Christmas may well be the season to be jolly, but it can be far from a laughing matter if staff leave requests put your business’ customer service offering in jeopardy. 

 

This time of year often represents a significant headache for many business owners, particularly when it comes to maintaining agreed service levels for their customers. It can be a real juggle to ensure sufficient numbers of technicians and engineers are on hand, and yet still be able to allow key personnel to take time off to spend with their families; to relax and recharge their batteries.

Many industries refer to Christmas as the ‘holiday period’, although that’s somewhat of a misnomer for those who welcome the festive break as their peak selling time. Of course, needs differ dramatically between market segments. In the education sector for instance, Christmas is an opportunity for infrastructure deployment. In retail, it’s all hands on deck to guarantee 100 per cent uptime. And, as the move away from the cities to outer suburbs and the coastal fringe continues, it’s also the time that many organisations choose to move premises and relocate. All these scenarios put IT infrastructure resources under additional pressure.

So how can you balance employee motivation with customer satisfaction and effectively manage resourcing over the holiday period?

 

1. Understand holiday impact on expected revenue and resources

To be truly engaged at work, the brain needs periodic breaks to gain fresh perspective and energy. But there is no escaping the fact that annual leave impacts the businesses bottom-line in-terms of revenue and costs. Revenue is generally accrued for delivery or work. With less people not only in the office but also in your clients, it may mean less delivery and billable hours for those that are working. This all equates to less revenue-generated.

However, not all business slow down during holidays. Some organisations get busier meaning that demand and pressure on these business and IT environment may increase- just when most of your employees are planning travel and time off. This demand results in additional revenue, but you may have to increase staff headcount to meet demand. This can increase your costs.

 

2. Prepare for Remote Workers

Technology has fundamentally changed the relationship between work and life. We now live in an ‘always on’, ‘always connected’ world.Holidays are a time when many people try to take time away from the office, but these days many people don’t leave their work at work. Remote work may increase as people try to finish end-of-year work before vacation and company shutdowns. This means extra connections on your VPN, and extra connections and traffic on your remote email. Check the stats for these systems to make sure that you won’t hit any limits, like license limitations on simultaneous connections.

 

3. Change Freeze: Don’t leave your systems out in the cold

As the holiday season approaches us, many organisations will move into into change-freeze mode. While change freeze is often important to maintain stable environments through periods of potentially low staff coverage, the business need for monitoring, identifying and responding to technical issues remains as critical as ever.

Most organisations operate a change freeze on their IT systems as a control for managing risk and keeping a stable and available IT environment around critical times of the year or when experiencing reduced staff levels. While a change freeze is put in place to maintain the stability of an organisation’s IT systems, this approach can actually be putting the very same systems at even greater risk. Each year, thousands of vulnerable software flaws are reported in operating systems and applications that are being exploited by cybercriminals.

Trend Micro recommends that you:

a) Understand where you are most vulnerable

b) Continue to carry out ongoing vulnerability assessments and assess weakness throughout the period

c) Evaluate your security posture in light of new vulnerabilities being discovered, for example, after every patch Tuesday

d) Determine criteria for doing nothing versus reacting

e) Establish a process, with appropriate escalation, for emergency patching

f) Calculate the cost and risk of emergency patches and software fixes

 

4. Ensure that your Monitoring and Support is up to scratch:

Being able to monitor the status of your IT environment is critical to making quick, informed decisions. This is especially helpful when you have reduced staffing levels. During the holidays, it may be necessary to increase the scope of your monitoring solution to ensure that you have sufficient visibility and build appropriate support coverage across all systems when facing decreased staff levels.

 

5. Outsource:

For BEST Technology Services, the December to January period is one of the busiest of the year. That’s because we plan with our partners well in advance on how to deploy the right support people to plug their resource gaps over the holiday period – and it’s a strategy that works.

After choosing to work with BEST, one of our major customers reported how great it was to be able to give one NSW south coast-based and one NSW north coast-based resource leave at the same time during the school holidays; something they’d never been able to offer their employees before. The business didn’t suffer and, just as importantly, it really lifted morale.

Another partner was able to utilise BEST during the Christmas period to increase their reach and coverage in the education market and, by doing so, successfully secured an additional contract in Western Australia and regional New South Wales. Previously, they’d been restricted by the limits of their internal field resources, but now all that’s changed.

Now’s the time to plan for Christmas so your business doesn’t get caught out this year. By effectively acting as locums, our team of highly skilled IT engineers can step in to ensure your customers see no dip in service levels whatsoever. And you get to enjoy the feel good factor of saying a resounding ‘yes’ to annual leave requests. When you think about it, there’s really no reason not to make this your business’ BEST silly season yet.

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