What is this “Level 0” thing? (Part 2): Knowledge, Self-Analysis and Feedback

Tools of the Trade (Part 2)

A Vision From Down Under
By Michael Poole

In my last blog, I mentioned a major client who is ‘shifting to the left’ and implementing ‘Level 0’ methods.

For those who missed my last blog, in short, ‘Level 0’ is the process of enabling users to resolve their own incidents and requests.

Obviously, one way of implementing ‘Level 0’ is to shut off the phone lines and email addresses of the Help Desk. A very effective way of getting users involved in the process, but not one I would recommend to anyone wanting a long future in an organisation. Of course, sometimes we implement this method by under-resourcing our support teams – but that is the subject for another blog.

To implement ‘Level 0’, users have to have the information available to them to resolve issues as they arise. So how do we give these to them.

There are a number of tools available.

The Knowledge

It has been famed around the world that London cabbies spend years “doing the knowledge” — learning every street, lane, theatre, hospital and pub in London — before they can sit for the exam to obtain a cab licence. Do we need to ensure that before any person joins the organisation they have an intimate knowledge of computer hardware, software, networking etc.?

No, because now, they can be like today’s Sydney cabbies who avoid “the knowledge” by having a SatNav or GPS system in the cab. Our users’ SatNav can be a Knowledge Base.

The move to implementing “KCS” or Knowledge Centred Support has been going for a number of years, but for many organisations, this has been limited to building knowledge bases directed at and only available to the support team — not the user. With the development of Web 2.0+, users are becoming more accustomed to “googling” for solutions and answers and also using self-help resources that are a part of the major social media sites. I admit, in doing these blogs, I have often consulted the blog site’s help pages and Support Forums.

So KCS is one of the tools that can be deployed as part of the “shift to the left.” But to do this, we have to make sure that we develop our KCS articles, not for computer engineers, or if we are deploying across an enterprise , HR experts or accountants etc, but for the average user and common issues.

Self-analysis

No, I’m not becoming Tony Robbins — all “SHAMish” (Self Help and Actualisation Movement) — perish the thought — or bringing Freud onto the Help Desk — even though at times he might be useful in dealing with users, but more IKEA!

The results of some IKEA assembly projects might belie the concept — but I assume that they have more successes than failures through the step-by-step self-assembly process.

A few — well maybe many — years ago, I was involved in a project that required me to have what is called an “Assumed Rank” in the Australian Armed Services. I made Colonel for a month — the duration of the contract — but thankfully did not have to do the physical, wear a drab khaki uniform, bear arms or be saluted. But I did get into the Officers’ Mess and people had to answer my questions in a respectful way, but that is past. What I did get to find out was how the most complex maintenance and repair processes for a fighter jet could be broken down into simple steps and documented so that even I could have replaced, as an instance, the wiring loom on an F-111 or the laser-guidance system. The “repair manual” — and it was all hard-copy — was contained in a room-full of filing cabinets and needed a librarian to keep it in order and up-to-date. This of course was an extension of the production line methodology introduced by Henry Ford at his eponymous company to make the most complex consumer engineering  product of the day — the motor car — with relatively unskilled workers. Other car makers of the time were using skilled engineers and coach-makers to make one car at a time.

As the makers of the F-111 and Henry Ford knew, every process can be broken down to simple steps and delivered in an appropriate way to produce a complex result. For Ford this was a car; for General Dynamics it was the F-111 repair manual; for us this can be a fault-finding and resolution process.

In fact for the client mentioned above, we implemented such a system — a fault-finding process that enables staff with little or no technical knowledge to analyse and, in over 30% of cases, resolve issues with lap-tops ranging from OS to wireless network issues through a series of simple steps that relied on the answers to a number of questions and test activities that they could understand and carry out.

So another tool in the “Level 0” process, is intelligent and responsive self-analysis and resolution tools. What is sometimes called an “expert system.”

Information, Contribution, Monitoring & Feedback

Implementing “Level 0” also requires openness of information and a positive response to user feedback.

