In the beginning…

tl,dr: all business processes start somewhere, whether data, event or request driven. That simple goal is the starting point of request process improvement.

I just need to collect people’s email addresses to get started.

I get into a lot of solution conversations with my friends. This is consulting 101, but there’s more on the line when I’m personally invested in this person.

There are other challenges too, when it’s personal there’s usually a cost prohibitive budget, a.k.a. no cash on hand.

So when someone asked me how to collect information and “get started” a lightbulb went off!

All processes start somewhere.

pexels-photo-28554It appears that almost all business processes come down to a click. An order. A bit. A byte. SOMETHING; whether it be data or a request, something triggers a business response.

Can we then assume that the best software gets this?

When I asked this, I re-asked it a couple times before I realized this was the value IT was providing. Particularly when it refers to Enterprise Architecture.

The decisions you make about the puzzle you are composing with technology investments influences your ability to react to information and events.

Which is why good architects and business analysts ask difficult questions about APIs and Integration points.

Can you send an example of the JSON?

It’s why great application developers know the details of how to alert and register events. As well as how to extract and parse event and alert information in a meaningful way.

How do you start a process? Is it as easy as filling in a request form? Do you click a button? Is it complex or simple? Why?

Participants in our second virtual hackathon have been challenged to start a business process. Create a simple registration application. Start capturing those email addresses and start the business process you need to start now.

For more information about how we feel about business processes check out this simple process flow, subscribe to our blog or check out who we are!

The Curb Appeal of your Catalog

Performing regular application rationalization presents countless opportunities for organizations to recover waste, reduce costs and add efficiency. Although large enterprise platforms are beholden to theseWally_Shopping rationalization projects, they are often overlooked as out-of-scope.

This is usually because removing the platform has disastrous results for the customer experience.These platforms are low-hanging fruit for organizations to save millions in operations costs.

The choices you make today, drastically impact your ability to be flexible and vendor neutral tomorrow.

Thanks to several years of customer experience being a fad (and now a trend), many software manufacturers are refactoring and struggling to decrease switching costs while still providing you value.
Ideally each of your business partners and software suppliers should be working with you to decrease time to value and increase value.

Queens Library Turns Page with Improved Service Management

Simplifying request management for employee services increases satisfaction and reduces costs in any type of organization—business enterprises, service providers, government agencies, non-profits, and entities such as museums and libraries, which typically rely on a combination of public and private funding.

Queens Library gets rave reviews for service request portalQueens Library in New York is one of the largest circulating libraries in the United States, with about 1,000 full-time employees spread across 62 locations, serving 2.3 million customers each year. Nearly 11.2 million people walk through the doors, and library staff answers nearly 4.4 million reference inquiries every year.

Continue reading “Queens Library Turns Page with Improved Service Management”

Five More Key Takeaways from the HDI – itSMF USA Service Management Report

As noted in part one of this two-post series, ITSM tools and principles are being embraced in shared service functions (HR, finance, facilities, etc.) in an increasing number of organizations to reduce costs, improve processes, better align IT with the business, and make users happier.

Service management is not just for IT anymore Continue reading “Five More Key Takeaways from the HDI – itSMF USA Service Management Report”

Enterprise Request Management: How Kinetic Data Products Support ERM

Enterprise request management (ERM) is a business efficiency strategy that combines an intuitive Web portal interface with integrated business process automation to improve delivery of business services and ensure first-time fulfillment. ERM enables organizations to implement actionable self-service to accelerate business service delivery and reduce costs while dramatically improving the customer experience.

How Kinetic Data products fit in the ERM modelShared services groups (IT, HR, facilities, accounting, etc.) typically design their services and delivery processes around their own preferences and convenience. As a report from Interactive Intelligence Group puts it, “Many firms perform their business processes with no attempt to delight the customer.” Typically, each functional area has its own systems and processes in place for delivering services.

