Last week I was stranded in Las Vegas when my flight was cancelled. I grabbed a hotel and began chatting with a gentleman in the hotel lobby while waiting for my room. He was in the same position I was, stuck and trying to get home. It turns out he was flying back from a business trip and was telling me his woes about the challenges he was having with his current company. Sadly, he felt that his entire trip was hindered because his laptop was constantly crashing, connection on the road was extremely limited, and he felt that his Tech support-desk was entirely useless. This of course spawned my curiosity since I have spent so much time in my career trying to solve this exact issue, so I asked how his company will get him working again once he gets back to his office.
Like many, he works from home. This complicates the problem significantly. To repair the PC, he must follow these procedures:
- Place a ticket with the support desk
- Back up local data
- Record applications that are installed
- Wait to receive the PC (at least 1-2 weeks)
- Pack up and ship the old PC back
- Wait for PC to load the base image
- Wait for policies and apps to load
- Restore data
- Reinstall missing applications
- Reconfigure settings
I’ve had similar conversations with many employees of various businesses and the same pattern is common. Working from home clearly makes PC issues even more frustrating. What was once a few hours to maybe a few days, is now days and possibly weeks for a full recovery. The mere thought of having to go through this as a remote employee is a nightmare, especially if work deadlines are looming. A frustrated employee can lose faith in the company’s ability to properly manage the issue, which in turn will compound the lowered productivity.
From the other perspective, I have also had conversations with the support desk and desktop technicians to ask about their approach and how they meet their SLAs and what they can do to improve the “user experience.” Generally speaking, their objective is quite simple. They want to do their job as efficiently as possible and reduce their costs. As an IT automation expert, I agree. IT tasks should be done with minimal manual effort; however, if implemented incorrectly, they could cost the business much more. Implementing correctly, on the other hand, is not an easy task. This is especially true when you throw in the remote worker wildcard. Bandwidth can be limited (or not available at all), and you cannot just walk over to a desk to fix a PC problem like in the old days.
Along with the push to support the remote workforce, budgets for IT became even tighter. Companies experienced a huge cost to transform to the remote worker; however, most processes were not ready for it. Nevertheless, the IT staff is still expected to enable businesses to do more with less, but simply cutting IT costs is not enough. Don’t get me wrong, they make great attempts by finding areas that can be automated – sometimes through scripting or other tools that help streamline some of the simple, yet tedious steps. However, even if they automate portions of the process, full-automation is a fantasy and a pipe-dream. I have heard many times, “It is impossible to automate everything.” That’s a challenge that I personally like to take on – more on that later.
Still having a big desire to reduce IT costs, the IT leadership, along with the staff will find creative ways to offload the tasks to a “self-service” model. This is a fantastic idea if and when the process is mature. Unfortunately, the process is more often less mature, and in the process of offloading the IT burden to the employee, the problem of a frustrated employee worsens and subsequent cost to the company increases.
A good example of what is commonly offloaded to the self-service model includes data restoration, application installation, post deployment customization, and configuration. If these tasks are to be done manually by the employee, a fair amount of documentation and hand-holding will be required. Additionally, if these steps are done incorrectly or out of order, what started out as a little problem may easily become a much bigger one that will ultimately end up requiring more IT support, not less. Because of this, I would not consider this process shift a viable solution to the problem if not well thought out and mature, and with the right toolsets. By not approaching this correctly, the overall cost will actually go up for the business. This is especially true when the employee is remote and recovery from bad execution becomes very expensive.
Nonetheless, let’s assume for a moment that the employee follows all of the necessary steps to achieve the goal of getting the system running. For the remote worker there are numerous steps, a lot of areas that may fail or cause issue, and it is very time consuming. The following chart breaks down this cost for both IT and for the company at large. This is assuming a remote worker that the dependent on their PC for their job function.
As illustrated in this example, cutting IT hours is doable, but without the proper automation and without a clear focus on the user experience, the result is incredibly high direct and hidden costs for the business. Shifting the burden like this within a company may make one department look better, but hurts the company overall. I used an example of an employee with a fairly low business cost (how much the company loses in revenue due to the employee’s lack of productivity). Shift this to a high-impact employee, such as sales, and you’ll see the business impact could be tremendous. However, this impact is only high when it’s not done with the proper tools and process.
When done correctly, the burden does not need to be shifted to an employee. Instead, let automation tools do the work. This leaves both the employee and IT free to work on real business issues and not PC-related problems. Additionally, adding better processes to the automation tools will provide even higher multiples to lessen the business impact of technical issues.
Swimage was designed from the very beginning to solve this exact issue. Let’s apply Swimage to the equation and see the positive impact on the business. We are also going to include a slight change in process that will result in huge multiples in savings. We already know that 90% of issues are not hardware related, so let’s begin by only swapping hardware when hardware fails; otherwise, we will let automation through Swimage fix the system. We will also take the burden off the support desk, because Swimage will already know what to do to resolve it. The change we will make here is that we will enable the employee to decide to let the Swimage software fix the issue and initiate the system repair.
Since Swimage keeps track of everything that this PC needs, it will handle it all. This includes applications, settings, data, the operating system, desired configuration, and encryption. With this knowledge already gathered, all the employee needs to do is to tell Swimage to start the process, and in minutes, the entire system is rebuilt to the exact specification required for the employee.
Using the same data-points as the process without Swimage, you will see a significant difference when Swimage is utilized.
By comparing this process to the previous, you will see that the savings are significant. With Swimage automation, $4,240 will be saved, which is a 97.2% reduction in cost!
This savings is a direct result of an improved process with the correct automation tool. Swimage, with its built-in artificial intelligence and automation, will eliminate the vast majority of the tasks in the traditional PC support model. By doing so, the overall burden to the company is nearly completely eliminated. It also makes for a very pleased and productive employee, with little to no involvement of the IT staff in the process to recover a system.
Swimage has the added benefit that all content is stashed and maintained locally in its own protected recovery space. It updates in the background and continually validates the integrity of all recovery files. It will change over time as needed to ensure that what the employee needs is immediately available. With this in place, recovery becomes a snap and does not require or utilize any bandwidth to perform a complete rebuild of the system. This is how Swimage can completely recover a system, including all data, settings, and applications, in minutes. It’s also available for when the time comes to replace hardware. Swimage can utilize this same information to build the new PC. Swimage will ensure that the new system has the exact configuration, settings, and data as the old PC. With this, PC replacement is just as easy and ensures a positive user experience.
The goal of course is to offload most of the PC management burden from the IT support desk and reduce the overall IT budget. However, the correct method is to offload that to intelligent automation software like Swimage. This way Swimage steps in and does all of the tasks to recover or migrate a PC without any human involvement. It also ensures consistency and provides integrity to the entire build. That has always been a struggle when doing the work manually. Importantly, all of this is done without adding any burden to the employee. To the contrary, Swimage can empower the employee to repair their own device with just a couple of simple steps, or Swimage can be initiated remotely from the helpdesk.
So, when speaking to the fine young man in the hotel lobby with his PC headache, I described the possibilities. First, he was shocked that something this powerful actually exists, and second, wished his company would have adopted this years ago. I was happy to share our gem called Swimage.
About the author:
Kyle Haroldsen has over 30 years of development and IT consulting experience. Kyle has a business/finance degree and spent his career helping many large companies align business requirements to IT. He specializes in optimizing IT through process refinement and automation. Kyle is founder and CEO of Swimage.