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Managing a Service Operations Team for a Leading Software Developer

Information Technology | Application Management, Managed IT Services



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The client engaged TEKsystems to grow and manage a Tier Three Operations team in support of critical infrastructure and business applications on the client’s cloud platform. TEKsystems provided off-site resource management under a managed service program and evolved the project over time to assume responsibility for increased process improvements and outcomes.

Founded in 1975, the client is a leading developer and manufacturer of computer software, services and hardware for individuals and businesses. The client seeks to develop new products, new technologies and new ideas to transform the industry and their business.

The introduction of cloud computing changed the way businesses deliver or acquire IT services. Cloud stores files and software remotely, enabling users to access information through a web browser or mobile application.

Organizations benefit from the flexibility of accessing information anywhere the Internet is available. With the increased adoption of personal smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, cloud computing facilitates ease of information transfer and collaboration. By placing less emphasis on traditional hardware and software programs, cloud also enables organizations to adapt to new IT requirements without the time and expense of setting up new systems and maintaining programs.

While the advantages to cloud computing are numerous and interest in cloud technology remains high, many organizations struggle with finding software and systems engineers and network administrators with the skills necessary to develop cloud technology, integrate or migrate services and support cloud technology. This skills gap leads many companies to turn to experienced partners for assistance. 
Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, Blackberry Enterprise Server, Security Patching, Code Deployment, Capacity Expansion and Incident Response, DNS Support, IIS Support
TEKsystems’ client operated a suite of online messaging and collaboration tools as a subscription service to its customers. Designed to enhance productivity, the suite uses cloud computing technology to offer email and calendar services, document sharing portals and live communication tools (instant messaging, video and web conferencing). To further enhance its online services and support its customer base, the client had to overcome the following challenges:

Support. The client needed additional skilled resources to support the management efforts and grow its Tier Three Operations team, but the client already struggled with managing multiple staffing vendors. By consolidating its vendors, the client wanted to identify core partners that could consistently provide support for its infrastructure and business applications.

Space. The client’s facilities were crowded and their current workspace could not accommodate the required addition to staff. The client desired an off-site solution, with the new location in close proximity so the client could visit and interact with the team.

Strategy. The client sought a trusted partner to oversee all resource management at the off-site location, improve reporting metrics and provide overall support for the external customers on the existing cloud platform. The client defined success as building a team that was able to successfullytroubleshoot and maintain the cloud computing
infrastructure.
TEKsystems, a client partner since 2002, proposed an off-site delivery model under a phased managed service program:

Transition of Existing Resources: Shift the current engineers and consolidated vendors to an off-site facility managed by TEKsystems. Specifically, the TEKsystems team would provide the following services:
  • Incident Engineering (IE): Restoring systems and user capabilities to normal service availability, with limited customer impact. IE consists of Incident Management, or recognizing and addressing issues that arise, as well as Problem Management, or identifying incidents and assessing their root cause of incidents that have occurred and making proper diagnoses for correcting the incident at hand and preventing future occurrences.
  • Change Management (CM): Ensuring the stability of the implementation of operating system patches and application code deployment.
  • Sustained Engineering (SE): Providing support for enterprise-wide capacity expansion, hardware replacement and decommissioning and server rebuild requests.

 

Resource Expansion: Identify and onboard additional resources at the off-site facility; develop stronger processes and metrics for monitoring those processes. This would be accomplished by:

  • Transition the team to a 24 hours a day, seven days a week coverage model, reducing overtime and increasing responsiveness to critical issues.
  • Refine process and documentation around Security Patching and Code Deployment to reduce the amount of time to deploy and reduce errors during deployment.
  • Refine alerts to reduce ‘noise’ and make the alerts more meaningful.

This proposed approach would enable the client to smoothly transition its existing team to a facility with ample space, while simultaneously growing its team with qualified and knowledgeable talent.


TEKsystems was selected due to our longstanding partnership with the client our experience with past managed services engagements and our off-site services solution.

Transitioning the client’s Tier Three Operations team off-site steered the subsequent expansion of its infrastructure and business applications support. With just nine engineers at the start, TEKsystems grew the team to over 60 highly skilled and competent engineers at the new facility. This exponential growth in numbers meant that key foundational processes—including hiring, onboarding and training—needed to be developed, updated and enhanced. TEKsystems also managed a resourcing strategy to include the refinement of these processes and enable maximum potential and value of the new hires.

Incident Engineering
Over the course of the engagement, TEKsystems was able to highlight underperforming areas where the client could improve and become more efficient with its tools and processes. For example, TEKsystems had inherited a backlog of work items that were idle for over one year. The team responded to more than 44,000 incidents, evaluating these work items and categorizing each as valid or invalid due to the passage of time. Under TEKsystems’ management, the backlog shrunk to zero for the first time in the application’s history.

The volume and complexity of inbound help desk tickets increased during the second phase of implementation. Through collaboration with the client, the ticket process was fine-tuned and efficiencies were gained. In turn, the client was able to accept more work and resolve more complex ticket orders.

The team also responded to challenges with agility, exceeding client expectations. During the first year of the engagement, the client’s overseas data center experienced a 100 percent power failure due to a severe electrical storm. Back-up generators failed, leaving the client’s customers unable to access the services. The client’s crisis plan estimated an eight-hour downtime to investigate and resolve the power failure. TEKsystems engaged an incident response team and restarted the servers within minutes, and the team completed validation and full recovery within 2.5 hours.

Change Management
The change management engineers completed more than 2,250 deployment activities, including routine, planned and unplanned emergency requirements. The team also enhanced existing Quality Assurance (QA) procedures to ensure consistent delivery. The team was called on to complete zero-day patching in the first year of the engagement.

Sustained Engineering
TEKsystems established a dedicated team of sustained engineering resources to replace end of life servers, support planning for the creation of a new data center and create a server availability dashboard. The dedicated team allowed the customer to be more responsive in remediating critical server resource constraints. The team completed more than 2,600 sustained engineering activities.

Expansion of Scope

Due to the process improvements and successful milestones reached by the TEKsystems team, the client expanded the scope of the project during the first year of the engagement. In addition to supporting Tier Three incident engineering, change management and sustained engineering, TEKsystems also assumed responsibility for Tier Two mailbox moves, Tier Two incident engineering and upgrade services. The team moved more than 225,000 mailboxes and more than 250,000 gigabytes of data in 24/7 support of the new scope and the customer’s load balancing efforts.

TEKsystems also introduced further enhancements to process by creating a business continuity plan and reviewing and modifying quality assurance procedures. Due to the efficiencies recognized throughout the engagement, including consolidation of resources and streamlined operations, TEKsystems was able to add these new services while also reducing overhead.


A successful partnership is reliant on:
  • Vision Alignment. At the start of this project, the client did not have a clear vision for the evolution of the off-site operations. TEKsystems helped the client plan a path for the future and maturation of the service into what it is today.
  • Relationship Development. Given TEKsystems’ long-standing relationship with the client, a level of trust had been established. The client was comfortable and confident working with TEKsystems in an effort to transition its off-site efforts and strengthen the Tier Three team.
  • Flexibility. The establishment of the off-sit location was a new undertaking for the client. TEKsystems provided a flexible, scalable solution to help the client realize its goals. The high level of collaboration and phased approach allowed the client to transition responsibilities at its own pace.