These approaches are function-centric rather than customer-centric. They require users to learn and use multiple methods for requesting the services they need, and to “manage” their own service requests (e.g., following up with emails and phone calls to “see where things are at” and keep needed approvals and processes moving along). The result of these inconsistent and manual processes is frustration and lost productivity.

The negative impacts of this “siloed” approach to service management are multiplied for complex requests that require services from multiple departments—for processes such as onboarding a new employee or coordinating resources for a development project.

Requiring employees to learn and use different systems, forms, and workflow processes delays fulfillment and increased training costs. And if these disparate functional systems don’t communicate with each other, error-prone manual data re-entry is required, leading to further inefficiencies, as well as to redundant and potentially mismatched data in different systems.

A new white paper, How Kinetic Data Products Support Enterprise Request Management, describes the technology components required to implement an ERM strategy, and more specifically how Kinetic Data software applications support key operations in the ERM framework.

A previous white paper, The Technology Behind Enterprise Request Management, defined the software components required to implement ERM in generic terms. This new white paper covers much of the same ground, but focuses specifically on how Kinetic Data products support an ERM strategy and where each of the company’s products fit within the end-to-end ERM model.

Systems of Engagement: How to Get Revolutionary Business Results from an Evolutionary IT Approach

The increasing demand from business users for mobile and web-based access to core enterprise applications has created consequential new challenges for corporate IT groups. Many of those core business and department applications—particularly ERP, finance and control systems—may still run on early proprietary flavors of Unix, or even on mainframes. They weren’t designed to support lightweight, mobile, wireless access.

Certainly, a “rip and replace” approach is one option: tear out legacy applications and replace them with newer Linux- or Windows-based, or even cloud delivered suites. But both business users and their IT counterparts cringe at the thought of the time, expense, and business disruption of this approach, not to mention the loss of substantial intellectual and financial capital invested in existing core enterprise systems.

Systems of Engagement - 2020 Tools Report from Forrester ResearchA better approach, according to Forrester Research, is to retain those core business applications (systems of record), while providing the simplified, flexible, web-based access required by business users through interface-layer systems of engagement (built on new and open technologies).

In the report, Prepare Your Infrastructure And Operations For 2020 With Tools And Technologies, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst Jean-Pierre Garbani notes that the “vast majority” of core business management and control applications are still on legacy hardware and software platforms. The challenge, he contends, is to integrate these legacy “systems of record” with newer, cloud / mobile / web-based “systems of engagement.”

The report’s author calls resistance to cloud computing and the consumerization of IT a “losing battle.” This evolution is, he says, inevitable. Providing mobile and web access to core enterprise applications and data improves business competitiveness, helps retain the best and brightest employees, and, implemented properly, reduce support costs. However, it is up to IT to shape and guide these changes, and the Forrester report offers invaluable guidance in this regard. It looks at the integration of systems of record with systems of engagement and the best way to improve customer and employee experience while reducing help desk costs.

Embracing the new cloud-based, mobile-enabled, consumerized BYOD environment need not cause risky business or IT disruption, and certainly doesn’t require the massive time and cost of a rip-and-replace project. The key is to separate what you have from what you need, without throwing away what you have. IT and business leaders need not forsake their organizations’ pasts in order to seize the opportunities presented by the untethering of devices from networks (and workers from their desks).

The Forrester report notes that the IT function has been continually evolving since the 1960s. In most large enterprises, applications were created, modified and expanded over time, “piling up layers upon layers of code running on the technology du jour.” Management and control systems were connected and combined, creating dependencies between applications built on different generations of technology. Therefore, “the transformation from a centralized IT to a decentralized and empowered BT (business technology model) has to be carefully planned: IT has to offer a continuity of services while transforming its legacy into an abstracted environment suitable for decentralization.”

