Service Catalogs are NOT IT Software – They are Business Software

When you are standing at the base of a mountain, it’s usually impossible to see the true peak. You will see “a” peak in front of you, but upon reaching that summit, you’ll see another “peak” higher up, and upon scaling that one, another…until eventually, you reach an elevation from which you can see the actual top of the mountain.

You must reach the first mountain peak to see the next
Photo credit: Steve Maniam

So it is with service catalogs. They were originally defined in ITIL as “an exhaustive list of IT services that an organization provides or offers to its employees or customers.” According to Wikipedia, each service item within an IT service catalog typically includes:

  • A description of the service
  • A categorization or service type
  • Any supporting or underpinning services
  • Timeframes or service level agreement for fulfilling the service
  • Who is entitled to request/view the service
  • Costs (if any)
  • How to request the service and how its delivery is fulfilled
  • Escalation points and key contacts
  • Hours of service availability

While that’s a useful list, notice that none of these bullet points necessarily describe attributes of only IT services; a service description, timeframes, costs, etc. just as readily apply to services from human resources (e.g., a PTO request), facilities (e.g, reserving a meeting room), finance, marketing, or any other internal shared services group.

Service catalogs are still often thought of as “IT software” because that is the way most vendors have viewed them, built them, and sold them. They only see the first “peak” near the base of the mountain, and that’s all they show to customers.

Once those customers reach the first peak, however, they are able to “see higher up the mountain”—but the software they’ve invested in isn’t designed to let them climb any higher.

The result is that service catalogs are used only in IT. Other functional groups (HR, facilities, finance, etc.) each have their own systems and processes for handling requests. The onus is thus on employees to determine which department (or departments, in the case of complex requests) are responsible for service request fulfillment, which systems and processes to therefore use, and how to use each system or process—as well as to “manage” their request from initiation through fulfillment.

There is a better approach, both in terms of improving the user experience and in reducing cross-departmental service delivery costs. Take the service catalog concept to the next peak (and the next, and the next). View it as business software, not just IT software.

Forrester Research recommends rethinking the IT service catalog “as  a higher-level entity called the business service catalog.” In the enterprise request management (ERM) approach, employees have one single, intuitive, web-based portal for ordering any type of business shared service. Users have one simple system for initiating and monitoring the status of requests, with no need to understand all of the departments, approvals and processes involved. Enterprises get increased first-time fulfillment, time and cost savings, and visibility into actual service levels and delivery times.

Don’t let anyone limit your vision. You’ve got higher peaks to conquer.

To learn more:

ERM and Self-Service 2.0: Because Actions Beat Words

Self service 1.0 focused on empowering users with knowledge. It included knowledge bases that provided detailed instructions for completing a variety of tasks, and service catalogs with rich service item descriptions. While by no means unhelpful, self service 1.0 didn’t give users what they really wanted: the ability to get broken things fixed, and to order new things.

What enterprises learned from self service 1.0 was that the lack of an actionable system required manual request management processes which wasted money and frustrated internal and/or external “customers.”

Based on experiences across hundreds of large organizations, Kinetic Data president John Sundberg recently spoke about the transition from self service 1.0 to 2.0, and the role that enterprise request management (ERM) can play, at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.

As defined in this presentation, self service 2.0 is focused instead on empowering users with process. It provides actionable services and automated processes to accelerate service fulfillment, reduce costs and improve the customer experience. Because the customer benefits (for example, through a single intuitive request interface and the ability to track the status of requests), self service 2.0 is more likely to actually be used than its more static predecessor.

The lesson of self service 2.0 is that having an actionable system in place saves money and delights the customer.

Having learned these lessons, organizations sought to implement self service 2.0 across the enterprise. But service catalogs were specified in ITIL and therefore focused on IT; they didn’t extend well to other shared services groups like HR. And HR applications lacked the flexibility to accommodate IT services.

The ERM approach is ideal for taking self service 2.0 out of “silos.” It combines a single, intuitive web-based portal for any type of request (IT, HR, facilities, finance, cross-departmental) with automation through existing enterprise systems (ITSM, ERP, HR,  etc.) to simplify request management for users while reducing service fulfillment time and costs.

