Monday, November 12, 2007

Support for Support

The past couple of weeks have included an interesting confluence of events. First, I ran across someone wanting to know how to calculate costs for Support. This question on LinkedIn came to my attention just in time to use it as a starting point in a certification class for Product Managers, where we discussed some of the considerations involved.

I like to see interest in this sort of thing precisely because it's been so very rare in my experience. While it's great for me in that I don't have a whole lot of competition for my services, it's also not that great for the businesses where no one is thinking about Support until way late in the game.

My co-presenter, Nona, and I won't actually get into the detail of designing and costing out an appropriate Support organization until next Spring, but with a re-design in the coursework, we were able to get in early to at least raise the subject while the students were still working out their revenue models and business cases. This is as it should be and I'm glad that we got to spend some time in front of the classroom so much earlier than most people tend to think of Support.

Apparently some of the students are catching on to the importance too, as we saw at least one comment about a team that had completely overlooked the cost of Support up until that point. Whew, one pretend business saved from one of the many pitfalls that are out there!

After talking at extended length with another student who had a real-life need to make some decent cost estimates, I came home and started adding some more detail to the worksheet that I had developed a few years ago. I hadn't looked at it with a fresh eye for a while, so I'd forgotten how good it really is. Once I add in these new refinements, it should be even better.

As much as I'd like to pat myself on the back, though, for my ability to accurately assess the expense side of Support and how it factors in to the rest of the business, I didn't figure out how to do all of this on my own. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Nancy Truitt Pierce and her Service and Support Consortium for all that I've learned over the years about the business of Support and the confidence I've gained in my abilities.

Sadly, I've just learned today that Nancy is closing up the Service and Support Consortium. Though I don't know why yet, I do have some guesses and can only say that it will be a major loss to the Puget Sound tech community. There are people and businesses all over who probably don't realize the powerfully positive impact that Nancy has had on their ability to succeed because of how much smarter the heads of their Support organizations have become under her guidance and with the help and support of their peers.

The loss of this organization means there will be some large, important shoes to fill. I'm thinking I see an online group in our future somehow...

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the SSC Alumni breakfast gathering on March 13th. It will be important to me, and I'm sure to many others, to recognize the passing of an era and reconnect with some great minds.

Each company pays differing amounts of attention to the business of Support. I'm curious about how much you think about that aspect of your business, how well you understand the costs and revenue opportunities associated with Support, and what sort of support is provided to your Support organization. Do share - it's how we all learn.

What support do you need?