Any decent supplier or vendor of a product or service should be trying to work together with their customers as much as possible in order to maintain the relationship and ideally grow it.
If a customer is getting value from their suppliers they are highly unlikely to move away from them.
Suppliers need to avoid complacency too and by keeping close to their customers they can quickly pick up and react to changing needs and expectations from customers.
Business Relationship Management (BRM) should be an obvious activity and shared process for getting close to customers although it is often ignored, misunderstood and poorly delivered. BRM is a universal approach for internal and external service providers and much value can be delivered and achieved by applying some simple practical activities.
Relationships are not built on SLAs alone (would you need an SLA with your spouse?). We need to develop:
Intimacy – understanding each other’s ways of working, details and challenges. We need to ensure that we fully understand each other and the expectations of our part in service delivery – there can’t be any hidden surprises..!
Proximity – daily closeness means that we know what is happening and don’t need extra layers of communications or administration. This can be done by establishing a regular structure of communications, using collaborative tools and techniques.
Synergy – clarity in understanding and sharing each other’s goals – sharing success as well as failure. Building a culture of trust and transparency – via honest and realistic reporting – helps to establish shared vision and goals.
As we’ve discussed in the blog series, there are a number of areas where both supplier and vendors can get greater value and achieve long term success from commercial service relationships, including:
Value based services – being clear that IT service and support is not just about responding to and resolving failure. Services need to include a definition of the value derived as success factors.
Customer experience – it’s great to follow ‘best practice’ but not so good when this gets in the way of customer experience. What would you prefer to receive – a customer experience or an ITSM process?
Innovation – vendors need to grasp the nettle and help their clients to achieve success with new tools and ways of working – MSPs can drive this and not simply wait (too late) for their customers to request it.
MSP efficiency and governance – we expect that MSPs will be well organised, process-driven and governance-led. Retained IT organisations can also learn from the MSP example of how to do this.
Customer maturity – good customers make good MSPs – we need more maturity in procurement and commercial engagement from IT buyers in order to get better and more sustainable contracts.
Culture fit – good relationships need organisations to have synergy in culture as well as process. Both parties need to be ready to walk away from deals that don’t look like a good cultural fit.
How can ITSM tools help the MSP relationship?
The options available from ITSM vendors have developed over the last few years, on top of the established ITIL-based process functions, e.g.
Self-Service – user-friendly portals that provide user access to services and the ability to automate back office processes for request fulfilment, authorisation, changes and fault management.
Service Catalogue – the ability to define and build structures that represent business-level views of IT service and the supply-chain elements needed to deliver them. This usually sits above a configuration system and provides useful summary views of the key priorities of the MSP or IT department.
Multi-tenancy / data partitioning – many MSPs have multiple customers who often require that their data is kept secure and separate from others. It makes sense however to maintain on a single instance of the ITSM toolset and multi-tenancy is a popular feature for many MSP organisations.
Social functions – using features that replicate ‘social’ functions similar to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ can really help to open up the visibility of service issues. It also improves knowledge management functionality and efficacy – all of which help to improve transparency and trust
Reporting and dashboards – value based metrics and data, usually visible in real-time, often based around services as well as IT components.
Simple and user-definable administration – developments here have significantly improved IT organisations’ ability to be more agile and responsive to new requests for services.
And finally – going beyond IT
Technology services nowadays are generally almost entirely business services and vice versa. The greatest opportunity for IT organisations and the services they can offer is the increase in collaborative culture and working across organisations.
More businesses and public organisations are streamlining processes across IT, HR, Finance and other departments – why is this?
(1) Because technology consumerisation has opened up the way people communicate and collaborate,
(2) Businesses are demanding more collaborative and end-to-end working and
(3) Because they can – i.e. the tools are available and are much more user friendly to use and maintain than ever before
The opportunity is being seized on by many internal IT departments who are using their toolsets to drive and provide solutions across their organisations – becoming solution providers rather than the “department who says ‘no”.
The opportunity is also there for MSPs to offer packaged services that go beyond IT – or at least involve IT with other departments, an example of this might include HR for starters and leavers and involve a number of teams to set up a new employee. The challenge is to get to the right level of contact within an organisation to get the message across about how IT or an external company can deliver this – however the demand is there.
For me the opportunity needs to be grasped for MSPs to show how they can add value to their customers and not simply carry out mechanical / commodity functions at a cheaper price – that will also be needed but generally it is less profitable and subject to minimal customer loyalty.
Integrated Services (e.g. service Integration and Management (SIAM) is an opportunity to work to the bigger picture and also to establish strategic and sustainable areas of business that can be supported successfully via technology.
As an industry we need to – and this applies to MSPs and internal retained IT organisations alike – accept that we work in a supply chain industry – i.e. no individual group can deliver all aspects of technology. We need to work together and in a mature and transparent trusting way. The culture of ‘vendor bashing’ is over and we need to get together to achieve success.
Our success will depend on how well we can work together to support people not just technology – so lets get on with that.
About the Author
Barclay Rae has extensive experience in ITSM, Service Desks, Service Catalogues, and CRM. He is a high profile industry consultant and business manager, with significant business, sales, project and operational delivery experience including:
- Consulting and project management on over 500+ Service Management
- Creation of ITSMGoodness – a practical approach for ITSM
- Media input via ITSM TV and podcasts – also white papers and blogs
- Commitment to service excellence and business success.
BRC clients include; Aggregate Industries, Lloyds Pharmacy, Nationwide, Thomson Reuters, Thomsons Solicitors, BP, RBS, Sony, Oxford University, United Nations.
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