One step closer to user – Production Support (Part 1)

If you are familiar with the usual Software development project flow you would know, BA will get a bunch of requirements to be implemented from Client. End of implementation phase(s) there will be a day the software would launch to production environment through many sleepless nights for dev team.  What comes after that?

If the software is a long running business critical application, there will be support services which need to be provided at least  99% up time.  In the business world, this support phase known as the Production Support.  Throughout many years of molding, this phase standardized and I had a greate opportunity to experience the full phase of production support.

Let me share some what I have learned so far,  First of all some two jargons.

Production support – you are responsible for all types of issues like connectivity, infrastructure maintenance, components(not single application) functionality etc
Application support – you are responsible for issues specific to a particular application instead of the whole environment. You will have to work only when there is something wrong with your application.

Today, all of the complex business processes are supported by computer software and hardware. However, just as people are susceptible to making mistakes, software and hardware make errors, too. Therefore, every company must have an Application Support Team to ensure that these business applications run successfully and are error free.

Supporting of applications is critical for three quarters of organisations, but over half (53%) are struggling to maintain and manage their portfolios. Latest research from Fujitsu confirms the need for better asset management and qualified application support analysts.

From the outside, it might seem as if the application support group fixes errors when users complain. and not much more. I have heard a manager state that the support people basically put their fingers in a hole in the dam when a leak springs up. This perception is not correct. Actually the support staff provides a number of services, and has a number of responsibilities to ensure that applications remain in good working order.

With application support a dynamic career track with many opportunities.

What do application support analysts do?
They fix application and system problems, or any incident that is disrupting the application service that business users depend on. The job calls for both technical capability and business understanding. Crucially, applications are production, or live, issues and need immediate attention: an unflappable temperament is a must.

What does good communication consist of?
It goes without saying that application support analysts need excellent communication skills – but what exactly does that mean? First, of course, is the ability to express yourself well, verbally and on paper or email. You also need an acute understanding that other people within the business depend on your services, and know how to respond to that dependency. This may be via acknowledgement, updates and resolution.

Core tech competencies
An application support analyst needs to demonstrate competent IT literacy around applications and systems. Core technical areas are databases and SQL, and operating system platforms such as UNIX, especially Solaris, and Windows. Delivering live IT environments that enable the business every day is a challenging and dynamic career with many opportunities.

Six further competencies

These additional capabilities will ensure success in building a support analyst career:

• Technical knowledge

• Business awareness

• Cultural awareness

• Service awareness, preferably IT Infrastructure library (ITIL) certification

• Investigation and diagnostic skills (the Sherlock Holmes factor)

• Support tool knowledge

Six personal attributes

Application support staff, particularly those within blue chip companies, cite the following attributes as contributing to success:

• Communication skills and active listening

• Empathy with users

• Acceptance of ownership

• Patience and understanding

• Investigation & diagnostic skills (more of the Sherlock factor)

• Language skills (in some cases)

Let’s talk further in the second post.


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