fredag 22 november 2013

How I create IT services

How I create IT services.... or is it value, hmmm service .... maybe value. arghhh  

What should I use? Service or Value? I offer services but I have to show the value. In my mind they are so closely related so its down to the semantics and on that level it does not actually matter. Either we can show and quantify our contribution or not. I guess we can call it whatever we want. 

Whether we call it one or the other, it seem hard to do when it comes to IT. Why? I will use an example of service I have encountered outside of IT which I would like to explore in this post. In sweden (where I live) there has been a strong trend last couple of years in the retail market that is starting to show very good success and revenue. I, as a grocery customer, am custom to cope with ever lasting chore of dinner planning for my family. But things are happening in this space that can contribute in a very good way for me as the customer. Before that, just a quick look at my reality. The process for my dinner planning is pretty strait forward (just to call it a process, talk about nerd). It is my own process and I guess it is probably common. I have designed it to achieve one of my weekly goals, put healthy and delicious food on the table every day of the week. I also try to achieve that at a specific time suitable for everyone in the family, and to a reasonable prize. The process looks like this.

-Come up with at least five dinners meals ideas
-Define all the ingredients
-Make inventory to cross out any ingredients that already exists at home
-Go to the store and purchase all ingredients once a week
-Stash all ingredients in appropriate storage
-Prepare dinner on a daily basis ready for a specific time
-If necessary, complement unforeseen groceries on a daily basis

Thats a pretty strait forward process and it serves me well. The performance is still very depending on that I can prepare the food I come up with. The more variation and exploration I bring to the table, the higher the risk is that the meal will not be delicious, which is my primary goal. But now back to the changes that has been happening in the retail space for the last couple of years. They are offering a home delivered, pre-decided, grocery bag including:

-Five dinner meals with high variety 
-Healthy ingredients
-Step-by-step instructions with a complete time estimate
-Fixed prize
-Home delivery once a week

This is the same grocery store that I have been doing my own purchases in. This could turn out to be valuable for me and support me in my process by decreasing my workload and even increase my ability to serve more healthy food, which was not one of my strongest capabilities but still a very big concern. If I were to buy this weekly grocery bag I could se the following.

-No more trying to come up with meals ideas
-Higher variety of meals
-Step-by-step instructions
-Meals probably ready on estimated time
-More healthier meals
-No more defining ingredients
-No more inventory
-No more going to the store
-Fixed prize or at least very predictable

-I can not influence what to eat
-Meals that might not be delicious and accepted by family

-Prepare dinner on a daily basis
-If necessary, complement unforeseen groceries on a daily basis

This brings up the question of Value. What is the outcome in relation to risk and cost. At an initial look the purchase cost seems reasonably comparable. The difference from my own purchases seems neglectable. There are though a higher risk associated with the taste of the food. The variety could be acceptable as long as the taste stays high above average. More healthy food is a win from all angles. The total effort is decreasing and to sum it up, I gain more verity, higher health and less effort but I also gain in risk for my goal which is delicious food.

whether I choose to purchase it or not is not the main issue here. I only use this as an example to try to answer my initial question. What is Service and Value. From a supplier perspective they for sure call it a service because it is precisely that for them. For me as the customer it does not matter what the supplier call it. If I can not break it down to calculate the value for me, I will probably not become their grocery bag customer. If I do not think the outcome is worth the risk and cost associated with it I will probably not become their grocery bag customer. If I do not understand in what ways it is contributing I will probably not become their grocery bag customer. 

This means that for me to understand the value of this service I have some work to do. Here is a weakness. This forces me to do work to understand the value it brings to me. Now dinner planning is a pretty easy example and therefore the calculation is not that hard to make but when it comes to what IT contributes to, the calculation becomes more complicated. This is where IT needs to step up. We can not force the business to make this calculation. They will have to make the decision whether the outcome is worth the risk and cost, their value, yes. But IT needs to be become much better at putting the equation together.

IT is like that grocery bag supplier. We supply all the bits and pieces in one big bag but we forget the customer process and the recipes. We are not clear with what and how the ingredient are used in an understandable way and we are not clear with how this effects the process. If we could apply the recipes metaphor to how the information is consumed by our business they would tend to be much more interested in our IT services or whatever we choose to call it. Our ability to put together the equation for each recipe need to increase and then the conclusion of each meals value and the bag's value could be in reach. Each ingredient separately will never accomplish that.  

