Matt Muschol: How to manage the overhead of application support while streamlining your business operations

Written by Matt Muschol, Chief Technology Officer, Clearvision

Keeping development teams ticking over to serve growing business needs is a full-time job, and with the advances in modern practices like Agile and DevOps, it can be complex with a high technical burden. Lifecycle management tooling helps and can offer great results improving the flow of work and automating delivery pipelines, but this comes at a cost. These tools need to be looked after and maintained to a high standard. Businesses soon find that application support can quickly become costly, difficult to manage and diverts talent away from serving the core business.

Development teams need to be focused on developing the applications that support customers and grow the business – they don’t want to be bogged down by ongoing incident break-fix issues, upgrades, patching, plugin support, escalations and the like. Yet, these support activities are crucial to day-to-day operations of the team and also require specialist skills. If the tool stack is down or not running optimally, your business will suffer.

Many businesses simply don’t have the internal skillset or resource to handle support effectively. Additional IT staff can be recruited, but this is expensive and comes with all the management overheads. Support needs also often fluctuate over time. You can hire contractors, which would provide you with flexibility, but with IR35 coming in for the private sector in April, the burden of responsibility to determine the status of contractors for tax purposes moves from the contractor to the employer. For many businesses this will negate the benefits to the business of hiring contractors in the first place.

Increasingly businesses are turning to managed service providers to help them improve their application support services and cut costs. MSPs can remotely manage a customer’s IT infrastructure and/or end-user systems, typically on a proactive basis and under a subscription model. They are specialists in particular applications, services or functions, and provide a range of services tailored to the needs of the organisation.

They can fit seamlessly with in house functions by providing technical expertise to second and third line support teams who may not have the skills themselves. Alternatively, an MSP can take on the full support service and run it for you in their Cloud data centre.

Moving support outside the organisation can seem counterintuitive – can an external company manage internal applications as effectively? 

A key advantage of MSPs is they have greater levels of expertise than in house teams as their core business is focused on the support of the applications they manage. They will always be up-to-date with the latest versions of the product set to add to their wealth of experience in earlier product versions. MSPs will also have the resources to assemble a team when needed to implement new products or projects quickly, something that would be much more difficult to achieve internally.

Another benefit is economy of scale. MSPs serve hundreds or even thousands of customers across an application stack, and therefore benefit from the collective experience of supporting an array of customers with the same product set as well as the payback necessary to invest in state-of-the-art monitoring and operational monitoring solutions. Whether it’s creating intricate workflows and schemas, troubleshooting network errors, discovering bugs and limitations, or becoming an expert on a new marketplace plug-in within the hour, application support engineers not only keep your applications running, they can add value to your business.

Today’s technology lends itself to engagement from any location and time zone, so when support is needed, it’s there. Remote support teams utilise service desks, screen-shares, video calls, and chat to troubleshoot issues in the same way as if they were on site. Remote support comes with the advantage of 24/7 coverage with teams generally spread across multiple regions and time zones. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to upgrades and troubleshooting, where preventing, minimising and recovering from downtime is critical. With support teams spread across the globe they can coordinate events and ensure customers are not impacted in a negative way.

So, what about cost?

Outsourcing your support converts fixed IT costs into variable costs, which actually makes budgeting easier and reduces the cost of administering product environments. As an example, here at Clearvision we offer flexible solutions that scale with you. We deliver support solutions to suit the needs of your business, with flexible options and add-ons. We also provide many services beyond enterprise support including implementation, consultancy, hosting, migrations and more.

Agile and DevOps should be a joy not a burden, something that drives your business forward, not tangles you in the thorns of yet more complex technology. Managed service providers can take the load off your shoulders and help you turn this vision into a reality.