The Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) Support Role Cluster includes service desk, incident, and problem management functions. Support is key not only to internal users (employees) of the corporate IT services, but also to external customers of an organization's products and services. Such support is commonly referred to as product or technical support. Customers base their perceptions of the overall quality of IT services on their interactions with the service desk since the service desk is the front-line contact for the user community.
The most important goal of the Support Role Cluster is to provide timely, efficient, and accurate customer support. A service desk staffing plan needs to ensure that the number of support staff on hand scales proportionately to the demand for support-at both peak and low-usage times. Maintaining appropriate service desk staffing levels helps to control support costs and minimizes response times on incidents, thus supporting the goals specified within the service level agreements (SLAs).
Automation tools enable the support staff to prioritize their workload of incidents based on priority and business impact of the problem. These support-automation tools also provide reports on the measurements of success, such as response time, number of incidents on a given problem, and so forth. Each incident ultimately will be mapped to a given problem for resolution. Depending on how the Support Role Cluster is organized within a given group, designated escalation tiers within the support group will handle incidents that become problems, and the problem management team for that product area will determine the root cause of the incident. (The service desk, as stated by the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), is not responsible for analysis of root causes, but specifically for incident management.)
Application-specific and service-specific support teams (often called production support teams) are typically the second level in the escalation chain of problem management. When business units are aligned with their own IT staff, the production support team is that business unit's own line-of-business (LOB) support team, having in-depth knowledge not only of the systems but of the business it supports. This group within the Support Role Cluster receives escalated incidents from the service desk. Depending on the nature of the problem, production support either resolves it or consults with a peer operations team such as database operations or network operations to correct the problem as quickly as possible.
The Support Role Cluster should own the problem management function. Ideally, this is a dedicated, problem analyst role that is responsible for tracking problems and following up on their resolution. The problem analyst ensures that a specific group corrects the root cause of problems. In large enterprise IT departments as well as in e-businesses where achieving prescribed service levels is integral to the business, the role of a dedicated service level manager can be a great asset. ITIL assigns a service level manager as the process owner of service level management. In smaller IT groups, a dedicated role or group for service level management is not practical and the service level management process will be inherent in the primary support group's overall responsibilities.
Where the need is justified, a service level manager can provide a marked improvement in the ability of the IT service provider to carefully monitor the service levels set out in the service level agreement (SLA) to ensure that customers' needs are being met with high-quality support and timely responses, and that costs are carefully managed while meeting the goals specified in the SLAs.
The Support Role Cluster also owns capacity planning-specifically for the LOB systems in the business unit-and works with the Infrastructure Role Cluster in aligning the business unit's capacity and growth plans with the enterprise capacity planning process.
Effective, accurate, and timely communications are key for all of the roles, but especially for the support role. The support role's prime responsibility of providing quality service to the customer is highly dependent on clear communication.
Key responsibilities of the Support Role Cluster include:
- Providing primary liaison and customer service to the IT user
- Supporting the business by managing the service level
agreements with the customer and ensuring commitments are
- Providing effective incident and problem resolution using
highly automated tools and knowledge base systems.
- Responding rapidly to user requests and logged incidents.
Providing production support of LOB applications and
- Providing management reports and metrics on support
- Offering feedback to the development and design team.
- Providing problem management process support across groups.
Setting up failover and recovery provisions.
Key skills required of the Support Role Cluster include:
- Ability to understand the current IT environment.
- Ability to understand server and computer diagnostics.
- Good troubleshooting skills.
- Ability to understand computer and server hardware and
architecture and the operating systems in use.
- Ability to understand custom and shrink-wrapped
- Ability to understand the various desktop configurations and
load sets in use throughout the company.
- Ability to understand the networking environment in use.
Ability to identify support trends (for example, 10 people call the
service desk about the same problem in three hours).
- Ability to understand and accommodate the needs of users of
remote portable computers and other handheld devices.
- Ability to evaluate customer-support enablers offered by
- Ability to administer and use the problem-tracking and
- Deep technical understanding of the system, LOB service, and