Kinetic Process Options: Creating Work Orders with Kinetic Fulfillment

Kinetic Data developer/analyst Brian Peterson is  presenting “Kinetic Process Options (Work Orders / Fulfillment)” today at the 3rd annual KEG (Kinetic Enthusiasts Group) Conference.  For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Denver event, or just want to review the session, here are some highlights of his presentation.

Brian is also the coordinator of Kinetic Community and would love to hear your feedback about the site.

Until now, many organizations have had to rely on complex forms with generic fields to assign actionable tasks to their Support Groups.

Just say no to complex, rigid applicationsActionable tasks are actions that need to be assigned to and completed by a person.  These can be actions such as create a user ID, modify access or purchase a tablet. Clients have had to assign actionable tasks using forms and applications that do not effectively capture the important information upon completion. They contain a large quantity of fields which become noise to the users. Generic text fields such as “Notes” or “Resolution” rely on the person completing the task to know what information to put in the task.

There is no simple or effective way to validate the information in a free text field. If information needs to be extracted from this “Notes” field by a workflow process or reporting, the field needs to be parsed.  Parsing a text field for specific information is always complex and problematic.

The workflow process behind these forms are complex and attempt to be “one size fits all.” Modifying the workflow process behind these applications is discouraged by the vendor, and if you do make modification it is very difficult and at times similar to playing Jenga—take out the wrong piece and comes crashing down.  They do not enable  “Your process your way.”

Our clients need more. They have encouraged and challenged Kinetic Data to provide them a solution to these issues within the Kinetic Request product.

Introducing Kinetic FulfillmentOur response to their needs and requirements is Kinetic Fulfillment.

It’s flexible, lightweight and clean with minimal fields.  It is simple and similar to other web forms which users are familiar with and comfortable using.  It can be easily branded and styled to match your company’s standard colors logo.

When automation isn’t possible, our clients need an application to manage and assign actionable tasks to groups or to individuals within groups.

They want it built on Kinetic Request so that it uses a common and consistent application throughout the lifecycle of the request.

It needs to have a workflow engine behind it to  meet their workflow process requirements.

They need a lightweight, clean and flexible solution that is easy to use.  It needs to contain targeted, specific, and relevant completion questions to get the important information upon completion of the task.

Kinetic Fulfillment meets these requirements.

Structure of Kinetic Bundles and Bundle PackagesKinetic Fulfillment is an application built on Kinetic Request.  This type of application is what we call a Bundle Package. Bundles install into Kinetic Request and Bundle Packages install into Bundles.

As defined on Kinetic Community “Bundles are web-based add-ons to Kinetic Request which allow you to quickly create a web interface to your request catalog.”

A Bundle is a deployment or installation which includes shared functionality and branding for a Kinetic Request catalog.

Bundle Packages are similar to a Bundles, but they are narrower in scope and more focused on adding specific functionality. They also includes the elements and processes necessary to support their own features

A Bundle Package may still leverage features and styling of its parent Bundle.  It can dropped into a Bundle and retain the branding and styling as the rest of the catalog with minimal or no effort.

Kinetic Fulfillment is comprised of two major components: Work Orders and the Fulfillment Console.

Creating Work Orders in Kinetic FulfillmentWork Orders are the actionable task records which are assigned to groups or users.  Work Orders contain all of the information necessary for the fulfiller to complete the required task.  The Kinetic Fulfillment application contains all of the logic and events necessary to manage its lifecycle and state.

A Work Order is a Service Item in Kinetic Request. Service Items are the front-end request forms which are built by Kinetic Request.  Service Items are where the questions are presented to the User.

Because Kinetic Fulfillment is built on Kinetic Request, Service Items are used as the framework and delivery for Work Orders.  Specialized features and functionality have been added to a Work Order Service Item.

Developing and maintaining a Work Order involves the same skills, tools and applications as working with requests.  Request developers no longer need another application or additional skill set to create and assign tasks.

