This week in our (bi-) monthly blog “What Is____”, where we cover important IT topics in plain English, we’re looking at Single Points of Contact (aka SPOCs).
When it comes to IT, a single point of contact is more than just a person – it’s a methodology, a practice, an overarching system for operation that maximizes efficiencies and minimizes inefficiencies in your IT systems.
So what is a single point of contact in IT? What does it mean? How does it work? And what impacts can it have on businesses? Let’s take a look.
What Is A Single Point of Contact?
A Single Point of Contact (SPOC) in IT is frankly exactly what it sounds like – it refers to a designated individual or department tasked with managing all communications related to a specific IT function or project.
You’re probably already familiar with this concept in other areas of your business. For example, when you take on a new client, you often set a POC for your client – usually an account manager – who is responsible for handling all incoming and outgoing communications from the client and service provider.
When it comes to IT, this means unifying all of your IT via one single point of contact. What this SPOC is, who they interact with, and how they fit within your organization will vary, depending on the size and scope of your business, and the nature of your industry.
Your single point of contact for IT may be your IT department head in smaller businesses, while larger organizations with multiple teams will often have multiple IT supervisors operating as SPOCs for various business units and teams. Heck, in some situations you may have multiple SPOCs working together within an IT unit that operates as SPOC itself!
The important thing to note here is that there is no one-size-fits-all SPOC solution for your IT – it all depends on your business – but no matter how you choose to unify your IT communication, it’s critical that it all happens through a single, unified prism.
This centralized approach ensures that information is disseminated efficiently, minimizing the risk of miscommunication or overlooked details. Miscommunications are the bane of any business owner’s existence, and IT is certainly no exception.
Unifying all communication through a single point of contact, allows you to control for that – maintaining clarity of information from both the client side and the business side, thereby eliminating potential points of failure and eradicating inefficiencies within the system.
What’s An IT SPOC Responsible For?
Okay, so an SPOC is basically a project manager, but for IT, right? In many ways, yes, that’s a good way of thinking of it! In fact, you do see a big overlap between project managers and IT SPOCs.
It’s important to note – as we’ll dive into below – that the big difference between your everyday PM and an IT SPOC is that an IT manager or SPOC needs to have a deep understanding of the highly specific and highly esoteric world of IT.
Here’s some of the things an IT SPOC will find themselves doing:
- Communication Facilitation: A SPOC acts as the primary liaison between different departments, teams, or external stakeholders – whoever is involved in the project or team needs to send all communication to the SPOC. This ensures all communications, whether they’re updates, queries, or clarifications, are channeled through them, ensuring consistency and clarity.
- Problem Resolution: One of the primary tasks of an IT SPOC is to handle and resolve issues. If an employee faces a technical glitch or a client has a concern, the SPOC is the go-to person to address and resolve these matters. A SPOC makes it easy to communicate the problem effectively between the parties involved. By unifying all communication through a single mediator, teams can resolve it together without getting bogged down in details and emotions.
- Project Updates: In the context of IT projects, a SPOC regularly updates stakeholders on project progress, usually reporting to the client’s POC and the internal team’s POC. They gather data from various teams, consolidate it, and then communicate it to clients or upper management, which pays big dividends in client retention and internal satisfaction.
- Scheduling: A SPOC coordinates and schedules meetings, discussions, and brainstorming sessions for the teams they’re in charge of coordinating. They ensure that the right people are in the room, the agenda is set, the times work for everyone, and the outcomes are communicated and acted upon.
- Documentation: Keeping track of all communications, decisions, and updates is a crucial job for any business, but even more so when working with clients, as it protects both the individuals and the company at large. A SPOC is often responsible for maintaining comprehensive documentation, ensuring that there’s a record of all interactions and decisions throughout the process.
- Feedback Collection: Gathering feedback, whether it’s from internal teams or external clients – or even from customers or other external stakeholders – is another task the SPOC usually takes on. They collect, analyze, and then channel this feedback to the relevant people and teams to take action.
- Resource Allocation: In some scenarios, a SPOC might be involved in resource allocation, ensuring that teams have the necessary tools, manpower, and budgets to carry out their tasks.
- General Stakeholder Management: In general, the SPOC is the face of your IT operation. Building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, both internal and external, is a vital aspect of a SPOC’s role. They ensure that stakeholders are kept in the loop and their concerns are addressed throughout the process.
Benefits Of SPOC Methodology In IT
SPOC really is that simple – it’s simply the process of unifying communication through one person or group of persons responsible for handling all communication between and within the teams they are assigned.
- Streamlined Communication: A SPOC ensures that all stakeholders know precisely whom to approach for queries, updates, or clarifications, eliminating the potential confusion arising from multiple communication channels. According to a study by the Project Management Institute, clear communication is a critical success factor in 90% of projects.
