Challenging my assessment that Support as the “Department of Break/Fix” offers no real economic value to anyone, a reader asked: “Please explain to me how a broken phone, computer, car, truck, network connection, Web site or anything else provides as much economic value as a working one. … Keeping things working provides enormous economic value to every business.”
Thinking that the act of restoring lost functionality in exception situations is somehow of the same stature as the value-purpose for buying the product in the first place is unfortunately all too common, but it’s still flawed. No one buys a product in order to experience a breakage and then getting it fixed. Business products are purchased because they offer the potential for increased productivity and profitability to the purchaser. That’s the real economic value exchange. I give you an amount of money so that I can use the product to make much more money for myself.
The Value of Restoration
When an exception occurs in the projected life of a given product, a break, is there economic value to be found in the repair service? Of course there is, if the fix costs less than replacing the item. But the fix is only about a restoration of the potential for value lost when the break occurred. Will breaks occur, even in the best designed and built products? A wise business manager will plan and prepare for that eventuality, and will evaluate the potential cost of an outage against the price required to purchase the most reliable products when making purchasing decisions, etc. A wise technologist who wants to be accorded the respect of a professional will take a wider view.
Restoring the value-potential lost in outages is but one of the many activities that a Support group will do in fulfillment of its purpose. Mistaking that single activity for a purpose, complacently thinking “Just wait until the next breakdown, THEN they’ll realize how badly they need me,” however, is a sure path to the unemployment line at some point. There will always be someone else who will offer to be the repair person for less, or a new manufacturing design or process that will eliminate opportunities for failure — and then you’re out of a job. Break/fix is not the way for I.T. to remain a sustainable department and career. But if the group is not to be about break/fix, then what is its true purpose?
Towards a New Profession/Mission
Business technology products are purchased because they offer the potential for increased productivity and profitability to the purchaser. If Support is to become a true profession, it will be found in being perceived as a necessary component of that value expression. The new Mission Statement for Support needs to be:
“We directly contribute to making more sustainable profitability faster/better for our company and yours – and we can prove it.”
The increasing proliferation of the Software As A Service (SaaS) model is offering a lot of opportunities for challenging old assumptions and patterns about business technology. Join us in The SaaS & Support Forum on LinkedIn for a range of discussions about this and other topics involved in the creation of the new profession. To do so, you’ll need to establish a free profile and account on LinkedIn.com, and then request membership in the Forum.
Revised: September 3, 2010