of key service support metrics.
  • Discuss and identify key metrics for the pilot project.
  • Define goals and target state.

PHASE 2

Create a Pilot

Step 2.1: Build the project plan

Phase 2:
Create a Pilot
This step will walk you through the following activities:This step involves the following participants:

2.1

Build the project plan
  • 2.1.1 Define pilot objectives, scope, and participants
  • 2.1.2 Create high-level view of pilot project
  • 2.1.3 Identify key stakeholders for the project
  • 2.1.4 Build a contingency plan
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)

2.2

Build a communication strategy

Outcomes

In this step you define and build your Pilot Project Plan, including identifying key stakeholders, defining the purpose and scope of the pilot, and identifying key milestones for the project.

DELIVERABLES
  • Pilot Project Plan

ANALYST PERSPECTIVE

“Pilot projects allow you to see what is on the other side of the fence; they allow you to jump over that fence and feel the new ground beneath your feet. You want to hear, smell, and try it, and feel how it actually works before you make a decision to shift to a new way of doing things.

You can’t just drill a hole in the fence and see what is on the other side. You need to be able to experience it first-hand, to put your feet on the ground, to see if it is shaking, too wet, or too cold, or if it is solid beneath your feet to truly see whether in fact the grass is greener on the other side.” (Igor Ikonnikov, Research Director, Applications, Info-Tech Research Group)

Follow Info-Tech’s pilot project best practices

Don’t confuse a pilot project for a pet project. Formalizing your pilot project, putting it on paper and having key stakeholders sign off, will help ensure it doesn’t become a pet project that easily gets brushed aside.

The importance of timing. Incorrect timing of your pilot can cause further complications (e.g. end of fiscal year). Try not to test two processes at the same time. Furthermore, make sure your pilot is of a long enough duration to see true results (minimum duration should be a few months).

One of the biggest failures is failure to engage with the stakeholders. You need to get buy-in from a large number of people spanning from the system administrators, desktop support teams, security, and potentially your software developers. Engage with the business that the stakeholders support as well.

It's important to establish the success criteria and truly establish the scope of the project. Be sure to have clearly defined goals as well as a process.

Business politics will always be a factor. You need to create a structure so you can get that buy-in and support, and if you have push back at any point you have the documentation to back you up from everyone agreeing to the project in the first place. It empowers you to be able isolate the issues as they arise.

Remember people are humans. Keep it personal and positive. Lead with how it will change their life and people will come back and want to work with you.

Don’t give your project a name. People will form judgements based on their peer group, and the name of the project can taint their perception of it and lead to pre-judgements.

Preserve the integrity of your data by using a structured and scientific approach to your pilot project

Structured Approach

  1. Plan and design the pilot study
  2. Train participants
  3. Support and monitor
  4. Evaluate results
  5. Make recommendations & improve

Scientific Approach

The scientific approach to conducting a pilot study is to:

  1. Measure the current state.
  2. Take measurements after the change is introduced and following the change.
  3. In an ideal state, you will keep a placebo group to compare the changes to, to further quantify your results.

Finding the right sample size

Use the confidence interval approach when possible to estimate your ideal sample size to measure feasibility of the project

Use Info-Tech’s Sample Size Calculator Tool with your desired confidence interval to determine an ideal sample size.

Info-Tech Best Practice

Use a confidence interval of 75-85%. This allows the focus of your statistics to be on estimation, as well as lets you use a smaller sample size. Note: A confidence interval is a range of values, above and below a finding, in which your population value is likely to fall (Lee et al., 2014).

Use Info-Tech’s Pilot Project Plan Template to help you create your program

Supporting Tool icon Pilot Project Plan

Template Overview:

The Pilot Project Plan Template allows you to create your pilot project quickly and document the necessary details involved with designing an effective pilot project.

This template will help you:

  • Establish pilot project goals.
  • Identify key stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities.
  • Define success criteria and evaluation process.
  • Record results.

Use this template to create a central repository of all pilot-related details and as a means to enable easy sharing of the project with key stakeholders to gain buy-in and approval.

Download the Pilot Project Plan Template.

Brainstorm as a team and document

Associated Activity icon 2.1.1 Define the purpose, scope, and the roles and responsibilities

Output: Pilot Project Plan

Participants: Infrastructure Director, Service Desk Manager

Overview:

As a group, brainstorm the overall objective, scope, and candidates for the pilot project.

Instructions:

  1. Define goals.
    • What is the purpose of the project?
    • How will you measure success?
  2. Describe the scope of the pilot project.
    • What are the goals of the project?
    • What will the duration of the pilot be?
    • Where will it be conducted?
    • Who is your target participant group?
  3. Identify key project milestones.
    • What are the key tasks and what is the timeline?

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Create a high-level view of your project plan using a tree diagram

Associated Activity icon 2.1.2 Create a high-level project plan

Materials: Sticky notes, Pens and markers, Flip chart paper

Participants: Infrastructure Director, Service Desk Manager

Overview:

Create a tree diagram for a high-level view of your project plan, being sure to brainstorm key activities and tasks that will need to be completed throughout the process.

