How would you describe your IT Support Organization when a critical problem occurs – like with a mission critical business application or server?
Better yet, how would your clients (non-IT managers and employees of your company) describe your support organization when a major mishap occurs?
Would they say your organization is highly organized, knows exactly what to do, and takes care of the problem proactively and efficiently?
Or, would they say your organization looks a bit like the “Keystone Cops”?
You may be a bit young to know who the Keystone Cops were. In essence, it was a very early silent film cartoon series of a group of incompetent policemen who scurried around like “chickens with their heads cut off” trying to chase the bad guys. They did virtually everything but capture the crooks, ultimately succeeding almost by accident than by efficiency. Charlie Chaplin did a cameo appearance as a Keystone Cop in 1914.
To respond to catastrophes efficiently and in an organized way, you need an escalation procedure that takes your team step by step to identify, diagnose and troubleshoot the problem. It’s about preparing for “what might happen” and organizing your support to take care of it in the event it actually does happen.
When thinking about escalation procedures, the first thing you want to do is identify the potential situations where you might need an escalation procedure. There are dozens if not hundreds so what I like to do is to target key support areas and make one of my staff the “expert”. Let’s use e-mail as an example.
The staff member who is assigned to be our “e-mail expert” has three key responsibilities in regards to e-mail support.
- He or she is the knowledge expert on the topic of e-mail, , , the “go to person” for e-mail support. I don’t expect this employee to know everything there is to know about e-mail, but I do expect the expert to know where to go to get answers to issues and to develop outside resources to help in times of need. Being my e-mail expert means “you own e-mail”.
- My expert needs to help us develop more experts. We will identify 2 or 3 more people to become e-mail experts so we have backup and depth. Our primary expert will develop with me a curriculum to target appropriate training to develop our expert candidates and will be responsible for making it happen.
- I want my expert to develop escalation procedures for his “expert area”, , , in this case, e-mail. I’ll ask the expert to identify things that can go wrong with e-mail and we will target the situations that we think need escalation procedures. Then, we will ask the expert to draft the escalation procedures so we can fine tune them as a support team before putting them into place.
When you target mission critical support issues, assign specific staff to be the expert for each area, and expect them to take care of the three responsibilities listed above. It will help you support your business better.
One recommendation is to take the escalation procedures developed by each of your experts and put them into an Escalation Manual. Share this documentation with your IT support team and maintain a copy at the Help Desk so they can initiate the escalation steps as soon as a critical problem occurs. Be sure to train key staff on the procedures so they fully understand what to do when problems occur.
Escalation procedures do not need to be complex. Keep them simple and to the point so they are easy to follow.
Download the Escalation Procedure template I use and take a look at the sample escalation procedure for “Loss of Connectivity” where we define the steps to take when a remote office drops a telecommunications circuit and loses connectivity with our Data Center servers.