Doors to automatic and cross-check.


The relentless, portentous buzzing of your Blackberry interrupting the morning commute and denoting one system alert after another. I’m sure we’ve all been there. You immediately go into battle mode and prepare for a busy day of firefighting ahead. It’s time to clear the decks, cancel all meetings, drop all project work. You may as well do the same for the following day too as these things invariably have a knock-on effect. As you step onto the trading floor and approach the desk there is a palpable sense of heightened activity: technical gurus huddled over a screen and gesticulating wildly, monitors lit up in flashing technicolour like a Christmas tree, senior figures beckoning you over before you’ve even had time to finish your double shot mochachino with caramel…

You spend the whole of the day slowly putting out small fires in an effort to stem the conflagration and protect the core of the system. Accounts aren’t going to get their report on time today, if at all, but hey what’s new. That report has been busting its SLA ever since Mike introduced that new processing stream into the batch. At some point towards the end of the day you will feel confident enough to show your not-so-smug-anymore face to the business stakeholders and declare the worst to be over. If it’s your lucky day they will be surprisingly understanding, give you a hearty pat on the back and congratulate you on saving the world.

A job well done? Actually, no. It should never have reached this stage. Except in those extremely rare circumstances of total system failure, a support team is not supposed to be constantly firefighting, running around all day like the proverbial headless chicken. This suggests there is something inherently wrong with the stability of the system, an obvious candidate is that change is being introduced too quickly or without adequate testing.

The very best support teams appear calm, hardly busy even, quietly going about their business and adding value by taking on project work, assisting other teams and ensuring new releases do not introduce unnecessary risk into the system. This is what a support environment ought to look like. It suggests a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes i.e. the base of the pyramid has been secured before introducing additional building blocks. The system monitors hum, showing steady and smooth graphs of activity, a veritable sea of green. To use an aviation analogy: three greens – nosewheel down and locked, all systems fully operational.

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