By Frank Slootman - 2014-01-09
Service-oriented thinking is getting traction across the enterprise. Historically, service was something you received in person, over the phone, and, more recently, by email. Notably, the service experience did not always improve along the way. Getting what you need was becoming more transactional, onerous and for sure less personal.
Consumer technologies such as online retailing and banking began countering the trend of declining service with well-structured web apps, integrated chat and online communities. You could share feedback, read reviews and rate products. The service experience has grown much richer and is not so one-dimensional any more.
We are now seeing that consumer experience enter the enterprise. IT can build their own storefronts using a service catalog where employees can go for all their service needs. Calling the help desk is becoming something of a bygone era. Instead of just monitoring the elements of the infrastructure, and inferring service implications, IT is now beginning to monitor and dashboard the services directly.
Not to be outdone, organizations like HR and facilities that may not have thought of themselves as service domains are implementing online service models. Service models define what services can be requested and how to obtain them. IT executives want to lead with a service-centric mindset, and are viewing the focus on infrastructure as subservient to the service model. With so much of the infrastructure moving into the cloud, this redirection of IT focus isn't coming a moment too soon.
Are we going a little service-crazy here? Not really. The people who are being served only care about the service dimension. They are not terribly interested in seeing or understanding how the sausage gets made. It’s the service providers, the folks doing the serving who of course need to be expert at that. But, numerically the audiences being served are orders of magnitude greater than the service providers. So, it’s about time we put that service hat on, and keep on.
The new age of service is not just about making the experience more productive for the requester. In the enterprise, it’s a management issue. How do we scale service activities to ever greater volumes, at ever lower cost or investment, with ever more compelling service experiences? Automation holds the keys to the challenge. It’s the essence of moving into the cloud.
Few places is this more apparent than at Amazon.com. They don’t publish phone numbers or email. Every service interaction has been thought of, and provided for in the most intuitive manner in the system environment. They continue to squeeze out every ounce of friction in the process of transacting with Amazon. One click, and two days later it is on your doorstep.
Certain service activities, especially those facing external audiences, have been defined and structured to the point of running as standardized processes, and they can be automated. For a long time, somebody else had to do the data entry. Internally, service delivery is still living in the realm of personal interaction and communications, sometimes still the yellow inter-office envelope, but more likely voice and email. Because it is so people-dependent and people-mediated, the results are often sketchy—sometimes unbearably so. Not much you can do when service is poor or not forthcoming at all.
Managing and automating enterprise services is the next major software frontier in the enterprise. The enterprise is gradually realizing that this is where orders of magnitude of efficiency improvements can be had. It is how enterprises will really execute lights out, at light speed, and become citizens of the cloud.