Cloud Management

This is a continuation (well, at least sort of..) to my previous blog text, Cloud Services – the Business perspective.

Like I wrote, Cloud Services have rushed into the markets relatively rapidly and they have been able to fulfill some key expectations, for example in terms of Cost Efficiency, Scalability etc.

But who actually manages Cloud Services? And if Cloud Services are called “Services”, what kind of services are there available and why should anybody care about them?

From IT Services to DIY approach

According to Wikipedia, “Cloud management is the management of cloud computing products and service”.

 

DIY Cloud ManagementFor more than two decades, IT Service Management has been the way where organizations have striven for. Simply because managing the IT Services has not usually been the core business for organizations. IT Service Management is mainstream nowadays and people seem to be quite confident with it. Someone takes care of your problems (Incident Management) and requests (Request Fulfillment) and you can concentrate on doing what you are being paid for.

if Cloud Services are called “Services”, what kind of services are there available

If so, why is it that I keep hearing from several companies offering Cloud Services: “There is this nice&neat User Interface where you can easily start new virtual servers and also ramp them down when you don’t need ’em anymore”.

Self-provisioning, Self-help, Self-this-and-that?

Now that we have finally reached the level where a user does no longer need to solve his/her IT-related problems on his/her own, for some reason Cloud companies are accelerating the pace with providing more and more tools for the user to start/stop virtual servers and handle storage capacity in Cloud environment!

“It’s easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

  • Thanks, I’ll give it a try.. but what if
    • I need an L3 connection from my internal network to this cloud environment which lies in a public internet? I’m not even sure what is the correct source IP-address.
    • I’m not quite sure how much more capacity I need for this certain system?
    • There are 2000 users who should be able to access the system in the cloud environment? Who grants accesses for them and takes care of the overall Access Management?
    • I want a comprehensive, formal report in some other form than the one being available. How do I get it?

Doesn’t seem to be so “easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

As long as you are using some software you are buying as an SAAS (Software-as-a-Service) model and you don’t need any integration to your other systems, using Cloud is a trivial thing as everything is usually ready-made for you. You only need to start using the Software (as-a-Service). But when it comes down to integrations, it’s totally different story.

Doesn’t seem to be so “easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

User-Friendliness?

In my opinion, the problem with lack of User-Friendliness is built into the history of the IT industry: Too often we tend to take a sole technical viewpoint to new things. Yes, we do recognize the pros and benefits behind a new tech, but we often fail to take the end-user’s perspective into account.

The irony is, that for at least some 20-25 years, the IT Industry has been speaking highly for IT Services, and now we are suggesting that for some unknown reason users should start managing the cloud environment more or less themselves?

Too often we tend to take a sole technical viewpoint to new things.

Who needs Cloud Service Management? No, who doesn’t!?

Ok, say, you have a small IT-company with <10 personnel: in your case it might be a good idea to handle the Cloud Computing issues yourselves. For any other company my suggestion is simple: Use your IT Service Provider’s helping hand! Just like TechTargets puts it, A distinguished IT Services provider can use cloud service management and cloud monitoring tools to maximize performance, reduce costs and differentiate their cloud services.

Services

The Cloud Services Management includes a set of services that are already mostly known from traditional IT Service Management:

 

  • Cloud Service Level Agreement
  • Cloud Capacity Management
  • Change Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Incident Management
  • Access Management
  • Reporting (including billing)
  • etc.

 

Quality Service ProvisionIn other words: Cloud Service Management expands the existing ITSM repertoire. It’s not the 7th wonder of the World, but a significant part of the modern IT Services Package. In short: there’s usually no point in provoking customers try managing the Cloud environment themselves. It just doesn’t pay off the effort.

 

 

 

Common Misconceptions of Cloud Services

I was participating the annual Social & Healthcare ICT Conference here in Finland on May this year. There were a large number of phenomenal speeches from heavy-duty ICT Healthcare professionals. But I also happened to hear some basic-level Misconceptions of the Cloud -related issues when speaking with Healthcare professional on the corridors.. To this end I’d like to take the chance to address ’em and provide some corrections. So here we go:

  • Data Centres? We don’t need data centres at all any more because we are using Cloud Services!
  • – Ehm.. what do You think, where’s the actual computing done, and where’s the Storage? Somewhere over the rainbow, in the Stratosphere perhaps?
  • – Seriously speaking, computing, storage services, database operations etc. are still taking place in some physical place and that is a surprise for some people.
  • We are only using Virtual Servers, we don’t need to deal with hardware servers on any level any more.
  • Yeah, right.. At the end of the day also Virtual Servers are running on physical servers and not in an empty space..
  • I can take everything to the Cloud – there’s no need for an on-premise solution whatsoever.
  • Not so fast.. Some of the computing must still happen on-premise. For example Network latency might hinder you from using an autopiloted car and that’s why the AI service must be placed somewhere in the car and not in some Cloud Environment (Data Centre) some ~10000kms away from your car.

