Why High “Flow” Companies Will Win – And How to Become One

Have you ever found yourself so totally immersed in an activity that you lose track of time? Perhaps while putting together a puzzle, solving a complex problem, or heads-down in a hobby, you’ve become engrossed in the task at hand.

If so, you’ve experienced “flow,” the highest state of human performance and productivity.

Working in the flow stateThough the term originated in research by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his 1990 book on the subject, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, the business world has only fairly recently recognized its potential for increasing employee happiness and improving the customer experience. Continue reading “Why High “Flow” Companies Will Win – And How to Become One”

Happy Employees, Happy Customers, Higher Profit: How to Get It All With Proactive IT

The link between employee happiness and business results is clear, according to recent research from the Russell Investment Group, Deloitte and others. Happy employees make for happy customers, leading to higher profitability and stock price.

Summarizing the studies in Forbes, Blake Morgan affirms that happy workers mean higher profits, noting “publicly traded companies in the Fortune ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list have gained an average 10.8% a year since 1998” (versus 6.5% for the DJIA and 5.3% for the S&P 500 over the same period).

How happly employees mean higher profitsShe further observes that “The same companies invest in employee happiness year after year. The rest continue to not invest. There’s a clear line between companies that get it and companies that don’t.”

While numerous factors impact employee happiness, a proactive IT support strategy can play a key role. Continue reading “Happy Employees, Happy Customers, Higher Profit: How to Get It All With Proactive IT”

Platform for the Future: Community-Based Tech Groups to Highlight KEG Event

As reported yesterday, the second day of the Kinetic Enthusiasts Group (KEG) event will kick off a bit differently than in years past.

Previous KEG conferences have featured keynote speeches from prominent industry analysts like Jeff Kaplan and Forrester’s Eveline Oehrlich. But the Tuesday morning session at KEG 2015 will focus more on giving back than on giving advice.Mike Bollinger

In place of a traditional keynote address, this year’s session titled Platform for the Future will feature a panel of ambassadors from several tech-focused community groups starting the day off with an inspirational discussion of how their organizations are building bridges to underserved communities.

The panel will be moderated by Mike Bollinger, co-founder of Minnesota technology news site TECHdotMN and founder of mobile design & development firm Livefront. Continue reading “Platform for the Future: Community-Based Tech Groups to Highlight KEG Event”

Four Groups of People We’re Thankful For This Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again–Thanksgiving, when thoughts turn to turkey, travel, family, and possibly some early shopping. Most importantly, it’s a time for gratitude, to reflect on the things, events, conditions, and people for whom we are grateful. Here are four groups of people we are thankful for this year (and always).
A few Kinetic Data employees at KEG 2014 Continue reading “Four Groups of People We’re Thankful For This Thanksgiving”

Removing Barriers Between IT and the Business in the Age of the Customer

Did you ever play the telephone game as a child? Also known as “Chinese whispers,” this is a game in which, per Wikipedia, “one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.” Since “errors typically accumulate in the retellings,” a starting sentence like “My mom wears brown shoes” can end up as “Mary’s dad has big feet.”

The Telephone Game - Fun for Kids, Not for ITAs a children’s game, such accumulated errors—whether due to misunderstanding, faulty recollection, “erroneous corrections” or even deliberate modifications—can be amusing. But in business and IT, failing to understand customer needs due to bias or errors on the part of information intermediaries can lead to serious issues.

A recent CIO Magazine article, Up-and-Coming IT Leaders Focus on Business Customers, noted that as “technology plays a vital role in keeping customers happy,” companies need to turn “away from an IT-centric view to a customer-centric view” of service delivery—a position previously articulated by Eveline Oehrlich, VP, research director at Forrester Research in her discussion of the “age of the customer.”

