How to Automate High-Volume Service Item Creation for Faster Service Catalog Deployment

The big challenge in the outsourced service provider world  (as well as for internal shared services groups) is quickly delivering customer value by offering specific managed service items faster and more cost effectively than competitors.  If  it’s taking months to on-board new customers and roll out new services, there is probably a competitor who can do it in weeks.  That cries out for an automated strategy of creating  reusable and transportable service items (prepackaged forms and processes) that can be deployed in any customer environment in a fraction of the time it once required to set up each customer’s system individually.

Fortunately, many of these services are similar from company to company and requirements are often well defined in spreadsheets and other formats. That makes automation a natural. The best way we know of to do this is to pump up with KURL.

Automated Service Item Creation with KURLKURL?  It stands for the Kinetic Uniform Request Language, which is a domain-specific language developed by Kinetic Data to provide an alternative approach to creating service items in Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task.  KURL works by parsing spreadsheet data or HTML code into KURL text files and then by executing that parsed data into KURL codes to automatically generate new service items for service catalogs.

In this manner, KURL can automatically generate thousands of service items defined in spreadsheets programmatically, as opposed to configuring services items individually.  It is especially useful when the creation of simple service items is driven by volume.  And because KURL files are portable, transferable and shareable from company to company and catalog to catalog, service providers can easily create large volumes of service items with automated workflows for any number of customers.

One large international electronics firm used KURL to create over 2,000 service items in just a couple of weeks.  Another Kinetic Data customer won a multi-billion dollar government contract by demonstrating how KURL could easily create customized service “storefronts” for multiple federal agencies.

What can KURL do for you?  Users tell us that KURL means:

•  Faster customer on-boarding for shorter time-to-value and higher customer satisfaction.

•  Higher profitability, since service items can be rolled out to multiple customers for a fraction of the cost of setting up customers individually.

• The ability to  deliver service items to industry verticals without requiring in-depth IT expertise.

And for internal shared-services organizations, an automated strategy using KURL can deliver higher demonstrable value to the enterprise by making service requests more easily and efficiently fulfilled.

Learn more by downloading this recent white paper on how to pump up with KURL.

Service Providers—Configure Your Service Processes for Superior Business Value

By Brett Norgaard

Over the past year, my blogging has centered on how service providers (internal, shared service, or outsourcers/managed service providers) can save money, reduce risk, innovate, accelerate time to value, enhance customer satisfaction and increase productivity in their operations. How can this be accomplished, you ask?

Once you have a configurable, secure, multi-tenant service platform in place, you can swiftly and confidently transition new clients onto the platform with standard, optional and customized services. If you have a “master library” with portfolio management functionality, each client can operate as “an experiment in productivity.” The opportunity is to identify, capture, replicate and roll-out productive innovations. Here’s a short blog entry exploring this: Service Providers Accrue Enterprise Value Benefits From all Clients.

One client/department/division/program’s invention can be another’s innovation…if the service items are portable to other instances or versions of the service platform. And, the branding and theming needs to adapt to the new client/user as well. See the blog series on “Service Item Portability“:

Innovation does not have to be daunting. Consider that it can simply be a matter of cloning one service item and registering it for another client/user. Or, you can clone a service item and link it to another process like a specific approval process, integration to an enterprise application like HR or Procurement, access to a Cloud-Based service for provisioning IT resources like computing power or storage, or access to an enterprise service like Active Directory – captured in a reusable handler.

Also, tying back to a configuration-driven approach, you can employ “sense and respond” style innovation with no fear of disrupting the underlying service platform since no programming changes are occurring. Here’s a link to a short blog entry on that topic: Service Provider Innovation, Three Easy Pieces.

In summary, here’s a “formula” to consider: CSMtP(ML/CPM) + ST + CSI = DML

Configurable, Secure, Multi-tenant Platform w/Master Library/Curator Portfolio Management + Streamlined Transitioning + Continual Service Innovation = Differentiated, Market Leadership.

Service Providers—Do the Math on Visible and Hidden Benefits

By Brett Norgaard

The other day, we got some feedback from a large service provider who’s been struggling with their service request management tool for the usual reasons—it is inflexible, dependent upon programming, risky to make changes to the database structure, cumbersome to move from development to production without rework, hard to survive upgrades to the underlying service platform and constantly reinventing the wheel. After experiencing a demonstration of Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task’s configuration driven approach, reusable and cloneable service items and handlers as a starting point for creating new service items, visual work flow, and portability between environments, versions and instances they said something powerful, “This will save us two to three years of development time and will put us that much ahead of schedule.”

