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Active SLAs – New Approach for Multi-sourcing Governance

Last month, I attended the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) Outourcing World Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. I had the chance to glean fresh insights from industry-leading practitioners and get a global view from sourcing executives.

Though there has been an evolution in the outsourcing industry, one thing has not changed: outsourcing is a winning strategy. In the recent study from IAOP & Information Services Group (ISG) Annual State of the Industry 1 presented at the event, it stated that Multi-sourcing as an outsourcing approach increased by 75% from last year’s percentage”. The predictions for 2015 also show continued growth: “51 percent of respondents in the survey said they expect to pursue more outsourcing opportunities during the year”.2

Multi-sourcing - where a customer uses several service providers to provide a single scope of outsourced services, is now the new norm in outsourcing. In today’s organizations, outsourcing is increasing and each additional outsourcing agreement makes it more difficult to holistically manage IT service & support.

A new way of thinking about SLA’s is required to make multi-sourcing effective

Service-level agreement (SLA) management is the process of negotiating, defining and managing the levels of IT service. SLA management is a key challenge that organizations face as part of outsourcing and it is becoming increasingly difficult with multi-sourcing.

Most organizations invest heavily to define SLAs. If you talk to the service tower owners themselves, fewer than half have know what SLA’s are actually in the contract. They also cannot recall all of the specific details that the increasing numbers of the agreements contain. So, there is a lot of work that goes into developing these structures but there is no framework established on how to govern them in an automated way.

As a result, most SLA management is reactive. Periodic reviews between buyer and vendors are based on summary performance data from the prior period. Data from vendors is typically inconsistent and inaccurate. I was speaking with a sourcing executive at a large financial services company a couple of months ago, and she reported that half of the meeting time spent with vendors on performance was used just to agree on what an accurate view of the data was. This hardly aligns to the dynamic nature of business today.

New Paradigm on Thinking about SLA’s

Imagine the ability to manage SLA’s with each of your providers in real-time with one service integration framework. In a workshop we held in New York with a number of large buyers and providers late last year, they highlighted that this would not only move the service management model from reactive to proactive, but would also enable a more collaborative working model – moving away from the “us vs. them” paradigm. In one multi-sourced organization we’ve implemented this model in, it has completely eliminated after-hours escalation calls and dramatically reduced resolution times. With an active SLA capability you can manage all of the multi-sourcing relationships from one “pane of glass” and get accurate service information in real-time, such as:

  • Overview of all your open cases per provider
  • Cases trending towards SLA violation that you can proactively take action on
  • Actual violations that require immediate attention

To be effective, this solution would need to be very easy to consume, showing only what really matters up front. Front-line managers don’t have time to browse hundreds of tickets when only looking for one affecting the SLA. This all sound promising but is it possible to achieve?

Transforming multi-sourcing with active SLA’s

We are pleased to announce the availability of Active SLA Management in the 7.0 release of Cisco ServiceGrid. With a highly innovative user experiences via a centralized dashboard and reporting capability for the connected multi-sourced ecosystem, you will gain real-time visibility & drill-down functionality for events trending toward or violating SLAs to enable a more proactive, end-to-end vendor management capability.

If you would like to know more, feel free to browse:

 

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Sources:

  1. Annual State of the Industry Jagdish R. Dalal, IAOP
  2. Outsourcing 2015: Changing in a Good Way – Contributor: ISG Research, February 2015

 

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SIAM: the next ITIL?

The acronym SIAM stands for Service Integration And Management, and it is a hot topic in the world of IT Service Management…..but why? Service integration models have been around awhile, but are evolving from the challenges of managing a small number of large service partners to a model of managing a larger number of smaller partners. As the services and businesses become more critical or complex, the level of service integration becomes deeper. SIAM builds on the ITIL framework, and expands it.

What is SIAM?

