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.

 

How Request Management Could Improve the Homeowners Insurance Claim Process

By Nancy Nafziger

Imagine coming home after a vacation and finding your house robbed of all your personal belongings. In the back of our minds we think, “It will never happen to me…” But, I’m here to tell you, it did happen to me! And to describe how insurance companies can vastly improve their homeowners’ claims process with a request management system.

What happens after you are robbed?

Once a police report is filed, you need to contact your insurance agent. The agent will file the claim and a claim representative will contact you. The claim representative will send you manual inventory forms and email you a link to download electronic inventory forms. On the inventory forms you will list your personal belongings that need to be replaced. The inventory list includes item number, item name, manufacturer, purchase location, replacement value and other miscellaneous information/documentation. You need to submit the forms via snail mail or scan the forms and email them back to the claim representative. That’s right—no online option!

What happens after you file a claim?

After the claim representative receives your inventory forms via mail or scanned images in email, claims are processed in the order in which they are received. The claim rep reviews the forms for approval. Then he or she delivers the forms to a data entry person who manually enters the inventory lists and delivers the inventory list back to the claims rep. The claim rep and or other staff member researches the recorded replacement values you listed for accuracy. This is a manual and time-consuming process. Since I market Kinetic Data’s products, I know there is a more efficient way to process claims.

How can insurance companies and their customers benefit from a request management system?

Insurance companies can dramatically improve operational efficiency (not to mention making the process simpler for their customers) by revamping processes and implementing a request management tool. The workflow automation provided by a request management tool will reduce costs by rapidly and efficiently increasing the speed of their claim process.

Imagine the cost savings on staff labor time if the electronic inventory forms were emailed (or information was entered directly online) and inventory data was retained so that the data entry person did not have to re-enter the inventory? And the reduction in data entry errors? And the time saved by using an automated workflow so that an insurance rep doesn’t have to manually obtain approvals?

Insurance companies have multiple requirements for their claim processes. Therefore, processes require flexibility. Within a request management tool like Kinetic Request, its workflow engine, Kinetic Task, provides the flexibility to deal with the multiple requirements needed by different claim processes. Companies can improve control and automate tasks and approvals with Kinetic Request.

With a request management tool, insurance companies will retain loyal customers. Request management tools offer self-service customer portals. Insurance agencies can configure the customer portal to enable claim status checks—24/7. If a customer is pleased with their claim fulfillment experience, and understands that the claim was processed in a rapid and efficient way, the customer will continue their homeowner’s policy with his or her insurance company and not search for a new one. The customer may even recommend the company to friends.

Home inventory list

One last thought since robbers don’t give you advance warning, I recommend protecting your property by producing a home inventory list. This takes time, but the frustrations it will save you later will more than make up for it!

 

When Is It Time to Upgrade?

By Derick Larson

Two weeks ago Kinetic Request and Kinetic Survey released its most recent patch (v5.02). The most common support question I recieve about upgrades includes, “Do I have to upgrade?”  Normally, the answer is, “No.”

I always hope that customers will keep up with the latest version of our applications, but it is not required. Please note, there are  no versions of our product(s) that are unsupported. Upgrading, especially major releases, can involve a considerable amount of time and effort in testing and verifying your functionality. The only reason I actively encourage customers to upgrade is to take advantage of a specific feature or bug fix that directly relates to their situation.

The benefits of upgrading depend on the specifics of the upgrade itself. Specifics are found in the release notes included in the upgrade package. The most current release notes also contain details for all past upgrades and releases.

Examples of features included in our latest release, Kinetic Request and Kinetic Survey (v5.02) include:

• Added ability for task trees to run for approval submissions
• Added a differences report when importing over already existing templates
• Updated pattern matching for Time/Date field
• Updated documentation to reference 32 bit requirements
• Better compatibility with mid-tier

Upgrades are broken down into two parts, Remedy workflow and form changes and web server changes. You will need to use the Remedy Admin Tool/Developer Studio and possibly the Import tool for any Remedy changes. For web server updates it is normally just a copy/paste over the current web application directory.

Have questions about your own upgrade process? Feel free to contact us.

Compliance Management with Batch Service Requests

By Greg Johnson

IT governance is in demand more than ever in this era of enhanced accountability, but how do you implement it on a day by day basis? One way is to let the computers do the “heavy lifting” by setting up batch jobs to make sure tasks are timely, reviewable, and complete. Why? Well batch processing has been around for so long that it’s almost guaranteed that you have this capability.  Now I’m not suggesting you can program all of your compliance needs into a batch job and forget about it, (wouldn’t that be nice) – but the batch job can be used to kick things off. Your compliance efforts require periodic reviews of performance indicators which lead us to the next step:

Service requests

If you have a process for service request management (and you do, even though you may not call it that) then you also have a way to manage these periodic compliance tasks. Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to have a tool that enables custom design of service requests, (like Kinetic Request) even better. You can author service requests specifically to track each task in IT governance. Checking the capacity of a system every day, or assessing change management success rates, for example.

Leveraging the approval process

Most of the time, a service request requires approval. From the perspective of a compliance check, the evaluation may need sign off by a manager or perhaps just another reviewer. Repurposing service requests to compliance makes even more sense in this case since you can use the approval for this. It’s also reassuring to know that the notifications surrounding the approval process raises awareness of what ‘s being done for compliance.

