The “follow-the-sun” model is about providing the support that clients and customers need — by way of a global workflow that literally follows the sun.
To say that life during the global pandemic has recentred our focus on health is an understatement. Whether we are discussing physical health or digital health, our concern for our family, friends, clients, and their customers is top of mind. In helping clients improve their digital presence, the follow-the-sun model involves helping managed service providers establish and maintain a global presence with distributed teams, centres, and workflows across regions, locations, and time zones. Issues and tickets can be coordinated across teams and time zones with an eye on reduced delays and increased responsiveness enabling 24/7 services.
For managed service providers, particularly those using follow-the-sun organizational model, it’s still 24/7 business and service as usual — but current events should mean a time for reflection and re-evaluation, according to Harry Marsland, General Manager of Global Managed Services at Appnovation. “It’s a given that the digital world never sleeps. For organizations like Appnovation with operating centres around the globe, it’s a time for refining processes that ensure each region has the always-on capabilities to provide value-based services, backup, security, and remote support at all times.”
Now is the time to rethink the real-world challenges to providing this support, particularly in the context of the three C’s of the follow-the-sun model: coordination, communication, and culture.
In providing round-the-clock client service availability, the follow-the-sun model involves strategic coordination between global teams and zones. Regardless of company size or scope, best practices and procedures should be in place to meet client demand. Identifying the complexity of support issues, assessing the nature of the ticket flow across time zones, and ensuring global teams have the collaboration tools and dashboards they need can help ensure that incident management happens swiftly and seamlessly.
It can be as simple as ensuring a team member who works on an issue during the course of an evening effectively records and documents the work so this knowledge can be seamlessly transferred to the next regional team, says Marsland. Indeed, it’s all about ensuring overlap — not only meeting the service-level-agreements but providing a high standard of service that ensures that all teams are functioning as a cohesive unit.
Under the follow-the-sun model, communication is the key for accountability and continuity across regions in helping clients maintain digital assets, applications, and security. Ensuring that, when one shift ends and another begins, issues are handled in order and priority is essential. In the absence of face-to-face communication, thinking about regular video conferencing meetings across teams is important for communication “richness.” In addition, establishing a daily handoff method is vital for hitting support goals, minimizing lag time, and ensuring the always-on capabilities that clients and their customers expect.
The daily handoff is important across regions: when one shift is completed, notes Marsland, the other one begins fully apprised of open tickets, potential service issues, and works-in-progress. Appnovation’s approach, he adds, involves developing and implementing a robust framework and methodology for communication across global teams; regardless of location there is an expectation for not only continuity but a shared and universal experience that team members, clients, and stakeholders can rely on.
Extending beyond standard client expectations, the follow-the-sun model also opens doors to preemptive performance monitoring – a service that Appnovation makes a part of every agreement. This grants our teams around the globe access to hour by hour performance data allowing for proactive mitigation of issues or downtime.
A straightforward company culture is another factor that can determine success with the follow-the-sun model. For organizations with operating centres around the globe and a distributed workforce, the 24-hour clock is ticking. Clarity is key: a shared understanding across teams of the support goals, accountabilities, and turnaround times is mission-critical.
It comes down to being mindful of the cultural and social differences across localized and regional units: setting expectations with team members is important, says Marsland — are they onboard and comfortable operating within the follow-the-sun model? The Appnovation approach for client success revolves around people, partners, and proven process, he adds.
It’s no secret that we are living in unprecedented times. For MSPs using the “follow-the-sun” model, recent global events remind us that, on a digital level, maintaining business continuity within the global “new normal” is the competitive advantage that can set them apart from the pack. An advantage that allows us to support clients like Visit California carve out their competitive advantage with a 99% organic increase in the digital destination’s growth.