Managing Mixed Workloads with the RMAP Quadrant

The RMAP™ Quadrant is a tool for anticipating and managing mixed workloads. In a department providing both on-demand and scheduled output, staff resources must be committed to the entire workload, not just the noisiest, reactive element of it.

Although RMAP was originally postulated as a tool for governing the workload of IT Support, where such a mix is common, it is applicable to other industries besides IT. RMAP stands for Reactive / Maintenance / Administrative-Ancillary / Projects. These are classifications for the four main types of workload consuming IT support manpower resources. The identification of four types is intended as guidance, away from the IT support tendency ultimately to see all of its work as a form of reactivity. The on-demand, reactive work forms only one of the classifications. The idea is that with accurate measurement of the workload in each of the four classes, we can commit the right level of resource to each. That way, no one class takes all the resource to the detriment of the others.

Direct Services

Any work done, and thus consuming resource, falls into one of the four depicted categories. Some work produces a direct service for the workgroup’s clients. Typically in IT support, these fall into either purely reactive or project work.

We perform reactive work as a response to and therefore a consequence of an identified, yet individually unpredicted demand. This can include, for example, a logged Servicedesk or Helpdesk request; an arriving user; or a “while you’re here” addition to a second line deskside visit.

Project work differs, in that we treat it in a considered way. Somebody commissions it, somebody else plans it and then maybe a third party delivers it.

Indirect Services

Commonly, the users do not derive a visible benefit from indirect work, as it happens internal to the workgroup. Nevertheless, this work does contribute to the service to the client. If we didn’t do it, eventually we would see a reduction in our effectiveness at delivering direct services. It is here in the back office that we carry out the maintenance of our department structure, our systems, and our skillsets. The benefit the users accrue from here serves them, but only indirectly.

IT Support often has a tendency to behave like a 1980s computer operating system. It exists until it is interrupted, then deals with the interruption. We often even staff our workgroups on the basis of dealing with the reactive work, and hope to get everything else done in-and-amongst. This is to live by default in the Reactive part of the RMAP Quadrant. But that way lie backlogs and stress. To perform effectively, we must be the masters of our workload, not the victims of it.

Accounting for Resources

It’s easy just to be reactive, to just work in one sector of RMAP Quadrant. Pure reactivity is an option chosen by a lot of IT departments. The guilty often justify this by the mythical claim that we are “too busy” to work in a more governed, professional fashion. Conversely, the truly effective IT Support manager realises that the other three cells of the quadrant are just as real, and require quality attention.

Measurement in effective support departments accounts for the resource consumed in all four cells, not just one. This is because without knowing that, we cannot know if we have adequately resourced all four cells to meet our quality objectives. If we do not actively engage managerially with the work in all four cells, we may be risking the quantity and quality of the work those disregarded cells produce.

The RMAP Quadrant is one of several management tools for decision support. You can learn more about it and others in the one-day workshop ‘Key Measurements for IT Support Management Decisions‘.