Users should be given every opportunity to be a part of the process.

Where KCS is implemented, users should be able to rate and suggest improvements to KCS articles and guides and also author and submit new KCS articles. As well as providing another source of input into the KCS system, users will develop a group ownership of the KCS system and its acceptance will be more easily gained.

This is also true of any self-analysis and resolution process. A network engineer may be able to define the step-by-step process for resetting a head-end switch, but it may take some input from an end-user to enunciate the process in easily understood vocabulary or point out areas that need better definition.

Users must also be contribute to the areas that need to be covered in the KCS or self-service system. What the experts think are trivial matters, may be a source of confusion to users.

Access to monitoring information in a easily understandable format can reduce calls on the Service Desk. If users know that a system is down for maintenance then they have no need to log a call.

And of course feedback to users is essential when they make a contribution or highlight an area that needs better coverage.

In part 3, I will look at ways to integrate these tools into web-based portals that can be deployed to users.

 

 

 

 

Why Self-Service Matters in Service Request Management

By Nancy Nafziger

In today’s competitive market, organizations are under pressure to provide visibility to the costs and benefits of existing and planned technology expenditures.

When considering technology, it is imperative for organizations to migrate to solutions that reduce the overall Total Cost of Ownership, (TCO). So what is essential for reducing TCO? Technologies that save time, reduce costs, reduce errors, and improve user satisfaction.

With that said, it is advantageous to consider technologies with self-provisioning features. Self-provisioning features have the power to reduce TCO. Let’s take a look at one technology that has made significant advances in self-provisioning—Service Request Management.

Leading Service Request Management solutions are automated and empower authorized users to self-provision their Requests. So how does this provide value? Self-provisioned Requests trigger a variety of automated processes that reduces time and eliminates errors. The lack of automation loads organizations with increased costs, security issues, and provisioning errors. Automating request fulfillment eliminates hours of staff time that was previously spent manually responding to requests.

In addition to reducing TCO, other self-provisioning benefits in Request Management include:

  • Enables process owners to have full control of managing their processes
  • Reduces support costs
  • Enables compliance with governance audit and reporting requirements
  • Empowers users with fast-response access to critical business services
  • Improves user satisfaction through greater transparency and better management 

In summary, self-provisioning features in Service Request Management Solutions requests enable requests to be fulfilled more efficiently, faster, and at a lower cost.

 

 

The ABCs of Request Management

By Nancy Nafziger

So what exactly is Service Request Management? According to Wikipedia, service request management, a key component of an actionable service catalog is the underlying workflow and processes that enable an IT procurement or service request to be reliably submitted, routed, approved, monitored, and delivered. Service Request Management is the process of managing a service request through its lifecycle from submission through delivery and follow up.

Request Management DiagramWhat’s the core reason for Request Management? In a nutshell, Request Management empowers organizations to standardize and automate service delivery management processes in order to increase productivity, improve response time, cut costs, and deliver superior business performance.

What does a Request Management solution actually do? It automates the processing and approval tasks for business service provisioning. Often, organizations associate Request Management with IT departments only. However, this is not the case—it can be used beyond IT. It is an enterprise-wide solution. Multiple departments have Request Management needs.

For example, what large organization doesn’t have HR onboarding process needs? Request Management enables HR departments to control request approvals and implement workflows that automatically process onboarding requests. It also provides visibility for tracking purposes, which is critical to HR departments.

What Request Management features are important to consider when looking for an enterprise solution?

Here are some of the key considerations to mull over when selecting a Request Management solution.

Select a Request Management technology that is:

  • Agile
  • Configurable
  • Integrates with your existing applications
  • Minimizes risk
  • Scalable
  • Self-provisioning
  • Includes a workflow automation engine that enables complete workflow control

If you are looking for a Request Management application, a good solution to take a look at is Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task.

Hopefully, this gives you a few things to think about when considering a Request Management solution for the enterprise. I’ll continue to dive deeper in my next blog.