  • According to Wikipedia: “Service integration and management (SIAM) is a framework for managing multiple suppliers of information technology services and integrating them to provide a single business-facing IT organization.”
    More…
  • The UK Government defines it as “Service integration and management lets an organization manage it’s service providers in a consistent and efficient way, making sure that performance across a portfolio of multi-sourced goods and services meets user needs.
    More…
  • Kevin Holland, ITIL expert is a bit more specific “Service Integration and Management(SIAM) is both a model and a function which provides a single point of accountability for the service management and delivery of all services provided by internal and external service providers, by taking responsibility for and assuring suppliers performance ,  coordinating delivery, integration , and interoperability across multiple providers, and providing the necessary governance on behalf of the users.”
    Details…

Essentially, it is about keeping (or recovering) control – IT organizations use more and more external support providers today, and managing these relationships is getting more complex. SIAM might be the answer to this challenge, because it is all about how IT will deliver the capability to achieve end-to-end service excellence in an increasingly complicated environment by actively managing all aspects of service performance.  Basically, it supports businesses by helping them get the most out of their outsourced and externally managed services.

Why is SIAM important now?

SIAM is in the spotlight of the key analyst groups, Forrester and Gartner.  Spending on external and internal IT services is higher than ever; However, according to Gartner’s 2014 key metrics survey, only 11% of respondents  say that they have mastered their approach to sourcing, and 89% need to improve competencies and significantly raise their maturity levels in order to manage multi-sourcing successfully. (Source)  These metrics show large future potential for SIAM.

If you decide to research SIAM further, keep in mind that SIAM is sometimes referred to as MSI (Multi-sourcing Service Integration)

Are you using or considering a SIAM framework? I would love to hear your thoughts.

References:

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Introducing the Cisco IT eStore and a Service Catalog for BYOD

Cisco IT has always encouraged employees to use the tools that help them work most efficiently from anywhere on any device.

As the range of IT services we offered has increased, we noticed that the process of acquiring the various tools became complex and confusing. We had a number of different internal sites (aka “stores”) within Cisco, each offering different systems for employees to request services.  This complexity impacted the user experience and productivity of these employees.

In order to simplify the employee experience with Cisco IT, we made the decision to consolidate all these different systems into a single online service catalog – effectively a unified e-commerce storefront for our IT services – where our employees could find services they needed to do their jobs.

We thus created Cisco IT’s “eStore”.

Our goal was to improve employee satisfaction, decrease support costs, and increase employee productivity. We had to find a way to increase adoption and transparency of our existing IT services.

Cisco IT knew that a platform to consolidate these services into one unified service request system could be built on top of Cisco Prime Service Catalog, our own end-user portal and service catalog solution. This solution provides enterprise IT management capabilities that enable entitlement, approvals, service taxonomy control, and even chargeback.

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Introducing Cisco Prime Service Catalog – Focusing on User Experience

When was the last time you turned on your new gadget, opened an app, or logged onto a website and found that you needed to attend a training course before you could use it effectively?

At times, we in the IT industry fall into the trap that we need the most advanced technical capabilities.  After all, this is the great force that has produced numerous inventions and has made our lives better.  However, when we focus too much on technical details rather than meeting our users’ needs, we fail to deliver not only for our customers but also for our business.

The IT team at a major global manufacturer recently told me about their company’s major investment in user experience design, because it is important for their brand image and business success.  They are applying user-centered design not only to the products they make, but also to the IT systems they implement in-house.  Even the U.S. government has a usability and user-centered design practice under http://www.usability.gov/basics/ucd/.

This year, our software development team embarked on a user experience update for our IT service catalog software by applying the user-centered design principle.  We are showcasing this new user interface and introducing a new product name for the software – Cisco Prime Service Catalog – at Cisco Live Orlando this week.

Here is a preview of the next-generation user interface for Cisco Prime Service Catalog:

Cisco Prime Service Catalog

This new user experience highlights the services that end users may be interested in, with lists like “Most Popular Services”.  If a user has a certain model of IP Phone, the service catalog may feature associated items such as a compatible headset.   This familiar ecommerce experience is still governed by the service catalog’s entitlement and approval process, so the service owner has full control over service consumption.   User experiences like this will help transform employees’ impression of their IT department.  Service providers will also find that they can configure this new user interface to portray the brand image and customer experience they want to project.

