The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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March 29, 2013

The Year of the MOOC - Part 2 of 2

In my previous blog, I spoke about how MOOC companies have made eLearning scalable using technology for content creation and delivery. In this blog, we will explore possible revenue models these companies can look at. Any successful company has three components to it: the market, the offerings, and the revenue model. Going by the number of people registering for such open courses, there is clearly a large market for this. Given that the courses are administered by faculty from top universities and combining this with scalable delivery model, the offerings piece is addressed. If MOOC companies can crack the revenue model, it is only a matter of time before they become profitable .

The education market in US is expected to be a trillion dollar industry. The market across the global is much more. How can MOOC companies grab a piece of this pie? According to the standard definition of MOOC, the participating individuals are neither required to be registered in a school nor pay a fee to access the course content. Hence the companies cannot charge a fee for administering the course. So the key to a successful revenue model in this industry is for companies to offer paid services around free course content. Following are some thoughts on how MOOCs can build a sustainable revenue model

1.     Premium Memberships: The premium membership model has been tried, tested and perfected by companies such as linkedin. MOOC companies can adopt this model and convert a section of students and corporations into paying customers. Students with premium membership will have access to targeted job opportunities while employers will be able to view student profiles and recommend courses for securing interviews along with administering online tests and interviews. Students with premium memberships could also attend company sponsored weekend meetups and classroom sessions at local colleges.

2.     Platform/Content Licensing: MOOC companies can license the platform/content to universities and businesses and provide a host of related services for a fee. Universities can primarily use this platform/content for hosting 101 level courses which can be completed by enrolled university students during breaks. This will allow the students to get started on higher level courses without wasting time on basics. This will also free up the faculty time to design and teach higher level courses and conduct academic research. Businesses can use this platform to customize and host their own training material along with using this to interview prospective employees. Businesses can also establish partnerships with universities through which professors can design and deliver tailored courses. MOOC companies can provide paid services such as training for corporate trainers along with a host of other services such as course content design, assessment and grading.

3.     Personalized Curriculum Design: The current day online programs offered by some universities are highly structured and are administered at regular intervals. Compared to this, the courses offered by MOOCs are fairly arbitrary. MOOCs can allow individuals to design a personalized curriculum by mixing and matching courses from different universities and tie up with certifying vendors to offer proctored exams thus allowing individuals to earn course credits for a nominal fee. Such an offering will allow the individual to treat the MOOC as a regular college course with credits that can be used for employment opportunities.

The traditional college experience is about to change and MOOCs will be driving this change. As individuals attain the basic employable skills, they will prefer to join the workforce and start earning, simultaneously building their skills by enrolling in MOOCs rather than bear the opportunity cost of earning that comes with a full time classroom course. If MOOCs can successfully implement course credits, proctored exams, and offer basic employment services, individuals will be open to pay for the high quality content and services around it putting MOOCs in direct competition with universities. The future of MOOCs depend on how best and how early they can get individuals to start paying up for services around free courses.

Measuring Service Experience in IT Enabled Shared Services

1. Introduction

Service experience is the key for success of shared services. Rich service experience helps in achieving high Return on Investment (ROI). To calculate ROI, it is necessary to quantify an experience. Therefore, it is essential to understand the stages in service experience and its types.

In the first stage of experience, user gathers information about the service from the trusted sources and develops the first impression of service. Next stage is about operational interaction with the service or consumption of service. Afterwards, it is a stage of cognitive process to create memories which leads the user to generate positive or negative opinion about the service. 

2. Types of Experiences

There are mainly two types of experiences experienced by consumers: Operational Experience and Emotional Experience.

  • Operational or Tangible Experience is based on operational or consumption experience of service. Elements of operational experience are such as: Resources, Functionality, Quality, Usability, Flexibility, and Support.
  • Emotional or Intangible Experience is based on feelings gathered while using a service. Elements of emotional experience are: Satisfaction, Brand Promotion and Loyalty.

3. How to Measure Service Experience

In ideal situation, user request should be completed in a single attempt. However, ideal incidences are uncommon. User may have to do multiple attempts to complete a request. This hampers user experience. User experience can be enhanced by using multiple techniques. However, it is necessary to deliver an experience expected by a consumer. After providing required service experience, the next big challenge is to quantify the experience.

Collection and analysis of data is the first step in quantification of experience. Majority of data required for operational experience can be captured at system level, while psychological data can be collected through survey. Next step is to develop metrics, which are required to convert data into quantifiable experience.

Benchmarking or base-lining has to be done before modifying user experience. The metric results obtained during base-lining will be compared with the metrics obtained after implementation of modified experience. The changes in before-after metric suggest level of changes in experience.

4. Operational Experience

4.1 Resources

  • IT Resources: Optimized and automated services reduces the requirements of IT infrastructure, such as servers and bandwidth. Increase in number of requests per server and reduced use of internet bandwidth can be used to derive metrics for IT resources. 
  • Human resources: It is about measuring increase in number of requests supported by an individual support staff.

