Many of my recent consulting interactions with service organizations and their customers has been making one strong statement:Visibility_Page_Header

Service Portfolio needs to be brought into a larger mainstream role over Service catalogue in service provider scenarios. Or in other words, Service Catalogue might have to have a larger scope than just the ‘live and currently offered services’.

First, let us set the context here:

ITIL® has been clear on one aspect:

  • Service Catalogue is the only part of the service portfolio published to customers (ITIL® Service strategy publication).
  • Also the diagram in figure 2.6 in the same publication indicates Service catalogue as the only portion of the Portfolio that is visible to customer

In a typical IT Service management scenarios (especially in external, retail service scenarios), this is more or less logical and accurate.

However, in today’s world of ‘so-called’ Business-IT integration (which ITIL® has been describing from its 2007 edition onward), will this be sufficient?

Let us look at the two scenarios of service providers:

a) An Internal IT Provider:

In this scenario, the business units are the key customers for the Service provider (internal IT department or a shared service unit). In this case, if only the Service Catalogue is visible and used in interactions with the customers, will that suffice for an effective business-IT integration?

It is quite apparent that a visibility into the Service Pipeline is highly essential to achieve effective levels of business and IT integration. In the internal Service scenario, the pipeline will be largely driven by the business strategy and priorities, and hence it is important for the business to have a visibility into the Service Pipeline of IT in order to understand and fine-tune (if and as required) the IT’s strategy and capabilities to ensure alignment to business.

So it is clear that, in an internal service scenario, the Service Portfolio (selective portions of the same, in some cases, where applicable) need to be visible to the ‘customer’ organization to ensure proper alignment and integration.

 b) An External Service provider:

Recently I happened to have interactions with the external customers of an IT solution/service provider. One of the key challenges that were repeatedly voiced by the key stakeholders in customer organization was:

  • Lack of visibility into the future solutions that the solution/service provider was planning to offer and/or the roadmap for the existing solutions/services in terms of enhancements and features.

Why is this important to the customer organization? (more…)

Just finished a great training session on Service Strategy over the weekend – great in terms of some insightful discussions with some senior IT folks who attended the training. Some of the discussions were essentially clarifying some very basic concepts, at the same time called for in-depth debates taking scenarios to establish a concrete understanding of those. Thought of blogging the essence of some of those discussions.

One of the area that called for lengthy discussions were on the ‘Service Assets’ and ‘Customer Assets’:

To set the context for Starters: ITIL® (especially the Service Strategy) views a ‘Service’ in terms of Business outcomes facilitated. Basically, these Business outcomes are delivered by the Customer Assets (Customer’s  Resources and Capabilities – people, processes, information, business services etc etc).

What does the IT Service do? They enhance the performance of those Customer Assets to deliver better, or increased business outcomes (and hence delivers business value).

How does the IT service provider deliver these Services? It is by effective use of Service assets (Their resources and capabilities).

So in this context:

  • Service Assets are the Resources and Capabilities of the Service Provider (Service Provider’s Assets) that are utilized to deliver the IT Services to the Business/Customer.
  • Customer Assets are the Resources and Capabilities of the Customer (Customer’s Assets) that are utilized to deliver business outcomes. These assets make use of the IT Services to enhance their performance or to remove some constraints.
  • The Service Provider has to define a Service always in connection to the specific Customer Assets to which the Utility of the service is delivered to (ITIL describes this as the Service Archetype-Customer Asset combination).

So every Service has been defined, planned, designed and delivered with specific Customer Assets in mind. So far so good.

One of the discussion started with some very basic question:

  • Are ‘Users’ and ‘Customer assets’ the same? Or in other words, are Users always the Customer Assets that we talk about in IT Service Definition?
  • If not, how do we differentiate users from the Customer Assets that we are talking about?

The question arised from the basic understanding that ITSM and ITIL used to establish so far: Services are used by Users (and paid for by the customer).

Some of the salient points that were derived from the discussion were: (more…)

SLA is nothing new to any service provider. Everybody (well, almost) has at least one, with their clients. Of course there are those who say we don’t have SLAs as our customers didn’t ask for it.

While drawing up an SLA, a service provider are exposed to, and very often falls into traps like:

  • Going with the “Standard” SLA (standard to whom?)
  • Agreeing to what customer asked. (Customer is the king!)
  • Taking over ‘existing’ SLA from current service provider (typically as part of transition in outsourced contracts)
  • Adopting ‘best practices’ from industry!!! (best practices on SLA targets?)

One cannot emphasize enough, how important it is to have a closer look of each SLA parameter that you are going to commit ( or in many case, have committed already!).

Each of the SLA parameters need to be assessed (BEFORE committing to or agreeing with customer) for aspects like:

  • Does the parameter really reflect what is important to the customer?
  • How important this parameter is, to the service and to the customer/users?
  • Does the service provide has capabilities in place to provide those levels at the current cost/pricing framework?
  • Can the parameter be quantified?  (Quantified parameters are measured on data, Qualitiative are measured through perceptions!)
  • Can this be measured? (feasibility, having the right tools, resources, time)

There could be many such aspects added into the assessment, but the above would give a good starting point.

Let me take a couple of examples (kind of funny, but actual scenarios that I came across) to illustrate the need of such an assessment: (more…)

It is a well established fact that ‘How’ a service is delivered is of utmost important to the customer – and influences the customer satisfaction to a great extent.

Now, talking about satisfaction, are there different attributes of the service that impact ‘customer satisfaction’ and ‘user satisfaction’?  Anyone who has been associated with the service industry will definitely know the answer : Yes!

While customer gives a bit higher priority to aspects like SLA parameters (such as availability), cost-effectiveness (and in a broader sense – ‘value’ of the service), user satisfaction is influenced more by soft aspects of the service delivery & support (behaviour, attitude, interpersonal skills, follow-up, empathy etc etc) and SLA parameters like response, performance etc.

In corporate environments (where the service is delivered to a ‘business’), the distinction is easier to manage, as there are distinguished roles of ‘customer’ and and ‘users’ – and generally, a corporate gives higher priority to the business value (or ‘customer’) aspects of the service

It could be easily observed that the overlapping of ‘customer’ and ‘user’ in the consumer industry making it difficult for the service provider to balance the two (often conflicting) priorities. Since the same individual often becomes both the ‘customer’ and ‘user’, even his/her priorities tend to shift to the ‘user’ side – the role he/she plays much more than the other.

I strongly feel that the issues faced by most of us as ‘bad service’ from service providers are because of this conflict.

The users tend to give more weightage to aspects like response, personalized service, behaviour, follow up etc – while the service providers treat them as customers and give priority to those factors on which a ‘customer’ would be satisfied!

A recent experience of a friend of mine reinforced this thought process in my mind:

(more…)