All sorts of businesses are revisiting IT service delivery as traditional internecine rivalries give way to a push towards a future built around a common infrastructure with mutually understood metrics.
For CIOs, this represents both an opportunity to elevate the importance of infrastructure reporting — and a challenge in opening the proverbial kimono to review and improve existing processes that often aren’t as focused on customer satisfaction as they should be.
“The question is how CIOs can deliver a portfolio of services that drives innovation and relevance,” says CA Technologies advisor, Peter Waterhouse, who has seen the yawning business-IT alignment gap persist despite years of recognition that it’s affecting customer service and overall efficiency. The most successful companies, he says, have been able to “get smarter in service level agreements (SLAs) and use a top-down business approach”.
“Companies are facing issues around cost containment, IT outsourcing and bridging that alignment gap — and every one of them is exploiting technology in different ways,” he says. “Many were delivering services using a catalogue but were regulating demand using chargeback, and they were in the process of constructing business-relevant SLAs with their customers and providers across the supply chain. They weren’t just good at doing the right things; they were communicating IT service costs, functions and values in a way that helped stakeholders make the right decisions about the use of IT.”
Not all of these decisions are directly linked to network performance metrics and the like. Waterhouse points out that many companies are seeking inspiration from within by embarking on ‘idea management’ initiatives that put thought leaders in the driver’s seat, no matter what their position in the company.
With the right infrastructure, those ideas can be translated into actionable projects and measured against their goal of improving customer service. This often requires new perspectives on what constitutes relevant business information — for example, through active monitoring of social networks that have become many customers’ preferred method of social interaction and venting problems.
With a wealth of social network monitoring tools available, there’s no reason Twitter or Facebook inputs could not be integrated into the overall pool of service management data, which for so long has been populated with abstractions like the number of dropped packets or network latency. A flood of tweets complaining about service problems could point to service difficulties that might not always show up in hard network numbers. The network could be functioning properly, but customer service still affected because the contact centre doesn’t have staff with the right skills.