According to Nick Sewell, director of IT programs for Western Union Business Solutions, “The distance between us and the customer is traditionally far too big. It’s immense. You might have a guy doing coding or testing who will take his requirements or direction from a project manager who might work with a business analyst who works with a product person who works with a salesperson who talks to the customer. There are five or six steps between the person providing us with the real need and the person actually delivering that… you have to cut all those steps out and have as much direct contact with the customer as possible.”

Two additional challenges, the CIO article notes, are that IT teams “must deliver applications that work for all types of mobile phones, tablets, desktops and laptops,” and which are simple and intuitive enough to use that they require little (or better yet, no) user training.

Forward-thinking CIOs are asking their IT teams to ask questions like “How will the technology help? What will the experience be like for the user? How can we give them the best experience?,” when developing new business apps.

All spot-on observations. But two additional points should be considered.

First, while the CIO article focuses on external customers, most if not all of the same factors apply to the internal customers for IT and business services, primarily employees (though also potentially suppliers and partners).

While there may not be as many layers between the “guy doing coding” and the business user within an organization as external customers, it’s still not uncommon to have supervisors, functional business managers, project managers, and business analysts as information intermediaries.

Connecting IT professionals more directly with end users, taking advantage of enterprise social tools like Chatter or Yammer, can result in applications that more closely match user needs.

Better yet, give business managers tools to build their own processes, with only minimal IT assistance. This is part of the enterprise request management (ERM) approach, as noted here previously:

“IT is in an ideal position, however, to help other functional groups adapt to these changing expectations, for example by extending the concept of IT service catalogs across the enterprise, to HR, facilities, finance, and other shared services groups. The tools used should empower business process managers in any part of the organization to design and optimize their own processes, with minimal assistance from IT.”

As noted by our Bill Harter and Matt Howe in their presentation at the 2014 KEG event, a key benefit of the ERM approach is that it leverages existing departmental applications, but gives managers a way to business process workflows and intuitive user interfaces to those systems. Such capabilities should ideally be shared as tools for the business functions, not just IT: “It doesn’t have to be an ‘IT solution’ that HR uses. Make it an HR solution that IT supports.”

Second, while listening directly to users is helpful, thinking creatively about that input and anticipating future needs (part of the Kinetic Data approach) is even more valuable. In addition to the questions above regarding technology and the user experience, IT teams need to ask: “once users can do function A, what else are they likely to want?”

The late Steve Jobs was a master of this. No one specifically asked for an iPhone, but customers were asking for things like mobile internet access, a simpler way to listen to music on the go, portable GPS systems…and Apple combined these capabilities—and much, much more—into one sleek device.

Most of us aren’t Steve Jobs of course, but by listening directly to users and understanding their needs well enough to be able to anticipate the functions B and C that are likely to follow delivery of capability A, IT professionals can play the “telephone game” more like Apple—and less like a circle of kids.

To learn more:

Video Highlights from KEG 2013

This year’s Kinetic Enthusiasts Group (KEG) event in Denver was again a valuable learning experience for Kinetic Data customers, partners and staff alike. Planning is already underway for KEG 2014.

If you missed the event earlier this year,  or were there but would like to look into the sessions you weren’t able to attend, or you just want to revisit some of the high points–check out video coverage of the event.

KEG 2013 opened with a keynote address by Eveline Oehrlich, currently VP, research director at Forrester Research. Among other topics, Eveline discussed how the role of IT must change in the “age of the customer,” and how the age of the customer is redefining competition among enterprises. In today’s marketplace, IT must enable rapid change across the value chain.

KEG 2013 Keynote from Kinetic Data on Vimeo.