An ERM approach to self service 2.0 provides several benefits, including:

  • Agility: there’s no need for a “big bang” cutover or long implementation process; the ERM approach can be used to pursue the “low-hanging fruit”—processes that are particularly painful or just the most common—first, enabling “quick wins,” then expanded to additional services.
  • Popularity: once users and managers begin to see successes in other departments, they want to implement and use it for their own processes. And because ERM is “function agnostic,” there is less “protectionism” or NIH (not-invented-here) syndrome at play.
  • Efficiency: ERM is designed to leverage existing processes and systems wherever possible. New technology and training investments are limited to “filling the gaps.” HR, IT and other departments still utilize their familiar, existing software to support service fulfillment.

ERM improves the customer experience by providing a single web-based interface for any type of request, eliminating redundant manual data entry, accelerating service delivery, and freeing user from manual request management “babysitting.” But it also reduces costs for the organization and provides a framework and reporting data to support continual process improvement.

The end result of taking an ERM approach to self service 2.0 is a shift from static (information gets shared) to a dynamic (stuff gets done) orientation, reduced service delivery costs—and delighted customers.

To learn more, download the Enterprise Request Management Overview white paper, and join the conversation in the Enterprise Request Management Group on LinkedIn.

John Sundberg to Present the ERM Concept at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo

Kinetic Data president John Sundberg will deliver a presentation outlining the concept and benefits of Enterprise Request Management (ERM) at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, which runs from October 6th through the 10th. The ERM presentation will take place in the Emerging Technology Pavilion Theater on Wednesday, October 9, at 12:35 p.m..

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and senior IT executives. This year’s event will focus on how the convergence of forces like mobile, social, and cloud technologies are dramatically reshaping the role and business expectations of IT. The 2013 agenda offers 500+ analyst sessions, workshops, roundtables and mastermind keynotes across five full days. With 10 role-based tracks and 11 industry tracks, the agenda targets your specific title responsibilities and ways to adapt new ideas and strategy to your industry, along with insight on what’s next in IT.

John’s presentation will discuss how an ERM approach to service requests and fulfillment drives cost savings and business agility. Organizations are moving to ERM in response to changes in the business environment—such as BYOD and the consumerization of IT—and the shortcomings of technology-focused service request management approaches in adapting to those changes.

Large businesses and government agencies recognize the need for “self-service 2.0” approach to request management. The core elements of self-service 1.0—posting a catalog of services and list of “known solutions” in the form of a knowledgebase—had limited value. The approach these organizations are finding valuable is to bridge the gap between an employee needing something (anything from a new office chair to resources for a new product development project) to an employee getting something. ERM bridges that gap.

Business function managers are empowered to define their own service items and task flows. Internal or external “customers” get a single intuitive, Web-based interface for ordering any type of service, without needing to understand the underlying approval and scheduling processes. Organizations benefit from accelerated service delivery, improved first-time fulfillment, and lower service delivery costs.

Kinetic Data will also be exhibiting in the Emerging Technology Pavilion. Registration is still open for this Gartner event.

How to Calculate the Cost Savings from Automated Self-Service

It’s not unusual to find large organizations still using manual processes for service delivery. Users fill out a paper form, fax it to a service desk number, then follow up by phone or email to check on the status of their service requests. This approach requires many inefficient, manual tasks in the service fulfillment process.

What many organizations want—and are trying to move to—is automated self-service for requests, with a single intuitive interface through which users can find any type of service, make a request, and get the service delivered with no manual interaction.

In this model, key tasks such as scheduling, approvals, costing and reporting are automated–accelerating the delivery process, improving accuracy, and reducing costs.

Requests are made through a web-based, mobile-friendly portal that requires no training to use. The portal also provides visibility into the delivery process, eliminating phone calls and email messages to check on the status of the request.

Benefits of this approach include:

  • faster service delivery;
  • a better user experience; and
  • a more effective, lower-cost process for delivering services.

Calculating the return on investment (ROI) start with an evaluation of the time spent requesting and delivering services under an organization’s current approach. This is then compared, on a per-request basis, to the time requirements under an automated enterprise request management (ERM) approach, including total cost of ownership for the new system over three to five years.

