Customer Satisfaction Soars at ATS with Enterprise Request Management

As noted here before (and here and here), enterprise request management (ERM) is a business-efficiency strategy that reduces service delivery costs while increasing user satisfaction. Combining a single intuitive portal for requesting any type of enterprise service with back-end process automation, the ERM approach simplifies request management for employees, accelerates service delivery, and ensures first-time fulfillment.

Automating workflow processes with ERMWhat does that look like in the real world? Continue reading “Customer Satisfaction Soars at ATS with Enterprise Request Management”

How to Automate High-Volume Service Item Creation for Faster Service Catalog Deployment

The big challenge in the outsourced service provider world  (as well as for internal shared services groups) is quickly delivering customer value by offering specific managed service items faster and more cost effectively than competitors.  If  it’s taking months to on-board new customers and roll out new services, there is probably a competitor who can do it in weeks.  That cries out for an automated strategy of creating  reusable and transportable service items (prepackaged forms and processes) that can be deployed in any customer environment in a fraction of the time it once required to set up each customer’s system individually.

Fortunately, many of these services are similar from company to company and requirements are often well defined in spreadsheets and other formats. That makes automation a natural. The best way we know of to do this is to pump up with KURL.

Automated Service Item Creation with KURLKURL?  It stands for the Kinetic Uniform Request Language, which is a domain-specific language developed by Kinetic Data to provide an alternative approach to creating service items in Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task.  KURL works by parsing spreadsheet data or HTML code into KURL text files and then by executing that parsed data into KURL codes to automatically generate new service items for service catalogs.

In this manner, KURL can automatically generate thousands of service items defined in spreadsheets programmatically, as opposed to configuring services items individually.  It is especially useful when the creation of simple service items is driven by volume.  And because KURL files are portable, transferable and shareable from company to company and catalog to catalog, service providers can easily create large volumes of service items with automated workflows for any number of customers.

One large international electronics firm used KURL to create over 2,000 service items in just a couple of weeks.  Another Kinetic Data customer won a multi-billion dollar government contract by demonstrating how KURL could easily create customized service “storefronts” for multiple federal agencies.

What can KURL do for you?  Users tell us that KURL means:

•  Faster customer on-boarding for shorter time-to-value and higher customer satisfaction.

•  Higher profitability, since service items can be rolled out to multiple customers for a fraction of the cost of setting up customers individually.

• The ability to  deliver service items to industry verticals without requiring in-depth IT expertise.

And for internal shared-services organizations, an automated strategy using KURL can deliver higher demonstrable value to the enterprise by making service requests more easily and efficiently fulfilled.

Learn more by downloading this recent white paper on how to pump up with KURL.

The Fundamentals of Service Delivery

By Brett Norgaard

Sound journalism addresses a fundamental set of questions—who, what, where, when, how, and why—in the makeup of a good story. The reader learns facts and gains knowledge from reading a well constructed piece. Similarly, a well constructed service will engage the user and provide a memorable experience. Service Blueprinting is a technique that maps out the service interaction from the perspective of what the user sees as well as how they interact with the “onstage” visible and “backstage” invisible service delivery elements. There is also a visualization of the underlying support infrastructure that the service provider uses in the delivery of the service.

Fundamentals of Service DeliveryWith the advent of online shopping, social media and the proliferation of mobile devices, today’s demanding users expect the same kind of experience, always on connectivity, interactivity, self-service that they receive from Amazon, FaceBook, and on their iPhone. Yet, service providers face an even higher bar, for they have to not only address the aforementioned characteristics, but they also have to handle high organizational levels of security, compliance, privacy, multiple levels of approvals, and more complex service requests than typical consumer interactions. Examples of these more complex processes include employee on-boarding, transitioning a new client onto the service platform, or doing both simultaneously while integrating with enterprise applications. Yet, service providers have to do this for multiple clients who may in turn have multiple divisions, departments, or offices.

And, a service provider always pits its current service against the “claims of better service” by rivals waiting in the wings. So, savvy service providers are adding interactive feedback into the service flow so that instead of waiting for the service to conclude before gathering feedback, are actually capturing valuable, relevant feedback that can be acted upon if triggers indicate a breach.

Good service for one client may not be good for another. It depends on what the service goals are for each client. Consider the case of a Health Care IT Service Provider that we work with—one hospital client sought to optimize around their doctors while another wanted to optimize around their patients.

As you can see, the demands on a service provider to deliver a well constructed, engaging, interactive, secure, compliant, and unique service for each client is no small order. The people, processes, and technology need to support all aspects of the service.