Instructions:

Using a whiteboard and different colored sticky notes, as a group, brainstorm and identify:

  1. What is your overall objective?
  2. What are the main activities you will need to accomplish to reach your objective?
  3. What are the key tasks that will need to be completed for each activity?
  4. Keep a copy of your tree diagram in your Pilot Project Plan.
Objective
Activity 1 Activity 2 Activity 3
Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 4 Task 5 Task 6

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Use stakeholder analysis to identify key people to champion the change

You will experience less push back from key stakeholders if you involve them from the beginning and they feel as though they've been heard.

Goal: Create a prioritized list of people who are affected by or can affect your project, and determine how best to communicate with them during the project.

There is no magic list of stakeholders. Key stakeholders will depend on your business, its impacts, and your current engagement objectives; as a result, the list should not remain static.

Outcome: A list of key stakeholders to include in your communication strategy.

Why is a stakeholder analysis essential?

  • Ignoring key stakeholders is one of the most common causes of failed IT service management implementations.
  • Use the opinions of the most influential stakeholders to shape the implementation at an early stage and to secure resources.
  • Communicate with key stakeholders early and often to keep them informed on the benefits of the project.
  • Anticipate key reactions of stakeholders to your project and stay one step ahead to earn their support.
  • Have your stakeholders sign off on the project to create ownership and increase buy-in.

Brainstorm as a group and identify key stakeholders for the project

Associated Activity icon 2.1.3 Identify key stakeholders

Materials: Sticky notes, Pens and markers, Flip chart paper

Participants: Infrastructure Director, Service Desk Manager

Overview:

Brainstorm and identify key stakeholders for each group.

Instructions:

As a group, identify:

  • Key stakeholders, at each level of the organization, for shifting the company culture.
  • Are they a challenger or champion?
  • Additional notes – how can you leverage them/turn them into a champion?
Key Stakeholders
Stakeholder/Group Analysis Results Status Additional Notes
CFO Key Player Potential Challenger Can turn into a supporter by demonstrating current initiative will reduce overall IT costs.
IT Management Leverage as promoter of IT’s capabilities Potential Champion(s) Leverage influence and support to gain consensus on new initiatives.
A+ players Lead by example Potential Champion Leverage your top performers to lead by example and convince naysayers.

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Keep training simple

Do not worry about building a formal training manual before you find your best-fit swarming process.

  • Don’t overthink your training program for your pilot. Make sure you provide participants with information that empowers them to fulfill the roles you want them to, but don’t overcomplicate the process.
  • Conduct half-day to full-day training sessions that incorporate role playing.
  • Use your training sessions to communicate key messages and get your team excited for swarming.
  • Brainstorm as a group how your team wants to approach collaboration (e.g. what tools they think will be effective).
  • Training should be geared at changing behaviors. If you focus on changing behaviors first, the processes will follow.

Things to consider including if you choose to build a training manual:

  1. Pilot objective
  2. Roles and expectations
  3. Process changes
  4. Contact information of key people
  5. Incidents outside the scope of the pilot project

Info-Tech Insight

Keep it simple. Use your already drafted project plan to help build out the content in your training manual to simplify your backend work.

Build a contingency plan to mitigate risk

By identifying possible issues that may arise with each task and an appropriate countermeasure, you will reduce the potential impact of these issues derailing your pilot project.

Objective
Activity 1 Activity 2 Activity 3
Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 4 Task 5 Task 6
Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3 Issue 4 Issue 5
Countermeasure 1 Countermeasure 2

To minimize risks associated with a pilot launch the project team should:

  • Establish clear performance objectives and evaluation criteria.
  • Involve and continually encourage participants to use the system and processes.
  • Expand the pilot through an incremental rollout to other areas of the organization.
  • Continually monitor the effectiveness of the program.

Info-Tech Best Practice

Process decision program charts are a fast and easy way to build a comprehensive contingency plan for your pilot project.

Brainstorm as a group how you will track problems and monitor practices

Associated Activity icon 2.1.5 Build a contingency plan

Materials: Sticky notes, Pens and markers, Flip chart paper

Participants: Infrastructure Director, Service Desk Manager

Overview:

Create a process decision program chart (PDPC) to identify, as a group, possible things that could go wrong upon deployment of the pilot and countermeasures to mitigate risk.

Instructions:

Using sticky notes and the previously built project plan, as a group:

  1. Brainstorm and identify key tasks that need to be completed to achieve the activity in the deployment of the pilot.
  2. For each task, identify potential issues that could occur.
  3. Review all potential issues and eliminate any with an X that are improbable or whose consequence would be insignificant.
  4. For each remaining potential issue, brainstorm a countermeasure or workaround.
  5. Discuss the proposed countermeasures and rank how practical each countermeasure is to solve the potential problem.

Keep a copy of your PDPC in your Pilot Project Plan.

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Step 2.2: Build a communication strategy

Phase 2:
Create a Pilot
This step will walk you through the following activities:This step involves the following participants:

2.1

Build the project plan
  • 2.2.1 Build a communication strategy for the project
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)
  • Representation from tier 2 and tier 3 specialists

2.2

Build a communication strategy

Outcomes

Communication plays an integral role in the success of any pilot project. By building a clear communication strategy, which outlines key messages and when they will be delivered from the beginning to very end of your pilot, you will set yourself up for success.