I know, it’s so easy to laugh at people’s misunderstandings and misconceptions. Even though I listed those three examples above with a little bit of sarcastic touch on them, I definitely absolutely don’t want to laugh at anyone. Given the way in which Cloud Services are advertised nowadays, it’s not so surprising. Maybe we Service Providers could be more clear in Cloud Services advertising and communications..

 

Pictures are from Pixabay.

B2B: Customer satisfaction surveys

B2B: Customer satisfaction surveys

I have been writing about the Customer satisfaction survey regarding the end-user perspective, but how about the ITSM point of view?

Customer satisfactions survey in ITIL®

I like to think Customer satisfaction survey (later on “Css”) as an elementary part of ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement life cycle. Conducting Css’s on a regular basis is considered one of the key activities in Continual Service Improvement (later on “CSI”). Just like any other activity in CSI, also Css’s must be owned by the IT organization. The results of the surveys help IT organization to understand customer satisfaction.

IT Service Management needs all kind of data in order to understand the baseline: where do they stand at the moment? Without information about the current state of the service it’s completely useless to paint the sky with stars pretty much any service level targets or customer satisfaction levels.

One of the most essential things the IT Service Management must carry out is to verify that the customers’ needs are met – and that is where conducting regular Css’s play the key role.

One of the most essential things the IT Service Management must carry out is to verify that the customers’ needs are met – and that is where conducting regular Css’s play the key role.

Customer is always right, right?

Shortly: no. I know saying this is an easy way to stir up emotions, because there are lots of people who tend to think that customer is always right.

 

Customers are ordinary people – regardless who they are and whether the business model is B2B or B2C. Customers are humans and I prefer performing an In-Depth analysis of the Css results instead of just taking a look at the 1-2 key numbers available.

That is also a reason why using Css’s results as measuring the performance of the ITSM department should be carefully considered. In any case, Css’s results must not be the sole indicator when examining the ITSM activities.

That is also a reason why using Css’s results as measuring the performance of the ITSM department should be carefully considered. In any case, Css’s results must not be the sole indicator when examining the ITSM activities.

 

stockvault--businessman-drawing-a-circle-around-people-icons178079I recall a case where certain IT specialist teams were measured by the Css results – and what was even better their monetary bonuses were bound with the result numbers. While other teams performed very well over and over again, there was one team that was always putting in a sub standard performance, thus leading to the situation where they were always left without bonuses. That really seemed unfair from this team’s point of view.

 

Do you know why this one team was always underperforming? Why wasn’t anything done? Why wasn’t the team leader or some specialists changed?

The answer is: Because of the cultural issues.

 

While the other teams were working with people from Western hemisphere, this one “underperforming” team was working with Chinese customers.

 

China Business Review summarizes this:

 

Service 

Chinese buyers have extremely demanding service requirements on issues as diverse as lead time, availability after hours, and technical service. When dealing with Western companies, Chinese businesses feel that they are paying for top quality and expect technical issues to be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Companies that can demonstrate a track record of customer satisfaction in this area will have an advantage.

 

That was especially true in that case: while other teams were getting A’s or B+’s from their customers, this one team only got something like D or C+ at the best. And they never got any bonuses, even though when discussing at the dinner table, Chinese customers seemed to be satisfied with the service after all.

I admit, I haven’t spent my time searching for scientific articles about Chinese cultural behavior in relation to answering to Css’s, but according to my experience and what I’ve seen and heard, Chinese don’t necessarily give you very good Css numbers no matter how good you are. And yes, I’m aware that I’m generalizing now pretty heavily, but like I said, I’m writing from my own experience. Needless to say, this wasn’t written to rail against Chinese, not at all!

I wrote this to demonstrate why one should always take time to look beyond the results and check what really lies there behind the numbers.

I wrote this to demonstrate why one should always take time to look beyond the results and check what really lies there behind the numbers.

Css is everything?