Starting with the technology, a platform that is configuration-based, secure, scalable, and operates in either a dedicated or multi-tenant mode is the first step. Next, and utilizing the aforementioned, the service provider should have several “experience shaping” levers at its disposal for its people to pull. The ability to request services and/or products bundled, unique approvals, and fulfillment is key. The ability to view times, dates, resources, and obtain status is also important. And, it is also vital to be able to gather real-time feedback so the service can be delivered or rectified if off track. Taken together, these service levers can shape the flow of service to the unique needs of their clients, truly addressing their business requirements and their processes.

Now there’s a story that you can write where you shape the who, what, where, when, how and why of great service.

Three Keys to Making Multi-tenancy Work

There is still some debate over whether multi-tenancy is a prerequisite for cloud computing, but doubters are getting harder to find. Nearly two years ago (an eternity in Internet time), David Linthicum, blogging in InfoWorld, called the dispute “silly.”  “Let’s get this straight right now,” he wrote, “Cloud computing is about sharing resources, and you can’t share resources without multi-tenancy.”

Polymorphic Application ModelEven so, there are differences of opinion about what makes a good multi-tenant application strategy. First, to be clear on what multi-tenancy is, Wikipedia defines it as “a principle in software architecture wherein a single instance of the software runs on a server and serves multiple client organizations (tenants).” In contrast, a single-tenant cloud app, even it if runs on a virtual server partition, is almost identical to the old hosted ASP model, which dates back to the 1990s. And by now it’s abundantly clear that the multi-tenancy can lower a customer’s costs and offer significantly more value over time. (See Alok Misra in InformationWeek).

But not all multi-tenant applications are alike. Their cost and value—especially value—are heavily dependent on architectural and design considerations. The multi-tenant experience is often likened to leasing an apartment or condo versus owning a home. As anyone who has ever spent any time renting knows, the quality of the experience often depends on your landlord. In situations wherein our software is being used by a multi-tenant-application “landlord,” Kinetic Data has always tried to leverage best practices in the multi-tenant environment. To us, these boil down to three key considerations:

Be flexible, not monolithic.

Since all tenants in a multi-tenant environment share the same application, it may seem logical that the application must be the same for all tenants. If you accept that notion, you have to conclude that while a multi-tenant application may provide some broad value to all customers, its monolithic nature limits the unique value it can provide to customers with unique needs.

Kinetic Data set out to disprove that notion years ago, at least in the BMC Remedy® IT service management world. We acknowledged that at the application-run-time engine and application-data tiers, the same instance of BMC Remedy has to serve all customers in the same ways. This is the essence of multi-tenancy, and there’s no way around it.

But there are other tiers atop those two basics tiers, and each can be configured to provide unique service experiences. The trick is utilizing what we call cloning or templating, using metadata in the outward-facing applications customers actually use (in our case, Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task). In the Kinetic world, there is a clear separation between the compiled BMC Remedy run-time engine/application data and the metadata-based templates customers use to create unique branding, workflow processes, portals, and forms. In this way, each Kinetic Data customer can change the templates they use without affecting other tenants. This “isolation of processes” thus allows the creation of unique customer applications that are easily configured and deployed without sacrificing the security and integrity of the underlying application.

Security must be architected in, not added on.

In the early days of multi-tenant cloud computing, there was a lot of concern about data security. After all, multiple independent tenants share the same application, each with their own data sensitivity and security requirements. How do multi-tenant application providers ensure that each tenant’s data is kept separate and secure?

In Kinetic Data’s case, we use the “row-level” security model already built into BMC Remedy. This model ensures that row-level records are locked to a specific company ID. As a result, the ability to query, view, and modify records is restricted to users with company (or companies) privileges that allow access to those records.

Employ multiple implementation models.

Customizability, unique value and ironclad data security—those are the pillars upon which Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task are built. But we also took another need into consideration. In the ideal multi-tenant world, companies may want to use applications on a strictly company-specific basis or share certain services among vendors, campuses, clients, partners, and others, or maintain the ability to do both. That’s why the Kinetic Data architecture is based on these three specific implementation models.

In the Kinetic Data company-specific model, companies can configure uniquely branded catalogs, portals and service items without affecting the branding or processing of any other company in the same BMC Remedy instance. In the shared Kinetic Data model, companies can share these items while maintaining the row-level security of the BMC Remedy environment. And in the blended Kinetic Data model, companies can share items while maintaining company-specific service items.

So what makes multi-tenancy work? In Kinetic Data’s case, it works thanks to:

  • Customizable user interfaces for each tenant and the ability to configure unique tenant processes without global effects, via isolation of processes;
  • A flexible deployment model (or unique or shared services or a combination thereof); and
  • Data integrity and segmentation.

