Wondering about 1st line vs 2nd line support? Read on…
Digital transformation has numerous benefits for businesses and organisations of all sizes and across all industries. Cloud computing solutions such as Microsoft 365 and SharePoint increase productivity and collaboration, as well as driving down the cost of IT ownership and delivering more flexible operating models.
However, our reliance on technology also means that all organisations now need to invest in IT support. Whether that’s onsite IT support to fix issues in-house, or IT service desk outsourcing to handle support tickets raised by your technology users.
If you’re new to IT support levels you might be wondering what you get, how much support your organisation needs, and how much it will cost. Below we explore 1st line vs 2nd line support to provide an overview of each.
First line support
To start with it’s not really a question of 1st line vs 2nd line support. All companies that use technology require 1st line support, either provided in-house or through an IT provider. 1st line covers the basics such as password resets, account unlocks, basic desktop support and other common IT issues that might prevent staff from getting on with work.
Increasingly some 1st line support is offered through next gen service desks with self-serve tools that help users resolve problems for themselves. This is sometimes referred to as service level 0. With higher IT literacy rates across the workforce many basic IT issues can fixed by employees, which reduces downtime significantly. Self-serve options are backed up with support from service desk analysts to ensure that all users and support levels are supported.
1st line IT support is usually charged on a per user or per ticket basis with a flat monthly fee. More information on IT service desk pricing can be found here.
Do you need 1st line support? If your organisation relies on technology for business operations. If staff can’t get on with their work if they can’t access their apps or IT systems for any reason. If the bottom line is effected because orders can’t be fulfilled. If your organisation’s IT systems need to be always up, 24/7 or out of hours. Yes.
Should you use IT service desk outsourcing? If your expensive in-house IT team are spending too much time resolving basic IT problems such as password resets, outsourcing first line support will be more cost effective than continuing to manage it in-house.
Second line support
Many organisations keep 2nd line support in-house. If 1st line tickets are handled by an outsource provider, tickets that need to be escalated to 2nd line are pushed to your internal IT team. However the reverse can be true as well. If your internal IT team don’t have the skills to resolve more complex issues you might retain 1st line in-house and escalate 2nd line to an IT support provider.
2nd line support includes more advanced desktop support, infrastructure and network support, software errors, escalated 1st line tickets and intermediate hardware issues. These tickets are generally less frequent than 1st line, but often take longer to resolve and need more specialist IT skills.
For this reason, if you have a small IT team, 2nd line support can be a challenge. IT professionals that should be focusing on more strategic work can end up spending their valuable time resolving technical issues, and this has a negative impact on their productivity.
The skillset needed for 2nd line support is also more specialist. This might be appropriate if your IT infrastructure is on premise and you run bespoke applications and systems that your IT team know inside out; but if you’re using the cloud or enterprise solutions it may more cost effective to outsource 2nd line as well as 1st. Consider too the cost of ‘on demand’ IT support for these types of tickets. Calling out a technician every time you need 2nd line support is an expensive way of maintaining your technology.
Do you need 2nd line support? If internal IT teams don’t have capacity or are being diverted from more value-creating projects, yes. If recruiting and retaining staff to handle 2nd line tickets is a challenge, yes. If you require out-of-hours or 24/7 IT support for these types of issues, yes. And if the cost of resolving 2nd line tickets is higher than outsourcing this support level, yes.
Scaling IT service desk outsourcing
One of the key advantages of IT outsourcing is that you can scale the support service and level to your needs. Therefore as your business grows, expands or contracts, you can match the service level to your requirements. This makes organisations a lot more agile and responsive, and reduces costs.
Consider how long and how expensive it can be to recruit a new member of your IT team to provide the coverage you need. If you outsource your IT service desk this can be achieved almost immediately and at a fraction of the cost.
Similarly, if your requirement decreases you can scale back the service. No expensive salaries to pay for staff that are underused.