April 26, 2007, 11:39 AM — Remember the nine-to-five five-day workweek? I can't either. Data-driven businesses run around the clock, all day, every day. Is your organization ready to respond when a customer's IT infrastructure decides to go south at 3 a.m. on a weekend, or at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24? I sure hope so.
Consider a simple non-IT scenario that actually happened this past weekend. SUV owner is ready to load up for a Sunday day out. Unfortunately, pressing the button on the keychain remote doesn't unlock the doors and disable the vehicle theft system. Driver replaces remote's battery. Still nothing. Driver digs out spare remote. Nothing.
Sure, motorist could stick key in the driver's door and unlock, but that won't disarm the antitheft system, which prevents the car from starting. The only way to do that is from the remote. Driver calls toll-free number for the vehicle recovery system's manufacturer. Bad idea.
Polite young lady in an Iowa call center takes the call. Alas, there's nothing she can do. "You'll have to call back Monday at 8 a.m." Driver is not happy and reminds young lady, firmly yet politely, that people drive on weekends and at night, so where is customer support when their systems malfunction. "I'm sorry, but I can help only if you're calling to report a stolen vehicle." No need for that. Vehicle is, well, a non-starter; thievery unlikely. The radio, windows, and sunroof work just fine, though. Driver is stranded until Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., the first available appointment for an on-site service call.
The basic problem is that the company has no capability to support its own customers at a time when use may actually increase (over a weekend). It just doesn't make sense.
So let's think about this in IT terms. If your customer is a law firm, odd-hour and weekend systems use may be much less than during normal business hours. But if your customer is a retailer with a networked point-of-sale system, a publisher whose magazines or newspapers go to press from Friday evening through Sunday, or a manufacturer that operates continuous eight-hour shifts for non-stop production, it's a totally different story.
Yes, it's reasonable to assume these organizations have in-house IT assets. What they do not have is access to replacement units, or expertise for a scenario new to them but that you've seen before.
Do you need to keep a full staff at the ready all the time? Probably not. But what you do need to have is quick access to the person on your staff who can make a decision, fetch and deliver a product, or at the very least, know where to get the right answer. It's the real value of the cell phone.
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