When I ask IT executives how happy they are with their external support providers (outsourcers, vendors, etc.) invariably they express deep frustration. They look to these vendors to be real partners – to collaborate effectively and seamlessly, to do their job efficiently and transparently, and to bring real innovation to the table. Instead, they feel like they go into combat every day with these supposed “partners”. And, they say, it’s getting worse. But what has changed?
Over the past several years the number of support providers IT organizations deal with has increased exponentially (one analyst firm estimates a 400% increase over five years). Moreover, the complexity of the relationships is growing – no longer are support transactions limited to just one partner, in many cases incidents bounce between several different partners before they are resolved. Then there is cloud. Cloud makes consumption easy, but hidden behind this “easy on” experience is a highly complex support reality. Cloud services might look like one unified solution when they’re purchased, but in reality cloud services incorporate software, hardware, data centers, and networks from dozens of providers – when something goes wrong, it isn’t easy to even figure out where the problem is – let alone get it fixed.
But the paradigm for managing these relationships has stayed basically the same for decades. At the end of the month vendors provide reports on their own performance. Most IT organizations have teams of people that sift through these reports, consolidate them into spreadsheets, summarize and analyze. This reactive, long lag time model doesn’t support the business need for flexibility and agility.
Cisco believes what IT needs is a “dynamic support network” – whereby IT organizations have real time connections to support providers – all linked back to the system of record IT relies on to manage support. It shouldn’t be sufficient to find out at the end of the month that target SLA’s have been missed – IT needs to know if the SLA on the incident that is open NOW is going to be missed, allowing it to proactively ensure it meets the SLA.
Interestingly, when I talk with external support providers like outsourcers or managed service providers, they have exactly the same requirement. They want to see the incident they are working on from the point of view of the person who originally opened the ticket, not just from when they were brought into the process. They truly do want to partner – and in fact to delight – their customer. They recognize the customer is ultimately the end user, and it is the end users expectation they want to manage to. To accomplish this, they need to be integrated with their customers – their own dynamic network – with real time visibility and transparency into when the incident was raised, the original SLA, what has already happened on that incident, etc.
Cisco ServiceGrid is designed to solve this problem. With a “connect once, connect all” approach, ServiceGrid integrates all participants in the support process to the cloud platform only once, instead of integrating everyone one at a time. It allows companies to collaborate in real time to deliver services to a single customer. All information, data and workflows are shared in an automated way, eliminating manual practices and bottlenecks. From a customer perspective it looks like one company, even if two or more companies are working together to solve a case.
In talking with a large enterprise IT ServiceGrid customer a few weeks ago, they reported that cases were getting solved almost 40% faster and they felt that their support vendor had truly become a collaborative partner – because they had complete transparency into everything that was happening in real time. An outsource ServiceGrid customer told me recently they are winning about 8% more business and customer churn has been reduced because their customers have complete transparency into everything they do, in real time.
IT is getting more and more complicated, in no place more than in support and operations. Cisco believes that in the coming years, support is going to be massively transformed – and all IT organizations and support partners will be fully integrated – one large dynamic support network for all of IT. Ultimately, this will create the sense of collaboration and partnering IT organizations and their support partners are desperately seeking.