Better Service Visibility = Better Delivery!

Service disruption occurs when change and release management collisions occur.

How do we prevent these collisions from occurring in the first place?

Even the most sophisticated teams are subjected to these problems; why?

No matter how much planning and automation you have, there are still outages!

Now the service desk is getting hammered with calls and a VP is irate over not being able to reach his “key” system. No one is happy. The world is on fire!

We planned. We strategized… We have GREAT tools! We have GREAT PEOPLE! We AUTOMATE!!!

Why? Why me? Why us?

While you may have planned accordingly, followed the good practice handbook to the letter and thought you understood the decisions in the CAB, you still had collisions. Why?

Because you made decisions based on incomplete information.

There are MANY systems of record that hold critical information related to service delivery. That information is often not all in a single database — such as your ITSM system.

Vacation and business event information? It’s in your messaging system (Exchange).

Customer specific case information? It’s in your CRM (Salesforce.com).

Release information? It’s in your ITSM system (ServiceNow).

If key data related to change/release decisions is not all in the same system, the effort to correlate it may be painful and time-consuming, but; ultimately it is worth it if service is improved. Figure out how to get it correlated — even if it is a spreadsheet. Reduce the risk by knowing what is what.

calendar-video-preview-1
1:56 — A demonstration of a unified calendar view.

We built Kinetic Calendar to enable real-time visibility into key data from multiple applications. it’s more important than ever to be able to cross reference data from those systems. Request a free demo here.

Integration Update

We’re always adding to the list of integrations that are pre-developed and free to download. Of course you can create a custom handler for ANY service with modern web integration, but this is just easier and more cost effective :)

This month we added a ton of Azure integrations – so I put together a quick summary of integrations you might be interested in (for a full and updated list always go here.):

Infrastructure Automation

Azure

We’ve added capabilities on both the Government and Cloud sides, specifically focused on Create, Delete, Status, Retrieve, Shutdown, Restart and Start.

Amazon S3

This handler generates an expiring URL for S3. Expiring URLs take a bucket, a key (path + filename) and an expiration and build up a special URL that will give the user access to the file only for a certain time period.

Amazon EC2

There are quite a few in here for working with Images and Instances. Listing, retrieving, statuses and starting/stopping – basic functions you need in EC2.

Chef

Bootstrap a node in chef using Knife.

Rackspace

Create and delete servers.

VMWare

VSphere, for infrastructure automation of course. All kinds of options here.

Tomcat

What else? It reloads :)

OpenNMS

Trigger nodes when records are created, updated and deleted.

Sales and CRM

Salesforce

Lots of functionality like managing contacts and accounts.

Salesforce Pardot

Create and retrieve prospects.

Sugar CRM

Retrieve account records.

Stripe

Take payments and complete checkouts

Task Management

GitHub

There’s too much to list here – but we use it, there’s a ton of integration points.

ServiceNow

Too many to list, users, groups, changes and incidents mainly.

Jira

Again, too many to list… probably because we love it.

Utilities

If you like JSON, XML, CSV and password generation These handlers are for you.

BMC

Lots of shops use BMC – so obviously we have tons of integrations. Check out the Remedy, ITSM, Bladelogic and Atrium integrations.

HP Service Manager

Create and update incidents.

IWise

Create and retrieve incidents

InfoBlox

Create A records, PTR records.

Communication and Collaboration

Basecamp

Tons of integrations, invites, todo’s, events, projects and more.

Active Directory

Too many to list – this is a biggie.

Google

User admin, calendar integration and group management

Twilio

Because nobody wants to talk on the phone anymore

Citrix

Meeting automation? Yes please.

Evernote

I love this app. Use the handler to create notes or notebooks

Dropbox

Move, delete, create and share.

LinkedIn

Company posting, profile posting and a listing of connecting people

SMTP

Manage emails, meeting requests and sending attachments.

Facebook

Events, links, statuses and posts.

Imgur

Upload automation; yes!

Twitter

Search followers, compose and include pictures

Yammer

Create, delete invite – lots of options.

Five Keys to Successful Collaboration in the Future of Work

Despite panic-inducing, high-shock-value headlines like Will machines eventually take every job?, there’s little to worry about for most workers. Robots are more likely to supplement human labor than to replace it.

But while automation technologies broadly speaking (robots, “smart” machines, and software) may not destroy many jobs (if any) on net, they will certainly change the nature of the future of work.

Future of work is more collaboration than robotsThe work of the future will be technology-assisted, data-driven, and collaborative. Simple, autonomous tasks (e.g., scanning a barcode) are easy to automate. Complex tasks requiring a mix of expertise (e.g., designing and developing a business software application) are far more difficult, and not candidates for automation any time soon.

Continue reading “Five Keys to Successful Collaboration in the Future of Work”

Five Ways to Use Process Automation to Prevent Corporate Data Breaches

The increasing sophistication of data thieves, proliferating number of potential breach points, and growing value of stolen data combined to drive the number and cost of data breaches to new highs last year. And the risks to enterprises continue to expand.

