Global Business Center - NetApp Case Challenge - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Solving a global business challenge with NetApp

Global Business Center - NetApp Case Challenge - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business SchoolI had the privilege of attending a case facilitated by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Global Business Center (GBC). Net App’s Stephanie Chalk, East/Central campus manager; Roxy Steiner, global technical support operations manager at NetApp; and Jim Johnson, director of university relations, introduced us to the company and the challenges they face working across multiple countries and languages.

NetApp, a data management and storage company, has two main products: physical storage and software. They partner with all the key players in the server/networking, space such as VMWare, Cisco and Microsoft.

After a quick overview of the company, we launched into the meat of the case.

NetApp’s products are business-critical for their clients more often than not. To make sure that they are supporting their customers when problems occur, NetApp has multiple technical support and escalation centers across their many client regions. Unfortunately, even with these centers, certain customer support cases were taking weeks to resolve before the company implemented a solution.

Given the global complexity of NetApp’s enterprise support structure, we were asked to think about how the company could evolve their support model to meet the needs of their constituents while increasing efficiency, reducing complexity and improving the customer support experience. Having spent time in multiple support centers and worked on these types of issues, I was all the more impressed that NetApp was able to come up with a solution that has solution that has been recently implemented and very successful for their constituents.

We divided into a number of mid-sized teams and, after being given the basics of the case, had 45 minutes to design our own approaches for how we would solve the challenges faced by NetApp. Our answers took many forms, but a unifying theme was to implement a regional support model that would improve alignment, bring NetApp closer to their customers and continue to improve the customer experience. In addition, we thought that the technical support engineers should support customers within their geographic region, which would allow NetApp to reduce handoffs and disruptions and enable faster case resolution. We wanted to reduce the number of support tickets being transferred between multiple engineers and limit the potential for the customer to have to explain their issue multiple times.

While we were able to come up with many of the details that NetApp actually used to resolve these challenges, learning about how their implementation plan was created was highly informative. Hearing why certain ideas were thrown out was just as useful.

Throughout our time at UNC Kenan-Flagler, we have many opportunities to improve our practical skills. The GBC offers many unique opportunities to talk to high-level business leaders and hear about real problems that global businesses face. I will no doubt be back next time the GBC offers another case.

By Ben Harris-Kornblith (MBA ’17)