The Punishing Cost Of IT Support

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While this blog generally focuses on issues relating to employee training, looking at how to best bridge the gap between training and performance proficiency. I’d like to talk a bit about the “beyond training” big picture.  There is of course always a healthy discussion of training costs, as well as how to best determine the ROI of employee training.  Yet let’s take a step further back, in order to give context as to how costly it is to NOT invest wisely in equipping employees with both the knowledge and skills they need in order to perform well. With that in mind, I wanted to dissect the cost of IT support.  Just how expensive is it for your helpdesk team to assist employees when they have issues operating the organization’s enterprise software or website.  I should point out, that I realize that IT support also covers technical problems in the software or network itself unrelated to training and employee performance, and these numbers will reflect that, but I am focusing on the assistance in performing common (or complex) software actions. Coworkers No Longer a Secret The overall costs of running a company are not low, and that is no longer a secret to any business owner nowadays: however, how many of us have asked ourselves about the per employee costs of IT support services? The hidden staffing costs should not be neglected either, and IT support services are essential nowadays. Nonetheless, the research to determine the cost on a per-employee basis is not that simple and it cannot be determined only with simply a handful of phone calls, given the wealth of variables that must be taken into account. For instance, 7-8 years ago one could easily purchase an all-inclusive package from managed service providers for as low as $50, although the price could easily exceed $100 as well. Nonetheless, the times have changed and so did the services, and all inclusive no longer includes everything. As a matter of fact, if you take a closer look at today’s “all inclusive” packages you will easily realize that the list of the items that are not included is considerably longer than the list of the items that are included, and to what cost? In addition to this, another factor that has a tremendous impact on the per employee cost of IT support services is the overall number of employees in the company along with the number of end-user devices (such as notebooks or smartphones), on-premise and off-premise servers as well as the type of applications used by the end-users. At the same time, the number of employees who work in a conventional office space should not be neglected either. Another aspect that determines the price is whether the IT support services are outsourced or they are based on an in-house IT staff (or a combination of these two, for that matter, as it is commonly used these days). Moreover, when it comes to an IT company you must also pay attention to the overall number of employees who work in a conventional office space as opposed to those who offer on-site support or remote workers, given the fact that in this case, the overall costs would also include the cost of living which can depend greatly in the rural areas and the urban and metro areas. On the other hand, consumerization is another important aspect that should not be neglected, in spite of its numerous long term benefits. In terms of helpdesk assistance, it’s a fact of life in organizations of all sizes that employees often to the IT people for help, beyond technical problems.  Rather, whether it be in a large law firm, tech company, bank, or a smaller business, the helpdesk is asked to provide real-time assistance in performing complex online tasks, even on a repetitive basis.  The frustrating aspect of this is of course is that while the employee is waiting for assistance, he/she is unable to perform his/her required work. All these are only some of the variables that need to be taken into account when determining the per-employee cost of IT services, this is why one cannot get an accurate estimation only with a phone call. These are factors and variables that can easily change: moreover, another important aspect is whether the company in question offers comprehensive IT support services within a modern or a traditional business dark Performance Support is More Cost-Effective So where does this all leave us?  The costs of IT support, in particular for small companies but not limited to them, can be truly punishing.  With work almost entirely computerized nowadays, and with cloud computing and  mobile technology accelerating that process even more, IT support costs have increased dramatically over the last decade or so. From the perspective of employee training, it’s a source of frustration due to the fact that companies need their employees to work fast, efficiently, and without interruption.  Yet, due to the limited capabilities of traditional employee training, the diversity of technical foreknowledge of employees within an organization, and the ultimate (and natural) need for assistance – in particular in the immediate period after the initial training sessions end – the flow of work takes a while to be as smooth as managers would like. Therefore, I’ll suggest what I have a lot recently, that of an investment in continuous performance support technology, which will aid employees within the flow of work, providing direct and relevant assistance without them having to leave their desk. WalkMe is a great tool in this regard.  The software empowers managers to overlay detailed step-by-step instructions on the screen of any enterprise software or website, in order to help employees perform even the most complex tasks.  It provides a more cost-effective alternative to asking for IT assistance for non-technical problems (it answers the “how do I do this…” question).  Furthermore, WalkMe also cuts down the time and costs for training itself, as it shifts more of the focus to continuous learning, enabling the employees to learn within the flow of work, and when the need it the most. Immediate, specific, and consistent help that will free up your IT staff to focus on the real technical issues, and not have to act as de facto trainers, and will make the cost of IT support a little more bearable.  
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog