World-class Service Is Within Your Reach

The IT service catalog can get you there.

Achieving world-class IT service delivery is not just about operational efficiency.

In the midst of increasing technology commoditization, internal IT departments must provide service that’s better than what customers expect. At Rohm and Haas Co., we recognized this challenge a few years ago and set out to differentiate our IT department as a world-class service organization. Our goal was to partner with the business, moving from a respond-as-needed approach to a more proactive service-centric model.

As a benchmark for world-class service, we set a target goal of a 3.8 customer satisfaction rating out of a possible 4. We conducted employee surveys to track our progress, and our service ratings steadily climbed from a score of 2.7 to 3.5 by late 2004. But after that, we were stuck at 3.5 for nearly two years. Our best efforts didn’t boost the satisfaction rating. To learn what was holding us back, we conducted sessions with employees and business executives throughout the corporation and around the world.

Two key issues came to the forefront:

  • There were too many channels for communicating with IT. Whether a new employee wanted wireless access for a computer or the business required the IT infrastructure for a new manufacturing plant, customers were often passed around from group to group when they requested IT services, and they were tired of it. They wanted a “one-stop shop.
  • There was a lack of transparency into IT service delivery. Our corporation has more than 15,000 employees at more than 150 locations around the world, with about 250,000 IT-related requests annually. With this volume, it was easy to lose track of what we were doing and whether we were spending our time on the right things. Our customers were frustrated that it took so long for us to meet their needs, and they wanted to be able to check the status of their requests.

We had to fix these two basic problems to become a world-class service organization. We needed a clearly articulated catalog of what IT was able to do for the business, a single place for customers to make IT requests and a mechanism for tracking the timely fulfillment of those requests.

We found that central intake mechanism in the IT service catalog, a concept that has been advanced by the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and other IT process frameworks. The service catalog is a relationship management and communications vehicle that enables IT to categorize and publish what it does. The catalog also offers customers a one-stop shop for requesting and tracking IT services. For us, it’s the foundation for moving to a more service-centric IT model and delivering world-class service.

By adopting and implementing an IT service catalog, we’ve been able to better align IT services with business needs. With a clearly defined set of standardized services, we can improve the repeatability and transparency of IT service delivery. And with more visibility into the demand for IT services, we can better manage the growing demand for IT services from the business.

So, how did we do it? By following these five principles, we were able to quickly deploy a service catalog and improve the relationship between IT and the business across our global organization:

1. Define standardized services from the business perspective. The business doesn’t know what IT does. By defining and publishing our services — using business terminology like “order to cash” and “new employee services,” not technical language like “DASD storage” — we’ve been able to clearly articulate what IT does for the business. Using this language has also helped our entire team understand what it means to be a service-centric organization.

2. Enable customers to use the service catalog themselves. We knew that employees were looking for a self-service, one-stop shop for requesting services and tracking requests. We needed more than just a static list of services; our service catalog had to provide us with a means of interacting with our customers, thus making it easy for them to work with us.

So each service within the catalog includes the equivalent of an “order now” button. Linked to our fulfillment systems on the back end, this button starts the process of provisioning and delivering the service, whether it’s providing a new computer for a hiring manager or an upgrade to the accounts-payable system for a finance manager.

3. Capture all IT demand, with the service catalog as the central intake point. To ensure that our IT budget is focused on the right priorities for the business, we needed more control over the demand for IT services. Our service catalog had to be more than just a Web front end to the help desk — a place to submit requests for help when the printer is jammed. We needed it to be the one intake mechanism for all the work we do for the business.

In our service catalog, we’ve defined a broad range of operational services, such as help desk services for our workforce; infrastructure services, including the provisioning of new servers for application hosting; and transformational services to develop new projects that drive the business forward. By managing all IT requests through this one point of interaction, we can improve end-to-end visibility, for everything from large development projects to day-to-day services.

4. Focus on the customer experience, including visibility into request status. The service catalog can effectively serve as a marketing, sales and relationship management mechanism for the IT organization. Our goal was to make it as easy to use and customer-focused as possible. IT services are clearly defined, and there’s a “shopping cart” for ordering services, providing a familiar interface based on online retail catalogs.

We can now provide updates on the status of a customer’s order throughout the fulfillment process. And to ensure that we’re continuing to meet customer needs, we ask users to complete a short survey with every request submitted to and fulfilled by the IT organization.

5. Ensure consistent and repeatable IT service delivery. By communicating a standard set of services to our customers, we’ve been able to minimize one-off requests, enabling more repeatable and predictable fulfillment processes. And with transparency into the end-to-end cycle for every requested service, we can identify bottlenecks and provide more consistent service delivery.

We monitor the process and track what it takes to fulfill each request, including associated costs. We make sure that the work requested is done by the most appropriate resources. With this newfound visibility and accountability, we are able to consistently meet customer expectations and continue to improve upon our service delivery performance.

During the first three months after we launched our service catalog, we processed approximately 50,000 requests and received 10,000 customer satisfaction surveys — a 21% response rate. We received an average score of 3.72 out of 4. Since going live in May 2006, we have continued to make progress and recently crossed our target satisfaction rating of 3.8 — attaining our benchmark for world-class service.

This achievement represents a key strategic win for our IT department and an essential first step for realizing the potential of IT to drive business value. By demonstrating differentiated service to our customers, we have improved how they perceive IT within the business, and they have come to view the IT group as a trusted and credible partner. Now that we have established ourselves as a world-class service organization in the eyes of our customers, we can work together more effectively to advance the business through technology innovation.

Hilsdon is IT customer service director at Rohm and Haas Co., a maker of chemicals, adhesives and sealants. Contact him at BHilsdon@rohmhaas.com.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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