Forrester Research Outsourcing Trends—How Service Providers Can Capitalize

By Brett Norgaard

The other day, I had the chance to listen in on Forrester Research Service Provider Analyst Pascal Matzke’s observations on the outsourcing market. He outlined trends that are leading service providers to change their business models.

Here are the key trends:

  • The traditional outsourcing market has slowed, is not efficient and is very competitive – outsourcers often “build a new factory for every new client.”
  • Consumerization is affecting enterprise IT.
  • Business units are more involved and focused on business results.
  • Cloud computing is driving new dynamics toward re-use and on-demand offerings.

The traditional outsourcing model aimed toward IT operations with a “Plan, Build, Run” model was focused on lowering costs.

There are new models with embedded portfolio management practices emerging:

  • A focus on recurring client needs and scalability
  • Streamlined solutions built with modules—repeatability and re-use
  • Venture Capital mindset to manage the portfolio

The New Model focuses on Executive Management and Lines of Business in the Assessment and Solution phases. IT Operations works closely with Lines of Business in Service Integration. Everything is offered “as a Service” – Infrastructure, Security, Platform, Software, Analytics, and Business Process. IT Operations and Lines of Business work together to orchestrate service delivery. New model is Assess, Compose, and Orchestrate – a more fluid model than the traditional Plan, Build, and Run model.

Business benefits of new model:

  • 25-30% Improvement in Implementation Time
  • Better Project Predictability
  • Cost Savings of up to 15%

Matzke offered up a Portfolio Opportunity Scorecard—a Boston Consulting style two dimensional analysis using Portfolio Maturity and Market Readiness to gauge where to invest in service offerings.

He wrapped up with some advice for service providers to get busy exploring cloud offerings, review existing client relationships, conduct vision planning, get better at competitive intelligence, work on improved leadership, build portfolio management and get good at partnering.

How Kinetic Data enables capitalizing on these trends:

Kinetic Data’s configurable, multi-tenant, secure, web accessible, experience shaping, integration ready applications are particularly well-suited for the move beyond IT into the Lines of Business areas of your clients. Cloning and service item portability make re-use a great option at the design and delivery phases, too. Re-use is a great way to innovate not only within a single client’s portfolio, but across the service provider’s portfolio. Constructing a well thought Master Library of service catalogs and service items, along with a sound methodology for roll-out can dramatically decrease the time to transition to a new service platform. Sense and respond style innovation can let you experiment without risk and then see which innovations clients select. You can also leverage investments in the BMC Remedy ITSM tool set to extend directly to end users via web accessible service catalogs, self service portals and go beyond IT to realize true business value—anytime, anywhere, and on the client’s terms.

Facebook Has Taken Over the World

A Vision from Down Under
By Michael Poole

 

We hear this, even in the antipodes, so often and it may be true, especially for anyone under 40.

Why? Well, obviously it provides a way to communicate with friends and acquaintances; but it’s unlikely it would have been as successful if it had followed the design methods that can be found in too many corporate intranets.

One of Facebook’s major features is “consistency.” Consistent styling; consistent behavior; consistent look-and-feel.

Consistency is paramount to the success of all successful social networking sites. In fact, consistency is such a hallmark of these sites that ANY change to the design makes headlines or at least millions of wall posts!

If Facebook was like most corporate intranets, I doubt if users would have returned again and again.

The “public” internet sites of companies are owned and controlled by the marketing department whose whole purpose is attract visitors and ensure that the site is friendly, usable and informative. They usually follow the same design philosophy that has produced Facebook – consistency and ease of use.

Intranets, on the other hand, are usually owned by IT departments and the content is produced and published by individual departments with differing design (or non-design) skills.

Each department will often have a different set of design parameters and styles. Without a set of design guidelines that stress consistency and ease of use, the intranet can easily look like a “mash-up” – or perhaps a “mess-up” – of isolated intranet sites with jarring and confusing inconsistencies from page to page and area to area.