We need to start small. Each business department have their process and subprocesses just like mine handling family dinner planning. Pick one that matters for that business or department. That process or subprocess has an expected outcome. IT contributes to that outcome, figure out how! There are ingredients (information) that are put together to meals (outcomes) and there is an effort (process and preparation) that realizes a business goal (deliciousness). Break it down and put it together as the business consumes it. Not the way IT sees it. We see technology and solutions (bread, meat, vegetables, dairy etc.) and that is not how IT is consumed. The business compiles pieces of everything to create a meal. That is what we need to identify and most importantly, understand! As long as we do not understand the business goals we will have no chance to construct recipes (IT services) and eventually be able to calculate meaningful Value. 

So the reason I am using the term IT services instead of Value is because I work within IT so I am a supplier. When it comes to communicating and defining my services for a business, I concentrate on trying to understand the business goals and how my ingredients are put together to achieve that. I create recipes. I also contribute with any variations I might be able see, to increase the business value of my IT service. Im a chef on a mission :)

måndag 11 november 2013

I don't have IT services so what should i do with my Request Catalog?

First a short view back in time.
A few years back Gartner said that until 2013, 80% of IT organizations will have developed a IT Service Catalog prior to their IT Service Portfolio. Now it is 2013 and i don't know whether it is 80% that have actually developed an IT service Catalog. Regardless, I would still assume that out of the ones that have, a majority probably didn't do service catalog at all. What they did was a request catalog for their users to order things from IT. They probably did it without establishing a IT Service Portfolio or service catalog. Considering that the IT Service Portfolio should be the foundation for the IT Service Catalog, which in turn is the basis for a request catalog. what are all these Request Catalogs based on? In this article i use the term Request Catalog for the actual request interface that a consumer (requestor) uses to trigger/do a request.

So how do one develop a Request Catalog without the necessary foundation? My experience, when looking around, is that it has been common to confuse the Request Catalog with a normal Web Shop and therefore the concept of a Web Shop has been the template and guide. A lot of things are actually similar, even close to identical. This is one of the reasons that i think this confusion occurs in the first place. There are fundamental differences, but if you are not looking, they can be hard to identify. If my observations are true, it means that there are a lot of Request Catalogs out there which are designed to work as a Web shop.

Who cares? It is working fine.
Even if the Request Catalog is designed as a Web Shop, the IT organization would probably claim that it has helped them. That it might have improved request handling etc. I can not argue with that. I would even assume that they are right. Its not hard to figure out that everything that used to be ordered manually from a Service Desk in an unstructured way, now is easier to handle from a Request Catalog in a structured way. Win win, or? I'm sorry to say but the whole idea with a Request Catalog is to help the Customer. Did the Customer benefit from the Request Catalog? Well if it is designed as a Web shop, thats exactly what the Customer got. A web page where they can search and order the stuff the IT department think is important to order this way. And the stuff, is probably very similar to what was ordered manually by the Customer from the Service Desk before. All in all, the Customer didn't benefit that much at all. Quicker delivery maybe, better follow-up and some statistics. Nothing to brag about so you should care. This was not it's purpose and the customer benefits and experience should be much better.

Reality check!
So even if we admit that the Request Catalog should have been preceded by a IT service catalog and an IT Service Portfolio we can not change the fact that this, most likely, is not the case. So what do we do? If i would give the suggestion now to start a IT Service Portfolio initiative you would probably quit reading about here :) so i will not, but if you can, I suggest you do. But without it, how do we continue? Lets face it, no IT Service Portfolio is a weak start for a IT Service Catalog or a request catalog.

Can we turn this thing around?
Sure, of course, easy? maybe not. There are a couple of small things that can be done to gain short term benefits. And this time I'm talking about the benefits the Customer would experience. This will rub off on IT as well but that is a side affect, not the purpose. What we get from changing the focus a bit is a Request Catalog that is easier to manage and easier for the Customer to use.

What should we do then?
I will go deeper into each bullet but here are som principles.
1. Stop treating The Request Catalog as a Web Shop
2. Think Customer Scenario
3. Standardize and reuse everything

1. Stop treating The Request Catalog as a Web Shop.
So what are the fundamental differences between a Request Catalog and a Web Shop? As i mentioned earlier they can be hard to identify but that is not due to complexity, it is more due to that they are small and seems so obvious that we don't manage them properly. 

In a Web Shop you enter everything you got. If what you sell is not available in the Web Shop, you can not sell it. You try to create interesting and dynamic content that is frequently renewed/replaced and to top it off you offer a shopping cart and promise a good shopping experience. Everything a Web Shop should be. Throw in a couple of weekly offers and "right now" bargains you are on the right track for a good Web Shop. 

