ITIL V3 Application Support Q & A

Second Line Support

Hi Bob,
I’m currently responsible for all support actvities across several systems. Resources have a wide range of skills from User Support/Education,business knowledge, bug fixing to the delivery of non-project development. They also get assigned to work on projects.With the arrival of a new IT director, I have been asked to set up a Second Line support function who do not work on project development and only call on project resources for assistance when a problem is overly complex. There is much confusion over what constitues 2nd & 3rd line support and no one whats to be ‘stuck’ in a 2nd l ine support role. I’m not allowed to recruit any new staff into this team, however I do not believe the division can be successfully accomplished without increasing headcount and allowing time for people to learn but I’m being pushed to implement this ASAP.

Any suggestions on how to take this forward?

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One Comment

  1. Mary, WOW, you have your hands full and sounds like mass confusion. First lets clarify roles and responsibilities of Application Support.

    1. Level-1 Usually Help Desk, if application specific, or problem the call is usually transferred immediately to Level-2.

    2. Level-2 Medium complexity technical support (answering application questions, or doing investigations, or resolving small problems that do not involve “code changes”. The people in Level 2 must have solid knowledge of the application (several years supporting the application). Why? You may ask. Because they are the ones to really diagnose the problem and identify the underlying root cause. Actually Level-2 has to have more knowledge and experience then Level-3 in many respects. Level-2 has to decide if the problem (incident) requires a code change or simply procedural change and what area of the application the fix should probably be applied.

    3. Level-3 Only gets involved when there is an actual code change from the requirements / specs handed down from Level-2. They code and unit test the problem fix, then hand back to Level-2 for systems test. Level-2 once the problem in the application is fixed contact the User and walks through a UAT (user acceptance test). Level-2, would then close the incident once accepted by the user. The people on Level-2 support should be good BSA’s (business systems analysts) with intimate application and technical knowledge of the application and environment and business.

    Level-2 is your main control point of user contact and the link to Level-3.  Level-3 should never have to talk with the end user. This is why Level-2 is so important, they must have great user communication skills, great deal of knowledge of the application, outstanding technical skills (to know if the problem is really fixed), and be able to communicate to Level-3 with requirements and specifications if the problem is serious and comples Level-2 performs a spec walk through with Level-3 (programmers) before coding begins and does another walk through with Level-3 after changes have been made to ensure that the fix matches the specs / requirements of the problem.

    I cannot speak to you about head count as I do not know how many calls per day are referred to Level-2 (investigation and solution overall determination) or Level-3 (code change). Your best bet is to develop the support structure like the one I described above or one that works for you and capture metrics on the number, type, and time to resolve of various categories of support calls that are transferred from Level-1 (Help Desk) to Level-2 Technical Support, and Level-3 application code changes. Then look at the distribution of work and effort on different support activities over time (60 to 90 days). Then provide your management with your findings. Metrics and numbers not “I need” with no empirical measurement data backup.   Does this help….. Bob

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