I vaguely remember having read on opinion somewhere on the ITSM boards that one wouldn’t need other metrics than the Css. In my opinion that’s far from truth, because while Css brings valuable data, it’s not so clear-cut a meter:

stockvault-ata-analytics-concept183337Let’s say you run an ITSM team. During the last two years your team’s Css results have been around 3,2 – 3,5 (range 0 to 5). Your customer is moderately happy, but it’s obvious they could be happier. After a steering group meeting with the customer, your CIO sets a new target level in Css: 4,0.

As a number-wise thing to do it’s “easy” to go through the survey results and look beyond the numbers. That’s a start. But what would you answer if I asked for example:

  • How much you can reduce your costs by reaching your new target level 4,0?
  • What’s your estimation; how much more revenue you can achieve from your customer if you reached 4,0 by the end of the beginning fiscal year?
  • etc.

That’s an example of the problematic when dealing with intangible benefits. I suppose almost everybody can agree that higher Css results are better than the low ones, but converting Css results into the revenue numbers on the budget is tricky.

converting Css results into the revenue numbers on the budget is tricky.

What I’m saying is that Css results is one of the absolutely essential KPIs, but don’t get yourself distracted thinking that would suffice. In order to provide world-class ITSM you need other metrics and targets as well.

 

Pictures are from Stockvault web page.

 

ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited.

Consumerization: Customer satisfaction surveys

Consumerization: Customer satisfaction surveys

Everybody receives ‘em, from every kind of services: whether it was a hotel accommodation or a booking of concert tickets or anything.. In the era of consumerization the end customer is a king and their opinion counts. But what’s the point of customer satisfaction surveys if they fail to reach the most crucial thing: customer satisfaction?

My case: Invoicing gone bad

Last week I received an invoice concerning the maintenance service of my car. I knew for sure I had paid the bill in question already a month ago.

I called to the service desk and after waiting for around 10 minutes (I was not happy with 10 minutes response time!) my call was answered. The customer support person was polite and yes, the invoice was a double invoice and according to the customer support person I could just ignore it. There would not be a reminder of an unpaid bill coming afterwards.

When the phone call ended, it took less than 1 minute to receive a customer satisfaction survey (later on just “Css”) as an SMS. I could either answer Y(es) or N(o) to let the service provider know if my case was solved or not.

So let’s wrap up what really happened:

  • I got an unfounded invoice concerning a service I had already paid for.
  • I waited for ~10 minutes on the phone for response.
  • I got a Css in less than 1 minute.
  • I could just answer “(Y)”es or “(N)”o describing about my satisfactory on my case.

When the phone call ended, it took less than 1 minute to receive a customer satisfaction survey as an SMS.

Case closed?

The customer support person told me on the phone that the unfounded invoice had already been credited. However, it took three more days until I got the credit note and a so-called explanation of what had happened. Until I finally received it, I didn’t want to answer the survey: I had no tools to verify if they really had handled my case properly or not – and what’s even more serious: I didn’t trust them at this point.

By the way, do you want to know the root cause for the incident in this case? 

Ta-da-daa… Surprisingly: “system failure”! That’s really enlightening and I’m sure their customers can feel themselves relieved now..

Measuring customer satisfaction?

It’s interesting that the only answering option I got was a binary 0 or 1 (Yes or No) to the Css.

What’s the point of conducting Css’s if the only information you get is just Yes or No? Sure, you can do advanced mathematics and calculate the percentage of all the Css’s and compare the Yes-No results. That gives you something, but it’s almost nothing.

Wouldn’t you like to receive even a little bit more information? For example:

  • How likely would you be to recommend our customer service to your colleagues and friends [0-10]?
  • How would you rate your experience of our customer service in general [0-10]?
  • How quickly did you get through to a customer service specialist [0-10]?
  • ..

There are loads and loads and loads of examples of the Css questions in the internet, so there’s no need to list more of them here.

My point is: why to conduct Css’s if the only measure is a percentage of solved cases vs. all the cases?

Timing is everything

And finally, about getting the Css in advance: the problem is that if you answer to the Css too early (= before you are certain your case is handled properly and closed), you might

  • give unnecessarily good feedback of the service, if it later on turns out that your case was actually still unresolved
  • have to go your problem all over again, calling or otherwise contacting the service desk and dealing with yet another customer support specialist, because your earlier incident has already been closed and thus is not active any more.

Why? Because you answered Yes to the Css you received too early.

There is a collision between the Service Desk’s point of view and the end customer’s experience: from SD’s point of view the case is closed, but the end customer has no possibility to verify if the case is solved, they can only trust the Service Desk.