Managing Services: Within IT and Beyond

Product Brief
By Lisa Erickson-Harris, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA)

Service management has been maturing now for over a decade. It has served as an educational tool for IT to help technical staff understand the need to meet business goals and objectives. At the same time, the use of service management toolsets is expanding outside the boundaries of IT to serve the needs of any department, managing any type of service. The human resources department may still rely upon IT to deliver a laptop to a new employee, but other requests—such as payroll submissions and employee training—go beyond IT’s jurisdiction. Some service delivery technology is flexible enough to operate both inside and outside of IT.

Services take countless forms. Corporations address the needs of employees, customers and partner networks. Government agencies serve constituents (vehicle registration, license renewal), employees (booking inmates, tracking evidence), and the private sector (corporations). The common denominator for these entities is a need to expedite service delivery without relying solely on the IT department. Users, employees, customers and partners all request services in order to transact business with any organization. Similarly, they need a mechanism for requesting and receiving those services. The service catalog can be used to represent available services to various constituencies; Service Request Management (SRM) applications address the automated delivery of those services for any and all service-oriented departments within an enterprise. Service catalogs and SRM tools empower the requestor, and at the same time improve levels of service quality, ultimately improving the credibility of operations.

Many benefits result from the use of both technologies. First and foremost, the user now has visibility into what services are available and can autonomously initiate requests for those services. Using service delivery technologies, users can create a complex service model that represents real organizational needs. Features typically include the ability to segregate services by user population, track associated costs by service, and access a business-driven service model. Kinetic Data has developed an application that allows users to request, track and receive services without undue reliance on IT staff.

Click here to read more… (pdf)

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.

Click here to read more… (pdf)

How IT Automation Empowers Enterprise Agility

By Nancy Nafziger

Change is constant in today’s enterprise. Enterprises are constantly challenged to keep up with the complex demands of IT change. Enterprises need more automation, more customization and more demands have been placed on efficiency than ever before. Enterprise agility has become crucial.

So what is agility? In Gartner’s book, “Achieving Agility: Defining Agility in an IT Context,” Daryl Plummer and David McCoy define agility as “the ability of an organization to sense environmental change and respond efficiently and effectively to that change.”

One of the core enabling elements of enterprise agility includes the facilitated ability to change business processes and to customize operational responses in real-time, which Rick Dove refers to as response ability. More than ever we are seeing enterprise network managers turning to IT automation technology to help the enterprise increase responsiveness automate complex processes and create efficiency. In some cases, the automation technology is already present, but a look at process improvements could drive up efficiencies, says Evelyn Hubbert, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “The economy is forcing IT departments to go back to basics, in a sense, to squeeze more out of existing infrastructure. Because the management of existing systems can be up to 70% of IT costs, IT is starting to understand the importance of better management in their efforts to get leaner,” she said.

Here are five factors to weigh when looking for IT process automation:

  • Visibility—need ongoing visibility into the total environment.
  • Self-service—top performing enterprise operations make use of automated processes by implementing self-service systems.
  • Flexibility—adaptive business intelligence requires flexibility.
  • Security—manages risk through automation and flexible configuration.
  • Workflow management—streamline core activities to route tasks and manage workflow more efficiently.

Succeeding at IT process automation requires taking a long hard look at how a request management system enables operational efficiency:

  • Automation of service delivery tasks—achieves business agility, operational efficiency, and high performance levels by automating your workflow. Based on a configurable workflow that ensures that the appropriate information is collected, the request is routed to the appropriate approver(s) and that automatic notifications are triggered.
  • Customization via configuration: flexible, intelligent handling of requests leverage the power of customizable forms, tasks, complex workflows, notifications, and approvals to match the way you deliver service.
  • Reduces costs—efficiently configures repetitive tasks and eliminates manual processes.
  • Self-service—empowers both IT and non-IT staff to configure their own tasks, processes, and approvals.
  • Secure configuration—creates a unique and secure experience via flexible configuration.

One final thought. If request management drives IT automation, then IT automation drives enterprise agility—and enterprise agility drives profits.

 

Support Vision

Questions, Questions, Questions
By Derick Larson

What do you expect when you call support? Do you typically just have a “How do I…?” question. Has your customer asked you to add an enhancement? Have you heard about an upgrade and want to know what’s included?

When you call support, we ask a lot of questions. We ask questions to try and figure out what’s wrong. Asking questions is part of our diagnostic process. We use the answers to narrow down options and present solutions.

The next time you have to call support—or even better, when you don’t have to call support—take the opportunity to ask us questions about our products. We’re always happy to explain how a new feature works, or how we’ve seen other customers use Kinetic Data applications.

A great example of this is the new Kinetic Task Engine that comes bundled with Kinetic Request, Version 5. While we offer a couple of classes on the Kinetic Task Engine (shameless plug—Kinetic Data’s Training Schedule), it may be awhile before customers can get up to speed with configuring and using the new features. While you ask questions about issues you may have with the Kinetic Task Engine, please ask us questions about how you could use it and how other customers are using it.

My name is Derick Larson and I’m one of the folks providing support and training to users of the various Kinetic Data products.