In Forrester’s model, illustrated below, “systems of record are a mix of in-house enterprise-specific management solutions…often complemented by another layer of acquired legacy solutions such as core enterprise resource planning (ERP) and finance and control systems…These systems of record focus on corporate processes and departmental transactions…Systems of engagement, on the other hand, focus on interactions with customers, partners, or employees, first through websites, portals, and eCommerce, and increasingly through mobile device apps.”

Systems on Engagement on Systems of Record: Forrester Research

While integrating systems of engagement with systems of record is far less costly and disruptive than replacing core enterprise software, the costs may still be higher than business users perceive. Forrester notes that cloud-based services and apps which appear to provide business management and control capabilities in a cheaper and easier way than corporate IT are neither as cheap or easy as they seem. Hidden costs, in the form of integration with legacy systems and disparate enterprise data sources. lurk behind these seemingly simple apps.  Systems of engagement need to be “coordinated with existing enterprise systems.”

Fortunately, model orchestration engines or workflow automation software tools can reduce the effort and complexity of building the required “restrictive and sequential transaction” links between systems of engagement and systems of record, as well as among and between core enterprise applications themselves. Such tools should be able to adapt to whatever is “under the hood” in terms of enterprise applications and federated data sources, making the integrations and connections transparent to the business user.

Beyond avoiding the nightmare of implementing an entirely new core enterprise platform, the system of engagement approach provides a number of additional benefits, including:

  • Avoiding the cost and complexity of modifying core code in legacy applications.
  • Providing users with simplified interfaces. With an app or web front end, there’s no need to duplicate the original UI of legacy systems; users can get a simple interface showing only the information and fields needed for a specific business purpose.
  • Requiring no training. A simple UI presenting only the necessary fields (with user-friendly field labels and context-sensitive help) eliminates the need to train users.
  • Empowering business users to create their own processes workflows. Because there is no need to modify core legacy code, business managers can create their own interfaces and underlying, automated workflows, then test, modify and optimize them—all with minimal IT assistance.
  • Enabling active self service, which, as the report notes, is what users prefer and have come to expect. This is self service 2.0: employees can not simply find information, but actually get things done (e.g., a broken printer repaired) using a simple interface tied to an orchestration engine which automates as much of the process (approvals, scheduling, chargebacks, etc.) as possible.

The concept is simple:  Systems designed to “engage customers” are supposed to be flexible, scalable and all about user experience.  By design they should leverage data in other systems so it is re-useable.  Systems of record (ERP, HRMS, ITSM, CRM tools etc..), on the other hand, are designed to store data and transactions, not to provide the capabilities enabled by systems of engagement.

This approach is also at the core of enterprise request management (ERM), a service fulfillment strategy that combines an intuitive web portal interface with an advanced task workflow engine which communicates with and between in-place legacy business applications to automate service request and delivery processes.

ERM expands the concept of IT service catalogs across the enterprise, allowing users to order any type of service (e.g., from HR, facilities, finance, or other groups—as well as IT) from a single web portal. Business function managers can create their own service items and process workflows, increasing their sense of ownership in the system. This is vital, because as the Forrester report states when discussing budgets for BT empowerment, business units will have to share the expenses with IT, which they “will be reluctant to do unless they can improve their productivity by receiving better business services.”

In support of this approach, the Forrester paper says that the final objective is a business service catalog integrating systems of record with systems of engagement to minimize administration and maintenance costs, along with tools to monitor service quality and manage billing and department chargebacks. These “tools of the new” IT function are also foundational elements of an ERM strategy.

Utilizing systems of engagement atop systems of record enables enterprises to embrace the new technology needs and expectation of a mobile workforce without discarding years of experience and investment in core legacy business applications—and opens up a broad new array of possibilities.

To learn more:

Using Agile Service Management to Support a Mobile Workforce

If your organization is struggling to balance the need to support mobile devices with security and compliance concerns, you’re not alone. According to recent research from TechTarget, ” Growing demand for mobile computing will continue generating major new challenges for companies in many industries for at least the next year.”

