Posted on11 June 2017 11:58 PM GMT

The fine line between Support, Training, Guided Builds, Projects and Consultancy

ProjectsTrainingSupportconsultancyAffino ServicesAgile SprintsGuided BuildsTask SchedulingWork Schedules+-
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The nature of modern companies and businesses is that staff increasingly tend to have to multi-task. They’re rarely if ever nowadays just charged with doing one thing. For smaller companies this is even more acute, as all businesses have fundamentals tasks that need to be carried out, and the fewer staff you have, the more roles each has to cover.

 

There are huge benefits of this when done properly - cross-pollination, hive-mind / shared learning and expertise, and higher levels of cooperation and collaboration - with more well-considered results and better teamwork all-round. There can though be detrimental effects if these things are not handled properly, and some staff members may begin to feel overloaded and isolated.

 

For this company, it is an ongoing delicate balance to equalise time against specific types of tasks. Each type will likely have a different cost implications, different timescales and degrees of complexity. In the simplest of terms most of our people’s days are split into 2 or three parts. For instance in development, the first part of the day - up until about noon is for handling customer support issues and error reports. That leaves the greater part of the day for tackling deeper and bigger tasks - project development, customisations and core system developments.

 

This in itself is very straightforward, but many Clients have a hard time consolidating different types of tasks to the daily workflows vs fortnightly agile sprints. Any complex or longer-term development task has to be scheduled in, and everyone needs to be aware / mindful that that there is a scheduling-in period as well as a healthy backlog of various ongoing and already scheduled tasks.

 

When a client reports an issue or encounters challenges, it’s often just viewed / considered as a singular linear entity, yet as we explain, there are 5 differing levels of scale and complexity, meaning that different processes and workflows are necessary for different categories of tasks and requests - often their designation is not clear until after review:

 

 

Support

Support is kind of two-fold, it largely consists of the seeking of generic advice - on how a certain fairly straightforward tasks might be / should be performed / orchestrated, or the reporting of an actual error or unexpected outcome. Near enough most of our clients are on ’Silver Level’ support - which means a typically 4-hour response time within active daily working hours or largely a same-day response. This does not mean you will get a fix within that timeline, fixes are typically arising within 48 hours, unless the issue is causing active loss of business - in its most acute form / example - for Ecommerce sites not to be working / taking payments. So issues get reported to development - who deal with them in the morning support slots if they can - and typically the fix will arrive within 48 hours or so - on occasion on the same day, but mostly the next day or the one after that.

 

Occasionally the issues are more complex and take longer to solve, sometimes they may require an actual patch / version release to solve the root issue. Anything which impacts beyond the capacity of the morning support slots is likely to be referred to projects or account management personnel - this can include simple tasks, but once that are time consuming.

 

Note also that if you are doing a lot of your own implementations and experimental work, you will most likely need to feel the benefit of your own dedicated Affino staging server, along with dedicated hosting (vs shared server hosting).

 

Finally, be aware that Silver Level support is intended for two named contacts alone - who post and relay issues, which has the added benefit of focusing the overview of the site implementation and allowing both sides to ensure that the original goals remain in clear sight. If there are too many persons active on support forums things can rapidly escalate off-track and into areas which are in conflict with agreed project goals.

 

 

Training

Support is not a substitute for training, and Affino reserves the right to refuse support to individuals who have not received any form of official or properly sanctioned training. Anyone who has not had formal training is likely to make more mistakes and be a more significant burden on support services as well as a liability to the implementation team, - and will likely ask the kinds of pointed questions which are usually reserved for training sessions or guided builds - where often there is not substitute for proper training.

 

The starting point for any successful Client-led implementation is proper and comprehensive training for their key frontline staff. It is then often expedient for those staff to train their colleagues on the work, structures and protocols they have laid down.

 

All Affino implementations need a single overall point of contact - whether you call this a Digital Manager, Web Manager or Webmaster. It is incumbent on the lead client-side admin to ensure that all staff deployed have been properly and responsibly trained and are adhering to clear written protocols.

 

 

Guided Builds

There are various scenarios for these, but typical circumstances are that staff have received official training, but are encountering certain technical and logistical difficulties while working on their own implementations. What this means is that if you elect to buid and deploy your Affino instances yourself (as several of our Clients do exceedingly well), then the onus is on you to see the project through to fruition.

 

Occasionally implementation teams get stuck, and need some very contextual hands-on training - which is carried out by an onsite Affino staffer who will execute elements of the work as part of the guided build - and as a practical live example to follow. How much gets done in a sessions depends on the task/s agreed upon as well as the time allocated. It needs to be noted that in the main these are broad-stroke setup tasks, and that Affino does not participate in content population, apart from a few example place-holders.

 

 

Projects

If it becomes evident that the incumbent team is unable to take the implementation through to completion, then the Affino projects team may be called upon to get involved. If this were to become the case, it would fall under on the two week scheduling period for typical Agile style sprints. Note that Affino is always an actively busy company, yet as flexible as it can be within the limits of the work schedule and agreed obligations. Yet beyond generic support tasks, there will typically always be some lengthier degree of scheduling buffer required, and even then occasionally too for certain special support issues.

 

 

Consultancy

Consultancy occurs when several Affino staff members are required to convene to collaborate on a task / resolution together. Lots of support tasks skirt around the areas of consultancy. We will try our utmost to answer as much as possible within the normal support cycle, but when tasks go too far beyond the generic and quick resolution, then we are back in project / consultancy territory which does have additional costs attached, scheduling etc.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Note that there can occasionally be misuse of Support facilities when user errors or setup and configuration mistakes are made, but those issues are submitted as bugs rather than the monthly limited support tasks. Depending on concurrent work-schedules we may give you some additional leeway, but will usually retrospectively re-classify those issues and escalate to other business units as necessary.

 

As always, the support team will do its best to bring each issue to quick and satisfactory conclusion, but often the requests being made are beyond the scope of support and will need to be raised up the management chain and re-assigned, rescheduled etc. - so please be aware and show the same due respect and consideration, as we do to you.

Stefan
Posted by Stefan
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