The Curb Appeal of your Catalog

Performing regular application rationalization presents countless opportunities for organizations to recover waste, reduce costs and add efficiency. Although large enterprise platforms are beholden to theseWally_Shopping rationalization projects, they are often overlooked as out-of-scope.

This is usually because removing the platform has disastrous results for the customer experience.These platforms are low-hanging fruit for organizations to save millions in operations costs.

The choices you make today, drastically impact your ability to be flexible and vendor neutral tomorrow.

Thanks to several years of customer experience being a fad (and now a trend), many software manufacturers are refactoring and struggling to decrease switching costs while still providing you value.
Ideally each of your business partners and software suppliers should be working with you to decrease time to value and increase value.

Looking Back: The Top 20 at 200

As the Kinetic Vision blog approaches another significant milestone, its 200th post, here’s a look back at the top 20 most-read posts since the blog’s launch in March of 2011.

Not surprisingly, the phrases that occur most frequently in the posts below indicate readers are most interested in industry research about request management (that’s what we do), its applications (service catalogs, employee onboarding, BYOD) and its benefits (cost savings, process automation, risk management).

Request management blog posts: - top 20 at 200It’s also not surprising many of these are “evergreen” posts; these are articles with a long “shelf life” that continue to draw significant numbers of views month after month. The most-read post so far in 2015 (How IT Will Change by 2020 – Research From HDI) narrowly missed the list below, coming in at #23 all-time.

Here then are the top 20:

Continue reading “Looking Back: The Top 20 at 200”

The Best Service Catalog Tools, Featuring Gartner Insight

Organizations implementing request management portals for an IT service catalog or broader enterprise request management (ERM) have numerous vendor options to consider. Which offering is best in any individual situation depends of course on the specific needs of that company or government agency.

The decision process generally starts with research, and such research often includes evaluating reviews conducted by leading industry analysts. How does Kinetic Request compare to competitive systems in such evaluations?

Gartner Service Catalog Critical Capabilities ReportIn the recent Gartner report, Critical Capabilities for IT Service Catalog Tools [Jeffrey M. Brooks, Chris Matchett, 17 March 2014], the answer is: quite well.

As recently announced, Kinetic Request received an assessment of “Good,” the highest possible assessment given for Product Viability in this report. It is one of seven products evaluated to receive this rating. The research evaluated nine critical capabilities and various weightings of importance.

The report defines a service catalog in this way:

“IT service catalog tools are intended to improve business users’ customer experiences and to increase IT operations efficiency. IT service catalogs simplify the service request process for customers and improve customer satisfaction by presenting a single face of IT to the customer for all types of IT interactions… IT service catalog tools provide a process workflow engine that automates, manages and tracks service fulfillment.”

That definition—improving the user experience and service efficiency through a single portal linked to an automated process workflow engine—aligns well with the ERM concept, though ERM extends the service catalog beyond IT into potentially all shared services functions within an organization.

Kinetic Request is a powerful and flexible enterprise-wide request management portal application. It’s been praised by customers for helping to reduce helpdesk calls and workload, cutting request fulfillment time, eliminating paperwork, and providing significant cost savings.

Gartner clients and other organizations interested in reading the full evaluation can order the full Gartner report here.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Next steps:

Avoiding the Four Sharks of IT Disruption with ERM

Beneath the “deceptively smooth surface” of today’s technology world swim the “four sharks of disruption:” cloud computing, smart computing, mobility and IT consumerization, according to Forrester Research vice president Andrew Bartels.

Four Sharks of IT Disruption
Image Credit: Creating a Simple Life

In an article on ebizQ, Bartels explains that mobility will have the biggest impact on customer and employee engagement; the consumerization of IT on employee interaction with IT; smart computing on running the business; and cloud computing on running IT.

Three of these “sharks” share the waters (so to speak) of IT with enterprise request management (ERM), a strategy for extending the benefits and capabilities of service catalogs across all shared services delivery groups within an organization.

Mobility: at the front end of an ERM deployment is a web-based portal interface that can be used to order and track any type of service or equipment request, built using a tool like Kinetic Request. The portal enables users to place or check the status of a request from virtually any type of device, anywhere, at any time.