Video Timeline:

0:14   John Sundberg introduces Eveline and the keynote topic of IT in the Age of the Customer
0:49   Eveline outlines her current role and background with HP
2:53   What is the “Age of the Customer” and what does it mean for IT? Who is “the customer”?
4:59   Agenda: How the Age of the Customer is redefining competition and how IT must change
5:21   How we arrived at the Age of the Customer
8:04   How the performance of companies like Apple have changed employee expectations of IT
9:34   The impact of demographics: what the next generation of workers will expect from IT
10:52   How the Age of the Customer impacts all forces of competition, e.g., how Netflix killed Blockbuster
13:33   How customer experiences drive success: easy, enjoyable and fast
16:42   How services eclipse products: an IT transformation success story
19:10   Users are now doing more of the technology sourcing work traditionally done by IT – which
can lead to support challenges
21:21   How IT investments are shifting from underlying, back end systems of record to user-facing
systems of engagement
22:56   IT skills need to shift from technology-focused to business-focused
24:10   A look at threats and opportunities for IT in the Age of the Customer – listening is critical
because the customer is now in charge
26:00   Services are becoming more important, and the concepts of the service catalog and
service request management now include business services broadly – not just IT services
27:01  Technology changes no longer come in waves, but as an overlapping storm
28:57   Why service management initiatives fail
29:54   What is the latest big disruption?
30:35   Thoughts on creating a functioning Project Management Office (PMO)
31:45   IT value needs to be cost-effective and productive – without too many surprises
36:04   The Old Service Management vs. The New Service Management
37:23   Priorities to focus on for improving the customer experience (flexible, social and smart)
40:21   The next wave of the Industrial Revolution
42:09   How to engineer the customer experience to be enjoyable, useful and valuable
43:20   The three new faces of IT
47:50  More about systems of engagement – new engagement models
49:35   How to define “services” – and where to start the thought process about service design
52:54   Service is in the eye of the customer – how to reflect this in service catalogs and service portfolios
55:30   Case study on business service value – leveraging virtual reality to accelerate product testing
57:32   The importance of positioning “automation” as an opportunity rather than a threat
1:00:58   The three levels of automation
1:03:57   How to “turbocharge” IT service processes
1:06:42   Business technology trends that make turbocharging essential
1:07:54  Audience questions
1:10:19   How to work with “ABC” of corporate culture and behavior
1:14:42   How to make email service requests more effective – while still accommodating
user needs and wants
1:16:28   Wrapping up: IT as we know if is dead,  here’s what’s next – three key takeaways

Real-world customer success stories were again a major theme at this year’s event. Mark Klein and Michael Dyson of CareTech Solutions, a leading healthcare IT services provider, discussed how the Kinetic Data products help their company deliver outsourced IT help desk services to more than 100 customers and 200 hospitals across 33 states. Mark and Michael demonstrate how they used Kinetic Request to build advanced forms for distributed iPad terminals.

KEG 2013 Customer Story Highlights (CareTech) from Kinetic Data on Vimeo.

The conference also included in-depth sessions on Kinetic Data products, such as What’s New in Kinetic Task 3.0 and Lessons Learned from Successful Request Projects. All of the 2013 KEG presentations are now available (most sessions in both PowerPoint and video formats) on the Kinetic Community website.

Last Day of Early Bird Rate for KEG 2013 – Register Today!

Today is the final day of the early bird special for the Kinetic Enthusiasts Group (KEG) 2013 event, to be held once again at the beautiful Inverness Hotel in Denver.

The keynote speaker for this year’s conference will be Eveline Oehrlich, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. Evenline’s areas of focus at Forrester include information technology infrastructure library (ITIL), the implementation of IT service management, business service management (BSM), and many other aspects of IT operations. In this role, she offers strategic guidance to help enterprises worldwide manage their networks and systems, define key projects that focus on IT service management, and bridge IT to the lines of business.

Last year, attendees came to KEG to learn more about products like the Kinetic Task workflow automation engine, get new ideas for use of service requests, and to discuss the future direction of Kinetic Data products.

This year’s conference will feature sessions on moving from a queue-based model to a schedule-based approach for service desks, creating blueprints for service items, connecting service items in a parent-child relationship within a service request, and much more.

Get more details about the event as well as the new pre-event training sessions, and sign up today to take advantage of special pricing for KEG 2013.