We have all experienced the corporate intranet that changes themes, banners, fonts for each department area. Intranets that use different layouts, even within department areas – some departments may have text links to some forms, buttons for others; one part of the site may work with IE9 – other parts need will not work with IE7; one might use bold, bright colors, another subdued pastels. The variations can be as many as there are contributors to the intranet site.

Rule one for a successful intranet

The intranet should look and behave in a consistent way. Having an intranet that changes its appearance and behavior between sections disorientates users and can introduce doubts into their minds as to whether or not all sections are as reliable and current as each other.

Of course, I can hear some of my readers saying: “Yes, we tried to do that, we had a theme designed, set standards for user interaction, had a template for all pages. We did all that but then we had to integrate a web-based application into the intranet and it all went bad. We could not change the way that application looked or worked, so we just had to compromise and accept it.”

So, many people, though trying to build in consistency into the intranet, are brought to a crashing halt by having to incorporate inflexible and inconsistent applications.

Why has this happened?

Let’s face it, most corporate applications have been around for some time. Many pre-date the internet and most certainly Web 2.0. They have been developed for dedicated user clients – some were even developed for dumb terminals. And when they produced the “web” version they did try for consistency – but it was consistency with the old, pre-web version. As a result, they produced clones of the old client down to the colors, key-strokes, layout etc.

With this design philosophy – consistency with the past – when they developed “new” functionality, they repeated the design errors of the past. And because in the past they had prescribed the layout, theme and style of the application, they did it again with the new functionality. As a result, application portals came so they fitted in with the parent application and not easily, if at all, styled to be consistent with the intranet they would be integrated into.

If you want a graphic (no pun intended) proof of this, look at the majority of ITSM application vendor’s web offerings – nearly all clones of the dedicated client interfaces of the past.

Should this be the way?

No.

The web is designed to be able to be styled and themed in very powerful ways giving developers the ability to produce interfaces and pages that can be easily integrated into any existing style or theme or to any device.

One way to do this is to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to define the look and feel of an individual web page or a whole site.

This is the strategy that we have embraced when designing not just Kinetic Request forms but the whole Service Request Portal interface. We have empowered our clients to easily integrate both Kinetic Request forms and portals seamlessly into their existing intranets by leveraging the CSS definitions that they use for the rest of the intranet site. The result is CONSISTENCY – consistency of style, functionality and experience, and a reduction of confusion.

By putting the focus on enabling consistency of styling and functionality in the web interface to request management and fulfillment, our users have not had to compromise the consistency of the intranet. The payback is not only better customer satisfaction and better adoption by the users but also a reduction in costs of implementation, user support and training.

It is not the magic bullet – your intranet will never be as popular as Facebook and you will still have to battle to get HR to follow a design guideline – but having the power to enforce consistency is a major step along the way!

Self-Fulfillment—Not a SHAM

A Vision from Down Under
By Michael Poole

The other night, I made my usual stop at the supermarket to pick up a few things for dinner. I am doing this more often now that my son has moved in to be nearer his University. I also am finding that his 18-year-old’s appetite and eating habits are something akin to those of a herd of locusts passing over a particularly attractive stand of wheat!

So, with my laden basket, I approached the “checkout choice” moment. There’s choice #1, the normal queue, where you get the full human experience but have to wait behind the shopper who is buying for a family of 12 for the next 12 months; choice #2, the “12-items-or-fewer Express” queue, where I inevitably get behind the innumerate shopper who has 35 items stuffed into the basket; or choice #3, what I call the “Self-checkout” queue, where you get the chance to scan, weigh and bag and then swipe your card for payment. I, of course, went for “Self-checkout’.

Now I think I foolishly revealed a couple of blogs ago, that I recalled with some warmth the days of punch-cards and paper tape in the EDP (Electronic Data Processing) industry. I am also old enough to remember the transition—that should be called a revolution—of the grocery store, through “cash and carry” to “self-service.” Gone was the smiling grocer with his long grabbing implement to get items from the high shelves prior to bagging them and later delivering them to your door.