ERM utilizes a system of engagement (the web-based portal) to interact with underlying systems of record (enterprise and department applications like ERP, HRMS, ITSM, supply chain, accounting and other application suites) so that changes to the interface, and even to the underlying process automation logic, can be made without modifying the core code in enterprise applications.

That concept isn’t limited to request management, of course; it could be applied to limited, task-specific access to core applications for any of a variety of purposes in a mobile environment.

IT consumerization: as employees increasingly expect the same ease of use and intuitive interfaces from enterprise software that they get from consumer applications like Amazon.com,  eBay, Facebook, and Google apps, IT will need to find ways to expose selected functions while shielding users from unnecessary underlying complexity.

ERM accomplishes this in the realm of service requests and fulfillment, replacing what is often a hodgepodge of paper-based processes and multiple, disparate departmental online forms with a single user-friendly UI. Between the portal interface and the underlying enterprise applications, it incorporates a task workflow automation software engine to securely communicate between the underlying systems, automating functions like scheduling, fulfillment and reporting while shielding the requestor from the complexity of the back-end process flow.

BYOD policy is another component of IT consumerization. Managing this phenomenon requires balancing employee convenience and productivity with data and system security concerns, as well as providing flexible support structures like schedule-based rather than queue-based helpdesk services.

Cloud computing: in order to make optimal choices about cloud services, while staying within a solution set manageable by IT, internal business application developers need to understand:

  • what their cloud options are;
  • the specifications of different cloud services; and
  • the costs of each alternative.

The management and provision of hybrid cloud services is thus a logical application for ERM, as detailed in a previous blog post here.

Adding an ERM strategy to your IT diving gear makes swimming with the sharks of disruption a bit less scary.

For more information:

 

 

How Retailers can Cut Costs and Improve the Customer Experience with ERM

The world of retailing has never been easy, but retailers today face unprecedented challenges: product commoditization, “showrooming,” short product lifecycles, margin compression, and the challenge of meeting increasing customer expectations while reducing costs.

Improving Retail Service Request ManagementSelf service is one way to reduce costs, and hardly a new idea. The problem is that while it saves money, self service has too often diminished the customer experience, leading to frustration rather than delight. That’s because, as noted previously here, self service 1.0 was focused on providing information; it “didn’t give users what they really wanted: the ability to get broken things fixed, and to order new things.”

Self service 2.0, on the other hand, is focused on action. It provides customers (internal or external) with actionable services, enabling them to make specific requests, track the progress of those service requests at any time, and provide feedback on the timeliness and quality of service received. It automates processes to accelerate service delivery, eliminate redundant and error-prone processes, and reduce costs. But just as important (if not more so), it’s designed to improve the customer experience.

Actionable IT service catalogs are one example of self service 2.0. But while useful and efficient, their focus on IT services limited their value to retail (or other types of) organizations, and made them yet another department system to be learned and navigated.

Enterprise request management (ERM) is an ideal strategy for taking self service 2.0 out of department silos and extending it across the enterprise. It provides a single intuitive web-based portal for requesting any type of service. External customers can access a public-facing portal for ordering and checking the status of various types of services. Retail employees can access an internal portal for ordering services from HR, IT, facilities, or even complex services involving multiple functions.

For example, no retailer wants a customer to have to wait for attention from an employee who is on-hold with a technician, trying to resolve a problem with a point-of-sale terminal. With ERM, the employee can order the repair online (from a PC, tablet or smart phone), and get an instant estimate of the expected repair time (as well as the ability to track request status). Spending less time resolving such service issues not only reduces costs, it makes life better for both the employee and the customer.

While implementing an ERM strategy generally requires some new technology investments, most global retailers already have many of the pieces in place (such as HR, ITMS, supply chain and other departmental and enterprise software platforms). ERM is designed to leverage existing technology and training investments. And it empowers departmental managers to create, manage and optimize their own business processes—with minimal technical assistance—speeding adoption across the organization.