This also helps provide a consistent UI and branding with the rest of the service catalog.

Work Order Fields DetailAll Work Orders contain several unique fields which help define it and identify its state.  These fields are located at the top of the Work Order. Your workflow process will give these fields their initial values and assign the Work Order to the correct group or user.

Status is used to communicate the state of the work order.  It tells others and the workflow process what stage of the lifecycle the Work Order is in. Many organizations have their own requirements and ideas of what values should be in a status menu.  We’ve made this list of values configurable so that clients can create status list that meets their needs.

A Work Order has a Company, Organization, Group and User Hierarchy. It can be assigned to an entire group or to a single user in a group. Out of the box, Works Orders can use groups from ITSM or from Fulfillment’s own data source.  However, it is flexible enough to use groups from an alternate data source.

Work Order AcknowledgementsDue Date indicates the date on which the Work Order is due to be completed. The date picker is displayed when clicking on the calendar icon

Priority indicates the Priority of the Work Order: Low, Normal or Urgent. Acknowledged allows the Work Order to be acknowledged without modifying the status.

Entering Work Information on a Work OrderThose of you who use BMC ITSM are familiar with Work Information. In Kinetic Fulfillment, Work Information is used to share information and attachments with the Requester and other Work Order Fulfillers. Work Information may be flagged as public (intended to be shared with the Requester ) or private (intended to only be shared with the Fulfiller). Multiple Work Information records can be added to a Work Order

Example - Tablet Request Workflow ProcessHere is an example process for Requesting a tablet.

  • The tablet is requested.

  • The manager approves the request.

  • The tablet is procured and delivered.

Each Request, such as a request for a tablet or a request for a user ID, can utilize a different Work Order  or multiple Work Orders in their workflow processes.

In other instances, the Work Orders may need to be the same.  The Network ID Request and the Database ID Request may have the same Work Order requirements.  If so they can both use the Work Order.

When multiple Work Orders are created, each can be designed to target specific completion information by including questions unique to their process and requirements.

A Request for a Tablet may need a Work Order to capture the tablet make, model, and serial number upon completion.  A Work Order for a new User ID may only require the ID of the new user to be provided.

Creating a request-specific Work Order can ensure quality data is captured by including specific, targeted questions.  Targeted questions tell the user precisely what information to provide; a field labeled “Resolution” or  “Notes” doesn’t.

For example, a question labeled “Tablet Make”, “Tablet Model” or “Serial Number” tells the user exactly what information is needed.  The workflow process also now “knows” where the Model and Serial number are stored. The information can easily be accessed by the workflow process without needing to parse a generic text field.  This enables workflow automation.  The workflow process can easily update a CMDB or other asset repository with information provided in the Work Order.

Work Orders are built on Kinetic Request so they can leverage other features of the product. As an example, events and dynamic menus can be used to further refine the completion information that is provided to the Work Order, such as: the Nexus 7 is specific to the Google Tablet.  If a different Make is selected, the menu changes to list only the models which relate to the selected make of tablet.

We can also apply data validation to the questions.  Data validation can be used to ensure a valid phone number, username, email address, or IP address are provided.  It could also be as simple as making the answer to a question required.

Work Orders can also be shared by workflow processes. Sharing Work Orders reduces the need for maintenance.  If a change is needed or a bug is discovered, the changes or corrections only need to be made to a single Work Order.

Reusing a Work Order also decreases development time.  When Work Orders are reused, users are already familiar with them.  This provides a consistency to the to workflow processes.

Fulfillment includes the flexibility to use either Shared or Targeted Work Orders.

Work Orders can also be cloned, which makes creating a new Work Order quick and easy.

A Work Order is just a type of Service Item in Kinetic Request.  The same tools and methods are used within Kinetic Request to quickly and easily create a new Work Order to target specific completion information.  A Work Order Service Item Template can be quickly cloned, then have targeted questions added  The use of the Work Order is then defined in the appropriate workflow processes.  The built-in functionality of the Work Order hides these questions until the fulfiller is ready to answer them.