ROI is the cumulative cost savings across all services that can be automated divided by the total costs (software, hardware, services, implementation, training) of moving to an ERM approach. The total business impact varies with the volume of service requests which are candidates for automation.

To learn more about the ERM approach to automated self-service, download the whitepaper Enterprise Request Management: An Overview.

How Innovating IT Practices Leads to Happier Employees

Everyone wants to work in an environment where they feel good about their jobs. And every CEO wants the organization’s employees to recommend the firm to others as a great company to work for and do business with. Now, findings from Forrester Research quantify the pivotal role that IT plays in supporting these outcomes.

According to Forrester, in companies where employees are advocates ” for their business as a place to work and as a place to do business,” 65% say they are satisfied with the service they receive from their IT departments. In contrast, just one-quarter of unhappy, non-advocate employees are satisfied with their IT groups.

How IT Innovation Leads to Happy EmployeesFurthermore, significant majorities of advocate employees:

  • Report they are satisfied that their IT departments understand their technology needs and what they need to be successful in their jobs.

  • Say they “have access to technology and tools to solve their problems and challenges.”

  • Feel encouraged to solve customer and business problems.

  • Are active users of collaboration and communication tools.

Clearly, as even Forrester points out, there are many other factors that affect employees’ overall work satisfaction and advocacy (corporate culture, policies, work environment,  compensation), but the correlation with IT support is nonetheless significant.

So how can IT managers help create a positive environment of employee advocacy? Here are three key tactics:

  • Help business managers use technology to automate common processes and solve business problems. Ideally, IT should provide departmental / business function managers with easy to use tools to create their own automated task workflows, with minimal IT assistance.
  • Give employees a single web (and mobile) portal to request any type of service. Ultimately, employees don’t care whether a specific request gets fulfilled by IT,  or HR, or facilities, or through coordination between different departments, and they don’t want to have to request different services from different systems and user interfaces.
  • Deliver services the way that users want them. Contrast the typical IT help desk queue approach with the user-friendly experience of Apple Genius Bars, particularly for remote users and road warriors. Enabling users to schedule an appointment online rather than wait in a queue, particularly for complex-but-not-urgent service requests, reduces stress for IT professionals and business users alike.

Trends like bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and an increasingly mobile workforce are creating new challenges for IT departments. But given their importance in employee satisfaction and advocacy, it’s crucial for technology groups to embrace new approaches that both enhance productivity and delight business users.

For more information, check our white papers Say Goodbye to the IT Service Management Queue and Business Process Automation Anywhere and Everywhere.

Automating Employee Onboarding and Provisioning Processes with Request Management

Ready, Set, Go!

Imagine that on your first day on the new job you already have your telephone, laptop, employee username/login, phone line and voice mailbox, employee email account, company iPhone, business cards, and name badge. In addition, you already have access to the appropriate databases and user groups. And to top it off—multiple departments across the organization have already been notified of your arrival. This is the ideal scenario for most organizations. As an employer, you want every new hire’s first day to be as reassuring and productive as possible.

Employee Onboarding and ProvisioningEmployee onboarding

Employee onboarding is best defined as a systematic and comprehensive approach to orienting a new employee to help them get on board.  All of this requires coordination between HR, hiring managers, IT, facilities, and other parts of the organization. 

Onboarding and provisioning the new hire

There are two parts to the employee onboarding process. The first part is known as employee onboarding, Wikipedia refers to it as “the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational contributors.” This part of the process includes HR’s protocol—company and departmental overviews, job expectations, policies and procedures, etc.

The second part of the onboarding process includes provisioning the new hire with the tangible and intangible items they will need to be productive. New hires need to have their workspaces fully provisioned with phones, computers, email accounts, and the appropriate database and application access as soon as possible.

Onboarding in large organizations

Large organizations must onboard and provision new employees quickly and efficiently in order to speed employee time-to-productivity. They need to be able to respond to onboarding and provisioning requests promptly in order to maintain an acceptable productivity level—especially imperative to organizations with many new hires and high employee turnover. If the employee onboarding and provisioning process is not fully automated, it can be tedious and time-consuming.

