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.


Divide and Conquer to Accelerate Client Transitions

A new approach saves time and money while increasing client satisfaction.
By Brett Norgaard

Long and expensive client transitions that cut into profits and limit scalability are among the biggest problems facing information technology and business process outsourcing service providers. Yet much of what happens during the transition and client onboarding process boils down to a familiar set of standard services common to every organization whose business the service provider wins. By breaking up major tasks and performing them concurrently, clients get services faster and more efficiently while service providers pull revenue forward—a win-win situation for both service providers and their customers.

Why does it take so long?

After the sale, new clients of a service provider frequently complain about the time and cost of transitioning to the new service. Typically, transitions take two-to-six months to complete.1 Costs to the service provider range from two percent to 15 percent of the total cost of the first year and directly affect the time to profitability of new customers.2 If the period drags out too long, clients may see little evidence of progress and grow increasingly dissatisfied. Based on this perception, clients may even try to renegotiate or terminate contracts.

The source of the problem stems from the way the outsourcing services industry has evolved. In the early days of outsourcing, service providers took a cookie-cutter approach to their delivery of services. As the industry became more competitive and client-centric, customers increasingly demanded a more customized approach. Inevitably, these new demands increased the length, complexity and cost of onboarding clients and delayed the service provider’s time-to-value from the client’s perspective.

For example, one large service provider is currently trying to transition several hundred clients to a new service delivery platform. To date, a handful of clients have been transitioned to the new platform through a process similar to that outlined in Figure 1 — the traditional approach to transitioning clients to a new service. The figure illustrates the time required to create, validate and test individual service components on a one-off, or custom, basis. This service provider discovered that the process is taking several months and, at that rate, it could take years to successfully transition its entire client base.

There is an opportunity to approach this challenge differently. By developing a standardized and configurable process to activate these services as quickly and efficiently as possible, outsourcers can shave months off the transitioning process, focus on the high-value aspects of a service, and start delivering services to clients in weeks rather than months. This pulls revenue forward and helps service providers get off on the right foot with clients, which is often the most important single aspect of establishing a mutually beneficial outsourcing relationship.

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