How automation can prevent data breachesBut despite the growing threats, many enterprises remain woefully unprepared—even after investing in IT security solutions. According to recent research from Lieberman Software reported in Infosecurity magazine, “69 percent of (IT professionals) do not feel they are using their IT security products to their full potential. As a result, a staggering 71 percent…believe this is putting their company, and possibly customers, at risk.”

Continue reading “Five Ways to Use Process Automation to Prevent Corporate Data Breaches”

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”

Six Key Takeaways from the HDI – itSMF USA Service Management Report

IT service management (ITSM) principles are being embraced in shared service functions (HR, finance, facilities, etc.) in an increasing number of organizations. Whether applied within the enterprise or by service providers, ITSM tools and practices are helping to improve processes and reduce service costs. The results are better alignment between IT and business functions, faster service fulfillment, and happier end users.

ITSM isn't just for IT anymore Continue reading “Six Key Takeaways from the HDI – itSMF USA Service Management Report”

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?

Four Ways to Make Business Processes Better, Cheaper AND Faster

You may have seen signs like the one below in different types of repair shops in years past. Some rural auto garages still sport them.

But as the authors of the white paperHumanizing Business Process Automation point out, customers (internal or external) no longer accept the “pick two out of three” perspective. They expect it all. And there are almost certainly competitors of your firm working to deliver on those expectations.

Making business processes better, cheaper and fasterHow can businesses provide outcomes that are better, faster and cheaper all at once? The white paper’s authors, Jesse Clark and Rachel Wentink, write that “Business process automation (BPA) software can improve quality, reduce manual effort and accelerate processes, which are at the heart of good, fast and cheap.” Then they add: “However, software is a tool, not a magic bullet.”

Clark and Wentink proceed to outline four key approaches, all of which are components of the enterprise request management (ERM) framework. Reordering their list just slightly, and expanding on their points, the four approaches are:

1. Reverse engineer your process: start with the result of a delighted customer. Simply using technology to automate poorly designed business processes merely enables you to do the wrong thing faster. Before automating anything, take a step back and redesign processes to be ideal from the perspective of the customer (again, internal or external). Then map and automate that process flow (i.e., make the process better, then faster).

2. Lighten the labor intensiveness. This is accomplished in ERM by automating manual approval, scheduling and service fulfillment processes through software wherever possible. Automation reduces costs and accelerates service delivery processes (i.e., cheaper and faster).

3. Reduce mistakes or fix them quickly. Mistakes are often introduced into business processes through redundant, manual data entry. Minimizing the amount of manual data entry required, asking for each piece of required information only once, and validating all data at the point of entry reduces effort and errors (i.e., faster and better).

4. Take an evolutionary approach to process improvement. Within the ERM framework, both quantitative (e.g., time to complete a task) and qualitative (end user satisfaction with the completion of that task) data are collected and reported for analysis (providing information on how to make processes faster and better).

Contrary to the goal of delighting the customer, the authors note that “the primary customer service business strategy for many firms is reducing costs. Instead of leveraging the voice-of-the-customer to fix process problems and build customer loyalty, the firm accepts that customers will have unmet needs, experience problems, and encounter difficulties in doing business,” despite the fact that “study after study presents compelling evidence that long term success is driven by the ability to have happy customers.”

The analytics built into ERM help to continually improve processes once designed, but how do organizations develop customer-centric processes in the first place? Clark and Wentink advise, “Choose a process that’s broken…envision how you would change that process to have a delightful outcome. Focus on the desired outcomes and map out the necessary people, functions, workflow, data, and timing required to achieve the outcome. Leverage the (BPA) tools to communicate the process and use this to drive the necessary organizational changes and technology support.”

A key strategy for reducing both labor intensiveness (either on the part of a service desk representative or the customer) is to simplify the data entry process by pre-populating as many fields as possible. If the employee or customer is logged in, or the system knows some uniquely identifying piece of information about that person (e.g. an ID number), then there’s no need to ask for basic information like name, address and phone number. At most, the employee/customer can be presented with the pre-populated fields and asked to confirm or correct the information.

This is a “three-out-of-three” improvement; it reduces costs (by saving data entry labor), saves time (by requiring less of it to complete a form) and improves quality (by virtually eliminating manual data entry errors, as well as making the experience more pleasant for the customer). Cheaper, faster, better.

Automating common tasks like sending emails requesting approvals—and sending follow-up reminder emails if necessary—also ensures the integrity of processes while saving time and costs by taking the process management burden off of employees (or worse, customers) and making machines do the work.

In short, ERM and BPA can enable organizations to move beyond the “good, cheap, fast: pick any two” mindset and delight customers (while reducing costs) by delivering all three benefits.

To learn more, check out the white papers Enterprise Request Management: An Overview and Business Process Automation Anywhere and Everywhere.

And to keep up with the latest developments, join the Enterprise Request Management Group on LinkedIn.