Many IT teams strive to deliver smoother and more enjoyable customer experiences as a part of their services. However, what does it mean to truly remove the technical and process complexity from end user interactions?
In this article, Juha Berghall, CEO of Service-Flow explores the answer to this.
We now work in a world where a single piece of technology – whether it be customer facing or not – cannot exist or function without a huge ecosystem of supporting software and integrations sitting behind it. From moving and translating data, to fulfilling a sale or service, multi-vendor IT underpins everything we do.
These ecosystems require reliable, manageable and highly changeable software and process integrations, which traditionally weigh down your ability to deliver easy, simple and frictionless customer experiences. This is because your services are littered with escalations, delays and uphill battles to gain visibility of complex processes and related communication (e.g. “tickets”). It is stressful enough for the IT agents providing the support, but the real losers are the customers waiting for a resolution.
At Service-Flow, we specialise in providing the invisible solution to this problem. We have developed a SaaS based offering, which allows IT organisations working across multi suppliers and ITSM tools to radically simplify and accelerate their service integrations.
During the time we have taken to build the company, refine our software service and help companies around the world setup hundreds of service integrations, we have uncovered the vital lessons every IT team must learn in order to truly move from a slow and complex set of services, to an ‘invisible’ solution; where changes can be implemented without harassing end-users and customers and in production knowledge and data seamlessly flow uninterrupted across your support ecosystem.
Here are four areas of your IT services you can begin working on today, to get you closer to improving services and increasing invisibility:
1. Connect the tools – F word means Federated
Despite the availability of high functioning integration tools and services, we still meet many IT organisations who are struggling with moving support ticket data across multi services and suppliers via email, telephone or just copy and paste. The weight this adds to your services and the pain points it lays bare to your customers is almost unmeasurably high. Even the most basic automation and integration technology will quickly add a noticeable amount of speed and agility to your services. In addition, all parties should keep their own tools and run their own process (I said stop harassing the users which applies to service desks as well). This means it is the operational model that should be federated, not tools.
Your next step: Look for where you spend the most time moving support ticket data around manually, establish where the end-points are within the software you’re using and begin understanding the automation opportunities.
2. Simplify your environment – Isolate and Centralize
Have you ever gone to help a customer with a desktop problem, only to then peer under their desk to find a collection of dangerously piled high power adapters, connected together like some sort of monstrous daisy chain? If you have worked in IT as long as I have, the answer is almost certainly yes!
You might think in IT we know better than this, but the truth is most IT organisations approach building software integrations in the same way. Just one on top of another with no regard as to what all the other integrations around it are doing. Eventually ending up in an outrageously complicated, dangerous and fragile family of software. The technique most commonly used now to overcome this scenario is to have a method of centrally managing all your integrations and isolated end points, where you can see what is working, what needs updating, what needs replacing and sometimes… what just isn’t even needed at all! And changes can be implemented centrally in minutes rather than weeks or never.
Your next step: DON’T try untangling everything, you’ll be there for days (or weeks!). Instead, look at systems and processes you have and start prioritising which integrations mean the most to your services. Once you have your hit list of top priority integrations, start lifting those into a more centralised location. If you need help, my team and I here at Service-Flow are very experienced in ‘following the cables’ back and untangling the mess!
3. Don’t build, rent – focus on right things
Many businesses have made the mistake of trying to build software integrations and APIs from scratch. This might have made sense 10 years ago when SaaS wasn’t really a thing and IT engineer careers lived and died by their ability to knock up scripts and batch files, but today’s workplace really doesn’t need that mentality anymore. The cost and risk involved with building something you that you cannot now just buy ‘off the shelve’, but actually just rent it as a service till you’re done with it.
Fast moving and agile businesses are already very much on board with this way of working and utilisation of software. The cost savings it creates and the amount of risk it removes from the management of services is always evident, especially on the bottom line. However, businesses still stuck with homemade or bespoke software integration solutions struggle to see the benefits, normally from a fear of breaking or losing control of their existing and fragile systems.
Your next step: Step back and think about how homemade API’s and integrations are really costing you. Measure the time your team take up fixing broken code, moving data manually and investigating customer issues back to root causes within those systems. A few weeks of monitoring these activities will quickly uncover the hours you lose each week to old fashioned solutions.
4. Focus on what you deliver to the customer
If you can’t relate these solutions back to your customers, then you probably don’t fully understand the service ecosystem you’re working with yet. As I discussed in the opening to this article, what you are really working towards is ‘invisibility as a service’. IT is growing in complexity - that is for sure – the important thing is to not move this complexity on to the customer. By understanding how to simplify the methods you use to integrate and automate all the software and technology you are utilising to deliver a customer outcome, you can then in turn better manage how much of that process now involves or infringes on the customer.
By focusing on what the customers of your service want and need in order to perform their own roles better, you can then go on to design better and better services, which continually improve around the changing needs of your customers and their business.
Your next step: Find the areas of your service that interfere with your customer’s working day the most. Whether it be coming back and asking the same questions after a ticket has been escalated, or just simply having them wait around for several days for a solution that should have been instant. Find the weaknesses in your IT services and connect the dots between these issues and the improvements you need to make in your service integrations.
As the CEO of a company specialising in IT Service Management, I get to spend a great deal of time with IT leaders and their teams, uncovering the issues that hold them back the most from the improvements they wish to make.
The concepts of invisible improvement and ‘invisibility as a service’ may on the surface seem far-fetched or overly evangelist, however I have now spent enough time with enough IT teams to know this is generally the vision, whether described this way or not.
IT wants to simplify how it manages its most complex, time consuming and costly activities in order to then pass on that new found ease and simplicity to its customers.
If this sounds like a challenge you would like our help with, or would like to hear more about our Service-Flow SaaS solution, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.