Here then is a list of the “visible” business benefits that they saw:

  • Cost savings
  • Time-to-market
  • Using a more readily available and less costly resource (business analyst vs. programmer)

While this is very interesting, think about something else—this represents one client. This service provider has many clients. While each is unique, our experience tells us that there are similar standard service items that could be deployed across the entire client base. Working from a master library, this service provider could also construct an automated method to generate not only a standard service catalog, but specialized service catalogs that command premium pricing based upon their business value to the client. They would also have the money, time, and a satisfied client willing to look at doing more with them.

For simplicity sake, if this service provider had ten clients in the same boat as described above, the cost savings they could point to collectively would be 20-30 years of development time. Now we are talking some serious money as well as some seriously happy clients that can consume the service provider’s offers now vs. two to three years down the road. As author Michael Lewis pointed out in the book, “The New, New Thing” when referring to Jim Jordan (silicon valley guru) and his sales pitch to investors, “Do the math.”

Service providers who have the right knowledge, architecture, tools, and skills in place are poised to accrue “hidden” business benefits as well as the “visible” ones sooner vs. later.

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.

Service Providers Accrue Enterprise Value Benefits from All Clients

By Brett Norgaard

Every branch office in an organization can be thought of as “an experiment in productivity” according to Frank Troppe, author of “Branching Out,” the definitive book on branch office success. The trick is to promote a culture of innovation and ultimately capture the best productivity gains from the branches and replicate them across the entire company. Troppe goes on to develop a formula called, Replication Rule 144X, which dollarizes the Enterprise Value of effective branch-based innovations. Here’s how it works. In a 1000 branch based organization, let’s say that branch #273 invents a way to save $100/mo. through the development of a process such as the on-boarding of new branch personnel, the streamlining of a claims process, or the coordination of requesting and fulfilling equipment, materials, and space for ongoing seminars.

Here’s a breakdown of the formula:

$100 (monthly savings) X 12 months = $1200 Annual Savings per Branch

$1200 (Annual Savings per Branch) X 1000 Locations = $1,200,000 Annual Savings for all Branches

For a public company, let’s assume a Price to Earnings (PE) Ratio of 12 (this is an average—it could be higher or lower)

$1,200,000 (Annual Savings for all Branches) X 12 (Average PE Ratio) = $14,400,000 in increased Enterprise Value

Not too bad for a $100/mo. savings in branch #273 within an organization that can recognize, capture and replicate this innovation. An automated request and fulfillment system like Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task can certainly capture the process and present it for broad usage across an organization. And, there is an integration capability to connect to enterprise systems like IT, HR, Procurement, and Facilities to broaden the scope and scale of the innovations.

As exciting as this is for a single enterprise, it is particularly appealing for a service provider with multiple clients who may each have thousands of branches, stores, offices, centers, clinics, etc. What we are really talking about here is a multi-tenant service request and fulfillment platform that can be configured for each client and where the innovations—captured as processes within service items—are portable and “replicatable” between branches and clients.

To the savvy service provider innovator, Replication Rule 144X is just the start…



For Outsourcers, Service Item Portability is a Must Have—Part 3

By Brett Norgaard
(Part 3 of a 3 part series)

In Part 2, we argued that service item portability must also be configuration driven in a service provider environment since it is most likely changing and under increasing pressure to deliver self-service and co-created services… securely, of course. This entry will top line the business case for service providers adopting service item portability.

By employing reliable, tested and proven service items that can be offered in standard offers with additional optional service provides scale. Over time, service items from other clients can be incorporated swiftly, efficiently and effectively into the standard or optional offers. This also makes transitions swift and predictable.

Risk is lowered since portability means ease of bringing established service items into new environments. Service items based on configuration data also allow testing, piloting, and benchmarking with no additional programming with nothing to break.

Lower risk also contributes to saving time and money. One service provider cited a phenomenal gain in efficiency (16:1) when comparing business analysts configuring a service catalog vs. using developers to start from scratch.

Service item portability makes upgrades to the underlying service platform survivable. Service catalogs and service items can be pointed to the new version of the service platform and run immediately with no need for rework. This includes all branding and theming.