DELIVERABLES
  • Communication Strategy

ANALYST PERSPECTIVE

Any time you are considering changing a process or launching a new project, it is vital to get feedback from stakeholders and genuinely listen to their concerns.

“You are building a champion by giving stakeholders an opportunity to voice concerns and getting them to buy into what you are doing. By addressing their concerns and questions – you build a champion out of them.
When you build a champion, you create a team. Be heard, but hear others. You need to acknowledge what they are saying as interesting and valuable and to try to incorporate it where it is applicable.”
(John Wethington, Senior Director, Security, Info-Tech Research Group)

A strategy saves time

A communication strategy is not the same as a communication plan. A communication strategy is a thoughtful and synergistic approach to sharing information amongst employees within an organization, anchored in the business strategy, mission, and vision of the organization.

A large arrow with multiple steps written throughout. On top, multiple small arrows jump from step to step and it's labelled 'With a strategy'. On bottom, one long arrow jumps straight from the first step to the final step and it's labelled 'Without a strategy...Every single time!' The 'Steps to producing effective communications:' in order are 'Get stakeholders on board', 'Assess the current state of communications', 'Assess the needs of the audience', 'Develop message goals and outcomes', 'Choose effective mediums to convey messages', 'Create plan to collect feedback', then highlighted at the end are 'Create plan and specific content to deliver message' and 'Communicate messages'.

Don't underestimate the importance of communication

Employees will become less resistant and more likely to accept and execute your decision if you share the rationale for your decision.

Why it's important:

Decreases resistance to change:

  • When senior leaders inform employees by sharing the rationale for a decision, it makes employees more likely to accept the decision and carry it out.

Builds trust:

  • Senior leaders model transparency when they provide the rationale for decisions, and this is a vital step toward building trust.

Demonstrates respect:

  • Senior leaders who involve employees by showing that they have thought about the impact of decisions on employees and their work processes demonstrate respect for employees’ work experience and gain their trust.

Prevents misunderstanding:

  • Clear communication regarding rationale for decisions from senior leaders prevents the “broken telephone” effect where information becomes distorted and inaccurate by the time it reaches employees.

Employ key communication tactics to make change easier on your team and get them excited for it

  1. Lead with a strong pitch. It’s important to have a persuasive “pitch” prepared for your team about shift-left that answers key questions:
    • Why it is happening
    • How it will impact the business and them
    • Key goals and objectives
    • What the timeline and roadmap look like
  2. Get buy-in from the top down. Think of buy-in like a river: you want to get buy-in from the top first so it will trickle down. Gaining support from leaders at different levels will make your pitch stronger and ensure managers have time to prepare for questions.
  3. Be transparent. Communication is a key factor in ameliorating fears and gossip. Be open and honest early on and often.
  4. Ask for feedback along the way. It’s important for employees to know their feedback and ideas are being heard. Ensure your change plan includes a process for gathering input and feedback and you keep lines of communication open between management and employees.
  5. Set the right expectations. Make sure you don't say the pilot must be successful; regardless of the results, the pilot will be successful because it will teach you which approach works best for your company.

Info-Tech Insight

Timing is everything. At the beginning, you want to control communications and communicate only to people directly impacted by the pilot, to reduce bias. At the end, you want to communicate openly and widely the findings of the pilot project.

Identify the messages for each of your stakeholders

Why:
  • What problems are you trying to solve?
What:
  • What processes will it affect (that will affect me)?
Who:
  • Who will be affected?
  • Who do I go to if I have issues with the new process?
Three circular arrows each linking the next in a downward daisy chain. The top arrow has 'Management' in the middle, the second 'IT Team', and the third 'End Users' When:
  • When will this be happening?
  • When will it affect me?
How:
  • How will these changes manifest themselves?
Goal:
  • What is the final goal?
  • How will it benefit me?

Info-Tech Best Practice

Use the “Rule of Two” in your communications. Communicate with pilot sponsors once a month, stakeholders every two weeks, your core team once a week, and your direct management team should be kept in the loop the entire time and communicated with before anyone else.

Use our template to capture your communication strategy

Supporting Tool icon 2.2.1 Build a communication strategy.

Overview:

Use our Communications Strategy Template to build your communication plan with targeted messages to key audiences.

Instructions:

  1. Identify stakeholders affected by the project.
  2. Craft key messages tailored to each stakeholder group.
  3. Finalize the communication strategy. Assess when communications must happen with executives, business unit leaders, end users, and technicians.
    • Identify common questions and strategic responses.
    • Identify who will send out the communications.
    • Identify multiple methods for getting the messages out (newsletters, emails, posters, meetings).

Download the Communication Strategy Template.

Document in Communication Strategy.

