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?

You Released a Catalog; Now What?

Adoption: Getting People to Use your Catalog

If people don’t use your portal, there is a risk of missing returns on your investment. This is important because an initiative like a self-service portal is usually sold to leadership as part of a cost-savings initiative.

catalog open

Marketing

How do you get your customers to think about your portal when they need something? To understand this, consider the lifecycle of technology adoption. Innovators and early adopters will be easy to convince since a new portal to make requests is a disruptive change. For the rest of your audiencemarketing is key to making people aware the catalog exists and what value it provides.

Some keys to marketing your catalog include simply talking to people about it, putting it on your hold music, send links to the portal and have service agents talk to callers about your catalog. Partner with your internal marketing teams and corporate messaging teams to share stories about the self-service catalog. Of course, linking to your catalog from intranet pages and emails is also important.

Informational sessions, brown bags, new hire orientation and all-hands meetings are some more great platforms to share the stories and value of your catalog.

Experience

Having a great experience is a non-negotiable requirement of any self-service portal. If the first interaction customers have with your catalog is not a good one, they may never come back. To achieve this, partner with your customers to capture and provide input to what they would like the experience to be like. Watching people order things is a great place to start.

Improvement: Making the Catalog a Part of Company Culture

Build analytics and measurement into your catalog to determine what services people are using, which ones they aren’t using and identify what your customers are looking for. Having access to what people are searching for can help you understand what services they are looking for that may not be available yet.

Surveys help you understand if people are happy with your portal, upset with your portal and gives people a voice and input into your systems. To increase survey response rates try rewarding respondents and adding incentive to users helping you build the portal. And when something changes on your portal, make sure you communicate and understand the impact on your customers.

Making frequent small improvements keeps change simple for your end users. Make sure your items have a similar look and feel, and make ordering easy. Focus on the customer experience, and never stop improving.

Expansion: growing the use of your catalog

There are lots of ways to expand. Adding departments, services or even a new portals are challenges you may need to overcome. Seeking out the power-users, information brokers and persuaders to discuss the design and functionality of your portal will be exponentially valuable.

There are a couple ways to scale your expansion. One way is to build items and technology features to be reused and leveraged by power-users. Building activities and functions that are repeatable and modifiable will make your catalog easier to use and therefore more likely to I used.

Another is to build your technology in such a way to distribute the details of your services. This might include being able to leverage a standard approval workflow, or giving business professionals the ability to customize their own forms. This may take some careful planning and maybe even re-work, but the investment is worth it when demand increases.

Support: How to Scale Innovation

Since most modern technology platforms can literally do anything, we need to break the habit of asking “Can it…” and start planning how to approach a solution.

Exploring what your platforms are capable of keeps you in the role of “early-adopter” which makes you a key resource to the people leveraging this technology. This role will often start automating solutions or fixing problems that people have been complaining about for years. This is an important step in the life of a self-service platform.

Expand who is using the platform, give them a framework to work within and cross-train. Having multiple people involved in a system like this removes the risk of having a single point of failure.

Nobody knows everything, so getting others involved will also help scale exploration. Continuously learn more about the technologies that are providing the value your team and company need.

Lastly, keeping your platforms up to date keeps you leveraging new functionality and feature sets as well as keeping you learning more about the enabling technology.

Get Started

Ready to get started implementing a catalog that can grow? Start learning more today at http://kineticdata.com.

Kinetic Data creates business process software that delights its customers, making them heroes by transforming both the organization and the people who work there. Since 1998 Kinetic Data has helped hundreds of Fortune 500 and government customers — including General Mills, Avon, Intel, 3M and the U.S. Department of Transportation — implement automated request management systems with a formula that is proven, repeatable and ready to implement. The company has earned numerous awards for its superior products and support. Kinetic Data serves customers from its headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., offices in Sydney, Australia, and through a valued network of reseller partners. For more information, visitwww.kineticdata.com, follow our blog, and connect with us on Twitter andLinkedIn.

The Risk and Opportunity in “Shadow” IT Spending

Do you know how much your organization actually spends on information technology? The answer may surprise you.