To learn more, see this technical brief on Kinetic Data’s Multi-tenancy Strategy.

Service Providers—Configure Your Service Processes for Superior Business Value

By Brett Norgaard

Over the past year, my blogging has centered on how service providers (internal, shared service, or outsourcers/managed service providers) can save money, reduce risk, innovate, accelerate time to value, enhance customer satisfaction and increase productivity in their operations. How can this be accomplished, you ask?

Once you have a configurable, secure, multi-tenant service platform in place, you can swiftly and confidently transition new clients onto the platform with standard, optional and customized services. If you have a “master library” with portfolio management functionality, each client can operate as “an experiment in productivity.” The opportunity is to identify, capture, replicate and roll-out productive innovations. Here’s a short blog entry exploring this: Service Providers Accrue Enterprise Value Benefits From all Clients.

One client/department/division/program’s invention can be another’s innovation…if the service items are portable to other instances or versions of the service platform. And, the branding and theming needs to adapt to the new client/user as well. See the blog series on “Service Item Portability“:

Innovation does not have to be daunting. Consider that it can simply be a matter of cloning one service item and registering it for another client/user. Or, you can clone a service item and link it to another process like a specific approval process, integration to an enterprise application like HR or Procurement, access to a Cloud-Based service for provisioning IT resources like computing power or storage, or access to an enterprise service like Active Directory – captured in a reusable handler.

Also, tying back to a configuration-driven approach, you can employ “sense and respond” style innovation with no fear of disrupting the underlying service platform since no programming changes are occurring. Here’s a link to a short blog entry on that topic: Service Provider Innovation, Three Easy Pieces.

In summary, here’s a “formula” to consider: CSMtP(ML/CPM) + ST + CSI = DML

Configurable, Secure, Multi-tenant Platform w/Master Library/Curator Portfolio Management + Streamlined Transitioning + Continual Service Innovation = Differentiated, Market Leadership.

Forrester Research Outsourcing Trends—How Service Providers Can Capitalize

By Brett Norgaard

The other day, I had the chance to listen in on Forrester Research Service Provider Analyst Pascal Matzke’s observations on the outsourcing market. He outlined trends that are leading service providers to change their business models.

Here are the key trends:

  • The traditional outsourcing market has slowed, is not efficient and is very competitive – outsourcers often “build a new factory for every new client.”
  • Consumerization is affecting enterprise IT.
  • Business units are more involved and focused on business results.
  • Cloud computing is driving new dynamics toward re-use and on-demand offerings.

The traditional outsourcing model aimed toward IT operations with a “Plan, Build, Run” model was focused on lowering costs.

There are new models with embedded portfolio management practices emerging:

  • A focus on recurring client needs and scalability
  • Streamlined solutions built with modules—repeatability and re-use
  • Venture Capital mindset to manage the portfolio

The New Model focuses on Executive Management and Lines of Business in the Assessment and Solution phases. IT Operations works closely with Lines of Business in Service Integration. Everything is offered “as a Service” – Infrastructure, Security, Platform, Software, Analytics, and Business Process. IT Operations and Lines of Business work together to orchestrate service delivery. New model is Assess, Compose, and Orchestrate – a more fluid model than the traditional Plan, Build, and Run model.

Business benefits of new model:

  • 25-30% Improvement in Implementation Time
  • Better Project Predictability
  • Cost Savings of up to 15%

Matzke offered up a Portfolio Opportunity Scorecard—a Boston Consulting style two dimensional analysis using Portfolio Maturity and Market Readiness to gauge where to invest in service offerings.

He wrapped up with some advice for service providers to get busy exploring cloud offerings, review existing client relationships, conduct vision planning, get better at competitive intelligence, work on improved leadership, build portfolio management and get good at partnering.

How Kinetic Data enables capitalizing on these trends:

Kinetic Data’s configurable, multi-tenant, secure, web accessible, experience shaping, integration ready applications are particularly well-suited for the move beyond IT into the Lines of Business areas of your clients. Cloning and service item portability make re-use a great option at the design and delivery phases, too. Re-use is a great way to innovate not only within a single client’s portfolio, but across the service provider’s portfolio. Constructing a well thought Master Library of service catalogs and service items, along with a sound methodology for roll-out can dramatically decrease the time to transition to a new service platform. Sense and respond style innovation can let you experiment without risk and then see which innovations clients select. You can also leverage investments in the BMC Remedy ITSM tool set to extend directly to end users via web accessible service catalogs, self service portals and go beyond IT to realize true business value—anytime, anywhere, and on the client’s terms.