If you want additional support, have our analysts guide you through this phase as part of an Info-Tech Workshop Associated Activity icon

Book a workshop with our Info-Tech analysts:

Photo of an Info-Tech analyst.
  • To accelerate this project, engage your IT team in an Info-Tech workshop with an Info-Tech analyst team.
  • Info-Tech analyst will join you and your team onsite at your location or welcome you to Info-Tech's historic Toronto office to participate in an innovative onsite workshop.
  • Contact your account manager (www.infotech.com/account), or email Workshops@InfoTech.com for more information.

The following are sample activities that will be conducted by Info-Tech analysts with your team:

2.1.2

Sample of activity 2.1.2 'Create a high-level view of your project plan using a tree diagram'.Create a high-level project plan

The analyst will:

  • Identify overall objective of the pilot project.
  • Discuss and document main activities to be accomplished.
  • Highlight key tasks that need to be completed for each activity.

2.1.4

Sample of activity 2.1.5 'Brainstorm as a group how you will track problems and monitor practices'.Create a contingency plan

The analyst will:

  • Identify potential issues that may occur.
  • Brainstorm possible countermeasures.
  • Evaluate proposed countermeasures and document the key ones.

PHASE 3

Build a Process

Step 3.1: Design swarming processes

Phase 3:
Build a process
This step will walk you through the following activities:This step involves the following participants:

3.1

Design swarming processes
  • 3.1.1 Define swarming process
  • 3.1.2 Assess and flag recurring tickets for swarming
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)

3.2

Create an evaluation plan

3.3

Review support best practices

Outcomes

In this step you define and build the swarming process for your pilot project, including ticket handling guidelines and the collaboration tools to be used to facilitate swarming.

DELIVERABLES
  • Pilot Project Plan

Swarming is not a linear process and every company approaches it differently

Follow Info-Tech’s best practices and review how others approach swarming to guide you in building your own processes.

Do not overcomplicate the process to begin with; you can refine it as you go.

  • Swarming starts as soon as an issue is not solvable at the point of customer contact.
  • Get the work to the right person.
  • Use a field in the ticketing system to broadcast a question or request for collaboration.
  • Connect that person to other smart people.
  • Capture what they are doing.
  • Support and monitor the project as you go.
  • Flexibility and adaptability are key – trust your team to find the best fit of swarming for them.

“It’s about setting guard rails and guidelines, not rules. You want people to be able to make great decisions and be flexible in a swarming situation. This is not an advisory board, it is a dynamic and network-based way of working.” (Jon Hall, BMC Software)

Info-Tech Best Practice

Make sure you align all new processes to industry best practices and company standards. Meet with your pilot team to discuss what is working and make adjustments as needed.

Set clear ticket handling expectations to drive a consistent process

Set expectations

Create and update tickets, but not at the expense of good customer service. Agents can start the ticket, but shouldn’t spend five minutes creating the ticket when they should be troubleshooting the problem.

Update the ticket when the issue is resolved or needs to be escalated. If agents are escalating, they should make sure all relevant information is passed along to the next technician.

Update user of ETA if issue cannot be resolved quickly.

Ticket templates for common incidents can lead to fast creation, data input, and categorizations. Templates can reduce the time it takes to create tickets from 2 minutes to 30 seconds.

Update categories to reflect the actual issue and resolution.

Reference knowledgebase article or document steps taken to resolve the incident.

Confirm incident is resolved with end user either through the end user closing the ticket when they are satisfied with the resolution or through end-user feedback surveys

Close or resolve the ticket on time by having alerts automated when you are nearing SLA cutoff.

Flag the most disruptive and recurring incidents as candidates for swarming to reduce ticket volume

Associated Activity icon 1.4.2 Assess and flag recurring tickets for swarming

Participants: Service Desk Manager, Service Desk Agents

What You'll Need: Flip chart, Whiteboard

  1. Build a list of recurring issues and known errors.
  2. Assess which ones are the most disruptive and costly to the business.
    • Identify impact on users, clients, and other departments (number of tickets, time to resolve, departments affected).
    • Identify impact on technicians (number of tickets, time to resolve or apply workaround).
  3. Discuss possible fixes. Prioritize high-impact issues and issues that can be resolved quickly
  4. Note recurring issues and known errors that will not be resolved. Set the list aside for the knowledgebase discussions.
Error Impact Options
ERP Invoicing Invoice PDFs not saving correctly
  • Occurs 3-4 times per month; 4 hours to fix.
  • Server needs reboot half the time to solve.
  • Results in 2 hours overtime for accounting person to catch up each time.
  • All of Accounting affected during reboot.
  • Can Martin fix?
  • Vendor escalation?
  • What will it cost?

How IBM approached swarming in the beginning

Started simple using existing collaboration tools.

  • Whenever there was an issue the person would go to group chat saying “I have an issue.”

Started a collaboration telephone bridge.

  • Kept it open all day long.
  • Whenever a complicated ticket came in, analysts would call into the bridge and determine who had the expertise to help them out.
  • Group discussion would follow where ideas were generated on the best way to solve the ticket.

If required, the analyst reaches out to end user to get more information.

The analyst who owns the ticket closes it and documents any acquired skills into a knowledgebase article.

Transitioned to using Slack collaboration tool.

  • Along with WebEx and the conference bridge when necessary.

Created “Squads.”

