A large, geographically dispersed organization can provide a number of challenges when procuring and supporting IT resources and services. At Consulate Health Care, we have more than 200 care centers across 21 states. We operate in four time zones in North America, presenting both opportunities and challenges for our organization. Consulate Health Care’s IT department has developed three key tips for support success across challenging environments, enabling us to deliver world class IT support.
1. Maximize Partnerships with Vendors
To control costs and manage user devices effectively, we have several partnerships with trusted vendors to assist with device support. It’s imperative to understand precisely what their service agreements cover or what their hardware vendor’s offer for warranty support. For example, we have standardized our PC, laptop and printer warranties to include next-day onsite support for four years after the purchase of the device. This allows us to send a certified technician to any of our locations in the event of a hardware need. This not only saves us customer downtime, but also saves us significant shipping and travel costs.
Our hardware vendors also provide a service that many vendors provide, but few IT departments take advantage of: a Certified Factory Image. We provide our image and scripts to our vendors and after some QA on their side to assure our image deploys cleanly on their hardware, they deliver their devices with our image loaded on them. This can save hours of technician time, especially when ordering devices in bulk for a hardware refresh, Windows 7 deployment or project rollout.
2. Develop the Asset Management Process
Managing the lifecycle of an asset isn’t about knowing how many computers you have in your environment. Managing an asset starts with budgeting. We plan two budgets for hardware assets: one for hardware refreshing and one for break and fix. We have standard four-year warranties on our end user hardware, so we have a four-year refresh cycle. This means we budget to replace 25 percent of end-user devices per year. We also plan on some devices out of warranty needing parts or replacement, or something happening to a device not covered by our warranty, such as a tablet getting dropped or a laptop receiving significant physical damage. This is our break/fix budget and this is normally about 20% of the amount of the replacement budget. We stagger ordering replacement parts and hardware refresh devices throughout the year, ordering when we hit a certain threshold count.
"With the right focus on maximizing vendor partnerships, complete asset lifecycle management and structuring support, the challenge of managing IT services to a geographically dispersed organization can be a great opportunity”
We have two dedicated resources that manage our purchasing activities. Our purchasing analysts only address IT purchasing and this is a tremendous help in our procurement process. They coordinate with vendors for purchase orders, regularly place orders for our threshold counts and coordinate with our accounting and finance departments to catalog, track and categorize all our expenses so they are allocated and planned appropriately. It’s also important to manage what happens to each device throughout its life.
3. Structure Support for the User
We have several facets of support in our department. The backbone of the support team is the service desk. We have developed a 24/7 single point of contact for all IT services that begins with the service desk. The service desk responds to all user submitted tickets and only ends up escalating about 11 percent of the work to the rest of IT.
When escalations are necessary, we rely heavily on our hardware support team for management and resolution of all hardware issues that cannot be addressed remotely. This team also serves as project resources by staging devices for deployment and working closely with the IT purchasing analysts to track assets and manage inventory. Finally, hardware support manages the hardware vendor partnership, both for onsite warranty work and understanding the device roadmaps from our vendors as new models are released.
The third support group we have is a group dedicated to financial and clinical applications. They are the subject matter experts for our EMR, billing and accounting applications and they take escalations from the service desk to offer specialized support for these vital applications. They resolve all training and support issues and escalate only to developers for code changes or design work with the vendor. Having a dedicated, specially trained team for critical applications reduces time to resolve open tickets and increases customer satisfaction.
Managing IT services to a geographically dispersed organization is an exciting challenge. With the right focus on maximizing vendor partnerships, complete asset lifecycle management and structuring support to best serve our users, the challenge can be a great opportunity to deliver world class IT support.