Portals: Seamlessness

This post is the sixth in a series about building portals for teams and groups to interact with customers. If you’re interested in reading more please follow us on twitter or subscribe in the right-hand margin of this blog —>

In the last five posts, you’ve gotten a website up and running – announced your team, set up a way for your team to talk to customers and another for customers to talk to your team. Last post we started exploring the possibility of integrating another system into your portal.

Whether you realize it or not, you have just made a terrible mistake.

No kidding.

The complexity of your little portal has more than doubled. Now that you have this other system “in there” it has the ability to hurt your customer experience! What if that system makes changes? What if the data fails? How will your customers feel? What perception are you giving them?

Which brings us to another element each portion of your portal needs consider; seamlessness.

Remember all that total-cost-of-ownership stuff I was rambling about last week? That’s what I mean. If that data source goes down, how does your portal look? Do the customers realize it’s down? How many ways can you stop a good experience? Too many.

Putting safeguards in place may help:

  1. Can you replicate the database/app locally and serve it through the website? This way if it goes down, your version stays up.
  2. Can you make the portal dynamic, so that if the data source is unavailable, users see a different page/experience?
  3. How about automated testing and alerting?

This stuff can be expensive – so it’s best to know what you’re getting into. Try things out, but always be ready to pivot.

What else causes a seamless experience for users?

Colors, text and words.

Ugh, I hate this one. But it’s equally important. To make the experience a good one, all your content “should” match. This phrase just makes me ill, because like perfection – this is unattainable. There will always be out of date content. One website will update before all the rest, one document will keep being out there without an update – this is just part of reality. Get ready to work on this for the rest of your career.

The look and feel should also match other websites and experiences – where possible.

Search is a huge part of how people interact with the web. Neglecting search is an active and intentional attempt to derail most modern technology users. This can also help make your portal seem seamless and get customers to engage.

Navigation has a large impact on experience. Designers working with personas understand that navigation for one person is not navigation for all people. And no matter what decision you make on the design of navigation, it will be wrong for some people. You’ll have to deal with it.

The best navigation supports permalinks for people that bookmark what they need, or use the autofill feature of their browser to navigate to exactly what they want. Here’s some awesome reading about navigation. Jared is a great writer about experience.

And as always – test these things and listen to your customers. They will tell you when your search results suck. They will tell you when they can’t navigate to their favorite spot in less than 2 clicks. They are here for you!

join us for the next segment “Is that a Portal in your pocket?” by following us on twitter or subscribing in the right-hand margin of this site —>

Portals: Content is king!

This post is the fifth in a series about building portals for teams and groups to interact with customers. If you’re interested in reading more please follow us on twitter or subscribe in the right-hand margin of this blog —>

Now your site is up and running and you can talk to your customers and they can also participate in discussions. What comes next to provide value?

Content.

Content is what your customers want. Some examples that they might be looking for include success stories, examples of how your department or team helps people and the systems and data your teams use every day.

Consider how much information your team has. Building an interface into that information can produce some pretty unique and innovative ideas, solutions and value.

Let’s say for instance your team runs a library at a medical device manufacturer. You have access to tons of resources that most people are going to want to access and skim quickly – as well as in-depth research.

Can you extend access to the catalog via a web portal, api or guest access?

This simple integration not only saves time on employee productivity (direct access to information) – it could also lead to a more disciplined approach to product management; which translates to less risk and more profit.

Extending the data your company, team or project already leverages, adds value to your customer when they can do it themselves.

Take another situation – if you’re a bank providing financial services, surely your service partners have access to information and value your customers are begging to get at.

If you, as a bank, can offer that information, you now have a way to differentiate yourself from other local banks. Another benefit is that your partnerships grow stronger. I’ve also seen some financial institutions giving away this kind of information as a marketing tactic to attract new customers.

These integrations aren’t particularly easy. It’s not always as easy as copy-pasting an embed code from youtube. Sometimes, though, it is!

So, I echo the same thing; GO TO THE CUSTOMERS! What systems, information or things do they call your team for all the time, that they could just look up themselves?

Once you discover those things, you’ll need to determine if your software, website, whatever can integrate well. At which point you will evaluate the return-on-investment of the integration (meaning how much will you impact productivity/revenue) and the total-cost-of-ownership for this integration. Does it require a license? How about staff? Once these considerations are made, hopefully a decision can be made.

Here are some examples of common integrations being added to portals:

  1. Systems of Record
    1. Employee directory
    2. Team directory
    3. Ticket portal
    4. knowledge
    5. databases
  2. Writing
    1. How-to
    2. Company updates
    3. Team updates
    4. Project updates
    5. Fileshare
  3. Checklists
  4. Links
  5. Downloads
  6. Events/Calendars
  7. Dashboard/Reporting

Each one of these topics has complexities and considerations. Join us next week as we start exploring the fire hose of enhancement requests you’re going to start getting.

Have you been reading along? Send feedback, get involved or let us know how we’re doing!

Portals: Opening the lines of communication

This post is the fourth in a series about building portals for teams and groups to interact with customers. If you’re interested in reading more please follow us on twitter or subscribe in the right-hand margin of this blog —>

At this point you’ve got a website up, and your communicating to your customers, which is adding value and improving their experience.

Now they want more – what’s next?

Again “it depends” and I certainly have my opinions, but consider your users first and ask questions (as noted in the second post in this series).

Let’s tell a story.

You’re a customer of a company. They missed your garbage pick up this week. You go to their website. On said website there is a big banner or pop-up that says “We are experiencing a one-day delay in garbage pick ups” and offers the number to customer service.

What do you think about this experience? Pretty good right? This is basically where a portal begins; one-way communication with the option to initiate further. It’s a stepping stone to two-way communication.

There’s a reason this exists – because communication is a two-way street. So usually, I recommend giving your customers a voice. It makes them feel valued and listened to.

Now, depending on your culture, needs, audience size and web platform this could take many forms. Maybe you add a chat option so that users can chat with agents or fulfillers or staff directly. Maybe you need a webform? Maybe you just display a phone number call.

Something, anything that allows two way communication will greatly improve the portal’s value and demonstrate compassion for customers.

The chat option is the most advantageous because it also provides a universal “out” for customers who are stuck, can’t find something or just have a simple question.

Remember to design this for the customer. Test out multiple methods of conversation, and continue the dialog and feedback loop.

Next post will be about content! Subscribe in the right margin or follow us on twitter for updates!

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.