Benefits of automation

The benefits of automating onboarding and provisioning include less paperwork, reduced costs and increased efficiency. Automation also ensures accuracy—especially beneficial for compliance purposes—and provides a full audit trail if needed. Perhaps most importantly, new employees feel welcome and prepared in their new positions and are more confident they have the resources to quickly make an impact within the organization.

Automating onboarding with Request Management

There are several ways to automate employee onboarding and provisioning, including purpose-built applications, but using a Request Management application is perhaps the simplest and most efficient way to do it.

Request Management is the process of managing a request, from submission to follow up, in order to standardize and automate service delivery.

Request management is a key component of an actionable service catalog; it is the underlying workflow and processes that enable a service request to be reliably submitted, routed, approved, monitored, and delivered.

The benefits of using a request management application for employee onboarding include:

  • Speed the time to employee productivity.
  • Leverage a single configurable interface to orchestrate all employee onboarding and provisioning requests across multiple departments: HR, Payroll, IT, Telecom, Facilities, Security.
  • Reduce costs due to inefficiency.
  • Increase reliability and accuracy, and consistently assure legal compliance.
  • Get visibility to audit trails for compliance and reporting purposes.
  • Reduce human intervention to a minimum with user self-service.

Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task has the capability to do these things and more for your organization. With the power of enterprise-wide flexibility and task management simplification, these products are a valuable asset for organizations looking to increase overall efficiency.  For more information on how these products enhance the automation experience visit Kinetic Data’s website.

In summary, employee onboarding and provisioning activities that are coordinated and orchestrated with a request management application are improved in a number of ways. The automation of these processes has proved time and time again that it is worth the investment. Companies who make the decision to streamline their procedures are rewarded with consistent cost reduction, accuracy, reliability, and cross departmental capabilities as well as increased employee productivity and satisfaction.

What is this “Level 0” thing? (Part 2): Knowledge, Self-Analysis and Feedback

Tools of the Trade (Part 2)

A Vision From Down Under
By Michael Poole

In my last blog, I mentioned a major client who is ‘shifting to the left’ and implementing ‘Level 0’ methods.

For those who missed my last blog, in short, ‘Level 0’ is the process of enabling users to resolve their own incidents and requests.

Obviously, one way of implementing ‘Level 0’ is to shut off the phone lines and email addresses of the Help Desk. A very effective way of getting users involved in the process, but not one I would recommend to anyone wanting a long future in an organisation. Of course, sometimes we implement this method by under-resourcing our support teams – but that is the subject for another blog.

To implement ‘Level 0’, users have to have the information available to them to resolve issues as they arise. So how do we give these to them.

There are a number of tools available.

The Knowledge

It has been famed around the world that London cabbies spend years “doing the knowledge” — learning every street, lane, theatre, hospital and pub in London — before they can sit for the exam to obtain a cab licence. Do we need to ensure that before any person joins the organisation they have an intimate knowledge of computer hardware, software, networking etc.?

No, because now, they can be like today’s Sydney cabbies who avoid “the knowledge” by having a SatNav or GPS system in the cab. Our users’ SatNav can be a Knowledge Base.

The move to implementing “KCS” or Knowledge Centred Support has been going for a number of years, but for many organisations, this has been limited to building knowledge bases directed at and only available to the support team — not the user. With the development of Web 2.0+, users are becoming more accustomed to “googling” for solutions and answers and also using self-help resources that are a part of the major social media sites. I admit, in doing these blogs, I have often consulted the blog site’s help pages and Support Forums.

So KCS is one of the tools that can be deployed as part of the “shift to the left.” But to do this, we have to make sure that we develop our KCS articles, not for computer engineers, or if we are deploying across an enterprise , HR experts or accountants etc, but for the average user and common issues.

Self-analysis

No, I’m not becoming Tony Robbins — all “SHAMish” (Self Help and Actualisation Movement) — perish the thought — or bringing Freud onto the Help Desk — even though at times he might be useful in dealing with users, but more IKEA!

