This document is not meant to be relied upon as a “be all” of the state of Technical Staff AH/Pager Support in Australia. The study undertaken was an exploratory venture with only 93 respondents sourced from a mailing sent out across the System Administrators Guild of Australia’s (SAGE-AU) distribution list.
Interest has already been garnered for an expanded study to be conducted and aimed at the Australian IT staff at large.
If you are interested in becoming involved with such a study, please contact me or join SAGE-AU to express your interest.
Technical Support Hours
In recent years, IT departments and companies have extended their technical support coverage by several hours a day, most to a full 24*7 coverage (seven days a week, 24 hours a day) model. These extended hours reflect the fact that many businesses need to provide services to a global always-on market … which by definition implies the provision of support outside of regular office hours.
So far, this ever increasing extension of support hours and duties has been a seemingly haphazard process. If you were to go and seek any level of reliable data on “standard” after-hours support structures, the use of basic technology for offsite coverage, or other related material, you’d find pretty much close to naught.
Compensation information is practically impossible to find. A definitive source of industry standards for the way companies handle or pay for these services simply does not exist. Mercer, AIM and CSI may record salary and super figures – but everything else is considered too much of a variable.
So decisions about extended coverage are too often made on the basis of gut feelings and skimpy anecdotal data or, seemingly, in most cases, whatever the employer feels they can get away with.
To help answer some of the basic tenements about extended coverage, to gather some data and create the beginnings of some form of standardised grid that can be utilised by technical staff to argue figures with management and remuneration officers, an e-mail survey of support coverage and related business practices was released via the mailing lists of the System Administrators Guild of Australia.
A total of fifteen questions were presented to members of the guild. These questions were focussed on the structure, form, practices and of course compensation. The survey received 93 usable responses and I have summarised the results in this report.
By far, the majority of respondents (54%) handled all support calls directly with automated alert systems (29%) and escalated call systems (17%) trailing behind.
2. How are your after hours duties metered? Do you have a roster, are you always on or is it by arrangement?
One of the significant differentiators among respondents was the format that after hours support was metered or expected by the host company. The vast majority (64%) were on a rostered system requiring a week of support at a time. Shockingly, sixteen percent of respondents were expected to be “always on”. Fourteen percent of those surveyed were rostered by prior arrangement, with only 6% rostered on a monthly schedule.
3. When on support, what are the hours of coverage required?
A shockingly high amount of survey respondents (57%) stated that when on support, they were expected to be contactable 24*7. This was closely followed by 34% requiring out-of-business hours (generally defined as 5pm – 9am weekdays and 6pm Friday – 9am Monday. Only nine percent of those surveyed were expected to be on eight-hour “follow the sun” based support hours.
It seems that respondents are reasonably split with pagers and SMS systems making up 46% of initial support calls, while mobile or direct to home number phone calls making up 54% of all initial support calls.
5. What is the average number of calls received per week while on support?
6. What conditions (if any) are imposed on staff while on support?
|Remain Sober & Reachable||100%|
|Fixed SLA Timings 10m||30%|
|Fixed SLA Timings 30m||27%|
|Fixed SLA Timings 60m||22%|
|Fixed SLA Timings > 60m||13%|
7. Are you provided with tools to provide support? e.g. laptop, mobile, VPN access, Internet connection, broadband, cab charge vouchers, etc.?
|In-house Modem Bank||24|
|Internet Connection – Broadband||28|
|Internet Connection – Dial-Up||12|
|Re-Imbursed Services (e.g. Cab Charge Vouchers, home phone, own equipment, etc)||28|
|Other Tools and Services (e.g. PDA, Pager, Proprietary Tools)||16|
|No tools or Services||2|
|Escalated to Other Team Member||34%|
|Escalated to Senior Team Member||18%|
|Escalated to Supervisor/Manager||41%|
|Escalated to Vendor Support or External Help Desk||9%|
|Escalated to Other Support Centre (e.g. Interstate/International Data Centre, Outsourcer, etc)||11%|
|No escalation Path – “Work it or wait till the morning”||3%|
If yes, how are these issues handled? e.g. against a blue book, escalated to other team member, escalated to vendor/outsourcer?
|Escalated to Other Team Member – Rostered On Support||31%|
|Escalated to Other Team Member – Not Rostered On Support||11%|
|“Blue Book” (i.e. Documented issues and resolutions for standard calls)||17%|
|Escalated to Vendor Support or External Help Desk||8%|
|Escalated to Other Support Centre (e.g. Interstate/International Data Centre, Outsourcer, etc)||12%|
|No escalation Path – “Work it or wait till the morning”||21%|
9b. How is support utilisation is tracked? e.g. Is there a trouble ticket system? Once the call has been escalated, is it logged and do you have to close the call at the completion of the engagement? Or do you simply scribble the information down somewhere and tell your manager, fill in a word doc/excel sheet in the morning?
|Ticket Tracking System||22%|
|Service Monitor System (e.g. Products like Nagios, Outsourcer Provided Monitoring, etc)||8%|
|Standard Help Desk Tracking System (e.g. Service Desk, Openview, etc)||26%|
|Manual Process (e.g. Standardised Form, Word or Excel Document, hand scribbled notes, report to manager in the morning, etc)||21%|
|Time Sheet System||15%|
|No Tracking Performed||9%|
10. Is support compensated, or is it considered “part of the job”?
|Compensated – Cash||79%|
|Compensated – Non Cash||15%|
10a. If compensation is offered what method is utilised? (e.g. Hourly rates, shift premiums, standby rates, flexible hours or Time in Lieu, gifts …)
|Minimum Call-Out Rate||4%|
|Premium/Penalty Rates/Salary Loading||12%|
|Flexible Hours/Time in Lieu||28%|
|Flat Rate Allowance||6%|
10b. What rates are provided as part of this scheme?
Unfortunately, the range of answers were to diverse to compile into any form of usable table or graph. So, for the sake of indication only, I have compiled a close enough is good enough averages table for a basic reference.
|Retainer/Standby Rates/Loading||$A 50 – 200|
|Hourly Rates||$A 1 to 30|
|Minimum Call-Out Rate||$A 25 – 95|
|Premium/Penalty Rates/Salary Loading||10 – 20%|
|Flat Rate Allowance||$A 200 – 500/ week|
10c. If remote access is required and tools are not provided, are costs (e.g. mobile calls, Internet account charges, etc) reimbursed?
10d. If remote support is not an option or commuting back on-site is required, are costs (e.g. taxi fares, car allowance, parking, etc) reimbursed or covered?