Karl Lovelock, Vice President of IT has been with Polycom for almost six years. Karl is responsible for all aspects of IT for Polycom across Europe, Middle-East, Africa Asia Pacific and China. I met up with Karl recently to understand his views on the importance of renewing support maintenance contracts.
What are your key responsibilities at Polycom?
I’m responsible for all aspects of IT for Polycom across Europe, Middle-East, Africa, Asia Pacific and China. This includes the applications and infrastructure operations and development, management and development of core business applications, IT demand planning and management for key IT or business projects, with effective and measurable ROI and the management as well as the operation of large scale video network implementation and daily operation. We have over 3,500 hardware and software endpoints, averaging 3,500 video calls a day.
Do you have support contracts for the numerous software applications and hardware installed?
Our service and support contracts are one of the most important areas in how we run our IT business, and is particularly important to us in a 24x7x365 operation. It is one of the critical planning areas in our IT Governance Programme, and we spend a significant amount of resource and effort on ensuring we have the support in place with our vendors - to give us the assurance and peace of mind that we can call on their services when required. Typically, these support contracts reflect on the criticality of the system (software application or hardware) we are supporting, and on the potential business impact/cost of any outage related to that system or its underlying technologies. These are also reflective of the Service Level Agreements that we have with our Business Teams, and our ability to effectively deliver the service to that documented SLA.
What are the top three reasons that you have support contracts in place?
In no specific order, these are probably the top three of many good reasons for us to have Service Contracts
Leverage. When, (not if), we run into issues with software applications or our hardware platforms, I need to be sure that I can call on the vendors for support and be confident that I am getting the best possible response and focus on addressing our issues. Any impacts on our systems may have a ‘knock-on’ affect, not only on internal business, but potentially on our Polycom Business Partners too. Having the appropriate levels of support means I can deliver on the SLA commitments that I make to the business.
Peace of Mind. I need to know that I’m doing everything in my power to deliver IT Services to our business and our Business Partners, be that keeping our hardware/software applications at current revision levels through regular driver updates and patches, or increasingly more important in the environment, securing them from cyber threats and attacks.
Whilst we maintain an in-house level of Subject Matter Expertise for our software and hardware applications, it also make sense for us to be able to leverage a vendors expertise and capabilities to deliver new or enhanced feature sets and functionalities; and through their Professional Services Organizations, use their capabilities to ensure we are taking the optimum approach to upgrading/updating or implementing new capabilities.
Do you budget and plan for renewing your support contracts?
Yes, this is a critical piece of our IT Planning Lifecycle and Governance. We ensure that we have the necessary service contracts in place for us to deliver on the Service Level Agreements we have with the business, that we have the appropriate geographic coverage and capabilities, and that we are getting the most cost and service effective value of our IT expense. IT, in almost all cases, is a cost to the business, and we need to ensure that we are delivering the best value. We should also be an enabler for strategic competitive advantage for our business, and one of the values we can bring is ensuring we are delivering high value Support Services, cost effectively, and our Vendor contracts are one route to this.
What are the key points that you consider when you review and negotiate a support contract?
Price is always important, but not necessarily the deciding factor. In many cases it is the availability of Spares and Advanced Replacement when needed, to ensure that we can maximize our up-time and availability and our geographic coverage and capability.
Are their advantages for your organization to consider multi-year contracts?
Yes, we look to build a relationship with our Service Partners. We look at the long term picture, having a vendor that understands our challenges and constraints, and partners with us, effectively shares that journey with us, is more valuable than a vendor who delivers a solution based on a cost only model. That enables us to build confidence in their service delivery, and is a great adjunct in our hardware/software purchasing decisions.
Your team has Remote Management and Monitoring in place. How does this benefit your team from both a tactical and strategic perspective?
It allows our decision making to be driven by data proactively, rather than being reactive to circumstances that we have done little to plan for and control. Remote Management and Monitoring allows us to provide increased levels of global visibility and enhanced support in the most cost effective models, be that based on location of IT resources or on criticality of particular sites or services. It helps us understand and plan for changes in usage and client behaviours, to be able to look for and identify trends proactively, and to enhance our planning and decision making capabilities based on real data, and not on speculative assumptions.
Would you consider not having a support contract in place?
No. If there is a system or solution that does not require a support contract, I would be asking myself a different question, about the critical nature of that solution, and therefore the value it is delivering, and whether we really need it.
What’s your advice to other organizations who have a support contract about to expire?
I would recommend every organization thinks very carefully about the impact on their business or operations, of not having the leverage and guarantees that a Service Contract delivers for the solutions and systems they support. There will be no thanks for the savings made on a support contract if a solution no longer allows the business to deliver to its customers.
Last thoughts or comments? How many times have those awful words - "I know what I'm doing" - been uttered throughout history as prelude to disaster? – Christopher Buckley – Supreme Courtship