Service Providers Innovate in the New World of Multi-tenancy 2.0

Multi-tenancy 1.0
Multi-tenancy has long been the model of the outsourcing industry. Multi-tenancy is usually defined as using a single instance of an application to service multiple client organizations (or tenants) over a single, shared infrastructure. The value of this approach increased when service providers discovered that comprehensive IT service management platforms (such as BMC Remedy™) could be re-architected to serve multiple clients if customer data could be kept segmented and secure. The same service—help desk, desktop management, IT asset management or other IT service—could be pushed out to multiple clients. Clients enjoyed all of the benefits typically associated with outsourcing: cost-savings, efficiency and the ability to focus resources on core business competencies rather than on IT. Outsourcers benefited from the ability to easily scale up to serve multiple clients without needing to purchase and support multiple instances of the same software. The model served outsourcers well for many years.

But three trends are making Multi-tenancy 1.0 obsolete:

  1. The pressure to innovate. The outsourcing market is reasonably mature. While new players continue to enter the market, familiar faces often compete for the same business. This has placed more pressure on service providers to innovate and to demonstrate to clients that they understand their unique business requirements and offer the capacity for value-added solutions delivery.
  2. Outsourced IT services have expanded well beyond traditional service desk functions. Instead of handling only problem resolution, outsourcers are now processing requests, handling approvals, coordinating fulfillment, and more.
  3. Businesses are changing their thinking about IT, a change being driven by the ways employees are using the IT services provided to them. When employees leave their physical workplace, they often continue working using laptops, tablets, smart phones and home computers. People have come to expect technology to be easy, engaging and empowering. They are increasingly frustrated by applications and services that don’t provide this experience.

These trends place new pressure on service providers.
Their business models are based on the ability to apply one software infrastructure across many clients. But those infrastructures weren’t originally envisioned to support a client-centric environment in which:

  • Clients increasingly demand a uniquely tailored interactive experience;
  • Employees want co-created self-service, self-help and self-provisioning; and
  • Clients want end-to-end services that require integration with enterprise applications beyond IT, such as HR, facilities, and procurement.

Service providers have made multimillion-dollar investments in their software infrastructures. Few relish the prospect of abandoning these investments, but many are beginning to realize that Multi-tenancy 1.0, as described here, no longer allows them to keep up with changing client needs and marketplace conditions. Customization at the client level, which requires programming at the application level, will continue to be too expensive, time-consuming and risky. Changes or additions will continue to amplify risks. Customizations will be lost during upgrades and need to be redone, which again means more money, time, and risk. These problems will limit the service providers’ ability to scale.

Multi-tenancy 2.0
Half a decade ago, Web 2.0 conceptualized a shift from the passive viewing of prebuilt content (Web 1.0) to an interactive user-centric Internet. Multi-tenancy 2.0 conceptualizes a similar approach for services providers. It doesn’t require service providers to abandon their well-established service platforms, but rather positions those platforms as back-office applications instead of forcing them to serve both front-end and back-office needs simultaneously.

As back-office tools, IT service management platforms will continue to provide robust, stable, process-driven, and standards-based platforms for addressing incident and problem resolution, change management, service-level agreements, and configuration management databases. But in front-end roles where there is a growing need to provide tailored and client-centric customer innovations—such as request management via self-service portals, service catalogs, approvals, fulfillment, visibility, interactivity, collaboration, and co-created services—most IT service management platforms are inadequate. In today’s outsourcing environment, forcing a back-office system to accommodate both back- and front-end roles is an increasingly untenable proposition.

Moving from Multi-tenancy 1.0 to 2.0 imposes eight new demands on service providers:

  1. Configurability at the client level that is swift to deploy, requires no programming, is persistent through upgrades, and is adaptable to a continually changing environment;
  2. The ability to configure a secure, tailored experience for each client—whether at the user, department, group or enterprise level;
  3. The capability for client innovation with low risk—meaning customizations for one client should have no impact on others;
  4. Service item portability—new service items can be created in a test environment, zipped up, installed, and run in the production environment with no manual rework, and best-practice service items can be imported into different environments and run confidently;
  5. The ability to accommodate today’s interactive and collaborative way of working whenever, wherever and from any device—company or personally owned;
  6. The ability to integrate service items to enterprise applications for both simple and complex services
  7. The ability to swiftly transition new clients to a service platform; and
  8. Continual improvement and the ability to innovate.

