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 :)

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