Self-service revolutionized the grocery industry and then went on the do the same for clothing, shoes, hardware, white and brown goods to ultimately end up in the supreme embodiment of self-service—IKEA—where you not only self-serve but self-construct the items you have purchased. The “flat-pack revolution” with the  “Allen-key” replacing the gun.

So, back to the self-checkout.

After self-scanning and self-weighing vegetables and selecting the appropriate ones from the screen (I can’t help but wonder how many people click on potatoes when they are really weighing an exotic and expensive imported fruit? Not me, but I have been tempted!), self-bagging my item, and finally self-swiping my credit card for payment, I took the receipt, picked up my shopping bag, and was free to go. As I left, I heard the plaintive sound of the scanner thanking me for visiting the store.

A little while ago, no matter what the amount of my purchase, I would have had to wait for a customer service representative or perhaps retail experience facilitator to check my signature and authorize the card transaction. But now it seems that they are either tracking my previous self-check-out experiences, have a face-recognition system that thinks I look honest, or have a minimum purchase level that is automatically approved. A sensible idea in any case and it reduces the cost to the chain yet again.

So, you may be wondering what my shopping experiences have to with Kinetic Data or the Self-Help and Actualization Movement (SHAM) catch-cry of self-fulfillment.

Well for the former—i.e., Kinetic Data—a great deal; for the latter—SHAM—nothing. So feel safe, I am not launching into an Anthony Robbins moment!

While in the meditative posture adopted by the neophyte scanner, I realized that I was not just involved in an advanced form of self-service, I was SELF-FULFILLING—completing the evolution that began when the local full-service grocer’s shop became the cash-and-carry store.

Just as social networking has been credited with major developments in the Internet, I believe that the supermarket sector has driven the way purchases of goods are fulfilled.

We are now really in the land of self-fulfillment every time we enter a supermarket, K-Mart, or Wal-Mart and their ilk.

How is this related to ITSM?

The push towards service request management (SRM) is, in my opinion, at the start of the revolution that has nearly completed in the retail sector. Whereas in IT we have implemented picking the stock off the shelves—initiating the “service request” in ITSM parlance, we are yet to embrace the idea that the customer can do scanning, bagging and payment transaction themselves—the complete fulfillment process in ITSM.

Why is this so? As a TV physicist of the ’60s used to say.

We have spent a lot of time and effort designing service request systems, service portfolios and catalogues, and service request portals, but they are still just delivering orders to a prerevolutionary fulfillment process that involves multiple tasks, approvals, and work-orders that are, in most cases, still handled by a person.

Think of the common “new starter” request. While we may have an intelligent web-based request form that allows all the necessary tasks and approvals to be started, at the end of the day, all that is produced are tasks yet to be performed—set up login, print security card, order lap-top, configure applications—by people.

The self-service process ends when the request is submitted and the old processes take over to do the fulfillment.

We should be designing not service request systems, but service fulfillment systems.

I don’t think I am alone in this. I may be the first to give it the name self-fulfillment, but at Kinetic Data, we have been involved with a number of thought-leading clients to develop end-to-end SRM processes that are really self-fulfillment systems.

What does a self-fulfillment system look like?

At the front end, the requester end, it looks very much like any SRM system. A portal with a catalogue of services available. It is when you select a service that the differences begin to show. Intelligent forms guide the user through ONLY the options and questions that are necessary for the version of the service he or she is requesting. Upon submission, all the approval rules are assessed and the request is either approved automatically or referred. Once approved, the same intelligent task engine will communicate with all the other applications and create the required records and tasks. Only when something cannot be done by the systems alone will a human be involved and, even then, when that task is completed, the task engine will be ready to take up the rest of the fulfillment process. All the while, the requester will be kept informed of each stage and step of the process.

The major result is the requester being the main actor and as much of the process as possible being triggered and completed by the requester’s action alone.

This is self-fulfillment—it is not a SHAM. It is the next era in the evolution of enterprise and IT management.