Keep Raising the Bar
Today Miller's technology support group comprises 24 help desk people, 14 field agents/consultants, five coaches and two service managers, supported by an IT infrastructure group. Staff numbers have actually reduced from a few years ago, even though the technology on offer and the number of help calls received have increased (see Things Just Keep Getting Better, above).
The improvements have been dramatic - 90 percent reduction in downtime, average speed to answer calls down by 70 percent, number of calls resolved within 20 minutes up by almost 100 percent, and that high help desk churn rate of 55 percent is now down to virtually nil. And all improvements on a budget which, while Diamond and Miller are coy to give actual figures, is less than $10 million.
"The budget for Evolution was certainly not as large as some investments in this marketplace," Diamond says. "It's been economical. The challenge wasn't to develop a new system from scratch; it was to get a workable solution out there."
And the future? For the next few years, basically it is more of the same. A lot more.
The challenge now, as Diamond puts it, is to maintain a level of excellence with an ever-growing technology offering, because they are adding components to the offering on a yearly basis. Williams, on the receiving end, says there is still room for improvement, suggesting solutions that reduce process replication and streamline delivery of the planners' advice to their clients.
"This job is about continuing to improve the proposition," Diamond says. "The bar keeps being raised. Compliance is getting more onerous. The need to have more productive back offices, greater complexity of products is growing as is the client servicing needs, so we and many of our competitors are looking at what the next generation will be.
"There are elements of this business where you go into major overhaul in six- or seven-year cycles. Pieces of it are technology driven, pieces are business process driven. I'm not looking for quantum improvements in the support proposition. I'm not sure what a quantum improvement would be," Diamond says.
"The broad element is that we just automate more business functions in planners' offices. We're looking at practice management software, which is workflow management and workflow monitoring, so we're getting more sophisticated in the business processes, automating the back office and cutting down the costs so the planners can spend more time face-to-face with their customers. The systems we're deploying this year we wouldn't even have been considering three years ago."
And three years ago AMP's AdTech was a very different place from what it is now. Three years from now, it may be another place again. That is the burden every IT shop faces, but Miller and Diamond know that what they do is both vital and appreciated.
"It's nice to work in a support area that is actually seen as strategic," Miller says. "It's not always the case."
SIDEBAR: ITIL Tools
AMP Adviser Technology support manager Steve Miller has been a user of ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) for some time.
ITIL, developed by the UK's Office of Government Commerce, is a widely accepted approach to assessing and developing IT service management. It provides a set of best practices, drawn from public and private sectors internationally, supported by a qualifications scheme, accredited training organizations and implementation and assessment tools.
"It's increasingly widely used," Miller says. "I've been aware of it since before I left South Africa [more than seven years ago]. I'd say if you went to a conference now around service management or help desk you'll find dozens of vendors, but it's at an introductory level. People are getting trained up on it and using one or two of the processes.
"We've taken it perhaps a little more broadly here and now we're actually looking at some software that will integrate it into our operations. There's a range of processes - 10 common ones. We also look at security and knowledge. I think you'll find organizations typically have implemented one, two or three. We'd be focusing on maybe five or six."
He warns, however, that there is a danger of seeing complying with ITIL as an end in itself. "I think that's the wrong way to do it. I think it's been very useful to us, but as a supporting mechanism.
"I wouldn't say it's part of our language that we actually use here; we've embraced those processes and used them as part of getting there. But we still focus on what we're trying to do business-wise.
"We like to think you have a business focus and somewhere along the line your supporting processes will support that. And when you do define those processes, why not use a proven practice," Miller says.
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