  • Small areas of expertise, which have scrums 1-2x a week.
  • Squads come in with current issues and identify what areas require expertise and make sure they are getting the help they need.

IBM Insights

  • Involve your people when you are creating the processes and operation manual.
  • Let your people sign up for areas they are either confident in or passionate about learning new skills.
  • Your knowledgebase is key – make sure that in any areas that have limited knowledge, time is spent to build up the knowledgebase.
  • Use existing collaboration tools.

Ultimate Software reduced its resolution time by 60% within the first year of implementing swarming

CASE STUDY

Industry: Software
Source: Ultimate Software

Challenge

Ultimate Software is a leading provider of cloud-based human capital management solutions.

Have a “people first” philosophy to service support and offer services at no extra charge to end users, including a dedicated account manager, 24-7 phone and online support, and unlimited training.

Ultimate Software recognized a gap in being able to provide a great customer experience with the traditional tiered approach.

End users were frustrated with frequent escalations, having to explain their issue repeatedly to different agents, and long resolution times.

Solution

In 2015, Ultimate Software saw room for growth by converting to a collaborative support model and collapsing its tiers.

Adopted a collaborative approach designed to “swarm” each customer inquiry.

The approach provides the customer with one centralized point of contact and eliminates the traditional ping-pong effect of tickets being bounced around.

The swarm is composed of specialists and different subject-matter experts who work together to solve the customer inquiries quickly.

Results

In 2016, Ultimate Software received wide spread recognition for its customer service, including:

  • “Best Customer Service Department of the Year” (Network Product Guide’s 2016 IT World Awards)
  • “Support Department of the Year” (Best in Biz Awards 2016)
  • TSIA STAR Award for Innovation in the Transformation of Support Services

Decreased resolution time by 60%.

97% customer retention rate.

95% customer satisfaction score.

Only create workflows if you deem them absolutely necessary

Swarming is a non-linear process, making process workflow construction time consuming and challenging. Even worse, workflows can limit your pilot team’s autonomy and ability to creatively collaborate and may impact the overall effectiveness of your pilot.

A 'Sample Swarming Incident Management Workflow' that starts with 'Customer Ticket' and branches into multiple different flow step options all ending in 'Close Ticket'.

Consider adopting a knowledge-centered approach to improve knowledge management

The knowledge-centered support follows a continuous loop of capturing, structuring, and reusing knowledge.

  1. Capture Knowledge
    Have your team write articles from the customer’s perspective, making information relevant and easily accessible to your end users
  2. Structure Knowledge
    Promote consistency by having your technicians use a template when writing new articles
  3. Reuse Knowledge
    Technicians should search for relevant knowledgebase articles with every ticket, adding a link to the relevant article when possible.
  4. Improve Knowledge
    As technicians reuse articles they should be reviewing them for improvements, flagging them, fixing them, and then publishing the improved version.
  5. Monitor Knowledge
    You can improve the quality of your knowledgebase by measuring how effective each existing article is and focusing resources on your most high-demand articles.

A continuous loop of 'Capture', 'Structure', and 'Reuse'.

Info-Tech Insight

Your knowledgebase can make our break your pilot project. A comprehensive, up-to-date knowledgebase is integral to your team successfully being able to collaborate. (Source: Zorah, 2014)

Leverage existing collaboration platforms and utilize them, don’t try and build new ones

Collaboration Tool Requirements

Tool must allow pilot participants to:

  • See incidents, cases, and work that is relevant to them.
  • Request help (raise their hand).
  • View open requests for help and aged requests.
  • Respond to others requests for help.
  • View others’ availability status.
  • Ask specific people or groups questions.
  • Join existing groups.
  • Create separate collaboration spaces to swarm with others and work on requests.

“I don’t care so much about how many places collaboration occurs, but more about that there is accountability and visibility.” (Koree Mires, Cisco)

Collaboration tools companies are using for swarming:

  • Skype
  • slack
  • Microsoft Teams
  • salesforce
  • Cisco Jabber
  • Cisco webex
  • Jira Software

Brainstorm and document, as a group, swarming practices

Associated Activity icon 3.1.1 Define swarming process

Materials: Pens and markers, Flip chart paper

Participants: Infrastructure Director, Service Desk Manager

Overview:

Brainstorm and document key swarming processes you want the pilot project participants to use.

Instructions:

  1. How will ticket handling change with swarming?
  2. Are there ticket exceptions that you don’t want the swarm to handle (e.g. critical incidents)?
  3. If needed, draft an incident and service request workflow.
  4. Discuss and document the structure of your swarming:
    • How many people in a swarm?
    • How often will they meet?
    • What collaboration tools will they use?
    • Will their roles and responsibilities change? If so, document.
    • Who will their contact be for questions and concerns?

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Step 3.2: Create an evaluation plan

Phase 3:
Build a process
This step will walk you through the following activities:This step involves the following participants:

3.1

Design swarming processes
  • 3.2.1 Create an evaluation plan
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)

3.2

Create an evaluation plan

3.3

Review support best practices

Outcomes

In this step you define and build your evaluation process for the pilot project.

