The service verdict: IT end-users speak out

Last month, vendors laid claim to the best service provision for customers. But, in the concluding part of the two-part series on IT support in the region, end-users state that not all promises are kept. Sean Robson finds out.

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By  Sean Robson Published  August 4, 2008

Last month, vendors laid claim to the best service provision for customers. But, in the concluding part of the two-part series on IT support in the region, end-users state that not all promises are kept. Sean Robson finds out.

In a region obsessed with growth, CIOs and CTOs have a myriad responsibilities and projects on the go. Naturally they look to their vendors to provide them with quality service and support but do they always receive the level of support they want?

"It's not a clear yes or no, instead it's somewhere in between. Generally vendors deliver on their promises such as the original scope of the product or service being taken care of.  It's a no when it comes to long term satisfaction with the product or service," says Abdulsalam Rahma Al Bastaki, director of IT and services at the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority.

I would suggest that vendors implement a back-end process in order to differentiate problems into their right tiers.

Bastaki continues to say, "It's critical that the vendors concentrate on fulfilling the customer's needs beyond the understanding stated on agreements, and furthermore venture into ensuring that the customer's interests are safeguarded in the process."

Indranil Guha, manager of IT infrastructure management at Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), holds a similar opinion about vendors.

"We learnt very quickly that it was important to include a statement of work into every purchase we make. It contains the details of what we expect, the service conditions and the penalty conditions should the expectations not be met."

Guha expects premium service from his vendors and while he is prepared to pay for the premium he insists that all parties concerned know what is expected and required.

"A helpful spin-off of the statement of work has been that it has scared off stray bidders and so we only deal with people capable of delivering quality service."

Tier management

Vendors traditionally offer their services and support across a variety of tiers, some more clearly defined than others. It is a point of contention among users on whether these tiers are appropriate and successful.

"I do not think the service tiers are mature. The RTA follows Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standards but I find that most vendors do not have a very well defined system of tiers and even fewer meet the ITIL standards. We work on establishing a relationship with our vendors so if something is not working, I make a call and it gets seen to," Guha explains.

Bastaki weighs in saying, "While the structuring of the tiers may be acceptable, how efficient and effective the tier selection is depends on the actual delivery of services to the customers."

When it comes to improving levels of service, there is no end of opinions and recommendations from end-users in the Middle East. "From my viewpoint a big issue for vendors is that they have limited manpower.

This means that they are not able to address issues as per the time frame that is guaranteed in the support contract. They simply need to employ more people," says Rupendra Shakya, group assistant IT manager with the Habtoor Hotels group.

"Vendors should invest more in research and development while expanding on the customer satisfaction strategy. They should also not go below a certain price because often times they are then forced to compromise on the deliverables," says GV Rao, general manager ICT at United Development Company in Qatar.

Guha and his staff at RTA have developed a list of recommendations they offer to the region's vendors when it comes to delivering good service.

"First, I would suggest vendors implement a back-end process in order that they can differentiate between what is a tier one problem, what is tier two and so on. Second, I would suggest that they have a proper escalation method independent of the technical managers. Reports should be made to the marketing manager or accounts manager so that they know that the end-users are getting the required service from the technical team."

"I feel that if vendors want to improve they need to look at providing preventive maintenance, conduct proactive quarterly visits and free training for upgrades. These steps would go a long way in keeping the users happy," states Ahmad Al Mulla, CIO of Dubai Aluminium Company (Dubal).

There is clearly a number of challenges facing CIOs and IT managers when it comes to sourcing quality service and support in the Middle East.

"Location is my problem. Being based in Qatar limits my options when it comes to suppliers. Making sure I get the service I require from vendors comes down to personally negotiating with them to ensure that they know what I want," says Rao.

"As a client we expect a speedy resolution performed in a professional manner. So I believe that it's very important for a company to bring the right engineers in and brief them about the setup and business importance. It may come down to having the same engineer or team assigned to your enterprise because he understands and knows your business needs best," says Shakya.

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