The Modern IT Manager’s Tech Stack: Supporting Your End Users

Any IT professional will tell you that the IT industry is ever-changing. Every decade or so, advancements in technology allow for new innovations that cause a visible, and sometimes radical, shift in the direction of the overall industry. One of the most recent industry-shifting technological advancements has come with the emergence of cloud computing solutions like Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS. There is a direct correlation between the availability of these types of services and the predominance of the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model.

Software as a Service

The concept of SaaS originated way back in the 1960’s at IBM. IBM conducted a service bureau business that offered database storage and computing power to large organizations. This eventually evolved into the emergence of Application Service Providers (ASP) which was facilitated by the expansion of the internet in the 1990’s. ASPs provided organizations with hosting and management services for specialized business applications, and the goal was to reduce client costs through centralized administration and domain knowledge gathered via the provider’s specialization in their respective business application.

This is already sounding similar to the modern SaaS model. So, what is the difference? Well, most SaaS organizations develop and manage their own software. ASPs focused on the management and hosting of third party vendor applications which they provided to their clients. This model also dictated that each client have their own instance of the application in question. Those following a SaaS model typically implement a multi-tenant architecture which serves multiple businesses with data partitioned respectively. Also, while ASPs generally utilized the server-client model, SaaS solutions generally only require a web browser for use.

Supporting Your End Users

Change drives innovation, but there are things that will never change. One thing won’t change is the fact that organizations will always have to support their end users. Many tools and standards exist today that help to facilitate that endeavor and they can be classified into a handful of categories.

Team Collaboration

If support teams are unable to collaborate with their peers, ultimately the end user will suffer. In today’s environment, this essentially boils down to email and instant messaging applications. A variety of solutions are available, but some of the more popular ones are listed below:

  • Slack - a SaaS Instant Messaging offering which has a very interesting history. Read more about it here.
  • G Suite - Google’s collaboration suite which provides a variety of services ranging from email, instant messaging, and video conferencing to document collaboration tools. Learn more about it here.
  • Microsoft Exchange - Microsoft’s traditional offering tends to be the predominant option for large enterprises. Learn more about it here.

Service Ticketing

Service ticketing is another key area that is required for end user support. How do you keep track of which end users or customers have contacted you for support? Again, a variety of options exist, however, these types of solutions are often bundled together with a plethora of other tools that can serve multiple purposes within your organization. Many times, choosing the right option does not come down to which solution has a better ticketing system. Rather, IT managers should choose the solution that includes relevant added options best suited to fit the needs of the organization. Some of these solutions include:

  • ServiceNow - a SaaS enterprise-level offering which focuses on providing IT technical management support; a subset of which is service ticketing. Learn more about it here.
  • BMC Remedy - a solution that focuses more on service management and provides options for both mid-size and enterprise businesses. Learn more about it here.

On-Call Solutions

How does an organization support their end users around the clock? In smaller organizations, it is not realistic to have a fully staffed support desk 24/7. Cost is an important factor, but the amount of support traffic generated is generally not enough to warrant such an effort. In those instances, organizations typically utilize on-call solutions. Relevant team members take turns being on-call and are pinged as necessary to triage support issues that may arise. Larger organizations typically utilize tools such as:

  • VictorOps - this solution specifically targets the needs of DevOps teams and provides a variety of useful tools. Learn more about it here.
  • OpsGenie - another on-call solution which provides many of the same offerings as VictorOps, but in a more generalized fashion. Learn more about it here.
  • ServiceNow - On-call support is another option that the ServiceNow suite offers. Learn more about it here.

What Else?

Today, there are a countless number of tools that can simplify the modern IT manager’s life. This installment focused specifically on end user support. In the upcoming installments of this series, we will shed some light on other areas and tools of interest. At the end of the day, however, there is always one key factor that limits us in terms of what tools we can use: budget. Each IT manager must determine what the best solution is for their organization depending on the budget he/she has to work with.

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