Off road, online

Image: Stockfresh

16 February 2016

It’s probably fair to say that when most people think of a man in a van, they might think of someone in the building trade or a delivery driver. It’s possible that if they’re of a certain vintage, they might even think of the infamous ‘Del Boy’ Trotter and a mucky yellow Robin Reliant with ‘Trotters Independent Trading Co, New York-Paris-Peckham’ emblazoned across the side.

What most people aren’t likely to think of is a computer engineer at the wheel, navigating the potholed streets of their local town or city en route to rescue an unfortunate customer from a particularly inconvenient hard drive failure. Hardly any at all in fact. But just because they don’t notice him, doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. There are still quite a few men in vans out there working in the IT trade even if many people are starting to ask for how much longer.

Michael Conway, director at Renaissance, is very vocal about the poor future survival prospects for the man in the van. “He should be signing on the dole,” he argues. “To a great extent, the man in the van is gone. The modern man in the van is sitting in an office or NOC with multiple screens in front of him using fibre broadband and drinking coffee in his shorts. Thank God, there isn’t video conferencing.”

For Conway, it doesn’t make sense to have someone who pay for someone to travel to and from a customer site (and probably have a cup of tea in the process) before they actually get down to the work of fixing the problem. And customers don’t like paying for it either, especially when a lot of care and maintenance can be handled remotely. Of course, that remote support needs to be backed up by a relationship with the customer so that the client is comfortable with letting someone access their systems remotely, but resellers don’t need to have somebody going out onsite all the time to build that relationship.

“There’s great value in going out and meeting customers,” Conway acknowledges, “but you don’t have to do it every time there’s a problem.” Sending someone out in a van is “an add-on cost and it’s a delay in response. It’s much easier to log in remotely and have a quick look at something”. Besides, if someone is driving half an hour to get to a location and another half an hour to get back they’re wasting time that they could spend working on something else.

Another argument he advances against the man in the van when it comes to larger customers is that they can have session monitoring solutions in place for remote monitoring and support that allows them to record a session and see what an engineer was doing and when. “If a man with a van comes on site, you can’t spend all your time looking over his shoulder,” Conway states. He believes remote support option also gives customers a quicker response to issues. You don’t have a remote support engineer saying “sorry, I can’t get to you straightaway as I’m on my way to another call”.

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