– Troy McAlpin, CEO, xMatters, inc., says:
Imagine you and your spouse are out to dinner when you receive a text from the babysitter: there is an electrical problem at the house. Cloud-Based Intelligent Communications
With so little information and possibly a dangerous situation for your children and the babysitter, you might immediately call the local utility and have a repairman come out. The repairman could take hours to get there, and the service call could cost you plenty.
On the other hand, suppose you got a little more information from the babysitter’s text: The power in the kitchen went out while they were making dinner. Well, you might just have her go outside and flip the breaker for the kitchen. Bang. Resolved in two minutes, no service call.
That is the power of effective communication during a service disruption. The stakes are can be even higher for your business. In today’s digital world, if you have a service outage, your employees and customers are likely to feel a direct impact, and poor communication could delay restoration, cost you plenty and upset your customers.
Let’s go back to the babysitter. What if it wasn’t just a switched breaker? What if there was an electrical fire?
It’s bad enough that you’re wasting hours waiting for the repairman when you should have called 9-1-1. Were precious moments wasted while you looked up a repairman’s number, while you waited to see who was responsible or while you called an alternative if the first was unavailable? While wasted time is costly in your personal life, it soars into the millions of dollars when experienced on an enterprise scale.
A recent survey of more than 300 IT professionals (http://info.xmatters.com/rs/alarmpoint/images/xMatters-2015-Survey-Report.pdf) by Dimensional Research (http://dimensionalresearch.com/) shows that communication is indeed typically the culprit in process breakdown. Finding the right person to work to restore service takes at least 15 minutes, which is often the same amount of time required to rectify the problem. With each passing minute of downtime, the business suffers.
A 15-minute service outage might have been acceptable just a few years ago, but in today’s uber fast-paced, always-on business climate, virtually no outage is acceptable anymore. Most businesses have already felt negative impact by the time those 15 minutes are up.
But what’s worse is that until the company gets ahead of the outage, resolution teams are too distracted to communicate properly to its customers, further increasing potential damage to its reputation.
Sadly, modern automation techniques often are cast aside as panic sets in, giving way to the most manual tools we have – spreadsheets, paper, email, phone calls and texts. And as we all know, decisions made out of panic are more likely to be poor ones.
Improving Notifications with an Intelligent Approach
During the first few minutes of a problem to the business it’s crucial that all the pertinent information to get the right information to the right person automatically and instantly get to the employee or contactor who can right the ship. The following questions need to have been thought out well in advance:
• Who’s on call right now?
• Who to contact first?
• What is the preferred method of contact?
• What is the established escalation procedure?
Using an intelligent cloud communications solution, other IT systems such as monitoring or service desks can automatically locate whoever is on call, on the right device, inform the person and solicit responses – whether that be simply acknowledging the notification, accepting a ticket or even joining a conference bridge.
Any application, when coupled with an Intelligent Communication application can locate incident managers with relevant information so he or she can hit the ground running, assembling a resolution team if necessary.
According to Dimensional Research, finding and engaging the right person takes at least as long as the actual restoration. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Way Forward
If automation and agility enable smooth sailing for businesses during calm waters, imagine what they can do during rough seas. Here are a few ideas:
Let your resolvers resolve: If your IT department is transparent with communications, the major incident manager can designate someone other than resolvers to communicate the incident and next steps proactively to customers. The distraction of communicating to customers while working to restore service can lead to errors in resolving the issue, which can lead to even more delays in getting the business up and running again.
Targeted, automated and agile communications are not mutually exclusive: After an IT outage, mass notifications bring too many people into the situation who don’t need to be involved. That said, target notifications to the right people. If those pinpointed don’t answer, use software that automates escalation to another person with the relevant and required skills who can work to rectify the situation. And automation is important, but be agile and tailor your message to suit your audience. You can be a geek to your resolution team, but be a human to your customers.
Be mindful of preferences: Send messages to recipients on the right device at the right time to get a response. The person you’re trying to reach might be outside of wireless service or in a place where she has to be quiet. If your communications system includes on-call schedules and preferred device for each person, your communications should go to the right person on the right device with the push of a button.
Remember your service-level agreements (SLA): Remember that SLAs are a promise, not a guideline. Not meeting SLAs can cost your money in fines. More importantly, by reaching your SLAs until you can reduce them, you can earn the respect of your customers.
Just a short IT outage can cause enough damage to a business – don’t add insult to injury by failing to provide the IT department with the tools needed to find the right people and teams to rectify the issue. Follow these suggestions, and your team will be well equipped to get business back up and running quickly and easily in the event of any critical disruption.
Troy McAlpin, CEO, xMatters, inc.
Troy McAlpin brings more than 20 years of experience to his leadership role at xMatters, with expertise in process automation, strategic initiatives and corporate strategy. His domain experience includes IT strategy and vertical market expertise including technology, banking, consumer and retail industries. Prior to founding xMatters, formerly AlarmPoint Systems, he managed marketing, sales, development, M&A and financial aspects at two successful start-up companies and also worked at AT&T Solutions and Andersen.