To learn more:

The Architecture of Enterprise Service Catalogs: Forrester Research, Part 3

The technical architecture of a business service catalog or enterprise request management (ERM) implementation encompasses a system of engagement (user interface), systems of record (underlying ITSM, ERP and other enterprise platforms) and an orchestration engine to manage communication between systems, as well as reporting and analytics tools to help manage and optimize service fulfillment.

Kinetic Request Portal Architecture

Part one of this blog series defined the business service catalog; part 2 detailed the benefits of taking the service catalog beyond IT. This post defines system architecture based on an organization’s current request management maturity level.

In the Forrester Research white paper Master the Service Catalog Solution Landscape in 2013, authors Eveline Oehrlich and Courtney Bartlett define three levels of service catalog maturity. At the most basic level, organizations are focused on “delivering IT services to consumers through a standard set of choices and/or requests.”

At level two, the service catalog automates enterprise services, and at level three it acts as a “service broker.” The ERM concept operates at the intersection of these levels. For example, new employee onboarding is a process—but one that includes much more than just IT services (important as those are), also invoking required services from human resources, accounting, facilities, office management and potentially other functional groups.

According to Forrester, the highest level service catalog architecture comprises the demand side from the business and the supply side capabilities of IT (and other functions and departments). The “demand side” component is defined as “the highest level of the service catalog. It’s the front end, the portal, or the menu that presents only services that solve business user problems…It should be simple, intuitive, and in layman’s terms–too much detail complicates user experience. Less is more.”

That definition correlates nicely with the description of the ideal ERM front end: simple and intuitive (so it requires no training to use), web-based (so it’s accessible anytime, anywhere, from any device), and comprehensive (so it provides “one-stop shopping” for enterprise services, regardless of the department[s] responsible for service fulfillment).

Among the four components that comprise the “middle level” of the service catalog architecture are consumers of the service catalog and interfaces. It should be noted here that the “interface” need not be identical for all users. That is, while the fundamental look and feel is consistent, users can be presented with different service item choices based on their login (e.g., line employees can’t requisition a new hire; sales and other employees who spend a great deal of time traveling may be presented with different hardware options than those who work primarily in an office; etc.).

Finally, among the components of the “lower level service catalog” architecture is “integration with IT systems and business applications.” This is where an orchestration engine, or workflow automation software fits. It eliminates  the need for redundant manual data entry into multiple systems by passing information securely as needed between different enterprise software systems and automating tasks such as management approvals and resource scheduling.

Oehrlich and Bartlett conclude that “In the future, the term ‘service catalog’ may be rendered obsolete, as a service catalog initiative is so much more than just a catalog—it’s the management of the life cycle of various services demanded and consumed by the business users.” This is achieved by an ERM strategy: business users get the intuitive service request, status tracking, and personalization of a site like Amazon.com, within the context of enterprise business service management.

For more on this topic:

10 Key Benefits of a Business Service Catalog: Forrester Research, Part 2

Forward-thinking IT organizations have embraced service catalogs as means to enable self-service and reap the attendant cost savings. Business users—whether remote or on-site—can request services from a standard set of IT offerings (e.g., password reset, new laptop, application access) and view the status of any previous request, all without a costly call to the help desk.

Business Service CatalogAt a high level, service catalogs reduce the time and cost of delivering technical services while improving the user experience. These and the other benefits of service catalogs needn’t be limited to the provision of IT services however; an expanded view of the service catalog to encompass all shared services groups in the organization (e.g., HR, finance, facilities, etc.) extends the cost savings of service catalogs while also providing employees with a single, intuitive interface for requesting any type of enterprise service.

The Forrester Research white paper Master the Service Catalog Solution Landscape in 2013 identifies a number of reasons for undertaking such a business service catalog effort, as well as the benefits to be gained from the initiative, such as that business service catalogs:

Facilitate self-help. Shifting service and support “to the left” (even to level 0) not only saves money, but in many cases accelerates issue resolution and creates a more positive user experience. Forrester notes the value of “implementing a self-service capability where business users can log their own incidents (and) check on the progress of those incidents.” This isn’t limited to IT support requests though; users should be able to check the status of any type of business service request online, and such self-service can lead to significant cost savings.

