Category Archives: Supportagility

Complexity and Volume

fading sound noise

Apologies for the blog’s long hiatus. A few personal projects took priority over posting.

The differentiation between high volume / low complexity and low volume / high complexity operations is probably familiar to most readers of this blog. We use it as a way to explain the difference between supporting enterprise technology and running a call center for a consumer product. As part of the research for my nascent book (yes, there is a book in the works!), I have been trying to find documented criteria for organizational differentiation. Strangely enough, I could not find anything documented anywhere and therefore this post is an attempt to start a discussion on these criteria. If any of the blog’s readers is aware of another source for this information please let me know via email or the comments section.

To illustrate the challenge, we can think of a continuum, on one end is an automated telephone service responding with the current time, on the other a single, most difficult problem imaginable. Maybe something on the scale of bringing Apollo 13 back to Earth. Analyzing the differences between these two extreme situations, we can come up with the following evaluation criteria:

 Low Volume / High ComplexityHigh Volume / Low Complexity
AutomationComplexSimple
Customer IntimacyImportantNot required
Amount of offline work (Customer and Support)HighMinimal
Technical Interaction LevelVery HighVery Low
Interactions / CaseHighLow, Single
Value GeneratedContentVolume

Some of these criteria are self explanatory, however, I feel that “Value Generated” requires a few additional words. With high volume / low complexity transaction, the main learning for the organization is in the demand for the service. The service provider may find correlation between demand to other variables (e.g., time of day, day of the month, other special events). On the other hand, going back to the Apollo 13 example, the value generated by that effort, besides bringing the crew back in one piece, was the content of the analysis performed by the various teams, the decision making processes and the learnings associated with that.

What is your experience in using the volume / complexity continuum? Have you seen other, more detailed discussions? What was the reaction you received?