New practical applications and innovation are often created through a view of new technological possibilities and developments. Is there anyone in IT who doesn’t remember Steve Jobs’s drawing of a little figure holding something or the other in its hand? These days, we know that “something or the other” by the name of tablet, and we all have one. A more recent example is the emergence of cloud technology, enabling applications such as ‘Software as a Service’, ‘A New Way of Working’, ‘Computing Everywhere’, ‘The Internet of Things’ and ‘Bring Your Own Device’. And that is not including developments combining a variety of technologies. Examples of these are medical equipment being linked to or even managed by automated systems, mobility through self-driving cars, facilities combined with ICT in multi-functionals, and electronic access systems.
One development that has seen the light of day thanks to organisational vision, is the streamlining or integration of services. This is either because there are many commonalities between types of services across various areas, or because the separation of functionality between areas is no longer desirable. This development in services comes in a number of variations, including ‘Enterprise Service Management’, ‘Service Integration‘ and ‘Everything as a Service’.
Coming from different areas of expertise and professions, we have gained substantial experience in the streamlining and integration of services. We want to share this experience in a non-prohibitive way, to demonstrate to organisations that they themselves can take charge of the realisation of services streamlining and integration. We believe that it is possible for plenty of organisations to make huge strides if they do so coming from a simple and unified vision. Much can be achieved through limited (out-of-pocket) investments, keeping the organisation in the lead, and in charge.
THE POWER OF SIMPLICITY
An important similarity between technological and organisational innovations is that many clients initially regard them as desirable, constructive, but also complex. For this reason they seek help, but more often than not this includes passing the reins to someone else. Plus, in a situation like this, not every provider has the capability to reduce complexity while leaving the client organisation in control. A risk to the client organisation is that the provider makes himself indispensable for a long period of time, creating a vendor lock-in.
“Keeping things simple is quite difficult. Making things difficult, on the other hand, is quite simple.”
WELL BEGUN IS HALF DONE
A logical first step is to acknowledge the services to which integration can be of added value. Services in different areas may share the same structure, processes, work practices, style of management and supporting resources. It is also possible that they serve the same clients, and thereby the same interests. Another option is that they are required to provide the same services due to combined technology. Often, there are more similarities than differences between the various service providers within an organisation. Why then should we limit ourselves by the differences?
The next step is to develop a common vision of the provided services, based a shared common goal. What is our common end-goal? In healthcare, it is providing good care and dealing with waiting lists. For a food manufacturer, it is the manufacturing of peanut butter and ice cream. This is not limited to those who supply the organisation’s core services or production. Facilities, IT, HR, Medical Technology, Catering, Cleaning and other service support can frame their contribution in terms of organisational goals. This principle works by sheer definition, and is known as ‘Thinking From The Outside In’. The head of a department who believes that there is no need for his department to serve the organisational goals, is on his way out.
Once common goals have been established, an underlying structure for mutual practices needs to be put in place, one based on the similarities between the various areas providing support services. A well-known, tried and tested structure can be obtained through Integrated Service Management (ISM®). This is a Dutch innovation in the area of Process Management. The ISM methodology offers a universally applicable service management tool through its architecture, framework, introduction methodology and support. ISM has proven itself many times within IT, both through combinations with IT as well as for Facilities, Medical Technology and other services.
Subsequently, sharing process-based work practices enables the usage of the same process support system with the same functional implementation by different services and departments. This aspect alone is sufficient to generate significant savings on outlay for licences and the implementation of Service Management software.
SERVICE INTEGRATION TO ENHANCE EFFICIENCY
One of the most obvious benefits of Service Integration is the scale achieved across the various types of service delivery, ‘Economy of Scope’. Whereas the concept of Shared Service Centres has shown us the added value of ‘Economy of Scale’ in specific segments of service delivery, Economy of Scope reaches across multiple areas. This principle dates from further back than we probably realise. Whereas in the past, we used to talk about ‘IT services’, nowadays more commonly used term is ‘ICT’. The ‘C’ was added due to technological integration of Information Technology and Communication Technology. Examples of recent combinations which are gaining in use are Facilities and ICT, ICT and Medical Technology (in healthcare), internal Service Desk and Service Desk for external clients (Utilities and Telecoms). This also demonstrates that service providers from various departments are learning from each other’s strong points.
AND BECAUSE CLIENTS NEED IT
To an internal client organisation, Service Integration can be of significant benefit. For years, users could easily tell which products and services were provided by which support function within the company. These days, however, automating has become part of all areas of support. Think of medical equipment passing on details directly to an electronic patient file, or the virtualisation of a telephone company through VOIP solutions integrated with various solutions for allowing access, logging into an ICT environment, paying in the canteen or gaining access to the parking lot.
