ATC’s Louie Hollmeyer recently moderated a comSpark.tech podcast featuring Jeff Crawford, IT Director for The Harris Products Group, a division of Lincoln Electric. Topics discussed include application development, quality assurance, service desk, first-call resolution, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
To listen to the podcast click here!
Here’s a transcription:
Hello, and welcome to the ComSpark podcast, where you will get to meet today’s technology thought leaders. To learn more, visit ComSpark.tech
Louie Hollmeyer: Hello, we’re here today with Jeff Crawford, who is the IT Director with The Harris Products Group, a division of Lincoln Electric. Harris has approximately 600 employees, $300,000,000 in revenue, and three national and two international locations. My name is Louie Hollmeyer with ATC – Advanced Technology Consulting – and I will be your guest moderator today. Let’s get started.
Jeff, thank you for joining us today. I thought we’d talk a little bit first about development. Today we have an app for so many tasks. What are the challenges in designing an application?
Jeff Crawford: There are many challenges, actually. Probably, first and foremost is designing an application that meets a business need and has business leader support. Lots of business users have ideas to do things, but the real question is, if I develop the app, how does it help the business? How does it drive revenue? So one of the first things you’d begin to think about is, what’s the business case for the app?
Louie: Seems like a lot today. People talk about an IT director’s primary responsibility is app level of success, so that’s kind of the business challenge. Do you feel like delivering apps either to your customers or to your employees is one of your primary priorities?
Jeff: Yes, definitely. The role that I fall into is I’m halfway between business and halfway between technology, and I’m trying to provide the bridge or the glue that binds them all together in the end, so I have to know a lot about how the business operates, but I also have to know what technology options we have in our toolkit that best fit the application we’re trying to develop.
Louie: As business needs change, how do you balance maintaining quality with meeting the challenges of timelines?
Jeff: That’s always difficult because we can never move fast enough. We – meaning IT – never move as fast as we would like from a business perspective. So then the question becomes, well, do I take functionality out to shorten the development time and meet a timeline? And then, how do I adequately, test and review the application so that it’s solid before we release it for people to use? That’s always difficult because we expect end users to help test, but they’ve never been classically trained in how to properly test an application. So one of the things we have to do is help them and educate them in that process.
Louie: Let’s move to service desk, if you don’t mind. How does your company approach end user support through the service desk?
Jeff: I think we probably have a classic approach. We have an online service ticket system that people can use and make a request. We also have an 800 number they can call and in some circumstances – more so for the executives – we’ll just deal with them directly on the phone. But the service desk system allows us to understand what kind of requests we’re getting, track our time against them, capture common solutions to problems, and then from time to time go back and review the kinds of issues we’ve dealt with to see if there are any trends that we would miss from the individual incidents that we work on.
Louie: I would assume first call resolution is the primary goal.
Jeff: Yes. We like to have the call done right there on the phone because people are happier when they can come to you and get an answer and be done with it.
Louie: So you monitor that pretty closely?
Louie: Are level one incidents and requests handled internally? I think you indicated that they were.
Jeff: Yes. But very rarely would we go outside. Now, given that I’m a division of a larger company, there is a support infrastructure at our corporate offices and Cleveland. So some things we will route to them, or that deal with more of the details of the network or the infrastructure, but most everything else we try to handle the first time locally.
Louie: I think this is a challenge that everybody’s dealing with and not to be confused with B.Y.O.B., but B.Y.O.D., bring your own device. What are your thoughts on that?
Jeff: That’s been debated now for at least, maybe at least 10 years. Ironically, the policy at my company is there is no bring your own device. They’re taking a very hard line about only company approved and sponsor devices could be connected to our systems into the network. Now I know lots of other companies have a have a different approach to that, and I was reading an article yesterday that indicated that the end users aren’t going to want to have more than one phone. They want to have one device to do work with and one device, the same device, to do their personal business with. And at least with our devices, there is a private and a public section. But for the time being, we’ve taken the view that the company will own the devices.
Louie: Within, say, your headquarters here. How has the connected devices on your local area network proliferated or exploded? Say, like, in the last four or five years, where maybe five years ago you’d have one person on a desktop. Now they could have three or four different devices and can you speak to that a little bit?
Jeff: Sure. Classically, a person would have a desktop or a laptop, and as you, as you mentioned, we have a proliferation of individual devices. In fact, we actually have a separate network structure set up so that people’s cell phones can get out to the internet and do things they need to do without disrupting the main things that we do across the network, which would be email, our ERP system. And in our case, the phones run across our major network. But we have a separate network just for individual devices because, probably like a lot of companies, we went through a period where all of a sudden everybody’s individual device was connecting to our network and the network performance starts to degrade, so we set up a separate solution.
Louie: Excellent. Thank you.