How agile service management supports mobile workers
Image Credit: DTC

Author Anne Stuart reports that two-thirds of survey respondents (3,300 business and IT professionals worldwide) “ranked mobile-device management as a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ priority for this year,” and 85% placed the same importance on security–yet “only 29% reported having a mobile device management (MDM) tools or policies in place.”

Among the report’s other findings, corporate IT support for mobile access varies considerably by device type, with 54% of respondents willing to allow employees to self-provision smartphones, but just 29% will permit them to connect their own laptop or desktop to the company network.

Three key challenges organizations face in this shift to mobile support are:

  • redesigning business processes for mobile workers;
  • ensuring connection, data and device security; and
  • prioritizing the business processes to “mobilize” first.

Mobile Process Redesign

According to TechTarget, “Forrester (Research) studies indicate that companies will spend nearly $8 billion on reinventing processes for mobility this year.” While mobile process design presents some unique challenges, the fundamental approach should be the same as for any process redesign: start with the goal of a delighted customer.

Work backward from the user goal and experience to the required tasks on the business side, keeping the overall process as simple as possible (though not simpler, as Albert Einstein instructed), and always looking for automation opportunities.

Ensuring Mobile Security

While this topic could fill a book (and has–several books actually), one helpful approach where feasible is to use portal software (such as Kinetic Request) as a mobile, Web-based front-end (a system of engagement) between the mobile device and the back-end enterprise application (system of record).

The portal application utilizes existing security protocols and passwords while enabling specific device-level security that protects corporate systems and information without undue complexity for the user.

Prioritizing Mobile Processes

Not every process needs be mobilized, and not every process that does has equal importance. The TechTarget article advises looking “at the employee path of activity, what they’re trying to get done on mobile, and make sure that’s enabled. Let’s also make sure we are delivering what customers want…Don’t mobile for mobile’s sake. Instead, find proof that mobility will improve productivity or help the company better serve customers or reach some other business goal.”

This is where an agile approach to service management is valuable. It enables tackling the “low-hanging fruit” (i.e., processes that are very common, or very painful, or both, for mobile users) first–testing, tweaking and optimizing them. Often, these processes can then be cloned and modified to create new processes. This enables a gradual approach to process mobility, enabling IT to meet mobile users’ most pressing needs while minimizing business disruption.

The “seismic shift” as TechTarget describes it, from desktop to mobile computing, presents significant challenges for IT infrastructure, app dev, and support services. But taking an agile approach to mobility helps to balance user demands with cost and resource constraints.

To learn more:

Using ERM Concepts to Manage Hybrid Cloud Services

Business application developers working within large enterprises want to build applications in the cloud. But they would prefer to spend their time coding and testing, not managing cloud infrastructure.

IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) specialists can take control of cloud management, but need to first change their focus and then prove their value, implementing the right tools and processes to take the cloud management burden off developers.

Using ERM to Manage Hybrid Cloud Services
Image Credit: Base Conversion

Those are key findings presented in Cloud Management In A Hybrid Cloud World, a new white paper by Forrester Research principal analyst Dave Bartoletti. What’s interesting is how the author’s recommendations for provisioning cloud services to developers parallels the enterprise request management (ERM) model, and how the specific cloud services delivery model presented here can be applied more broadly to a cross-departmental ERM implementation.

For starters, the paper states that developers want autonomy, so it is up to IT I&O to facilitate cloud services delivery as seamlessly as possible:

“That means you can’t require developers to go through a cumbersome request process to deploy services, nor should you limit their ability to configure infrastructure, middleware, database, or server components as needed. In the cloud era, your new role is to establish guardrails to guide developers to the best cloud services…then take over ongoing operational support so they can get back to coding.”

That is the essence of a request portal, which sits at the front end of ERM. It makes the process of entering a request for any type of service as non-cumbersome as possible by asking only for information that is absolutely necessary; automatically pre-populating forms with as much information as can possibly be “known” about the requester; and offering as much flexibility as possible within the realm of defined service offerings (Forrester’s “guardrails”).