According to recent research from advisory firm CEB, “CIOs globally estimate that the ‘shadow’ IT spend in other areas of the business represents another 20 percent on top of the official IT budget. However, the real figure is closer to 40 percent.” Marketing, HR, operations and finance groups are most likely to have their own dedicated IT budgets.

Hidden opportunity in shadow IT spendingThough it’s important for IT departments to understand and address the issues raised by these unofficial technology investments, “shadow” IT spending isn’t all bad.  Andrew Horne, managing director at CEB, noted: “While the idea of ‘shadow spending’ has in the past been seen as a risk or threat, on the contrary it is often a sign of healthy innovation and presents a valuable opportunity for IT to work more closely with business partners to develop new capabilities.”

An enterprise request management (ERM) strategy can be invaluable in assuring that all technology spending is done efficiently (i.e., that departments don’t unnecessarily overpay or duplicate spending) and adheres to compliance and security requirements. The objective needn’t be excessively tight control, but rather a matter of providing guiderails to keep overall enterprise technology spending on track.

An ERM approach provides:

  • An intuitive, unified web portal for all types of service requests, across all shared services functions within an enterprise. Giving department managers a common, easy to use tool for creating, managing and optimizing their own request process workflows reduces the perceived need to work “outside the system.”

  • Transparency in service costs, so everyone understands the costs and other departments can work with IT to minimize technology-related service delivery costs.

  • Exposure for all available services, whether delivered by a single functional group or through the coordinated efforts of different departments. This helps avoid duplicate efforts or spending, and helps functional groups identify opportunities for increased coordination to reduce service fulfillment time and costs.

The CEB study also found that “Spending on mobile applications is set to accelerate in 2014 though, with almost two-thirds (65 percent) of employees dissatisfied with the mobile capabilities available to them for work purposes.” As previously noted here, agile service management practices can significantly improve support for mobile workers, reducing overall costs while improving employee satisfaction and business competitiveness.

While shadow IT spending is a concern for CIOs, it presents opportunities as well as risks. Utilizing an ERM approach to service request and fulfillment can help IT groups reduce unneeded spending and address compliance and security concerns while giving functional groups the flexibility they need to improve their own processes and efficiency through technology acquisition.

For more information:

Using Agile Service Management to Support a Mobile Workforce

If your organization is struggling to balance the need to support mobile devices with security and compliance concerns, you’re not alone. According to recent research from TechTarget, ” Growing demand for mobile computing will continue generating major new challenges for companies in many industries for at least the next year.”

How agile service management supports mobile workers
Image Credit: DTC

Author Anne Stuart reports that two-thirds of survey respondents (3,300 business and IT professionals worldwide) “ranked mobile-device management as a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ priority for this year,” and 85% placed the same importance on security–yet “only 29% reported having a mobile device management (MDM) tools or policies in place.”

Among the report’s other findings, corporate IT support for mobile access varies considerably by device type, with 54% of respondents willing to allow employees to self-provision smartphones, but just 29% will permit them to connect their own laptop or desktop to the company network.

Three key challenges organizations face in this shift to mobile support are:

  • redesigning business processes for mobile workers;
  • ensuring connection, data and device security; and
  • prioritizing the business processes to “mobilize” first.

Mobile Process Redesign

According to TechTarget, “Forrester (Research) studies indicate that companies will spend nearly $8 billion on reinventing processes for mobility this year.” While mobile process design presents some unique challenges, the fundamental approach should be the same as for any process redesign: start with the goal of a delighted customer.

Work backward from the user goal and experience to the required tasks on the business side, keeping the overall process as simple as possible (though not simpler, as Albert Einstein instructed), and always looking for automation opportunities.

Ensuring Mobile Security

While this topic could fill a book (and has–several books actually), one helpful approach where feasible is to use portal software (such as Kinetic Request) as a mobile, Web-based front-end (a system of engagement) between the mobile device and the back-end enterprise application (system of record).

The portal application utilizes existing security protocols and passwords while enabling specific device-level security that protects corporate systems and information without undue complexity for the user.