DELIVERABLES
  • Evaluation Plan in the Pilot Project Plan

Incorporate evaluation best practices into data collection management

Track the same data across the duration of the pilot project to keep the stakeholders and participants informed.

Collect both quantitative and qualitative data:

Quantitative
  • Key metrics and reports
  • Collaboration score
  • End-user surveys
Qualitative
  • Participant surveys
  • Debriefing interviews
  • Focus group sessions

Build feedback practices to give you a true understanding of how the pilot is working:

  • Daily feedback is a critical component when conducting a pilot project to discuss what is working and what is not, and make adjustments as needed.

As the project nears completion:

  1. The number of tickets should decrease.
  2. Percentage of calls resolved at first contact and at Tier 1 should increase.
  3. Average time to resolve and escalate an incident should decrease.

“Feedback is just as important as the delivery and integration – 80% of the work you do is on maintenance work and we need to make sure we get that aligned as well.” (Andrew Kum-Seun, Info-Tech)

Info-Tech Best Practice

Schedule time weekly to collect data. Collecting data at regular intervals allows you to properly monitor the progress of the pilot project and make adjustments as needed.

Use surveys with participants and end users to gain valuable insights into your progress

A simple quantitative survey at the closing of a ticket can alert you to any potential issues with the swarming pilot project and potential areas for improvement.

An example of a simple quantitative survey. There is a section to 'Please rate your satisfaction with the way your issue was handled (1=unsatisfactory, 5=fantastic)'. If the select 1 or 2 'Escalate these results to the service desk manager for immediate follow-up'. There is also an open text section for 'Comments'.

If a more complex survey is required, you may wish to include some of these questions:

  • The professionalism of the analyst
  • The technical skills or knowledge of the analyst
  • The timeliness of the service provided
  • The overall service experience

Add an open-ended, qualitative question to put the number in context, and solicit critical feedback:

What could the service desk have done to improve your experience?

Best Practices

  • Use Likert (rating) scales when possible to quantify and simplify.
  • Assess whether each question gives an adequate range of responses.
  • Administer the questionnaire to participants in exactly the same way.
  • Ask participants for feedback regarding ambiguity and difficult questions.
  • Discard all unnecessary, difficult, or ambiguous questions.
  • Check to ensure all questions are answered.
  • (Source: Teijlingen et al., 2002)

Info-Tech Insight

Environment and time of day can impact your data. To improve internal validity be sure to administer the questionnaire to all participants in exactly the same manner. For example, all participants have ten minutes, alone in a quiet room, prior to lunch.

Define the feedback and evaluation process to ensure implementation and adoption are on track

Associated Activity icon 3.2.1 Create an evaluation plan

Output: Evaluation Plan in the Pilot Project Plan

Participants: Infrastructure Manager, Service Desk Manager

Overview:

Define how and when the success of the project will be tracked and evaluated.

Instructions:

  1. Identify frequency of data collection.
  2. Ensure there is immediate follow-up on communications and training to:
    • Validate people’s acquisition of required knowledge and skills.
    • Identify emerging/unforeseen challenges and opportunities.
  3. How will you incorporate employee feedback into the program?
    • Will surveys be sent out each quarter?
  4. Document your data collection plan.

Download the Pilot Project Plan

Document in Pilot Project Plan

Follow these guidelines when interpreting and documenting findings

Even the most successful pilot project can be rendered useless if the findings aren’t interpreted with care and caution.

When interpreting and documenting findings, include:

  • Objectives
  • Methods
  • Estimated effects
  • Measures of variability (e.g. confidence intervals)
  • Effectiveness of interventions
  • Feasibility of the project moving forward
  • Lessons that have been learned and will be informative in planning subsequent studies

Avoid:

  • Claiming statistical significance
  • Over-asserting findings
  • Presenting biased results that favor your desired outcome
  • (Source: Moore et al., 2011)

Conclude your findings with one of the following:

  1. Swarming is not feasible at your organization at this time.
  2. Swarming is feasible, but requires adjustments to the process.
  3. Swarming is feasible, without adjustments to the process.
  4. Swarming is feasible, with close monitoring.

Clearly outline any recommended changes and findings in your debrief and/or proposal.

Info-Tech Insight

There is no such thing as bad results. Even if your results indicate swarming is not feasible, the project is still a success because you avoided wasting valuable resources deploying a larger project that would yield undesirable results.

Step 3.3: Create your support plan

Phase 3:
Build a process
This step will help you build your support initiative.This step involves the following participants:

3.1

Design swarming processes
  • Project Sponsor
  • IT Director, CIO
  • IT Managers and Service Desk Manager(s)

3.2

Create an evaluation plan

3.3

Review support best practices

Outcomes

In this step you are given the tools and best practices to support your pilot project moving forward, and determine next steps.

DELIVERABLES
  • Support best practices

Equip senior leaders to understand and own their impact in the success of the pilot project

By leveraging insights from neuroscience and psychology, senior leaders can combat resistance to change and motivate their team to reach their desired state.

Trust is crucial

Social tension elicits a threat response, cutting off access to the executive function of the prefrontal cortex, which drives creativity. Building trust and a sense of safety is therefore key in driving employee productivity (Giles).