The Tablet Request example shown earlier was simplified; there is more to the processes than this.

In real business scenarios, much more happens than just creating a Work Order. Multiple processes can happen during the lifecycle of the Work Order.  There are email notifications to be sent, SLA Flags to be set, a CMDB to be updated, and perhaps updates made to a customer’s ticketing system which is monitoring progress.

Tablet Request Workflow DetailIn our Tablet Request example, its workflow process creates the Work Orders.  When a Work Order node executes, it creates the Work Order and pauses; the Work Order has its own workflow processes to execute, in this case Assignment and Complete.

Work Order Workflow ProcessA Work Order can have several workflow processes to execute. In a Work Order, there are several triggers which can execute a one of many workflow processes.

Now we have introduced new hooks to executing workflow processes in between the time of creation and completion. Workflow processes can be grouped by event or action, which makes them reusable.

Re-using and sharing Work OrdersNot only can Work Orders be either Shared or Unique, but so also the Workflow Processes can be.

The Purchase Tablet Work Order may have a unique workflow process for Completion.  However, it may share a Workflow Process with Create ID.  Either scenario can be accomplished.

We have created these reusable pieces that can be used to create workflow processes and meet a variety of requirements.  Pick an existing Work Order and Workflow Process  or create new ones and the process for your request.

A Workflow can be executed before Submission. Example uses of this include:

  • Send emails – On Reassignment
  • Set SLA Flag – Modify Values to indicate In Progress
  • Request information from the requestor or another individual – Common requirement to have a request for more information
  • Update an external system – Update with status change

If you can put it in a workflow process, it can be run.

Worflow Automation with Kinetic TaskAll of these Workflow processes are made possible by the Kinetic Task Product.  Kinetic Task is Kinetic Data’s Graphical Workflow Process Builder. The Developer builds a Task Tree to define the workflow process.

Nodes in the tree represent Task Handlers.  Task Handlers are the building blocks of a Task Tree.  Handlers execute the actions and make the decisions in the Task Trees.

Many core handlers are included with Kinetic Task, but we also have a library of useful handlers available on Kinetic Community to perform tasks such as sending approvals and emails; retrieving personnel information; and reading data from / writing data to external applications like Remedy, Salesforce and ServiceNow.  And of course we have a handler to create Work Orders.

The Handlers are dragged into the Task Tree from a list of available handlers, configured and then connected to other nodes.

Process Fulfillment ConsoleThe second main component of Kinetic Fulfillment is the Fulfillment Console.

The Fulfillment Console is the Work Queue for Work Orders.  It allows fulfillers to see what tasks are assigned to them and to manage and view the Work Orders which need their attention.  It is an important tools for managing and prioritizing Work Orders assigned to fulfillers.

Fulfiller can prioritize work queues by:

  • Assignment;
  • Priority;
  • Due Date; or
  • Status.

Additionally, Work Orders are categorized into different tabs such as:

  • “My Work Orders”
  • “Open Work Orders”
  • “Unassigned Work Orders”

The Fulfillment Console includes an additional tab for Searching Work Orders. Work Orders can be opened and assigned from the Fulfillment Console.

Work Orders in Kinetic Fulfillment are lightweight, clean and flexible, with no extraneous fields.

A Work Order can display only Targeted Questions that are required to complete the specific assigned task.  These dedicated fields can also be used to better direct the user to provide specific information needed.  This also gives provides better event management and data validation.

With Kinetic Fulfillment, you’re no longer slave to large applications which attempt to conform their workflow process to fit everything.  You have the flexibility to create workflow processes to meet your unique requirements.   If you want an email notification to be sent, add that to the workflow process. It’s your process.

Each of these processes is reusable.  Build it once and include it in other Work Orders.

