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 3 Best Focal Points of Request Management

Today I had someone ask for advice. “What would you tell a new Request Process Owner?” Although results will vary, here is some generic advice.

The goal of Request Management is to deliver goods and services to those that need them. This sounds simple, but we’re talking about people; so it’s not simple.

First, you have more than one person you serve. You support and defend the people ordering, selling and fulfilling goods and services. Each will have an idea of what that means. If you can get them all to agree, you should consider a career in politics.

Ordering.

Make sure people know where to order things. This might be the biggest challenge. And there are several related goals.

It’s a lot easier to tell people where to go when you have one place for people to order things. So, a secondary goal is making sure everything that can be ordered is in that one place. This might be impossible, so do your best. Partnering with Business Analysts and other key people will help you achieve clarity. It will also help you understand the history and technical limitations.

The “one place” to order things should be in neutral territory. If not, you will face opposing goals and risk their influence.

Improving that “one place” is another related goal. How easy is it to find the right goods and services? Is it easy to order them? When you want to change an item description, can you? Flexibility is an advantage, dependence is your foe.

Keep a small marketing and sales campaign targeted at both new and experienced people. Let them know what new things they can order. Take their feedback on the catalog and listen to them. Driving demand and traffic to your portal will keep authority and adoption high.

Next, consider the people selling and delivering those goods and services. Are they enabled to manage their own items? Do they like the automation or task assignments? Are the alerts and information they need working well? Keep them focused on smooth delivery and using the central portal.

Finally, providing an excellent customer experience will reward you with loyal fans. These fans will tell their friends and coworkers about their experience. This makes your sales and marketing efforts much easier and amplifies your reach.

Selling.

Consider request management to be a supply chain. Going further upstream to your vendors may be an easy way to find savings in effort or cost. Say the headphones you provide are $100. Can you get better ones at the same price? Can your vendor get you a better price?

This is usually a great opportunity for automation and cost savings. Say for instance that every laptop you buy ships alone. Is there cost savings in shipping them all at once? How do you manage stock? Licensing?

There are a lot of partnerships in this function, keep your partners close.

Fulfillment.

Let’s stick with headphones. When someone requests them, what happens? Does Sally order them from Amazon? If so, do they get delivered to the person that ordered them? Does Sally get them first?

These are the details of request management that are often the hardest to impact. Getting Sally to change her process is not going to be simple. If you make it automated she may even feel her job is danger. Always focus on value. Using your customers’ feedback will be instrumental in designing and impacting these details.

Just like selling, fulfillment is a chain of events that you can analyze. Improvements are always there, the questions of cost, expectations and experience still apply.

This also means you must balance complexity. Hiring new employees or bringing on new companies are examples of complex requests. Don’t get overwhelmed and leverage your selling, fulfillment and requesting professionals to improve.

I hope this will help you on your journey. What would you add to these suggestions?

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.

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”

The Best Service Catalog Tools, Featuring Gartner Insight

Organizations implementing request management portals for an IT service catalog or broader enterprise request management (ERM) have numerous vendor options to consider. Which offering is best in any individual situation depends of course on the specific needs of that company or government agency.

The decision process generally starts with research, and such research often includes evaluating reviews conducted by leading industry analysts. How does Kinetic Request compare to competitive systems in such evaluations?

Gartner Service Catalog Critical Capabilities ReportIn the recent Gartner report, Critical Capabilities for IT Service Catalog Tools [Jeffrey M. Brooks, Chris Matchett, 17 March 2014], the answer is: quite well.

As recently announced, Kinetic Request received an assessment of “Good,” the highest possible assessment given for Product Viability in this report. It is one of seven products evaluated to receive this rating. The research evaluated nine critical capabilities and various weightings of importance.

The report defines a service catalog in this way:

“IT service catalog tools are intended to improve business users’ customer experiences and to increase IT operations efficiency. IT service catalogs simplify the service request process for customers and improve customer satisfaction by presenting a single face of IT to the customer for all types of IT interactions… IT service catalog tools provide a process workflow engine that automates, manages and tracks service fulfillment.”

That definition—improving the user experience and service efficiency through a single portal linked to an automated process workflow engine—aligns well with the ERM concept, though ERM extends the service catalog beyond IT into potentially all shared services functions within an organization.

Kinetic Request is a powerful and flexible enterprise-wide request management portal application. It’s been praised by customers for helping to reduce helpdesk calls and workload, cutting request fulfillment time, eliminating paperwork, and providing significant cost savings.

Gartner clients and other organizations interested in reading the full evaluation can order the full Gartner report here.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Next steps:

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:

 

 

How Retailers can Cut Costs and Improve the Customer Experience with ERM

The world of retailing has never been easy, but retailers today face unprecedented challenges: product commoditization, “showrooming,” short product lifecycles, margin compression, and the challenge of meeting increasing customer expectations while reducing costs.

