How to better support a smaller IT user base


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25-Apr-2018 12:11:00

In my last piece, I talked about Problem Management and how it is often confused with Major Incident management. In fact, while the two are linked, they are very different beasts. However strong your Problem Management, you must be ready for business critical incidents.

Everyone talks about the challenges of handling a large number of users. But what about the IT Support desk that handles a small user base? Typically, a smaller user base means you work in a smaller business and that has challenges of its own; you likely have smaller budgets, fewer resources and not a huge number of IT staff. While there can be advantages to be small and nimble, there are some common issues that are likely to be faced by small teams. 


Limited availability:

You might have a smaller user base, but they have the same expectations as a larger one. The world has been mobile for some time and organisations of all sizes expect remote access, out of hours support and fast fix times.

If you have a small support team, you may struggle to cover business hours, let alone evenings, weekends and holidays. If you have only a handful of people, it might only take one person to be on holiday and another to be sick for your team to be overwhelmed --and your users to be underwhelmed by your service.

Management constraints:

Are you an IT Manager, Support Desk Manager and part-time analyst? In a small business, it can be virtually impossible to have a pure management role. Rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in with day-to-day support is critical to keeping users up and running, but it can mean that managing your team takes a back seat.

Project delays:

Just as your management capabilities are being squeezed, so is project management. If you are fighting a tide of support tickets, long-term projects are likely to get sidelined, delayed or temporarily postponed.

Finding a balance between project rollout and IT Support is critical. Today’s projects, if left unfinished, can become next month’s problems and incidents.


How can your small IT support team better handle these challenges? Take a step back to assess your current capabilities and where you can leverage technology and external support.

Manage expectations:

The first step is to recognise what is achievable, the strengths and weaknesses in your team and where your challenges lie. You have to make time to recognise what is possible and what is not. If you get pushback from users and senior management over your fix rates and KPIs, you have to be in a position to explain the support team’s limitations. This is also the first step in building a business case for investment in technology, people or partnerships to help you scale.

Leverage Software as a Service (Saas) tech & vendors:

Cloud-based SaaS tools like Office 365 have a variety of licensing levels. Selecting the best fit for your business can be tricky, but you can leverage vendors to help you decide what features you need, how to make the most of it and to help with training and support.

Shop around for a vendor that offers the best support package, but that also recognises what will work best for your business. With SaaS technology evolving so quickly, having shared ownership with a good vendor can be an advantage. The vendor should stay up to date with all updates, new apps and other changes to the software and guide you so that you can focus on other IT priorities.


If you are still struggling to maintain effective IT support, consider outsourcing some of your duties. Having recognised the gaps in your team and technology, you will already know which duties they should be. For most small businesses, IT Support is the first thing to be outsourced. This frees up internal resources to manage projects and teams which is more cost-effective than hiring, training and managing more support staff directly.

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Pete Canavan
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About the author

Pete Canavan

Pete Canavan is Support Services Director at Plan-Net. An accredited ITIL Service Manager, he has a proven track record in IT with special expertise in the Legal & Financial Services industries.

With two decades in the IT field, Pete has acquired extensive experience in business relationship development, service transformation, project and people management, training and client/supplier relations.

Pete's other passions, besides Plan-Net of course, are his family and football.

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