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How field service providers can be a business continuity and disaster recovery catalyst

Matt Kingswood outlines five ways that field service providers can help improve business continuity and disaster recovery in both their own and their clients’ organizations.

‘Take your time’ isn’t a phrase that field engineers expect to hear when a client requests a site visit. These customers are looking for a rapid resolution and limited downtime. A high first-time fix rate is crucial to an organization’s ability to meet disaster recovery and business continuity goals and is a key part of a field service provider’s success as well. Simply fixing a problem quickly isn’t enough, however. Clients want a positive customer experience. They want to feel the field engineer is listening to their needs, and they want assurance that the field service organization is capable of fully meeting those needs – both now and in the future.

As UK head of managed service provider IT Specialists (ITS), I work directly with customers and our resellers to deliver field service, and I’ve found that no matter what industry or country an organization is in, the following five tips can help keep second site visits to a minimum, limit downtime and improve the overall customer experience:

For business continuity, remember that prevention is better than a cure

First-time fix rates are important, but preventing issues in the first place is even better. Avoiding system malfunctions is particularly important if the customer has strict recovery time objectives (RTOs) to meet. To help pinpoint and resolve potential issues, field service providers should consider using a remote management tool to monitor the customer’s systems. The moment an error is detected, the field service organization can address it and ideally avoid downtime altogether.

Have engineers cross-sell

To emphasise that the field service organization is able to help the customer achieve benefits such as improving operational efficiency, meeting more stringent RTOs or increasing revenue, field engineers need to be familiar with their employer’s service offerings. Even if the field engineer isn’t directly involved in supporting all of the organization’s products and services, being familiar with them allows the field engineer to recommend solutions to solve the client’s unique business continuity challenges.

For instance, an engineer for a managed service provider (MSP) might go on-site to repair a server and hear the client refer to a problem that the company is having coping with data sprawl. As a result, the organization may turn to virtualization of some of its environment to resolve those issues. If the engineer is aware that the MSP offers cloud-based infrastructure as a service (IaaS), the engineer can suggest that as a solution.

Test the business continuity plan 

Even the most skilled engineers and most successful organizations should test their business continuity strategies. After all, if a field service organization experiences an interruption, it can’t effectively help its clients address their own IT, business continuity and disaster recovery concerns.

Field service organizations should conduct regular exercises – including tabletop and real-life scenarios – and analyse the results to identify areas of improvement. If the organization has multiple locations within a country or even multiple countries, national or international teams can collaborate to offer one another new perspectives and promote a cohesive business continuity strategy.

Manage spare inventory efficiently

Every time an engineer arrives without the necessary parts to fix a particular job on site, the first-time fix rate goes down. To address this issue, organizations should assign engineers to specific territories within the regions the organization services. There should also be easily accessible parts depots near each territory to preclude the possibility of engineers having to wait on parts to be shipped. 

Keep on top of regulatory requirements

Because regulatory compliance is a pressing concern for organizations across multiple industries and countries, field service organizations need to be familiar with the regulations affecting technology and data processing in that region. For instance, in the US, many organizations need to fulfil standards required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) and others. Businesses in the EU are required to meet the requirements of the EU Data Protection Directive. In addition, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) holds organizations across the world accountable for protecting cardholder data.

To demonstrate that compliance is a priority, the field service organization can adopt a business continuity standard or undergo a third-party accreditation process to achieve a certification. Examples of these standards include ISO 9001 (for quality management systems) and ISO 27001 (for information security management systems).

By following these tips, field service organizations will increase their first-time fix rates, improve their ability to mitigate problems before they arise and that they are working with clients to help them meet their business continuity goals.

The author

Matt Kingswood is the head of Midlands and London-based ITS, a nationwide Managed IT services provider. ITS is part of the US Reynolds and Reynolds and Reynolds Company which has a strong heritage in data backup and recovery services. In his position, Matt is responsible for developing Managed IT services and is currently focused on the next generation of cloud and recovery products, BlackCloud and BlackVault Managed Recovery Platform.

Matt has more than 20 years of experience in the information technology industry, and was formerly CEO of The IT Solution – a full service IT Supplier acquired by ITS. Since joining ITS, he has led efforts to introduce a range of managed services based on the new ITS cloud platform. Previously Matt had a career in technology for several top tier investment banks before founding and selling several companies in the IT services industry.

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Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'. Read more about the basics of business continuity here.

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