The results of some IKEA assembly projects might belie the concept — but I assume that they have more successes than failures through the step-by-step self-assembly process.

A few — well maybe many — years ago, I was involved in a project that required me to have what is called an “Assumed Rank” in the Australian Armed Services. I made Colonel for a month — the duration of the contract — but thankfully did not have to do the physical, wear a drab khaki uniform, bear arms or be saluted. But I did get into the Officers’ Mess and people had to answer my questions in a respectful way, but that is past. What I did get to find out was how the most complex maintenance and repair processes for a fighter jet could be broken down into simple steps and documented so that even I could have replaced, as an instance, the wiring loom on an F-111 or the laser-guidance system. The “repair manual” — and it was all hard-copy — was contained in a room-full of filing cabinets and needed a librarian to keep it in order and up-to-date. This of course was an extension of the production line methodology introduced by Henry Ford at his eponymous company to make the most complex consumer engineering  product of the day — the motor car — with relatively unskilled workers. Other car makers of the time were using skilled engineers and coach-makers to make one car at a time.

As the makers of the F-111 and Henry Ford knew, every process can be broken down to simple steps and delivered in an appropriate way to produce a complex result. For Ford this was a car; for General Dynamics it was the F-111 repair manual; for us this can be a fault-finding and resolution process.

In fact for the client mentioned above, we implemented such a system — a fault-finding process that enables staff with little or no technical knowledge to analyse and, in over 30% of cases, resolve issues with lap-tops ranging from OS to wireless network issues through a series of simple steps that relied on the answers to a number of questions and test activities that they could understand and carry out.

So another tool in the “Level 0” process, is intelligent and responsive self-analysis and resolution tools. What is sometimes called an “expert system.”

Information, Contribution, Monitoring & Feedback

Implementing “Level 0” also requires openness of information and a positive response to user feedback.

Users should be given every opportunity to be a part of the process.

Where KCS is implemented, users should be able to rate and suggest improvements to KCS articles and guides and also author and submit new KCS articles. As well as providing another source of input into the KCS system, users will develop a group ownership of the KCS system and its acceptance will be more easily gained.

This is also true of any self-analysis and resolution process. A network engineer may be able to define the step-by-step process for resetting a head-end switch, but it may take some input from an end-user to enunciate the process in easily understood vocabulary or point out areas that need better definition.

Users must also be contribute to the areas that need to be covered in the KCS or self-service system. What the experts think are trivial matters, may be a source of confusion to users.

Access to monitoring information in a easily understandable format can reduce calls on the Service Desk. If users know that a system is down for maintenance then they have no need to log a call.

And of course feedback to users is essential when they make a contribution or highlight an area that needs better coverage.

In part 3, I will look at ways to integrate these tools into web-based portals that can be deployed to users.

 

 

 

 

Why Self-Service Matters in Service Request Management

By Nancy Nafziger

In today’s competitive market, organizations are under pressure to provide visibility to the costs and benefits of existing and planned technology expenditures.

When considering technology, it is imperative for organizations to migrate to solutions that reduce the overall Total Cost of Ownership, (TCO). So what is essential for reducing TCO? Technologies that save time, reduce costs, reduce errors, and improve user satisfaction.

With that said, it is advantageous to consider technologies with self-provisioning features. Self-provisioning features have the power to reduce TCO. Let’s take a look at one technology that has made significant advances in self-provisioning—Service Request Management.

Leading Service Request Management solutions are automated and empower authorized users to self-provision their Requests. So how does this provide value? Self-provisioned Requests trigger a variety of automated processes that reduces time and eliminates errors. The lack of automation loads organizations with increased costs, security issues, and provisioning errors. Automating request fulfillment eliminates hours of staff time that was previously spent manually responding to requests.

In addition to reducing TCO, other self-provisioning benefits in Request Management include:

  • Enables process owners to have full control of managing their processes
  • Reduces support costs
  • Enables compliance with governance audit and reporting requirements
  • Empowers users with fast-response access to critical business services
  • Improves user satisfaction through greater transparency and better management 

In summary, self-provisioning features in Service Request Management Solutions requests enable requests to be fulfilled more efficiently, faster, and at a lower cost.