Service Provider Innovation
The reusability of service items is one of the keys to service provider innovation in the new world of Multi-tenancy 2.0. With the Kinetic Data Multi-Tenant Suite, service providers can capture, replicate, and re-deploy new service items developed for one client across their entire customer base. Service items configured using Kinetic Data’s architecture contain a task tree that is a visible representation of the actual service item. It is abstracted from the branding and theming to provide reusability and portability in any BMC Remedy environment version 6 or greater. Innovations designed for one purpose or client can be captured, re-branded, zipped up, installed, tested, and registered for another client.


For further information on the new world of Multi-Tenancy 2.0 check out the white paper:
 Multi-tenancy 2.0: Service Provider Innovation and Customizing the Client Experience .

Facebook Has Taken Over the World

A Vision from Down Under
By Michael Poole

 

We hear this, even in the antipodes, so often and it may be true, especially for anyone under 40.

Why? Well, obviously it provides a way to communicate with friends and acquaintances; but it’s unlikely it would have been as successful if it had followed the design methods that can be found in too many corporate intranets.

One of Facebook’s major features is “consistency.” Consistent styling; consistent behavior; consistent look-and-feel.

Consistency is paramount to the success of all successful social networking sites. In fact, consistency is such a hallmark of these sites that ANY change to the design makes headlines or at least millions of wall posts!

If Facebook was like most corporate intranets, I doubt if users would have returned again and again.

The “public” internet sites of companies are owned and controlled by the marketing department whose whole purpose is attract visitors and ensure that the site is friendly, usable and informative. They usually follow the same design philosophy that has produced Facebook – consistency and ease of use.

Intranets, on the other hand, are usually owned by IT departments and the content is produced and published by individual departments with differing design (or non-design) skills.

Each department will often have a different set of design parameters and styles. Without a set of design guidelines that stress consistency and ease of use, the intranet can easily look like a “mash-up” – or perhaps a “mess-up” – of isolated intranet sites with jarring and confusing inconsistencies from page to page and area to area.

We have all experienced the corporate intranet that changes themes, banners, fonts for each department area. Intranets that use different layouts, even within department areas – some departments may have text links to some forms, buttons for others; one part of the site may work with IE9 – other parts need will not work with IE7; one might use bold, bright colors, another subdued pastels. The variations can be as many as there are contributors to the intranet site.

Rule one for a successful intranet

The intranet should look and behave in a consistent way. Having an intranet that changes its appearance and behavior between sections disorientates users and can introduce doubts into their minds as to whether or not all sections are as reliable and current as each other.

Of course, I can hear some of my readers saying: “Yes, we tried to do that, we had a theme designed, set standards for user interaction, had a template for all pages. We did all that but then we had to integrate a web-based application into the intranet and it all went bad. We could not change the way that application looked or worked, so we just had to compromise and accept it.”

So, many people, though trying to build in consistency into the intranet, are brought to a crashing halt by having to incorporate inflexible and inconsistent applications.

Why has this happened?

Let’s face it, most corporate applications have been around for some time. Many pre-date the internet and most certainly Web 2.0. They have been developed for dedicated user clients – some were even developed for dumb terminals. And when they produced the “web” version they did try for consistency – but it was consistency with the old, pre-web version. As a result, they produced clones of the old client down to the colors, key-strokes, layout etc.

With this design philosophy – consistency with the past – when they developed “new” functionality, they repeated the design errors of the past. And because in the past they had prescribed the layout, theme and style of the application, they did it again with the new functionality. As a result, application portals came so they fitted in with the parent application and not easily, if at all, styled to be consistent with the intranet they would be integrated into.

If you want a graphic (no pun intended) proof of this, look at the majority of ITSM application vendor’s web offerings – nearly all clones of the dedicated client interfaces of the past.

Should this be the way?

No.

The web is designed to be able to be styled and themed in very powerful ways giving developers the ability to produce interfaces and pages that can be easily integrated into any existing style or theme or to any device.

One way to do this is to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to define the look and feel of an individual web page or a whole site.

This is the strategy that we have embraced when designing not just Kinetic Request forms but the whole Service Request Portal interface. We have empowered our clients to easily integrate both Kinetic Request forms and portals seamlessly into their existing intranets by leveraging the CSS definitions that they use for the rest of the intranet site. The result is CONSISTENCY – consistency of style, functionality and experience, and a reduction of confusion.

By putting the focus on enabling consistency of styling and functionality in the web interface to request management and fulfillment, our users have not had to compromise the consistency of the intranet. The payback is not only better customer satisfaction and better adoption by the users but also a reduction in costs of implementation, user support and training.

It is not the magic bullet – your intranet will never be as popular as Facebook and you will still have to battle to get HR to follow a design guideline – but having the power to enforce consistency is a major step along the way!