Looking Back: The Top 20 at 200

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

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

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

Here then are the top 20:

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

Six Ways to Deal With the “Crisis” in IT Communications

This couldn’t be happening at a worse time.

According to a recent study by the CIO Executive Council, poor communication is resulting in “a state of crisis between IT and non-IT employees, which could prove disastrous” in the current environment of unprecedented digital disruption.

How to fix the crisis in IT communicationsWriting in CIO magazine, Brendan McGowan details the research findings. IT leaders recognize that building trust and credibility across their organizations is critical, but most acknowledge significant shortcomings in their groups’ communication abilities.

Continue reading “Six Ways to Deal With the “Crisis” in IT Communications”

Webcast: The New Rules of IT Support and Service Management

What are the new “rules” in IT support and service management? Kinetic Data recently spoke with Eveline Oehrlich, VP and research director at Forrester Research, to discover her organization’s findings and predictions on that topic.

Happy employees make for happy customersIn the webcast Rewriting the Rules on Service Support & Management: Happy Employees = Happy Customers, Eveline discusses:

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:

Avoiding the Four Sharks of IT Disruption with ERM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information:

 

 

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:

How to Automate High-Volume Service Item Creation for Faster Service Catalog Deployment

The big challenge in the outsourced service provider world  (as well as for internal shared services groups) is quickly delivering customer value by offering specific managed service items faster and more cost effectively than competitors.  If  it’s taking months to on-board new customers and roll out new services, there is probably a competitor who can do it in weeks.  That cries out for an automated strategy of creating  reusable and transportable service items (prepackaged forms and processes) that can be deployed in any customer environment in a fraction of the time it once required to set up each customer’s system individually.

Fortunately, many of these services are similar from company to company and requirements are often well defined in spreadsheets and other formats. That makes automation a natural. The best way we know of to do this is to pump up with KURL.

Automated Service Item Creation with KURLKURL?  It stands for the Kinetic Uniform Request Language, which is a domain-specific language developed by Kinetic Data to provide an alternative approach to creating service items in Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task.  KURL works by parsing spreadsheet data or HTML code into KURL text files and then by executing that parsed data into KURL codes to automatically generate new service items for service catalogs.

In this manner, KURL can automatically generate thousands of service items defined in spreadsheets programmatically, as opposed to configuring services items individually.  It is especially useful when the creation of simple service items is driven by volume.  And because KURL files are portable, transferable and shareable from company to company and catalog to catalog, service providers can easily create large volumes of service items with automated workflows for any number of customers.

One large international electronics firm used KURL to create over 2,000 service items in just a couple of weeks.  Another Kinetic Data customer won a multi-billion dollar government contract by demonstrating how KURL could easily create customized service “storefronts” for multiple federal agencies.

What can KURL do for you?  Users tell us that KURL means:

•  Faster customer on-boarding for shorter time-to-value and higher customer satisfaction.

•  Higher profitability, since service items can be rolled out to multiple customers for a fraction of the cost of setting up customers individually.

• The ability to  deliver service items to industry verticals without requiring in-depth IT expertise.

And for internal shared-services organizations, an automated strategy using KURL can deliver higher demonstrable value to the enterprise by making service requests more easily and efficiently fulfilled.

Learn more by downloading this recent white paper on how to pump up with KURL.