The FT Word – October 2011

By Technical Support


Welcome to the October 2011 edition of the FT Word. Feel free to forward it to your colleagues. (They can get their own subscription.)

Topics for this month:

  • The FT Works indicator – 1 zettabyte

  • 10 takeaways from ASP’s “Ten Best Support Web Support Sites of 2011” winners

  • Offshore Technical Support – an interview with M. M. “Sath” Sathyanarayan (and an invitation to a complimentary webinar on the topic on 11/3)

The FT Works Indicator: 1 zettabyte

I picked this indicator because I loved the word, and I did not know what it meant: 1 sextillion bytes! It’s enough to make my head spin and it represents an estimate of information available on the Internet as of last year, way, way up from the 5 terabytes of just five years ago. With that growth rate, get ready to invent a new word soon.

What does this mean for us? It’s a reminder that one of our main roles in support is to manage knowledge, and we have our work cut out for us!

10 Takeaways from ASP’s Ten Best Support Web Sites

I’m always curious to read “The Ten Best Support Best Sites” reports from ASP because I find them full of interesting suggestions. Here are ten I noted from this year’s report:

  • Support traffic is huge. For Juniper Networks, it represents 30% of the overall traffic to the corporate site..

  • Looking at all the winners, the ideal landing page seems to be settling on a prominent search box and a few special choices below. Work hard on identifying the most common tasks and don’t let others clutter the landing page.

  • Create product pages that display all information related to a particular product or set of products in one convenient location.

  • Don’t hide the information on how to contact support. None of the winners do.

  • Offer as many tools as you can. It’s not enough to just have a knowledge base.

  • KCS is winning! Finally, it seems that we are turning the corner towards just-in-time information, having realized that perfect is the enemy of good (French philosophers are always right!)

  • Smart web metrics can tell you user paths through the site. This is important to streamline the most traveled ones.

  • Customer communities are in, but integrating communities with the rest of the site is the real key.

  • ROI is elusive. Since product quality is still the #1 predictor of support experience it’s tough to untangle the role of the support site versus other factors – but triangulation seems to yield interesting results

  • The basics still matter. Improving search performance seems to be a theme with many winners

You can purchase the complete report here:

Offshore Technical Support

M. M. “Sath” Sathyanarayan provides advisory services to companies that are leveraging offshore resources for technical support and product development. He helps his clients improve offshore productivity and get more value for their offshoring initiatives. With over 30 years in the industry he has launched and run a large variety of offshore projects and I recently asked him a few questions about best practices for offshoring.

FT: I see a number of vendors who are disappointed in their offshored support teams, whether outsourced or not. They note lower productivity as well as a gap in customer satisfaction. What do you think is the root cause for such problems?

Sath: I think the main issue is that expectations do not match between the two parties. Offshoring requires work, a lot of work. It can’t just be setting up a contract and training and calling it a day. You have to set up a relationships for mentoring, control, and improvements. Start with the right project that has lower risks. For instance, if accents are likely to be a problem then a high-volume, phone-based support project is not a good fit. Why not email support, or knowledge base work

FT: A lot of vendors are attracted to offshoring because of the cost savings? Is that the right motivation?

Sath: You should be able to save money, yes, but never stop just at the labor cost savings. There is always a loss of productivity, and monitoring costs are not zero. For that reason, very small-scoped projects rarely make sense. If you are thinking of offshoring a couple of people that’s probably too small.

FT Is there a difference between insourcing and outsourcing?

Sath: The issues are really similar, whether we are talking culture, time differences, or management style. And outsourcers really want to please their clients, so I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the two.

FT: What do you do when you are called in to diagnose issues.

Sath: Think of it as a physical, a health check for the relationship. I hold extensive interviews both with the onshore and the offshore teams, face-to-face, where I explore the strategy (why offshore? What’s the goal?), the current benefits of the relationship (and the benefits can be lower than expected when we add the overhead of the management costs), the capabilities of the offshore team, the quality of the service, and the overall governance or management of the relationship. Overall about 80% of the relationships can be saved, sometimes with very significant improvements, once both sides can see the other’s perspective.

Want to hear more from Sath and me? Join us on November 3rd at 11 PT/2pm ET for a joint presentation from the comfort of your office. Click here to register for the (complimentary) webinar). Hope you can make it!

FT Works in the News

New – My popular support budget template is now posted for ASP members

The Association for Support Professionals is sharing a number of support-related document templates and checklists developed by their members. I have contributed the often-requested support budget spreadsheet (complete with a staffing model!). You can find it at

Third Tuesday Forum Breakfast – November 15th

As the newsletter is sent we are not quite ready to announce the next  speaker for The Third Tuesday Forum breakfast but it’s back where it belongs, on the third Tuesday of November, November 15th. Watch here for updates, sign up for the mailing list, or join the Third Tuesday Forum groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Curious about something? Send me your suggestions for topics and your name will appear in future newsletters. I’m thinking of doing a compilation of “tips and tricks about support metrics” in the coming months so if you have favorites, horror stories, or questions about metrics, please don’t be shy.

Françoise Tourniaire
FT Works
650 559 9826

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