Improving Retail Service Request ManagementSelf service is one way to reduce costs, and hardly a new idea. The problem is that while it saves money, self service has too often diminished the customer experience, leading to frustration rather than delight. That’s because, as noted previously here, self service 1.0 was focused on providing information; it “didn’t give users what they really wanted: the ability to get broken things fixed, and to order new things.”

Self service 2.0, on the other hand, is focused on action. It provides customers (internal or external) with actionable services, enabling them to make specific requests, track the progress of those service requests at any time, and provide feedback on the timeliness and quality of service received. It automates processes to accelerate service delivery, eliminate redundant and error-prone processes, and reduce costs. But just as important (if not more so), it’s designed to improve the customer experience.

Actionable IT service catalogs are one example of self service 2.0. But while useful and efficient, their focus on IT services limited their value to retail (or other types of) organizations, and made them yet another department system to be learned and navigated.

Enterprise request management (ERM) is an ideal strategy for taking self service 2.0 out of department silos and extending it across the enterprise. It provides a single intuitive web-based portal for requesting any type of service. External customers can access a public-facing portal for ordering and checking the status of various types of services. Retail employees can access an internal portal for ordering services from HR, IT, facilities, or even complex services involving multiple functions.

For example, no retailer wants a customer to have to wait for attention from an employee who is on-hold with a technician, trying to resolve a problem with a point-of-sale terminal. With ERM, the employee can order the repair online (from a PC, tablet or smart phone), and get an instant estimate of the expected repair time (as well as the ability to track request status). Spending less time resolving such service issues not only reduces costs, it makes life better for both the employee and the customer.

While implementing an ERM strategy generally requires some new technology investments, most global retailers already have many of the pieces in place (such as HR, ITMS, supply chain and other departmental and enterprise software platforms). ERM is designed to leverage existing technology and training investments. And it empowers departmental managers to create, manage and optimize their own business processes—with minimal technical assistance—speeding adoption across the organization.

To learn more:

The Architecture of Enterprise Service Catalogs: Forrester Research, Part 3

The technical architecture of a business service catalog or enterprise request management (ERM) implementation encompasses a system of engagement (user interface), systems of record (underlying ITSM, ERP and other enterprise platforms) and an orchestration engine to manage communication between systems, as well as reporting and analytics tools to help manage and optimize service fulfillment.

Kinetic Request Portal Architecture

Part one of this blog series defined the business service catalog; part 2 detailed the benefits of taking the service catalog beyond IT. This post defines system architecture based on an organization’s current request management maturity level.

In the Forrester Research white paper Master the Service Catalog Solution Landscape in 2013, authors Eveline Oehrlich and Courtney Bartlett define three levels of service catalog maturity. At the most basic level, organizations are focused on “delivering IT services to consumers through a standard set of choices and/or requests.”

At level two, the service catalog automates enterprise services, and at level three it acts as a “service broker.” The ERM concept operates at the intersection of these levels. For example, new employee onboarding is a process—but one that includes much more than just IT services (important as those are), also invoking required services from human resources, accounting, facilities, office management and potentially other functional groups.

According to Forrester, the highest level service catalog architecture comprises the demand side from the business and the supply side capabilities of IT (and other functions and departments). The “demand side” component is defined as “the highest level of the service catalog. It’s the front end, the portal, or the menu that presents only services that solve business user problems…It should be simple, intuitive, and in layman’s terms–too much detail complicates user experience. Less is more.”

That definition correlates nicely with the description of the ideal ERM front end: simple and intuitive (so it requires no training to use), web-based (so it’s accessible anytime, anywhere, from any device), and comprehensive (so it provides “one-stop shopping” for enterprise services, regardless of the department[s] responsible for service fulfillment).

Among the four components that comprise the “middle level” of the service catalog architecture are consumers of the service catalog and interfaces. It should be noted here that the “interface” need not be identical for all users. That is, while the fundamental look and feel is consistent, users can be presented with different service item choices based on their login (e.g., line employees can’t requisition a new hire; sales and other employees who spend a great deal of time traveling may be presented with different hardware options than those who work primarily in an office; etc.).

Finally, among the components of the “lower level service catalog” architecture is “integration with IT systems and business applications.” This is where an orchestration engine, or workflow automation software fits. It eliminates  the need for redundant manual data entry into multiple systems by passing information securely as needed between different enterprise software systems and automating tasks such as management approvals and resource scheduling.

Oehrlich and Bartlett conclude that “In the future, the term ‘service catalog’ may be rendered obsolete, as a service catalog initiative is so much more than just a catalog—it’s the management of the life cycle of various services demanded and consumed by the business users.” This is achieved by an ERM strategy: business users get the intuitive service request, status tracking, and personalization of a site like Amazon.com, within the context of enterprise business service management.

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