Prioritizing Mobile Processes

Not every process needs be mobilized, and not every process that does has equal importance. The TechTarget article advises looking “at the employee path of activity, what they’re trying to get done on mobile, and make sure that’s enabled. Let’s also make sure we are delivering what customers want…Don’t mobile for mobile’s sake. Instead, find proof that mobility will improve productivity or help the company better serve customers or reach some other business goal.”

This is where an agile approach to service management is valuable. It enables tackling the “low-hanging fruit” (i.e., processes that are very common, or very painful, or both, for mobile users) first–testing, tweaking and optimizing them. Often, these processes can then be cloned and modified to create new processes. This enables a gradual approach to process mobility, enabling IT to meet mobile users’ most pressing needs while minimizing business disruption.

The “seismic shift” as TechTarget describes it, from desktop to mobile computing, presents significant challenges for IT infrastructure, app dev, and support services. But taking an agile approach to mobility helps to balance user demands with cost and resource constraints.

To learn more:

Kinetic Info Named “Best New Product” at WWRUG

There are lots of awards given out in the business software realm each year, from industry associations, trade publications, and other sources. But the most gratifying award any company can receive is recognition by its own customers and prospective users.

So it is that all of us at Kinetic Data are pleased and honored that the attendees at the recent World Wide Remedy User Group (WWRUG) Conference named Kinetic Info this year’s “Best New Product.”

WWRUG Best New Product Award 2013

Kinetic Info is a social dashboard of key service delivery metrics and trends that provides clear information and the ability to socially share insights for improving business processes. It’s a cloud-based application that provides managers of business service functions, like IT and HR, with visibility into their key service delivery metrics.

Kinetic Info enables managers and teams to view key service measures and trends based on data pulled from virtually any enterprise source or application, and add questions, comments and answers. Discussions are archived with their associated charts and retrievable any time.

For more details, check out the full news release here.

Kinetic Data was previously honored by WWRUG attendees as “Innovator of the Year” in 2009 for our service request management software and for “Best Customer Service and Support” in 2010.

10 Key Benefits of a Business Service Catalog: Forrester Research, Part 2

Forward-thinking IT organizations have embraced service catalogs as means to enable self-service and reap the attendant cost savings. Business users—whether remote or on-site—can request services from a standard set of IT offerings (e.g., password reset, new laptop, application access) and view the status of any previous request, all without a costly call to the help desk.

Business Service CatalogAt a high level, service catalogs reduce the time and cost of delivering technical services while improving the user experience. These and the other benefits of service catalogs needn’t be limited to the provision of IT services however; an expanded view of the service catalog to encompass all shared services groups in the organization (e.g., HR, finance, facilities, etc.) extends the cost savings of service catalogs while also providing employees with a single, intuitive interface for requesting any type of enterprise service.

The Forrester Research white paper Master the Service Catalog Solution Landscape in 2013 identifies a number of reasons for undertaking such a business service catalog effort, as well as the benefits to be gained from the initiative, such as that business service catalogs:

Facilitate self-help. Shifting service and support “to the left” (even to level 0) not only saves money, but in many cases accelerates issue resolution and creates a more positive user experience. Forrester notes the value of “implementing a self-service capability where business users can log their own incidents (and) check on the progress of those incidents.” This isn’t limited to IT support requests though; users should be able to check the status of any type of business service request online, and such self-service can lead to significant cost savings.

Centralize request management. A key benefit of this approach is “one-stop shopping” for business users; there’s no need to learn and use separate systems in order to request services from finance, IT, HT, facilities or other groups.

Simplify the user experience. Users don’t care what happens behind the scenes, they just want their request fulfilled.

Enable agile business processes.

Support IT governance. “End-to-end process governing and tracking the way assets enter and exist in the organization are essential to achieve the highest return on investment (ROI) for the lowest cost. One vendor stated that IT governance is imperative because you ‘must have a way to manage and document things,’ and service offerings within the service catalog are a means to do this.” Proper IT governance and risk management not only reduce costs but also support business growth.

Inspire business process improvement. Forrester calls “the need to map business capabilities to business services…perhaps the most important need and reason for service catalogs…Business service catalogs are top-down capabilities that describe and define IT”s deliverables from a business perspective.” In other words, the implementation of request management forces teams to take a critical look at current processes and encourages redesign based on the goal of a delighted (internal or external) customer.