- Efficiency and Productivity: A well-defined communication channel accelerates decision-making processes. There’s no lag in determining the right contact point or awaiting responses from various sources. In fact, PMI reports that businesses that adopt a SPOC model have reported a 20% increase in project delivery speed.
- Accountability: A designated SPOC ensures clear accountability. If challenges arise, they can be addressed directly – and conquered directly. This clarity reduces blame games and increases problem-solving efficiency by 30%.
- Consistency: Consistent information dissemination is guaranteed with a SPOC. A SPOC ensures alignment across teams by sharing consistent updates with the relevant stakeholders. PMI reports the consistency of updates across teams improves efficiency by 40%.
- Improved Client Relations: Clients benefit immensely from a SPOC. Knowing exactly whom to contact for updates or clarifications fosters trust and enhances client satisfaction. According to PMI, businesses with a clear SPOC have reported a 25% increase in client retention rates.
Real-world Application and Significance of SPOC
The real-world implications of a SPOC are profound. According to a Gartner report, organizations that adopted a SPOC strategy witnessed a 20% surge in project efficiency and a notable 15% decline in communication-related discrepancies.
Furthermore, a study by Forrester Research underscored that businesses employing a SPOC approach experienced a 25% expedited response to IT-related incidents.
Common Examples of SPOC Methodology In IT
- IT Helpdesks: Probably the most popular format of SPOC in IT is helpdesks. You’ve probably interacted with helpdesks at some point in your business life. Organizations often designate the helpdesk as the SPOC for all IT-related issues. Whether it’s a software glitch, hardware malfunction, or network issue, employees have a clear point of contact.
- IT Projects: In IT projects, a project manager or coordinator typically acts as the SPOC. They bridge the gap between the client and the development team, ensuring seamless communication. A SPOC coordinates all internal project activities and serves as the primary liaison with the team. This individual reports project progress, supports end-users, and can transition into an administrator role for customization requests.
Software Development: In software development scenarios, a product manager or lead developer might serve as the SPOC, especially when coordinating with external stakeholders or third-party vendors. For example, Apple’s iOS development team has designated SPOCs for different app categories, ensuring developers have a clear point of contact.
- Network Management: When an organization’s network infrastructure is managed externally, the vendor typically designates a SPOC to manage all communications with the organization. Cisco assigns dedicated SPOCs for all their enterprise clients to ensure efficiency across their thousands of active accounts.
Attributes of an Effective SPOC
What do you look for in a good IT SPOC? Well, they’re experts who know their stuff when it comes to IT, but it’s also much, much more than that. An IT SPOC’s job requires much more than sheer IT knowledge – it demands project management skills, the ability to manage teams, attention to detail, and a resilient, can-do attitude…and dozens of other skills, too.
Most importantly, an SPOC is a person who is in control of any situation. They are calm, patient, and always laser-focused on finding solutions as soon and efficiently as possible. They have the soft skills to handle egos and teams without breaking a sweat, and balancing differing needs and demands both from above and below.
If we were to boil down the most important things that make a good SPOC, we’d say:
- Deep Knowledge of All Things IT (And Business): A good IT SPOC is a master of IT and its various business functions. Every single business unit, in every single business, has IT requirements in this day and age, so no matter what an organization does, an IT SPOC has to know every aspect of IT. Most SPOCs in IT are senior-level IT experts, giving them the tools necessary to authoritatively guide teams through projects.
- Effective Communicator: They must be adept at conveying the organization’s objectives and have a comprehensive understanding of the various stakeholders that fall within their purview. IT SPOCs must, at the bare minimum,
- Organizational Skills: As you can imagine, being organized, disciplined, and detail-oriented is absolutely critical for a SPOC. They have to manage multiple peoples’ schedules, jobs, needs, and timelines, all at once, and manage them against management and the client’s demands. Without solid organization skills, the point of contact has absolutely no chance of delivering.
- Leadership Skills: At their core, the team’s point of contact is a leader of the team. Even though they may work with multiple managers in their work, an IT point of contact is the most important person in the room these days. Considering our world’s reliance on data, IT is now the most essential part of pretty much any organization, and within any project, they are a key leader in terms of digital efficiency and reliability.
- Positive Outlook: It may sound corny, but a proactive and positive approach by the SPOC can be the difference between success and failure. If the team leader doesn’t believe in the project, the project will never go anywhere. This might sound strange but this one might be the most important aspect of a successful SPOC.
IT SPOC: A Person, A Team, And A System
So that’s that for this (bi-)monthly(-ish) “What Is ____”. We hope you learned some valuable information about the wonderful world of IT SPOCs. Yes, they’re basically IT project managers, but when you break it down, an SPOC is much more than that – it’s an organizational approach with far-reaching effects that reach across an entire business.
By simply unifying all communication, timing, and facilitation through one single person or group of people, an organization is essentially changing the entire structure of its business in ways that create positive ripples throughout the business.
We really can’t understate how important an SPOC approach is for any business’ IT operations. The benefits they provide with their expert management skills cannot be understated.