Is this applicable for a Request Catalog? Let break it down.
- Everything you got 
- Dynamic that is frequently renewed/replaced
- shopping cart

From the list above there is only one thing that I think is applicable for a Request Catalog. That is good shopping experience. Why? Well briefly explore each one. 

"Every thing you got" is a very poor strategy. The content in the Request Catalog should not be what IT "got"or want to offer, it should be what the Customer needs. That means that even if we have 5 different laptops models available, we should NOT put 5 different laptops models to choose from in the Request Catalog. 

"Dynamic that is frequently renewed/replaced" is lack of standardization. In a Request Catalog we want the opposite. The On-bonding service that the Customer finally learned to find and order should be consistent over time. It should be called the same thing, found the same way and in the same place. Actually, the more boring it is, the better experience for the Customer from recognition and repeatability perspective. 

The "Shopping Cart" is an old dinosaur. It is basically always there but the more it is used, the more it confirms that we do not help the Customer in the right way. We should offer more "single click" and "bundled service" that is fit for purpose. The cart is basic functionality in a Request Catalog and your design should consider it as a last resort option for the Customer, not the normal way.

2. Think Customer Scenario
To design content for an Request Catalog requires some thought. We had the example earlier of the 5 different laptop models. I know a laptop may not represent the best of "Services" but the example works anyway and the principles are the same in other context as well. The scenario is that a customer wants "a laptop", not "that laptop". So why would we offer 5 different laptops models and force the customer to chose one? We cannot assume that the Customer can chose the most appropriate one based on models. What we should offer is "a laptop" with relevant descriptions, maybe a few flavors like "light sales laptop" or "big screed laptop" or "powerful designer laptop" etc. Now you might say that -"Hey, then we will end up with 5 different laptops anyway! we did not earn anything with this design". And part of it is true. The number of options for the Customer might not decrease. But there is important differences. 

One difference is that the items reflect the Customer needs (scenario). If I'm ordering a laptop for a sales person it is much easier to understand and chose the correct one if it is called "light sales laptop" compared to a Supplier named Hardware model. 

Another reason is that the "light sales laptop" will be in the Request Catalog all the time even when the IT department changes the laptop model for another/newer one. The Customer will order the same thing year after year but the model and equipment that is delivered changes according IT cycles. Of course we can link information about the actual model that will be delivered when ordered, there is nothing wrong with that.

3. Standardize and reuse everything
To design the content this way means that we need to keep the focus on the customer and try to standardize based on customer scenario. It should be standardized with Customer focus. What does the Customer need included when requesting lets say staff On-boarding. We decide to include a laptop in the On-boarding service. Whenever someone orders the On-boarding service we will include the delivery of a laptop. Seems reasonable. When doing this we want to minimize the administration of this request. The laptop models we already have ("light sales laptop" or "big screed laptop" or "powerful designer laptop|) we want to reuse fully. If we standardize them correctly and want to "bundle" them into the On-boarding service we can reuse them exactly like they are. Once the On-boarding is triggered and the appropriate laptop is chosen by the Customer (could even be automatically selected if on-boarding is triggered on role) Every thing should be inherited and reused. Due to that the laptop does not change over time, there is no affect on the other services and recognition and repeatability from a Customer perspective is very high. The IT organization get a common way to deliver a laptop and can constantly improve the way this is actually performed even if it is requested separately or included in a bundle. 

What is the gain of all this.
If you apply the above, you will still not have a request catalog content based on a IT Service Catalog. But what you will get is a Request Catalog with a customer focus. The more you are able to standardize and reuse, the more "rub of" the IT organization will get. The more recognition and repeatability the Customer get, the better the shopping experience will be. If the Customer have requested a service before, they want it to be easy enough so they can do it again, with a blindfold. If the content is called something today it should be called the same tomorrow. We do not want changes made to content that forces the customer to search or read through the content again. Keep the changes of the "front" to an absolute minimum in a request catalog. Content that is added, phased out and replaced will of course occur. A few years ago there where no tablets, now there are. Now they are called iPad, Xoom, Tab, Nook, Nexus etc. Who knows what they will be called in the future? If we would design the content based on supplier models we would have a continuous need to change it as soon as we provide a newer or different brand or model. If we would design standardized content with customer focus we would probably have tablet names corresponding to the use it was targeted for. The need to change them would be very limited, even with linked information about the current model that is delivered.

Am i in the green zone now?
This does not in any way change the need for a IT Service Portfolio and a service catalog. What it does is that it gives you a working Request Catalog instead of a miss aimed Web Shop.