Research: Service Assurance

Jul 01, 2009


Customer Service 2.0: Melding Automation, Process and People

IT's slide from mysterious wizardry to a role roughly equivalent to that of the Maytag repairman began about 10 years ago, when PC prices dropped to the point where most people could pick one up at the local big box store. The recent advent of Web 2.0 and Google Docs finished the job, bringing IT practitioners into the awkward position of actually caring what their customers think—at least for CIOs who want to keep IT in-house rather than in the cloud. In fact, it's impossible to credibly assert that you're running a quality-focused IT organization without engaging in some level of service assurance program.

There's a good reason the term "service assurance program" sounds like something you'd purchase along with a new front-loading washer and dryer. When you buy something massively expensive, you want to make very sure that it's going to do what it's billed as doing, not get cranky and fail just when you need it most. In this case, IT service assurance is something you build in to ensure that your organization's massive IT investment is doing what business leaders want it to do. The nearly 500 respondents to our InformationWeek Analytics Service Assurance survey seem to understand that; 63% regularly collect service-level feedback from their customers, and 68% have formal quality-control processes in place. Specifically, service assurance is the set of practices and processes that make sure services are available, and that the people delivering them are moving toward the appropriate business goals. These programs comprise a collection of technologies and practices that minimize network and application disruptions, maximize customer satisfaction, and give IT leaders business intelligence they can use to focus continuous improvement efforts.

CIOs realize that technologists are comfortable with measuring output and automating manual tasks. That's the easy part. It's getting staff to buy in to the soft stuff—accepting customer-perception feedback or hiring the right soft skill sets—that can be tricky. No network monitoring tool can measure how rude a technician might be on a given day, or figure out how helpful proposed workarounds are. One IT pro we spoke to summed up the prevailing feeling about the people side of service assurance, saying, "I'm an IT manager, not a psychologist!" True, but successful IT groups meet the challenge of measuring and managing all pieces of their service assurance portfolios. In this report, we'll take a top-down approach in discussing service assurance, beginning with how to measure the success of your service program and then moving on to the essential portfolio of automation, process improvement and human resource management (HRM) initiatives. (740609)

Survey Name: InformationWeek Analytics Service Assurance Survey
Survey Date: May 2009
Region: North America
Number of Respondents: 494

Research Report