Reuse these workflow processes when you can or create new unique workflow process where the requirements are different.  The workflow process executed upon a status change for the Tablet Work Order doesn’t need to be the same as on the Create User ID Work Order.

Execute the workflow process at any point in the lifecycle of a work order.  If you can do the workflow in a workflow process, you can run it at any time in a Work Order.

Thank you!

What’s next?

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:

Delight Customers and Slash Costs with Enterprise Request Management

In most large enterprises today, shared services are delivered through functional silos: IT provisions equipment and software access, HR manages PTO requests and new-hire processes, Facilities manages space planning and allocation, etc.

If you need one of those services, you work with that group’s systems. If you need multiple services—for example, to reserve workspace, hire staff, and install phones and computers for a project—you’ll likely have to work with multiple systems, obtain multiple approvals, manually schedule tasks, and juggle all of the pieces to coordinate activities with target dates.

Manual Request Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all makes complete sense from the standpoint of each individual department. Internally, they may even have optimized certain standard processes (e.g., ordering and provisioning a laptop). Each department is well-versed in and very efficient at using its own software.

The problem is, these processes often make no sense from the standpoint of the (external or internal) customer. How do you determine which group delivers the service you need? (It’s not always obvious.) Why do you have to learn and use different systems to make simple requests? Manually ask for approvals (and create reminders to follow up if an approval isn’t obtained promptly)? Who decided that the “standard” delivery time for a new laptop was X number of days? And for requests that cross departmental lines—why do you have to enter the same information into multiple applications or online forms?

In actuality, those “optimized” intradepartmental tasks often entail processes that waste time, cost more than necessary, frustrate customers, and lead to error-prone duplicate manual data entry. The customer is forced to consciously and actively manage the process, when all they really want is to place a request and receive a service.

Enterprise request management (ERM) is a better approach to managing service requests and fulfillment. In the ERM model, customers can request any type of enterprise shared service (including, most importantly, services that span different functional groups) from a single, intuitive web-based and mobile-friendly portal interface. One front end to use regardless of the type of request, with little to no training required.

The portal routes the request to an automated task management “backbone” application that can automatically manage approvals, scheduling, and fulfillment by securely communicating with and between existing departmental software systems. No one on the service delivery side has to give up the software they are accustomed to or make major investments in implementing and learning new systems.

Enterprise Request Management Approach

Information is entered once, validated, then shared as needed between federated data sources. This saves time, reduces customer frustration, and virtually eliminates errors, enabling consistent first-time fulfillment. Elapsed time, costing, user satisfaction and other reporting elements are automatically logged throughout the process.

This approach also provides complete visibility into the status of a request at any time (similar to online package tracking), so the customer never has to call or send an email to find out “where things are at.” Instead of asking “how long does it take to get a new laptop?” managers can ask “how long should it take?”

The end result is a delighted customer, who now has a single intuitive interface for requesting services and checking on delivery status, and who gets services delivered promptly and accurately and with less effort. The enterprise saves time, reduces the cost of service delivery, and eliminates data errors and rework through automation. Visibility into processes supports continuous process improvement.

To learn more about the ERM approach, download the whitepaper Enterprise Request Management: An Overview.

How to Create a Consistent User Experience (And Why You Should)

What makes Facebook a success?

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!

But even when Facebook does introduce updates and new features, it keeps enough of the fundamental functionality and navigation consistent that users are able to fairly easily roll with the changes.

Consistency and ease of use have driven Facebook’s success. From the beginning, the company knew it wouldn’t be able to scale rapidly if it had to hire a huge support team to help users utilize the site. (Ever tried to reach human support on Facebook? Good luck.)

So they focused, relentlessly, on keeping it simple–so simple that even grandmothers (and grandfathers) with almost no computer experience could figure out how to create a page and share photos of their grandchildren.

The Challenge of Simply UI DesignBut if Facebook was like most corporate intranets, its doubtful users would have returned again and again.

