Managing 3rd Parties in IT Support

It’s no secret that hospitality businesses are dealing with an increasingly complex network of IT systems which are critical to their operation. Should any of these systems have issues, it is crucial that the problem is resolved in the most efficient manner possible so that the business can get back to operating as usual. Unfortunately, in most scenarios, this is not the case.

By ‘3rd parties’, in this context, I am referring to any business you work with who provides an IT related application or solution to you. For example:

  • Key Equipment:              e.g. Tills, Printers, key cutting, door entry
  • Infrastructure:                 e.g. Network, Backup, Cloud, Guest WiFi
  • Software:                          e.g. PMS, Payroll, HR, Bespoke Apps, Security
  • Telecoms:                         e.g. Phones, Internet

The questions you should ask yourself are:

  • “If X system stops working, how much revenue would you lose?”
  • “What amount of work would you lose from your staff?”
  • “Do we have a defined process to restore the solution?”
  • “What impact would it have on your business?”
  • “What reputation impact would there be?”

For example – Lost bookings, problems with checking in, lost postings from restaurants, and so the list goes on…

You need to work through questions like the above (and others) so that you have a clear understanding of what processes your business needs to put in to mitigate risk. The first step is to ensure IT Support fully manages 3rd parties. Doing this properly (and I say properly as there is a very broad range of ways businesses “manage” 3rd Parties), has a notable impact on your business.

  •  Staff get a single, accountable, point of contact to log any IT related issues – no confusion of who to go to. As there is a single pane managing all, you can report on the 3rd Parties performance.
  • Managing a problem through to resolution can take a serious amount of time (from queuing on the phone, working through the problem, chasing, and getting an RFO). This takes your staff away from delivering the work you employ them for and is a poor use of their time.
  • Having IT manage all 3rd Parties means that the dialogue is IT literate, and more informed for when (for example) a 3rd party needs access to a server.
  • Ultimately, you improve the end-to-end service levels, increase user satisfaction and minimise the business impact.

 Understanding the importance of managing 3rd parties effectively is one part of the process, but it’s another thing altogether to put in a solution for How to do this.

Because of this, I wanted to share some of the methods we use which have proven to be very effective:

3rd Party Audit: Whilst taking on the IT Support, you should carry out an in-depth audit/documentation of all 3rd parties (communicated out to the relevant staff) by setting up a call with their account manager to capture all the key information. Besides the usual (support details, system description, etc), you should also be looking to best understand and plan for when it doesn’t work – e.g. what is the process for out of support hours? Who are the escalation contacts and what is the process? What is the fail-over process? What are the SLA’s? etc

Monitor Trends: Managing a large user base can make it difficult to identify linked issues which are occurring in real time, but these can often suggest that a more serious threat to your business is manifesting. Yes, having strong communication in your IT team is beneficial, but this is not enough. You should build into your Ticketing Software the ability to highlight recently linked issues of the current users/sites/issue. This must always be visible so that the IT Support team can raise the issue to the 3rd parties as soon as possible, whilst also understanding the breadth of the issue.

Escalations: In the event of a P1 or P2 issue (business-wide/site-wide business affecting issue), communication becomes critical. First, escalate it to the 3rd party through the correct channels, but then also, send out communications to an agreed distribution list of relevant colleagues (e.g. directors, IT, etc), detailing that the issue has been identified, raised (ref ID), what it is, and how it is being progressed. Then, update all throughout, right up to the Reason for Outage (RFO).

For instance, in the event that you’re out with your family on the weekend, the last thing you want is to be pulled into the office in a panic trying to restore services. Instead, having this flow of communication helps everyone see that the problem has been picked up and how it is being progressed live.

Availability: IT issues can happen at any time. Unfortunately, just like hospitality businesses, they don’t adhere to a 9-5 working week. It’s important you have a team which is available 24*7 to pick up issues and raise to the 3rd party as soon as they arise (without waiting until the next morning).

Updates: 3rd parties need consistent chasing with updates being communicated to the users. It is not as simple as a log, drop and wait.

Meetings: It’s important to keep on top of the 3rd party’s performance. We recommend support review meetings to ensure there is no loss of performance and to go through any trends by reviewing all tickets logged to then.

Contingency Processes: This all forms the basis for building thorough contingency plans to prevent the business from being caught by surprise and minimise business impact upon system failures. For example: if your internet line fails, it may be that you set it up to fail-over to a backup/secondary line; if your telephony fails, it may be that you divert calls to different site; if any key equipment fails, you may put in spares to swap in whilst waiting for an engineer call out. These all need working out and are bespoke to each business.

With specialising in Hospitality IT Support, managing 3rd parties is a critical piece to the work we do. As you can see, there is much more to it than I can fit into the above. If you want to discuss this in more detail, I would be happy to schedule a call.

oliver.coop@cms-group.net
07739196028

Oliver Coop

Account Director

CMS Group

 

 

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