When technologies from a variety of areas are being combined and integrated, users will become faced with dilemmas. For instance: do you call ICT or Medical Technology if you are having trouble retrieving details passed on by medical equipment from the electronic patient file? Where lies the roadblock to the information exchange? Is it located in de medical equipment, in the patient file, or in the link between the two? And which help desk do you call for this?
Should you call ICT or Facilities for a query about or fault in the digital call service? Traditionally, the technology and operation of a telephone switchboard were matters for the Facilities Department. However, a VOIP solution is now being managed by the IT department, with a systems manager who manages the software-based switchboard. Taking into account the guideline that a systems manager should be close to the environment owner, the question arises who within the organisation at this stage is the environment owner.
Should you call ICT, Operations or Facilities if you are trying to make a payment in the canteen, and the financial transaction fails? Is there an issue with the link between the pass card and the user, are there insufficient funds on the card, has the Internet connection for the payment system gone inactive, or is one of the required system components being affected by power failure?
It should never be made the user’s problem to decide which help desk to ring, and to subsequently be given the runaround. A situation like this can arise faster than one would think, especially where technologies are being combined. If a users cannot do what they want to do, they will not care which system or component is the cause of the error, nor who is meant to solve it. It does not matter whether the culprit is a broken door lock, preventing the user from getting to his equipment, whether their work is disrupted due to a power cut, whether the switchboard prevents communication with others, or whether a lack of coffee, lunch or an unhygienic work place is causing unbearable physical discomfort. The bottom line is that business grinds to a halt. Viewed from the mutual organisational goal shared between the users and all the service providers, it is more than desirable to manage the right people coming from a central responsibility to ensure that the user is able to carry on with business.
At the level of a complete organisation with internal clients, all employees can be considered to be jointly responsible for the bottom line and each impediment will damage the business to some extent. Solving issues thereby becomes a joint responsibility, managed centrally for the sake of effectiveness.
The lack of centrally managed services across multiple areas becomes an even more complex problem if the services are also offered to external clients. For instance, in a hospital, patients and visitors are also able to use the WiFi, and there is an exchange of patient information with carers outside the organisation as well as inside: GPs, chemists, consultants, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres etcetera. And to take another example: why would a telecoms provider organise its phone services for internal users in a different way to those for external users?
Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C) solutions pose questions of this complexity. What happens if a specialist web shop cannot be reached? Apart from the immediate damage to business, what damage gets done indirectly to the shop’s image? And what damage is incurred by a client if products cannot be ordered and delivered on time? Here, too, the cause of the fault is irrelevant; the important thing is that all the relevant service providers work together under central leadership to achieve a suitable solution.
When assessing the internal and external clients’ dilemma from the perspective of the organisation as a whole, it quickly becomes clear that complete and transparent client services are extremely desirable.
AND TO BE IN CONTROL
Within the support environment, to create a single approach towards the client, it is of essence to employ a complete service model. For ICT, this implies ITIL, ASL and BiSL. For Medical Technology, it means an ISO certified environment. This also applies to Facilities, whereas financial institutions would be looking toward the Central Bank’s assessment (“Cobit” in the Netherlands). These are process models and standards approaching processes, procedures and work practices in their own ways.
The aforementioned ISM-methodology offers an architecture that enables a uniform view of the products and services on offer.
Providing services and managing expectations always starts with agreement about the service delivery. What added value is there for a client organisation or business owner to come to separate and differing agreements for various core facilities? There are differences in required functionality, capacity, availability, support hours and other functioning requirements.
As soon as the agreements have been made and the service delivery commences, delivery must be made in accordance with these agreements. Any deviation from what has been agreed for whatever reason, must be corrected. Developments and new insights into the business can lead to new service delivery specifications, in which case there should be options for altering the service delivery.
These four functions can be seen in all types of services. Engagement with the client is required and desirable for all these functions. No more, no less. In the background, out of sight of the client organisation, the service provider has its own information supply regarding the services, which prevents him from having to ask stupid questions of clients and users. The provider also actively ensures that the quality is maintained through the timely detection and prevention of possible faults.
A process model, implemented as a whole, provides the various support functions within the organisation with a framework of collective terms regarding work practices. Based on a shared process model, ICT, Medical Technology, Facilities, HR, Operations, Finance, Catering and other secondary departments can develop a single approach and language toward mutual clients. All services can be managed uniformly, and thereby placed under a unified responsibility. For each area of services the same resources and structures can be organised, applied and delivered in a unified way. This applies to the functionality of a Service Management Tool, reports, consultation structure, requests for support, routing of client queries, communication practices etcetera. It can even apply to compliance with regulators’ assessments and quality requirements.PRE-CONDITIONS
It is important to keep a tight rein on deliverables versus what has been agreed upon with the client or business. Having insight into these results is important for process management, to be able communicate to the client about what has been realised during a specific period of time, and to assess whether the results are in accordance with the client’s expectations. The results can easily be measured, reported, communicated, improved and adjusted at each step of the process by using a clear process model, procedures and agreements about work practices. Making adjustments safeguards the quality, and allows an organisation to learn. It includes obtaining findings from reports and taking measures to prevent a trend break for future reports. This must be done again and again during each reporting period, which allows service improvement to become an ongoing process in a successful, quality system. Large organisational changes are not always necessary; small, continuous improvements create an Agile, Kaizen/Lean-based approach.