Time to market is shortened. One way that service providers innovate is by combining existing offers to make new offers that can be targeted at new markets. Having a low risk strategy and associated tactics enables a “sense and respond” style of innovation.

Service item portability yields a strong business case for service providers. The pieces, taken together, contribute to the ability to scale. In a world of increasing pressure on service margins and operating income, scalability is a welcome “ability.”

For Outsourcers, Service Item Portability is a Must Have—Part 2

By Brett Norgaard
(Part 2 of a 3 part series)

In Part 1, we explored the dimensions of service item portability to get an idea of how vast the challenge is to run the same service item in different versions, instances, clients, and even with the same environment (test vs. production). Needless to say, trying to keep up with programming, coding, filtering, etc. no longer works. This is especially true for service provider’s stringent multi-tenant environments. With the expansion of service catalogs, more and more end users are starting to enjoy the benefits of self-service, co-created services and greater interactivity.

The customer-facing portion of the service platform (front end) needs to be truly web deliverable configurable in order to meet the demands of a service provider with multiple tenants. A reliable configuration-driven system removes the risk associated with programming or altering the source code of the underlying service platform. Even well written and documented code changes can wreak havoc at upgrade time when service catalogs (and service items) that used to work now do not. A configuration-driven strategy will also allow the service catalogs and the component service items to be uniquely branded and themed. In a world where clients expect things their way, doing so must not increase the associated cost, risk and time of personalizing the experience.

The ability to test, combine, and reconfigure service catalogs is also an important consideration for service providers. Configuration data does not change the underlying application code so testing and piloting can happen as often as needed. Innovation happens more easily when the risk of experimentation is removed.

Service providers can also build standardized sets of service items (in service catalogs) that can be deployed (configured, branded and themed) in a fraction of the time normally required. Optional service items can be configured as well for premium offers if the service provider wishes. Best practices or inventions from one client can be captured and re-deployed across some or all of the clients. Branch-based organizations can have processes built that call out needed materials and resources and replicate them to all locations swiftly and affordably. Every branch can be an experiment in creating best practices that can be replicated across all branches. And for service providers, this can extend to more than one customer for real scalability.

Configurability of service items in the service catalog in such a way that makes them reusable and portable afford the savvy service provider with a scalable competitive advantage. In the next part, we’ll examine the business benefits of service item portability more closely.

For Outsourcers, Service Item Portability is a Must Have

By Brett Norgaard
(Part 1 of a 3 part series)

Recently, we participated in and reviewed several deals involving help desk consolidations, platform migrations, system upgrades, and the transitioning of new clients onto the standard service delivery platform. The constant? Change. Movement. The challenge? Service items are tied to, trapped if you will, to the specific instances, version, client (in a multi-tenant environment) or role (development vs. production server) and do not migrate without extensive rework, manual intervention or a complete re-do.

Let’s examine these dimensions of service item portability a little closer. Many service providers have multiple instances of the same version of their service platform. There are many many reasons for this—consolidations of multiple providers, client requirements involving security/privacy/regulatory considerations. Several service providers have reported issues with the reality of moving service items between different instances of the same version of their service platform. Issues tend to arise when “best practice” service items are captured and uploaded to the new, but same version, service platform.

Due to some of the same reasons cited above, many service providers end up with many different versions of the same service platform. Problems start to appear in this case around the upgrade procedures. Many service providers have had to redo vast portions of the service items post upgrade.

Some service providers have intended to offer a standard set of services to a set of clients on a multi-tenant platform. Challenges arise as each client requires customizations including branding and theming.  In order to deliver on this promise, service providers have resorted to extensive filtering which adds complexity to the code which move often manifests during upgrades resulting in going back to the drawing board.

One service provider reported that service items created in the test environment were not able to run in the production environment without extensive manual rework.

Two fundamental issues are at work here and conspire against service providers and their service platforms. Multi-tenancy and Self-Service. The major service platforms have concentrated on and solved the back office issues surrounding incident, change, problem and asset management. Today, each client wants service their own way. This means that they demand a unique experience—incorporating self-service, co-creation of services, and a more engaging overall experience. This is a challenge of the front office, client-facing part of the application. The usual programming and customizations of the past era no longer solve but instead work against service item portability. In our next entry, we will explore how a secure, configuration driven strategy addresses the issues of multi-tenancy, self-service with a unique experience for all.