Congratulations to CareTech Solutions – Named Best in KLAS for Seventh Straight Year

CareTech Solutions was recently named Best in KLAS (again) for healthcare IT outsourcing by KLAS Research. The 2014 award marks the seventh consecutive year that CareTech has been named a Best in KLAS category leader in IT outsourcing.

$4.7 million IT cost savingsAs reported, “CareTech’s top ranking for IT outsourcing (Extensive) is included in the ‘2014 Best in KLAS Software and Services’ report, intended to help healthcare providers identify the best healthcare vendors across multiple segments based on clients’ feedback.” The award is based on input from healthcare professionals and clinicians at thousands of hospitals, clinics and other facilities.

Continue reading “Congratulations to CareTech Solutions – Named Best in KLAS for Seventh Straight Year”

Customer Satisfaction Soars at ATS with Enterprise Request Management

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

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

How a Healthcare IT Service Provider Saved $4.7 Million with ERM

Hospitals are under pressure on multiple fronts to reduce costs. One key cost-reduction strategy is outsourcing non-core functions, such as IT, in order to focus more on effective and efficient patient care.

CareTech Solutions is a healthcare-focused IT service provider, supporting 400,000 end-users across more than 200 hospital clients, with a focus on “creating value for clients through customized IT solutions that contribute to improving the patient experience while lowering healthcare costs.”

To make it easier and faster for busy nurses and hospital staff to request IT services, and resolve technical issues more quickly, CareTech began implementing an enterprise request management (ERM) strategy with help from Kinetic Data.

Handling close to 250,000 service requests through its online service request portal in 2013, CareTech estimated “the annual costs savings and productivity gains for its collective operation to be an impressive $4.7 million.”

Read the full story here.

 

The Fundamentals of Service Delivery

By Brett Norgaard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Keys to Making Multi-tenancy Work

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

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

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

Be flexible, not monolithic.

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

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

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

Security must be architected in, not added on.

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

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

Employ multiple implementation models.

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

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

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

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

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

Service Providers—Configure Your Service Processes for Superior Business Value

By Brett Norgaard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Service Providers—Do the Math on Visible and Hidden Benefits

By Brett Norgaard

The other day, we got some feedback from a large service provider who’s been struggling with their service request management tool for the usual reasons—it is inflexible, dependent upon programming, risky to make changes to the database structure, cumbersome to move from development to production without rework, hard to survive upgrades to the underlying service platform and constantly reinventing the wheel. After experiencing a demonstration of Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task’s configuration driven approach, reusable and cloneable service items and handlers as a starting point for creating new service items, visual work flow, and portability between environments, versions and instances they said something powerful, “This will save us two to three years of development time and will put us that much ahead of schedule.”

Here then is a list of the “visible” business benefits that they saw:

  • Cost savings
  • Time-to-market
  • Using a more readily available and less costly resource (business analyst vs. programmer)

While this is very interesting, think about something else—this represents one client. This service provider has many clients. While each is unique, our experience tells us that there are similar standard service items that could be deployed across the entire client base. Working from a master library, this service provider could also construct an automated method to generate not only a standard service catalog, but specialized service catalogs that command premium pricing based upon their business value to the client. They would also have the money, time, and a satisfied client willing to look at doing more with them.

For simplicity sake, if this service provider had ten clients in the same boat as described above, the cost savings they could point to collectively would be 20-30 years of development time. Now we are talking some serious money as well as some seriously happy clients that can consume the service provider’s offers now vs. two to three years down the road. As author Michael Lewis pointed out in the book, “The New, New Thing” when referring to Jim Jordan (silicon valley guru) and his sales pitch to investors, “Do the math.”

Service providers who have the right knowledge, architecture, tools, and skills in place are poised to accrue “hidden” business benefits as well as the “visible” ones sooner vs. later.

Forrester Research Outsourcing Trends—How Service Providers Can Capitalize

By Brett Norgaard

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

Here are the key trends:

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

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

There are new models with embedded portfolio management practices emerging:

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

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

Business benefits of new model:

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

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

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

How Kinetic Data enables capitalizing on these trends:

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