Help standardize offerings and improve efficiency.

Provide end-to-end visibility into the value chain. “When the service catalog is not just an accessible front end but also automated and integrated with a variety of IT processes…IT operations teams are able to monitor, manage, and report on requests from start to finish. A service request from a business user sets off a value chain that can be tracked within the entire IT organization, from the ‘storefront’ request initiation to product delivery or fulfillment.” Indeed, a key element of the enterprise request management (ERM) strategy is the integrated analytics, which enable accurate costing, reporting on both quantitative (e.g., elapsed time) and qualitative (user satisfaction) metrics,  and continuous process improvement.

Reduce service costs. Forrester notes that globally, help ticket volumes are increasing–not only because of business growth, but also due to an increasingly mobile workforce. According to the white paper, “Forrester Research data shows a growth from 15% to 29% in U.S. and European information workers working anytime and anywhere. Inserting a service catalog that allows this mobile workforce to receive, manage,  and consume business and IT services will…reduce the cost of the service support team.”

Increase user satisfaction. “Customer experience is more than just closing tickets. Establishing a single place for your business users to go where they can request and receive services from either a business team or IT has immediate impact on customer satisfaction and customer experience.” Indeed, a key goal of implementing a business service catalog within an ERM initiative is to not only cut costs but also delight users.

What could go wrong? Forrester also warns about common inhibitors to BT success, including lack of clear purpose; improper tools; lack of ownership (“Ownership leads itself to accountability and pride, two key ingredients for success”); and lack of executive buy in.

Part one of this series defined the business service catalog concept, and part three will address request management architecture.

For more information about the benefits of business service catalogs:

Lessons Learned for Successful Request Projects – How to Scale the Heights of Success, not Plumb the Depths of Despair

It is rather surreal doing this blog post. I feel as if I am in a re-run of “Back to the Future.”

I am putting the finishing touches on this post before I present the session KEG, but because my internal clock is still set to Australian time, I am really doing it on the day after. These are some of the problems in living life “Down Under,” or as we Australians think of it, “Up Over.”

Australia- Up Over

 

Other problems include the “two nations separated by a common language”  that I encounter every time I visit. Please don’t ask me what team I “root” for or whether I would like to buy a Denver souvenir “fanny-pack.” Be careful asking me the way to the “bathroom” as it will get the response: “I’ve got a bath in my room, haven’t you?” We only have loos, dunnies, lavs, bogs or, if in polite company, toilets, and I take great delight in directing any American visitors to the room in my house that has only a hand-basin, shower and bath and not the other small room that has the toilet pedestal and watching their faces when they return with cleaner hands but a slightly more distressed look.

But enough of the cultural differences.

A little about myself and why you may be sitting in this presentation (if so, please put the iPad away and look at me) or reading this alone in your office or home (I assume because you have come to such a boring moment in your life when reading a blog entry of mine adds some excitement).

Well, I discovered the other day—through an automated message sent by our internal version of Facebook called Yammer (hopefully I get something for the plug—but not another bloody t-shirt please) that I have been with Kinetic Data (hereafter, KD) for over 8 years! That re-assured me, because I thought it had been forever…

I also have to admit that I am the oldest person in KD—but of course this does not mean that I am the wisest—as this blog post is proving!

Prior to KD—I can dimly recall that there was such a time—I have been with a number of IT companies working with BMC Remedy and other applications (they do exist), many of which have now melted away like the snow flakes which may be falling outside, when the sun warms them.

So, I hate to admit it, but I have been in this industry for over 40 years, so probably before most of you in this room or looking at this blog post were even in “project initiation phase” and probably before “requirements gathering” and putting out the “RFI or RFP.”

Since then I have worked as a Consultant, Analyst, Designer, Project Manager, Developer, Trainer and even once, on the “Dark Side,” as a Client in this industry of ours.

So, I think I have a right to have a few opinions on this whole “Requirements” business. Hopefully these opinions will inspire some thought, maybe even controversy, and hopefully someone might feel interested enough to have bought me a drink (Single Malt Scotch over 12 YO) to get me to share a little more of my “wisdom.”