Corporate intranets too often present different styling, navigation and features across different applications, sections and pages. Users experience a chaotic environment where they have to work at navigating through the site. Inconsistency causes confusion for users and results in incorrect choices and incomplete responses and general frustration. In a request fulfillment environment, this results in reduced usage and an increased need for ‘call-back’ from the fulfillers.

Consistency Not Chaos

The example below (one of the standard templates provided with Kinetic Request) illustrates a better approach: consistency, not just in styling but also in navigation and layout. From page to page, navigation elements and “action” links remain in consistent locations.

Consistency and clarity result in higher user adoption, faster service request processing, and smoother workflow for service delivery staff.Request Management Screen Example

With a clear and consistent design, users should be confident after the first page of a number of vital things:

  • Where to expect to find information
  • How to navigate from the page and back to the page
  • How to leave the page
  • How to get more information about an item
  • How to select an option or item

Even complex forms can be simplified by pre-populating fields with known information (e.g., if the user is logged in, the system should already know the user’s name, title, office address, phone number, email and other similar data) and keeping the layout consistent with other pages while removing unnecessary information.

Elaborate Yet Simple Request FormQuestions should be “nested” so that additional questions are revealed only if and when the added information is required.  Complex instructions can be avoided by clear and simple navigation that is consistent between forms.

Consistent site style provides a number of benefits for users: it’s easier to use, more predictable, and speeds the request-to-fulfillment process by avoiding unnecessary support phone calls and clarification emails.

In addition, consistent design benefits the organization by:

  • Controlling ‘rogue’ development
  • Enhancing corporate identity / branding
  • Lessening “silo” effects between departments
  • Unifying fulfillment – especially when it is multi-faceted

This post was based on the presentation “Creating Consistent User Experiences” delivered by Michael Poole and Shane Bush at the 2012 KEG event. You can view details of the original presentation on Kinetic Community or learn more about the upcoming 2013 KEG event.

Lotus Notes Apps Find a New Home in Kinetic Request

Microsoft and IBM have been publicly sparring over whose email/collaboration platform is winning in the marketplace.  Microsoft Exchange/Outlook is clobbering Lotus Notes/Domino in market share, Microsoft says.  Nonsense, counters IBM.  Notes/Domino is as strong as it’s ever been.

We’d have to give the advantage to Microsoft.  While market share estimates vary widely for Exchange and Notes, most show Microsoft steadily making inroads into IBM’s customer base.  A recent IDC analysis,  for example, showed IBM’s market share slipping 5 percent to 37.7 percent, while Microsoft’s market share has grown to 52 percent.

The numbers show that a significant number of large companies have made the switch from Notes to Exchange. Many more are contemplating such a move. It’s hard to blame them. Exchange/Outlook is a more up-to-date platform for email, collaboration, and business process automation. The Notes/Domino platform does a lot of great things, but it’s showing its age, and it’s getting harder to find technical personnel with specialized Notes expertise.

But before organizations make the switch, they have to answer one big question: How do you replace the functionality of all the Lotus Notes applications you’ve built over the years to automate workflows and business processes?  One large financial services company faced the question this year. While it had dozens of Lotus apps, two were especially important. These were service request management applications that automated employee onboarding and provisioning and other approval processes. The company estimated that building these applications anew would require over 2,000 hours of programming. Ouch!

Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task did the job in only 400 hours. (Read More). Now, service requesters go to the company’s corporate intranet, where they are redirected to a single company-branded  Kinetic Request portal.  Besides the 80 percent cost savings, the company got something even more valuable: a request management platform that is completely customizable and allows the company to add additional processes, forms and service items quickly and easily across the enterprise.

If your organization is thinking about switching from Notes to Exchange/Outlook, remember that you too may end up with a bunch of orphaned automated request management processes that once lived in the Notes environment.  How are you going to replace them?  One obvious solution is Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task.

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.