Elements of the Cloud Application Life Cycle, as defined in the paper, also parallel the components of ERM:

  • “Determine which apps are right for the cloud” and “which cloud is best for which app” (service item definition).
  • “Maintain standardized app templates” (request management portal).
  • “Automate deployment to the best cloud provider” (using an orchestration engine to automate approvals, scheduling, and fulfillment between disparate applications).
  • “Monitor and manage app performance” (status visibility).
  • “Track and optimize cloud costs and vendor SLAs” (SLA monitoring and charge-backs).
  • “Report back to the business to guide further cloud app design” (analytics, reporting, and continuous improvement).

The author’s specific recommendations for cloud services delivery also apply more broadly to ERM implementation beyond the realm of application development:

  • Hybrid cloud service delivery starts with service catalog management (often the precursor to broader ERM deployment). For example, pertaining to cloud services specifically: “It’s your responsibility to catalog and combine…services and ensure that they are available on demand from the most appropriate internal and external cloud providers.” Replace “cloud providers” in that sentence with “functional departments and vendors” and it can now apply to delivery of any type of service, from copier repair to ordering a new laptop computer to onboarding a new employee.
  • “Your service catalog connects user requirements with available cloud services…The catalog is the entry point for your cloud users and should not only make it easy for them to self-provision but guide them to the cloud services approved…Your goal here is to create a way for business users to easily get what they want from both internal and external cloud service providers.” Again, simply remove all instances of “cloud” from the preceding and you’ve got a perfect description of the front end of a business-wide ERM deployment.
  • “Look to the public cloud service catalogs such as the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Management Console for guidance—they have set the bar for simplicity and transparency.” Amazon.com is a great model for request management in general, from the way the system “remembers” your individual information to enable one-click ordering to the ease of tracking the status of any request from the point of ordering through to final delivery.
  • “Deployment automation shortens the application delivery life cycle…Remove any manual approval processes and replace them with policy-driven workflows that place constraints on special requests but auto-approve standard ones.” Again, an excellent model to extend to shared services more broadly. Within ERM, where approvals are required, the approvals are automatically requested and  logged (with follow-up reminders sent if necessary) within the task workflow automation software, relieving the requester of the burden of manually managing such efforts.
  • “In your clouds, application performance and user experience are paramount…Your cloud approach should start at the end user and work back to the infrastructure.” Similarly, in ERM, service delivery performance is foremost, and fulfillment processes should be designed to delight users.
  • “Once your hybrid cloud is hosting the development teams and production applications, ongoing service optimization is essential to maintain user satisfaction.” In the broader service delivery sense, ERM includes both quantitative (e.g., elapsed time to perform a task) and qualitative (context-specific user satisfaction) metrics to support continuous process improvement. The paper also specifies “hiding the details (of hybrid cloud service allocation) from cloud users.” Similarly, in ERM, users should have the ability to order and take delivery of any type of service without being exposed to the details of the functional groups, tasks, and resources involved behind the scenes.
  • “Add cloud management capabilities in increments, looking for quick wins…Locate the most painful part of your cloud app life cycle and attack that first, and then make sure to advertise your successes early and often.” This is the core precept of agile service request management, but is even more vital in ERM due to its larger scope. Because ERM reaches across the organization, it can seem intimidating at first. An approach that starts with generating “quick wins” by automating the most common, or costly, or onerous tasks first demonstrates the value of ERM and builds support. There’s no need to define every service item and map every task flow before embarking on ERM.

In summary, this Forrester Research Report on cloud management is interesting both for its specific blueprint for transitioning IT processes and tools to support hybrid cloud management and for its more general guidance on implementing ERM practices across the organization.

To learn more about ERM, download the white paper Enterprise Request Management: An Overview. To keep up to date and be part of the conversation, join the Enterprise Request Management Group on LinkedIn.