Our fourth annual Kinetic Enthusiast Group (KEG) event in May was the biggest and best to date. IT professionals from government agencies, business enterprises, school systems and service providers from across North America and Europe came together to share stories of their success with Kinetic Data products and get a sneak peek at what’s coming.
To build on that success, we’re taking KEG on the road. We’ll host our first two miniKEG events on the east coast this week:
The need to enable rapid development of user-friendly, mobile-enabled applications that solve today’s business problems by accessing data from yesterday’s legacy software systems is challenging enterprise IT groups. Bridging the gap between these environments is “an evolution that IT organizations struggle to keep up with,” according to Ed Anuff.
Writing in WIRED magazine, Anuff contends in Reach Two-Speed IT with APIs that “To succeed, a new approach is required; one that enables agile and web-scale innovation so that IT can meet evolving business requirements while enabling existing systems to continue running reliably, efficiently, and securely.”
Our goal on the Kinetic Vision blog is to help business and IT professionals keep pace with changing technology, business practices and user expectations, and to improve operations by applying enterprise request management (ERM) and business process automation strategies.
Total visits to the blog this year increased nearly 60% from 2013. The results are gratifying, and a reflection of the strong interest in improving business-IT alignment, the user experience, and bottom-line results using evolutionary, agile approaches.
As noted here before (and here and here), enterprise request management (ERM) is a business-efficiency strategy that reduces service delivery costs while increasing user satisfaction. Combining a single intuitive portal for requesting any type of enterprise service with back-end process automation, the ERM approach simplifies request management for employees, accelerates service delivery, and ensures first-time fulfillment.
IT service management (ITSM) principles are being embraced in shared service functions (HR, finance, facilities, etc.) in an increasing number of organizations. Whether applied within the enterprise or by service providers, ITSM tools and practices are helping to improve processes and reduce service costs. The results are better alignment between IT and business functions, faster service fulfillment, and happier end users.
According to recent research, the top priority for CIOs is no longer cost cutting (as it had been for the past several years), but rather improving business processes. CIOs are well aware of the need to align IT with business goals and their teams are confident in their ability to deliver.
Yet their efforts are too often thwarted by well-meaning but ill-conceived shadow IT initiatives. As described in What CIOs Need to Know About Business Alignment in CIO Insight, in many cases, the best efforts of CIOs and IT departments to support business needs “are undermined by the existing corporate culture. It’s difficult, after all, to work with business teams on optimal IT acquisition and usage when those same business teams go out and buy a load of apps without even telling the CIO or his or her tech team.”
Okay, “forget cost cutting” may be a bit strong (costs always matter!), but—according to recent research from McKinsey, reducing costs is no longer the top priority for IT organizations.
As Joe McKendrick reported, writing about the study in InformationWeek, “’improving the effectiveness of business processes’ is the top-ranked IT concern at organizations, up from 47% in 2011 to 61 percent today. Reducing IT costs has dropped in priority, from 44 percent to 31 percent.“
The good news in the study, along with reduced focus on cost-cutting, is that IT budgets are generally on the rise. The bad news is that expectations are being set higher, and IT leaders themselves are often their own harshest critics.
The study predicts that infrastructure costs will decline as a proportion of IT budgets due to greater use of cloud computing, and that over the next few years, “the most acute needs for IT talent are in analytics, joint business and IT expertise (i.e., enterprise architects), and mobile and online skills.”
So how can IT leaders successfully address these new priorities, while keeping costs under control? Here are three key initiatives to consider:
1) Implement enterprise request management (ERM) to help manage cloud services provisioning. As noted here previously, the ERM approach—which combines an intuitive, centralized portal interface for requesting any type of enterprise service or resource with a back-end process automation engine—closely parallels Forrester’s recommendations for provisioning cloud services to developers. “IT infrastructure and operations specialists can take control of cloud management, but need to first change their focus and then prove their value, implementing the right tools and processes to take the cloud management burden off developers.”
2) Leverage interface engine and workflow automation software to create online interfaces to legacy management systems. Forrester refers to this as building mobile / Web-based “systems of engagement” that integrate with core, in-place “systems of record.” Business users get transparent anytime / anywhere / any-device access to the information they need, even if that data resides in different enterprise or departmental management applications or databases. IT keeps costs under control by extending the value of systems in which the organization has already invested considerable expense and training.
3) Empower business process owners to automate and optimize their own task workflows. Giving business managers graphical tools to automate, test, refine, and deploy their own automated processes, with minimal IT assistance, benefits both those managers (greater control, faster service creation) and IT (reduced development time, increased responsiveness to business needs).
Finally, don’t wait for big projects to be completed before making improvements. Look for opportunities to make incremental improvements today. Business needs expand and change far too quickly to put off process enhancements while making decisions about or implementing major new systems.
In some cases, using the systems-of-engagement-atop-systems-of-record approach will extend the life of core in-place systems. In other situations, making the considerable investment of time and dollars to implement new management-and-control systems may be the best path.
But in either case, use tools that support common communication protocols (API’s, Web Services, SOAP, REST, etc.)—and therefore will work with the core enterprise software you have in place today, as well as whatever you may have in place tomorrow—to automate, accelerate, and improve business processes now. Moving the business forward is always a top priority.
Enterprise request management (ERM) is an approach to service delivery that combines an intuitive Web portal with a back-end automation engine to accelerate fulfillment, enabling workers to request any type of service, equipment, or resource via a single intelligent interface, anytime, from any device.
With ERM, employees can request any “thing” they need to do their jobs, regardless of which internal service group (IT, HR, facilities, finance, legal, etc.) provides that item or service. Productivity as well as user experience are improved because employees have only one (easy) system to use for requesting any type of service, instead of needing to know who provides what and navigating multiple different online (and sometimes paper-based) request processes.
Back-end workflow processes (approvals, scheduling, fulfillment) are automated using orchestration engine software. This process automation reduces costs, eliminates manual efforts, accelerates service delivery, and improves process quality. Process owners can define their own “service items,” mapping and testing task workflows before putting them into production.
ERM is especially valuable for managing complex processes that cross functional boundaries, such as new employee onboarding. Though not required, ERM most often begins with an IT service catalog implementation, then is gradually expanded to other shared services groups.
The document also explains how Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task can enable organizations to implement effective ERM strategies that are scalable, flexible and manageable. For example, according to Gartner, 85% of business processes are initiated by a form. Yet research shows that up to 40% of submitted forms contain missing information that must be manually corrected. By pre-populating forms with “known” information (based on login), presenting questions dynamically (that is, follow-on questions can change based on previous responses), and validating all input, Kinetic Request dramatically reduces the need for manual information correction.