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The path to mature Infrastructure and Operations is through culture?

As the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas, NV closes, I can’t help feeling a bit of irony in bearing witness to the contrast in culture and atmosphere that this city encompasses relative to the experience many of us have interacting with Information Technology organizations today.

Moving any taboos about Vegas aside, the experience here is about an immersion into a culture of service. From the moment you step into a hotel to the moment you sit down to test your gaming fortunes, your experience is facilitated by professionals whose job it is to ensure you have a good time. Whether greeting you at the door, serving that fine cocktail or dealing your next hand of blackjack, an excellent experience is made possible by people who know how to be of service.

In contrast, many IT organizations today struggle in providing such a positive service experience to those who are seeking to use IT resources for their own productivity. Having some experience of my own in the world of hospitality, I was delighted but not surprised in observing the conference lunch staff have a plan to insure everyone who finished a session around lunch time, was fully accommodated. Each attendee was guided to the next available seat and immediately greeted with a fresh salad, ice tea and warm roll. Careful attention was paid to whether or not I want more or less of something, and if I’m ready for what’s next. Throughout lunch, I experienced a pleasant positive attitude by the attentive wait staff that satisfied my expectations.

What would it take to bring this culture of service excellence to users and organizations? Users of IT resources need the assistance and care of IT professionals so that they can be fully enabled for productivity.

Thankfully, while attending presentations around Infrastructure and Operations, I noticed an ominous theme around what it will take to mature the IT services in organizations today, the message pointed directly to a problem of culture.

In an example of how a change in culture really can transform productivity, Jarrod Green describes in his session, “Kill the IT Service Desk: Create a Business Productivity Team to Transform IT From the Grassroots”, the concept of the Business Productivity Team(BPT). Jarrod discusses business productivity teams having a singular focus on enabling business outcomes through:

1. Extending the capabilities of current and new IT resources
2. Proactive Identification to the solution to a problem
3. Understanding of and alignment with Business Challenges
4. Enabling user self sufficiency and digital literacy
5. Establishing the relationship with the business as a trusted advisor

This savvy service team sounds really excellent! But what does it look like?

consult
It starts with someone who has knowledge of both technical and business processes. Instead of being an expert up the Ivy tower, they meet the user face to face where they are, leading them in solving their technical problems and teaching them about a new feature or way to do their work faster and smarter. Because a Business Productivity team is customer oriented, they earn the ability to influence by building partnerships and driving the consumption of features in current and new technologies that add value.

Wow, I must have stepped into an imaginary organization whose culture expects nothing less and rewards its professionals well! A pretty serious culture change is necessary in order to facilitate this unique capability.

In working with customers during services engagements, I am often asked by CIOs and IT Management how they can facilitate maturing their organization into   becoming a strategic differentiator in the business they support.  When focused on the evolution of customer service, support and the improvement of end-user experience I often refer to the “Fanatical” Customer Support that differentiates Rackspace in being a market leader of data center and cloud services.   Rackspace’s support model encompasses the spirit of enabling productivity and success as the outcome for its customers.

We can speak endlessly about novel technologies that create all kinds of efficiencies and time saved for users. In order to get the most out of the investment in technology, an evolved IT Service desk that drives productivity and end user satisfaction is needed for that next step toward an extraordinary IT organization.  Within the Operate Practice in Cisco’s Advanced Services,  we strive to help customers achieve the goal of operational excellence in the planning, building and management of their IT Investments.

In my coming posts I will share more about what I think the IT organization of the future, enabled by new cloud tools and processes, will look like. More importantly, I want to bring forward what I think a proactive, inspiring and value-creating culture looks like for both IT teams and the organizations who depend on them.

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