Be a Provider… NOT a Broker!

At Kinetic Data we’ve been talking for years about Service Integration and Automation (SIAM) and building software products to enable Service Providers to deliver at scale.  Understanding the SIAM concept has real value for enterprises looking to achieve successful delivery where service models are distributed across fulfillment silos, and customer experience is of paramount importance.

For Shared Service IT organizations, most have an understanding of the Handshake above 2brokering concept with respect to infrastructure delivery.  In this context, the brokering concept is often referred to as the Hybrid Cloud infrastructure model. In this model, Corporate IT is typically the central provider of infrastructure services, while the actual components making up deployed technology stacks live both internally (corporate data centers) and externally (partner provided, Cloud-based data centers).  Often, Corporate IT may involve many back-end partners in providing those infrastructure components.

At a high-level, the Service Brokering concept appears to solve challenges associated with delivering enterprise IT service in the complex world of today’s global economy. In this model, services are made up of component functions where fulfillment tasks are sourced to provider-partners responsible for delivering their individual part.  While this may seem like a broker model, the reality is that if you view things from the customer’s perspective, the “Service Broker” concept doesn’t make sense at all.  

When I think about my experiences with brokers, some are great and some are not.  Regardless of how good the broker, I’ve ended up (as the customer) having to directly interact with downstream providers to resolve issues related to the service I’ve procured.  I’ll spare the gory details, but offhand I can think of examples with healthcare, investments, house-buying and home repair that make up my experiences.

Each time an issue came up in the delivery of a complex service (home-purchase) and I had to get involved in solving them, it was time-consuming, costly and frustrating. More than once, I decided that regardless of how good the broker was in my initial interaction, I would not use them for the same service in the future as it was easier for me to handle things directly with the downstream provider.  That’s an anecdote for IT outsourcing if you are keeping score at home!

Ultimately, the underlying issues with all of any of these challenging “Service Broker” experiences I have lived were due to the difference between my perception and the reality of the service model I was procuring.

As a customer, I expected an experience where the service being provided was truly integrated end-to-end regardless of who was doing the fulfillment.  What I got was a disparate and distributed service experience that was notintegrated and left me looking for an alternative provider for the future.

So, with respect to Enterprise IT and the idea of “Service Brokering”, think about:

  • A customer procures (requests or buys) a service and expects delivery of it, not just “part of it”.
  • That customer has an expectation (SLA) for that service with corporate IT.  It’s not the customer’s responsibility to coordinate sub-contractor agreements (OLA’s) between back-end fulfillers that comprise the component Sub-Services, nor is it their interest to have any complexity added to their experience.
  • They don’t care if Vendor A is responsible for Sub-Service 1, and Vendor B is responsible for Sub-Service 2.  All they want is simple access to the service and a great experience in it’s delivery.   

If there’s an issue with a downstream fulfillment by Vendor B, it’s ridiculous to expect a customer to care about a missed OLA or further, to get involved in the resolution of a stalled service.  When they come to get service from Corporate IT, they expect a great experience by a Service Provider, not a Service Broker.

If you understand what goes into end-to-end service delivery where there is afocus on customer experience, Service Brokering is nothing more than marketing-speak. Another attempt by industry vendors to try to re-label what already exists and sell it to you as “new.”  The multi-sourced delivery model has existed for decades.  It is not new, and there are real Service Providers out there that truly understand the value of Service Integration in driving excellent customer experience!


Remember:  What matters most is customer experience.  Be a ServiceProvider NOT a Broker!

How Service Catalogs Help Enterprise IT Innovation

Over the past few decades, organizations have applied technology primarily to reduce costs. Faster computers, instantaneous global communications, and specialized software for every business function have dramatically improved productivity and driven costs out of the value chain.

But the days of cost reduction as the primary focus of IT may have ended. As noted here a year ago, “improving the effectiveness of business processes” has replaced reducing costs as the top concern of IT leaders.

BPI IT innovation report - accelerating business transformationNow, fresh research from the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network reinforces and builds on this trend. Across enterprises, business leaders are looking to IT and new technologies to help “increase agility, improve customer experience, and make their companies more competitive.”

As the mission of IT is transformed from driving out costs to driving business model innovation, IT’s profile is raised as well. Per the BPI research, almost two-thirds (65%) of enterprises “say technology has become ‘far more important’ to their organizations in the past five years. Another 28% see it as ‘somewhat’ more important.”
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The CIO’s Role in Stellar Customer Experience – Hunter Muller

The role of the CIO has shifted dramatically in the past few years, from the traditional focus on “keeping the lights on” to playing a more strategic part in aligning IT with the business, as well as embracing trends like the consumerization of IT.

Yet in his new book The Big Shift in IT Leadership, author Hunter Muller “contends that many CIOs remain focused inward, only concerned with technology,” according to Anita Bruzzese on The Fast Track blog.

The Big Shift in IT Leadership: How Great CIOs Leverage the Power of Technology for Strategic Business Growth in the Customer-Centric EconomyAs Bruzzese writes, “The best CIOs, (Muller) says, know that results beat out technology. Having great technology doesn’t mean much if customers aren’t having a good user experience.”

Muller believes CIOs should not only contribute their expertise to efforts aimed at providing a great customer experience (for both internal and external “customers”), but to take a leadership role in this area.

He views IT leaders as uniquely positioned for this task, because CIOs “have total visibility across the organization,” and with that access, “have a golden opportunity to help develop innovative strategies and spur collaborations that will have a big impact on the organization’s overall success.”

Continue reading “The CIO’s Role in Stellar Customer Experience – Hunter Muller”

How to Provide Simply Great Customer Service

As products and services become more commoditized, competition is increasingly global, and high product quality is no longer a differentiator, the potential reward for providing excellent customer service becomes ever greater. As noted here recently, having “happy customers (leads) to higher profitability and stock price.”

Simple, great customer serviceThe costs of poor customer become greater as well. According to the latest customer service statistics, just 1% of customers ” feel that their expectations of good customer service are always met.” Meanwhile, 86% are willing to pay up to 25% more for a better customer experience.

Among other findings regarding the frustration caused by poor customer service:

  • 84% of customers say that their expectations had not been exceeded in their last customer service interaction.
  • 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service.
  • 58% will never use the company again after a negative experience.

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Why High “Flow” Companies Will Win – And How to Become One

Have you ever found yourself so totally immersed in an activity that you lose track of time? Perhaps while putting together a puzzle, solving a complex problem, or heads-down in a hobby, you’ve become engrossed in the task at hand.

If so, you’ve experienced “flow,” the highest state of human performance and productivity.

Working in the flow stateThough the term originated in research by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his 1990 book on the subject, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, the business world has only fairly recently recognized its potential for increasing employee happiness and improving the customer experience. Continue reading “Why High “Flow” Companies Will Win – And How to Become One”