Change is challenging

Being faced with change elicits a threat response in the amygdala that reduces blood flow to the brain, reducing one’s ability to generate new ideas and making our opinions rigid (Giles).

Connection matters

A sense of belonging activates the limbic brain, which is required to allow higher brain functioning (Giles). This makes fostering connection from the top down an important part of organizational strategy.

Help senior leaders own their impact:

  • Reduce resistance to change by framing the change positively and focusing on and being transparent in communication.
  • Don’t be discouraged with the data, use it as motivation to continue to build trust within the organization.
  • Emphasize future positive change and provide specific actions to improve.

Info-Tech Insight

Leverage basic neuroscience and psychology insights to target the root cause of resistance and get your team motivated to spearhead the pilot project.

Build ongoing support practices to ensure the success of your pilot project

Employee attitudes are greatly impacted by senior leadership

A bar chart comparing employee attitudes 'With Leadership Commitment and Support' and 'Without Leadership Commitment and Support'. 'Motivated to do their best' is 91% with and 38% without. 'Satisfied with their job' is 91% with and 30% without. 'Have a positive relationship with supervisor' is 91% with and 54% without. 'Would recommend the organization' is 89% with and 17% without. (Source: American Psychological Association, 2016)

Forms of Support:

Feedback Sessions

Hold daily feedback sessions to take a deeper dive into how the pilot project is going, address any ongoing concerns, and get feedback from the team on what adjustments can be made.

One-on-Ones

Hold regular (weekly or monthly) one-on-one sessions with your pilot participants to give them an opportunity to express how they’re feeling in private and address any concerns they are having.

Daily Check-ins

Have a quick meeting or huddle each morning to check in with the pilot project participants to see what is working and what is coming down the turnpike and make adjustments as needed.

Celebrate Successes

Celebrate successes regularly by presenting your team with key metrics and data on how the pilot project is going and highlighting key performers.

Info-Tech Best Practice

Make time for daily 15-minute feedback sessions with your pilot team to discuss what is working and make adjustments as needed.

Don’t let temporary drops in participant support derail your efforts

Change curve:

  1. Honeymoon of “Uninformed Optimism”: Tentative support and enthusiasm for change before people have really felt or understood what it involves.
  2. Backlash of “Informed Pessimism” (leading to “Valley of Despair”): People realize they’ve overestimated the benefits (or how soon they’ll be achieved) and underestimated the difficulty of change.
  3. Valley of Despair and beginning of “Hopeful Realism”: Sentiment bottoms out and people begin to accept the difficulty (or inevitability) of change.
  4. Bounce of “Informed Optimism”: More optimism and support when people begin to see bright spots and early successes.
  5. Contentment of “Completion”: Change has been successfully adopted and benefits are being realized.
  6. (Source: Based on Don Kelley and Daryl Conner’s Emotional Cycle of Change, qtd. by Mind Tools)

Info-Tech Insight

By communicating to your team and stakeholders that highs and lows are a normal part of the change process, you can reduce resistance and pushback when you fall in the lower parts of the change curve.

Debriefing is an integral part to your evaluation and moving forward

Debriefing Agenda:

  1. Organize IT project lead observation and debriefing sessions.
  2. Hold debriefing sessions with the participants of the pilot project.
  3. Communicate results of the pilot project with the entire organization.
  4. Based on the pilot results, develop a proposal to obtain future funding.

Info-Tech Best Practice

Use a neutral response to comments. Be careful of how you respond to feedback and comments from debriefing session participants as you could not only create interviewer bias, but you may alienate participants with dissenting opinions and lose valuable knowledge.

If you want additional support, have our analysts guide you through this phase as part of an Info-Tech Workshop Associated Activity icon

Book a workshop with our Info-Tech analysts:

Photo of an Info-Tech analyst.
  • To accelerate this project, engage your IT team in an Info-Tech workshop with an Info-Tech analyst team.
  • Info-Tech analyst will join you and your team onsite at your location or welcome you to Info-Tech's historic Toronto office to participate in an innovative onsite workshop.
  • Contact your account manager (www.infotech.com/account), or email Workshops@InfoTech.com for more information.

The following are sample activities that will be conducted by Info-Tech analysts with your team:

3.1.1

Sample of activity 3.1.1 'Brainstorm and document as a group swarming practices'.Build swarming processes

The analyst will:

  • Review swarming best practices.
  • Build incident and service request workflows.
  • Define the structure of swarming.

3.2.1

Sample of activity 3.2.2 'Define the feedback and evaluation process to ensure implementation and adoption are on track'.Document feedback and evaluation process

The analyst will:

  • Review best practices for data collection.
  • Build a data collection process.

Bibliography

“2016 State of DevOps Report.” Puppet Labs, 2016. Web.

“Cisco Systems Inc. Market Cap: 205.12B for Nov. 14, 2018.” YCharts, 14 Nov. 2018. Web.

Dodd, Julie. “Collaborative Support: The Ultimate Difference in Service.” Ultimate Software Blog, 6 Jan. 2017. Web.

Giles, Sunnie. “The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World.” Harvard Business Review, 15 March 2016. Web.