Centralize request management. A key benefit of this approach is “one-stop shopping” for business users; there’s no need to learn and use separate systems in order to request services from finance, IT, HT, facilities or other groups.

Simplify the user experience. Users don’t care what happens behind the scenes, they just want their request fulfilled.

Enable agile business processes.

Support IT governance. “End-to-end process governing and tracking the way assets enter and exist in the organization are essential to achieve the highest return on investment (ROI) for the lowest cost. One vendor stated that IT governance is imperative because you ‘must have a way to manage and document things,’ and service offerings within the service catalog are a means to do this.” Proper IT governance and risk management not only reduce costs but also support business growth.

Inspire business process improvement. Forrester calls “the need to map business capabilities to business services…perhaps the most important need and reason for service catalogs…Business service catalogs are top-down capabilities that describe and define IT”s deliverables from a business perspective.” In other words, the implementation of request management forces teams to take a critical look at current processes and encourages redesign based on the goal of a delighted (internal or external) customer.

Help standardize offerings and improve efficiency.

Provide end-to-end visibility into the value chain. “When the service catalog is not just an accessible front end but also automated and integrated with a variety of IT processes…IT operations teams are able to monitor, manage, and report on requests from start to finish. A service request from a business user sets off a value chain that can be tracked within the entire IT organization, from the ‘storefront’ request initiation to product delivery or fulfillment.” Indeed, a key element of the enterprise request management (ERM) strategy is the integrated analytics, which enable accurate costing, reporting on both quantitative (e.g., elapsed time) and qualitative (user satisfaction) metrics,  and continuous process improvement.

Reduce service costs. Forrester notes that globally, help ticket volumes are increasing–not only because of business growth, but also due to an increasingly mobile workforce. According to the white paper, “Forrester Research data shows a growth from 15% to 29% in U.S. and European information workers working anytime and anywhere. Inserting a service catalog that allows this mobile workforce to receive, manage,  and consume business and IT services will…reduce the cost of the service support team.”

Increase user satisfaction. “Customer experience is more than just closing tickets. Establishing a single place for your business users to go where they can request and receive services from either a business team or IT has immediate impact on customer satisfaction and customer experience.” Indeed, a key goal of implementing a business service catalog within an ERM initiative is to not only cut costs but also delight users.

What could go wrong? Forrester also warns about common inhibitors to BT success, including lack of clear purpose; improper tools; lack of ownership (“Ownership leads itself to accountability and pride, two key ingredients for success”); and lack of executive buy in.

Part one of this series defined the business service catalog concept, and part three will address request management architecture.

For more information about the benefits of business service catalogs:

Flexibility vs Simplicity in Request Management

by Anne Ramey

At large companies, there are often many internal customers utilizing any solution provided by IT for use in the company; request management is no exception. A phrase I have always used to describe the diverse internal customers working together to agree on requirements, enhancements, etc. for shared components of any particular solution is folks “playing in the sandbox together.” You have folks who play nice, folks who want all the sand toys, folks who like to throw sand, etc..

If you follow this metaphor, then having to share a limited pool of designers/developers/system administrators is like having a limited number of shovels and pails in the sandbox. If you follow this further, the tool the designers are working with is the sand itself.

There are service catalog / request management tools that tout themselves as so easy to use that anyone in the company can use them (departments can set up their own requests, etc)—no technical skills required. These tools represent your basic playground sandbox sand. Pretty much anyone can dig a hole and make a “mountain,” but that’s about all anyone can do with it. Everyone’s results look pretty much the same, and there are simply things (a lot of them) that these tools just can’t do.

Service catalog software should be like sculpting sandOn the other hand, Kinetic Request is like sculpting sand. Anyone can build a basic hole and mountain. But there is also the capability, with some about of prep and skill and more work, to end up with a real work of art. You can end up with anything from your basic beach sandcastle to (with proper staff, training, planning, funding, etc) a full life-like medieval castle with accompanying village. It’s all up to what you put into it.