“Follow the Sun” Support Model for Business Intelligence
This article is a follow on from my previous one based on a two-tier support model. It covers my experience of deploying the “follow the sun” support concept into a business intelligence global solution and highlights the areas to review and recommendations when deploying this model in a support environment.
By its basic definition, “follow-the-sun” means that support literally follows the sun—it’s a type of global workflow in which issues can be handled by and passed between support locations in different time zones to increase responsiveness and reduce delays.
This article covers the scenario of supporting a global business intelligence solution with it’s the head office in the UK along with a support location offices based in south America and Malaysia. The BI solution is supported by external partner from India which is based on a two-tier offshore support model (i.e. majority of the support is based in India). So overall four support locations – UK, South America, Malaysia and India.
What needs to be supported
The first main question is what elements of the business intelligence solution are required for the follow the sun support model.
The following are the main support categories in a business intelligence solution:
For a global business intelligence solutions, there is a demand for data to be refreshed 24 * 7 so this item would fit into the follow the sun support model. For this scenario, the requirement is for 24*7 data schedule.
As with all business intelligence solutions, there is a high number of tickets raised around a business user misunderstanding the BI report output and functionality. As this scenario has a global user base then this needs to be covered 24*7.
Data Reconciliation Issues
As with all business intelligence solutions, there is a high number of tickets raised around data not reconciling to source systems from the BI report. As this scenario has a global user base then this needs to be covered 24*7.
This relates to potential a bug/defect in the BI solution. As this scenario has a global user base then this needs to be covered 24*7.
Break-fix build and testing (Change Control)
Once a break-fix incident is determined as a bug/defect, development and testing will commence with a planned deployment date which is generally a few weeks in the future. It does not really make sense for this item to be part of the follow the sun model as it’s not efficient to constantly handing over build and testing activities across multiple support consultants across different regions.
Minor Enhancement (Change Control)
Some clients have an agreement with their support partner to deploy minor enhancements for the business intelligence solution. This item is similar to the item above and makes no sense to be part of follow the sun support model.
To summarise the points above, if any development which needs a change control is required in the case for break-fix and minor enhancements then this should not be included in the follow the sun concept (i.e. no handoff is required between the global support locations). All other support activities should be covered by follow the sun model.
Service Level Agreement (SLA) for ticket types
The next item to review is the SLA for the different types of tickets (Urgent/High ; Medium; Low). The following are the SLA’s from my scenario:
A business intelligence consultant would be required to review this type of ticket within 2 hrs of it been raised with a resolution of 1 day. This would fall into the follow the sun support model.
A business intelligence consultant would be required to review this type of ticket within 4 hrs of it been raised with a resolution of 3 days. This potentially would not fall into the follow the sun support model as the resolution is over several days.
A business intelligence consultant would be required to review this type of ticket within 8 hrs of it been raised with a resolution of 10 days. This would not fall into the follow the sun support model as the resolution is over several days.
To summarise the points above, the follow the sun support model only is mandatory for urgent/high tickets and potentially medium tickets. So it’s important to review how many critical/high tickets are raised by the business over a period of time.
Timing of ticket creation.
The timing of ticket creation and the severity of the tickets is a key element for determining the breakdown of the support team across the regions.
This statistic allows you to ignore where the bulk of customers are located and focus on when critical/high tickets are raised.
In my scenario, we used a service management support tool - we reviewed statistics around ticket volume by creation time. We’ve determined that the majority of the critical tickets are created in the European and Asia Pacific time zones.
Recommendation on Team Structure and size
All the elements above feed into the follow the sun support model team structure and size. It’s important to determine what elements of the BI solution needs to be supported along with the priority and ticket volume.
As mentioned already, the following items need to be supported
Data Load Executions / Data Load schedule
Data Reconciliation Issues
User Education Incidents
For the data monitoring activities, I’d recommend that you have a dedicated data monitoring team outside of the level 1 & 2 teams. The size of this team depends on the number of schedules on the Business intelligence solution. To support a global business intelligence solution 24 * 7 you need at least 10 data monitoring consultants. These consultants can be IT graduates to BW consultants with 1 to 2 years’ experience and all based offshore.
On the remaining activities, the support structure for this scenario is to have the level 1 & level 2 offshore support consultants working Asia Pacific and European working day as it has been determined that most of the critical/high tickets is raised in these time zones. The offshore team is supported by a client support lead in Malaysia and UK in these time zones.
For the remaining time zone (Americas), we have only one offshore support consultant from the support partner in each support level covering this time zone with the support of a client support lead in south America. It’s important that the support consultants working in this time zone are experienced, efficient and can process a critical incident.
Depending on your support model, defines how easy it is to transition into a follow the sun model. If your business intelligence solution is an on-shore support model with all consultants based in the same time-zone, it’s going to be difficult to arrange 24*7 support from one location.
In my scenario, we’re using a two-tier offshore support model from India which is support by client’s offices in UK, South America and Malaysia. The main difficult in this model is agreeing with Level 1 & 2 consultants in India to work through the night (Americas time zone support). We’re lucky that majority of the critical incidents are based in the UK and Asia Pacific time zones but this could change over time. One potential solution to this issue is to base one level 1 and one level 2 consultants in south America
For development and testing of change controls and minor enhancements, once this is assigned to a level 2 consultant this ticket is not handed over to another level 2 consultant. Majority (if not all) business intelligence solutions will take several days/weeks to deploy into production. This is an important factor to take into consideration when reviewing your team size and time zone split for the follow the sun model.
The key element to planning a follow the sun support model for a business intelligence solution is that you don’t need to execute all support activities across all time zones and hence have equal size teams working in each time zone. You need to analysis what needs to be supported; the severity of the tickets and at what points during the day the critical/high tickets are being raised.
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