Hall, Jon. “ITSM, DevOps, and why three-tier support should be replaced with Swarming.” Medium.com, 16 Dec. 2016. Web.

“Kelley and Conner's Emotional Cycle of Change.” Mind Tools. n.d. Web.

Malone, Thomas. "Will collective intelligence change how we work?" MIT Sloan Executive Education, 3 Apr. 2016. Web.

Lee, Ellen, A. Whitehead, R. Jacques, S. Julious. “The statistical interpretation of pilot trials: should significance thresholds be reconsidered?” BMC Medical Research Methodology, 2014. Web.

Moore, Charity G., R. Carter , P. Nietert, and P. Stewart. “Recommendations for Planning Pilot Studies in Clinical and Translational Research.” CTS Journal, 2011. Web.

“State of the IT Skills Gap: Full Report.” CompTIA.org, Feb. 2012. Web.

“Swarming: Considerations for Starting Out.” Consortium for Service Innovation. n.d. Web.

“Intelligent Swarming: Collaboration on Steroids” Consortium for Service Innovation. n.d. Web.

“Intelligent Swarming” Consortium for Service Innovation n.d. Web

Teijlingen, Edwin, R., and V. Hundley. “The Importance of Pilot Studies.” Nursing standard (Royal College of Nursing (Great Britain): 1987). 16. 33-6. June 2002. Web.

Zorah, Sarah. “Get your team started with knowledge-centered support.” Atlassian Blog, 12 Nov. 2014. Web.

Research contributors and experts

Photo of Greg Oxton, Facilitator & Executive Director, Consortium Service Innovation Greg Oxton, Facilitator & Executive Director
Consortium Service Innovation

Greg Oxton is the executive director of the Consortium for Service Innovation, a nonprofit alliance of customer support organizations that develop innovative ways to address the challenges of customer service and support. Before joining the Consortium, Greg held management positions in customer service, operations, planning, support strategy, at IBM, N.E.T., and Tandem Computers.

Photo of Jon Hall, Principal Product Manager, BMC Software Jon Hall, Principal Product Manager
BMC Software

Jon Hall is a principal product manager in the BMC Remedy ITSM Product Management team at BMC Software, focused primarily on the evolving toolset marketplace and innovative new solutions for service. He has 18 years of experience in ITSM.

Photo of James Karioki, Senior Manager Advanced Problem Determination & Technical Support Manager, IBM James Karioki, Senior Manager Advanced Problem Determination & Technical Support Manager
IBM

James Karioki is the senior manager of advanced problem determination and technical support manager at IBM, with over 10 years experience in the field. James contributed to increasing customer satisfaction and driving process improvements at IBM by helping transition service support to a collaborative model, and he has written numerous articles on collaborative support on LinkedIn.

Photo of Koree Mires, Senior Business Operations Manager, Cisco Koree Mires, Senior Business Operations Manager
Cisco

Koree Mires is a senior business operation manager at Cisco with over 18 years experience working at the company. With extensive experience in strategy development and working in a cross-functional setting, he has been a champion in improving processes, developing strategies, and helping shift Cisco to a collaborative service support model.

Photo of Paul Dooley, Author & Certified ITIL, HDI, and ITSM Instructor Paul Dooley, Author & Certified ITIL, HDI, and ITSM Instructor

Paul Dooley has over 30 years experience in IT services and support and over 15 years as a certified ITIL and HDI instructor. Paul is currently the president and principal consultant at Optimal Connections, LLC which delivers IT service and support training to business and organizations.

Photo of Adam Maino, Director of Support, North America APAC at FinancialForce Adam Maino, Director of Support
North America APAC at FinancialForce

Adam Maino has over 18 years working in technology, in the tech sector and Finance. Adam was the project manager for implementing intelligent swarming at FinancialForce and championed and mentored Tier 2 analysts and product managers in adopting the KCS project and collaboration.

Photo of Judith Platz, Vice President, Support Services Research, Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) Judith Platz, Vice President, Support Services Research, Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA)

Judith Platz is the vice president of support services research for TSIA, working with support services members to streamline their processes and workforce in order to operate more efficiently and become more customer service focused.

Blank photo Eric Ohnemus, Director of Customer Satisfaction
Genuine Parts Company

Eric Ohnemus is the director of customer satisfaction at Genuine Parts Company and has over 17 years experience in the industry. Eric chose to implement swarming practices to bring the development team to the front line and support DevOps.

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Author

Dianna Bradley

Contributors

  • Greg Oxton, Executive Director, Consortium Service Innovation
  • James Karioki, Senior Manager Advanced Problem Determination and Technical Support Manager, IBM
  • Jon Hall, Principal Product Manager, BMC Software
  • Koree Mires, Senior Business Operations Manager, Cisco
  • Paul Dooley, Author and Certified ITIL, HDI, and ITSM Instructor
  • Adam Maino, Director of Support, North America APAC at FinancialForce
  • Judith Platz, Vice President, Support Services Research, TSIA
  • Eric Ohnemus, Director of Customer Satisfaction, Genuine Parts Company
  • 7 anonymous company contributors
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