The increasing demands of a continually connected society and internet-dependent markets have led to a steady increase in the complexity and diversity of systems that IT operations staff must manage on a daily basis. This, in turn, has led to a steady increase in the number and complexity of service requests, covering anything from password change requests to computer upgrades and service enhancements. This problem is aggravated by the fact that many businesses do not standardize Request Fulfillment systems across their strategic business units or departments, which leads to further confusion for both the customer and the operations staff.
The result, besides growing frustration on the consumer side, is that IT-operations staff spends an unacceptable amount of time validating information, providing status updates and responding to requests. Furthermore it makes delivery in accordance with predefined Service Level Agreements difficult since task resources and information need to be sourced across organizational lines, which raises the possibility for intra departmental conflict.
None of the world leading IT-management standards were addressing this problem adequately. ITILv2, MOF and COBIT were treating Request Fulfillment as part of Incident Management, which caused a number of problems. It meant that technical specialists were dealing with simple requests instead of solving incidents with high business impact. Another problem was that while Incident and Problem management seek to reduce the overall number of incidents, Service Requests inherently increase in number with growing business. This was especially a challenge for businesses engaging in continual service improvement activities, since most key performance indicators of Incident Management were skewed and the reporting burden increased.
The first obvious step to solve this dilemma is to separate Request Fulfillment from Incident Management. Industry experts and technology leaders all around the world agree that this separation is necessary for IT-operations management to become effective and efficient. Thus it recently has been introduced as separate entity into some of the aforementioned frameworks and standards.
The next step is to standardize the request fulfillment process across all SBU’s or departments, which reduces the potential for human error and thus addresses the issue of customer frustration. This is helped further by service standardization and/or the implementation of a service catalogue, which describes each service offered in detail and the corresponding Request Fulfillment process for that service
Once this step has been completed the next step is to review the Request Fulfillment processes in place with the goal to minimize human intervention. This further decreases the risk of human error and lowers staffing costs. If a full automation of a process is not possible, then self service tools and resources should be created. The tools themselves should be menu or dialog guided. Failure to implement said self service tools will make their adoption by users a growing issue. A known benefit is that easy to use front end interfaces with tied in backend fulfillment tools, can greatly reduce the call volume of a service desk and often lead to service requests bypassing it entirely.
The final step is to group all tools and resources under one self-service portal. The ‘single point of contact rule’, which is known as best practice for the service desk itself, is also valid for self-help resources. The opposite, which is having multiple channels for solution finding is again an obstacle for users adopting the tools.
Even when following these steps companies will face many other problems when seeking to implement effective and efficient Request Fulfillment. The challenge does not lie necessarily in simply creating the necessary process structure and software tools, but rather in understanding and predicting the customer’s needs and in creating intuitive user interfaces. Thus customer centrism needs to be part of the organizational culture from top to bottom in order for Request Fulfillment to be successful. This means that the ability to manage change and adapt to new challenges, becomes another crucial part to the success of Request Fulfillment and the company itself. The bottom line is that Customer Centric Request Fulfillment is the one change companies cannot afford to miss.
Follow this link in order to read up on ‘The 21 secrets of Self-Service Request Fulfillment’, as presented by itSMF Australia at their annual conference in 2009. itSMF is the global umbrella organization for IT-service management professionals.
Guestdesk Support Director