Small changes can be seen immediately in the work place, and felt in the delivery of the services. In a central, unified process, improvements are immediately implemented for various service providers within an organisation. Quality will increase across the organisation. Uniformity of improved service delivery is an immediate benefit of a central unified approach.
Periodical reporting, and especially its use for forward-looking management, is not always a given in every organisation or department. It may require a culture overhaul, which in most cases can only be enforced through top-down management. This requires higher management to be actively engaged and guiding.
It helps to empower employees to contribute actively to this, thereby limiting a resistance phenomenon called the not-invented-here syndrome. Employees should be invited, in a positive manner, to report points requiring improvement, and risks. If these points are taken on board relatively quickly and visibly, this sends immediate positive feedback to the environment. Equally important is the expressing of appreciation to those who report and those who improve. Employee engagement, incidentally, in no way absolves higher management from continuing to undertake the necessary managing activities.
A special aspect, which also can only be realised successfully through direction from higher management, is the breaking up of any existing island culture. This culture is quite prevalent. It concerns an island culture in which various support services resist unification and integration, as they feel safe and important within the existing structure. Often, this is reinforced by each island being responsible for its own budget, which is erroneously taken to mean spending autonomy. Each island has its own mandate to invest in its own software, implementation, organisation and acquisition of particular resources outside of company standards and without seeking to obtain synergy with other islands. This causes vast capital outlays to be wasted on sub-optimisation, and achieving synergy becomes ever more difficult. The way to put a halt to this is for higher management to take charge and at least shift the island budget holders’ spending autonomy to a central point where the hierarchy reaches across the various support departments. The islands’ budget responsibility gets narrowed down to checking and reporting.
In this first part we presented an overview of Service Integration from the perspectives of necessity, benefits and pre-conditions. In the next part, we will delve into a number of tangible actions that can be taken initially to kick-start Service Integration, as well as the human side of service providers midst this change.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Edwin Charité has 25 years of experience in Service Management and works as a consultant for Paphos Group in Amsterdam. Paphos Group provides services for optimising Performance in Service Management using best of breed methodologies and techniques for strengthening People, Process and Product. Spar with Edwin? email@example.com
Jeroen van de Ven has over 25 years of automating experience. He gained this experience in the areas of Systems Management, Application Management, Information Analysis, Project Management, Service Management and Line Management among others. Currently, he is the head of MICT Technical Services at the Jeroen Bosch Hospital in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The Jeroen Bosch Hospital is a large training hospital in de regions of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and de Bommelerwaard. The hospital’s roots date back to 1274. In 2011, it moved to a new hospital in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, offering a wide range of excellent care. They operate from five core values: safety, hospitality, attention, openness and innovation. With over 240 medical consultants, divided over 29 areas of expertise, the Jeroen Bosch Hospital is a top clinical centre for emergency and specialist medical, nursing and paramedical care. As a training hospital, it makes a significant contribution to the training of doctors, medical consultants, nurses and other carers in the Netherlands. Particular points of focus are minimal invasive (robot)surgery and chain-based care. Of major importance to the Jeroen Bosch Hospital is working with care partners in the region and in the chain of care. In striving to be the hospital with the best patient safety and patient focus, ‘Working from the heart’ is the key assertion.
Ronald Vendel has over 35 years’ experience in IT services. He started his career in 1980 with Unisys as an Application Developer, and in 1999 was given the commercial responsibility at a provider of document management software. Since 2004, Ronald has been working with Mavim. As Business Solution Development manager, he is involved in the entire client portfolio, as well as with Mavim’s many Partners. His focus is on developing and offering new applications through Rules, Mavim’s advanced software that is being used in 1,000 organisations across the globe, across the axes of themes such as “Process and Quality Management”, “Business & IT Alignment”, and “Enterprise Transformation”.
Our sources (of inspiration)
- ISM is een product van Servitect
- Veranderkrachtmodel, Ten Have
- Theory U, Otto Sherman
- “Thinking in Promises”, Mark Burgess
- PDCA, Deming
- “De zeven stappen van effectief leiderschap”, Stephen R. Covey
- Theory of Constraints, Goldrath
- “Beheer van informatiesystemen”, Prof. Dr. Ir. Maarten Looijen