OK—here we go.

I was told my Power Point did not have enough bullet points, so I added a second Agenda page. Apart from these two pages, there will be:

NO MORE BULLET POINTS!  JUST PICTURES.

This achieves two things: 1) you might listen, and 2) I don’t have to think of another way to say the same things without using the words in the bullet points.

(For those reading this blog, who want to look at the pictures, someone will have posted my presentation somewhere on the KD website—so you could download it and enjoy the full experience of course, without the “gosh I like the way you Aussies speak” audio component.

Let me “share with you” my first EDP (look it up) job, programming a door opener. I got paid about $50 for it (in those days that would be USD25—now it would be USD60—how the weak become the strong). After the stunning success I had in fulfilling the requirements—door must open, door must stay open for a while, door must close—the requirements were expanded to encompass the concept of “small room – moving up and down in a controlled way,” so I programmed a bigger controller that incorporated all the great work I had done with the  “Project Door” and added moving a room up and down in a vertical shaft, stopping and then doing the door bit. We called this “Project Lift”—or in American—”Project Elevator.”

This was the first time I had been confronted with the idea of requirements analysis in the “real world.” I was obviously excited.

They were simple requirements. We did have a discussion as to whether the doors should open in an “organic, caring and cool way”—it was the 70’s—but we knew that person was a closet hippy, so we ignored this suggestion and just went for “slamming open and slamming shut.” A lot of people nearly lost limbs because of this —but I had the cheque (check) and had moved on to bigger and better things like the Traffic & Parking Infringement Notice system for my home state (Australians have the same urge to make an acronym of everything—that is, when they cannot add an “ie or y” to a name—and we called it the “Project Tin-Pins’.” Yes, there were nerds even in those days and we were they.)

So that brings me to the point of the is session.

How to achieve a successful Kinetic Request project—and—taking a leaf from the “Self Help and Actualisation Movement,” or as I like to call it, “SHAM”the path to success is:

Achieving Oneness with Request ManagementONENESS…

Normally the first interaction you have with any vendor is through the sales team.

Sometimes the interaction is like this…

Over-promise…Get the deal…Under-quote…Under-resource…Under-deliver

At Kinetic Data, we try to make sure that we do not do that.

At the heart of achieving this is ONENESS between the client and Kinetic Data.

INITIAL REQUIREMENTS

Without clearly stated initial requirements everyone is working in a fog of doubt and uncertainty.

Vendors build-in large buffers for this uncertainty and often still under-quote for the project.

Once you have decided on a vendor for your project, work with the internal and vendor teams to:

DEFINE AND REFINE THE REAL REQUIREMENTS

Things to consider when doing this:

  • You may not have all the information; consult widely with ALL stake-holders.
  • There is only  piece of clothing where “ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL”—a straight-jacket.
  • Trying to combine features of different offerings is rarely a success.
  • Just because it can be done, does not mean it should be done.
  • It may be a solution—but is it practical?

There is a reason why you are initiating this project, and it normally not just to:

  • Replicate the existing application
  • Change the appearance slightly
  • Bolt-on some new functionality
  • Get a more powerful application but restrict it to the old limitations

A successful project should deliver improvement. Not repackage the status quo!

To achieve this, all the parties have to be able to be flexible and willing to change expectations and requirements to deliver the BEST solution within budget and on time.

TIMING, EFFORT and BUDGET

Be realistic. Rome was not built in a day.

If you have been set firm dates  and budget to deliver, then make sure that the requirements are aligned.

LISTEN

We are now in partnership with you to deliver SUCCESS.

It is not a battle between two sides—one trying to get more than agreed and the other trying to do less.

Remember that in a difference of approach, the consultant will advise on the best solution, but at the end of the day—if the client wants it, we will build it.

DELIVERY

So we now have a project that has REAL, WELL DEFINED and ACHIEVABLE requirements.

So, let’s stick with them when we develop the SOW and during the delivery period.

Tacking on new requirements while development is going on does not work. It adds to costs and delays.

Importantly, it just shows that the requirements gathering was a failure.

Finally, remember the ultimate measure of success is the satisfaction of your users.