4.2 Functionality

  • Completeness: A service has to fulfill user needs. It is essential to understand the extent up to which service is serving the desired purpose. Completeness of service is a metric to match between user needs and service offerings. 
  • Easiness: Request is a consumption of service by a user. User should be able to raise a request very easily (without any hurdle) i.e. request generation should be completed in first attempt. If user faces problems while generating a request, then it may be difficult for user to raise the request in first attempt. Easiness is a metric of raising a request quickly and successfully.
  • Integrity: An optimized service leads to reduced number of interactions with service by user. Integrity metric calculates effect on experience because of services integration and automation of workflow. 
  • Automation: Some of the stages and activities in service delivery can be automated to reduce time of service. Automation is a metric to count automated activities and stages in service delivery.

4.3 Quality

  • Completion Time: It is a time required to complete a request. Completion time metric measures time required from raising a request till completion of the request.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA): SLA is mandatory every request. Any operational issue failing to comply with SLA leads to frustration of a user hence it reduces experience. SLA metric measures compliance of SLA.

4.4 Usability

  • Navigation: How quickly user is able to identify required information and easiness in shifting from one part of service to another part helps to determine metric. 
  • Learnability: It measure quickness of learning while using a service. Better usability increases learnability, therefore reduces cognitive efforts. Learnability metric can be derived taking ratings on various parameters of learnability.
  • Memorability: While using a service, user memorizes some things. These memorized stuffs reduce efforts of future interaction with the service. Therefore, memorability is a metric to quantity easiness in memorizing things.

4.5 Flexibility

  • Convenience:  It is a metric to measure round the clock availability of service at fingertip.
  • State Management: While using a service via internet, user should be able to switch between devices (laptop, smartphone and tablet) very smoothly without affecting service experience. State management metric measures the smooth transition between devices.

4.6 Support

  • Support Requests: While consuming a service user may face some problems and may take help from support staff. This traditional way wastes lot of time and money. More requests indicate poor understanding of service. Increase in number of support request quantifies the deprived experience. Thus, metric is number of support request registered.
  • Self-help: Better and lucid self-help tempts user to use it rather than asking help of support staff. Self-help metric quantify effective use of service.

5. Emotional Experience

  • Satisfaction: Fulfillment of expectations at the end of consumption of service is indicator of satisfaction. It is overall view gathered during the process of service usage. Satisfaction metric is a rating given by users.
  • Brand Promotion: If user is satisfied with a service, then user may recommend it to others. This is better channel of brand promotion of service. Brand communication metric is willingness of user to recommend others.
  • Loyalty: It measures the readiness of user to use same service again and again.

6. Conclusion

Quantification of user experience is a function of Emotional and Operational experience. It can be calculated on various parameters such as Resources, Functionality, Quality, Usability, Flexibility, Support, and Emotional Proportions.



User Specific Shared Services: Need of Present-day

Shared services are seen as the consolidation of services into a unit known as Shared Services Centre (SSC). SSC has to deliver services to the various users such as employees, Government agencies, vendors and customers.

In some of the cases, SSC is developed as a back office to merge the secondary functions of an organization so that it can be developed as a separate organization or can be outsourced. The major motivation for adoption of SSC is to control the cost by reducing resources. This solo motivation leads to unproductive implementation of shared services. Therefore, decision makers have to think about the real need of shared services and how to minimize expenditure for longer duration.

Over two decades (from 80's), the types of services provided by SSC have changed a lot. Now, it is combination of transactional services and knowledge based services. It can be easily observed that shared services have been always looked as business strategy from the organization perspective to cut spending of organization. It is never seen as center of service to users and not implemented to provide best services to consumers.

Consider a case of an employee who needs services from an organization such as income tax deducted, salary credited, bus service, company provided laptop, leaves and many more. These services are provided by various SSC. Therefore, to get these services employee has to visit many units and meet several people. This is unproductive work and incurs losses for the organization. To overcome this situation, better solution is to provide a user specific SSC. It can be a single window to provide all services required to employee. It can be physical solo SSC only for employees or a single IT based online system which bundles only employee specific services. In this solution, employee doesn't have to visit many places. This reduces operational cost SSC and for employee there is no waste of time and energy. Some of the examples of user specific SSC are given in Figure 1.

It is always advisable to develop IT based SSC for delivering services to users rather than developing physical centers. Because of IT based SSC, it is possible to create multiple user specific SSC with lesser investment. It also promotes self-help hence dependencies on human executives get reduced significantly during operations.

While developing user specific SSC, first step is to identify all user categories. Each user category is treated as a separate SSC. After this, it necessary to identify and consolidate the services required for each category of user.

In the current state, user specific SSC aren't adopted very much by the organizations. However, it is essential for all organization to use it for controlling operational cost and delivery best service to users.

User_Specific_Shared_Services.png

Figure 1: User Specific Shared Services

 

Employee Shared Services: Not realized yet?

Shared Service is very well proven notion and many organizations have implemented it centrally to service their employees. However, it hasn't yet realized its true value because organizations have failed to adopt in the right spirit as well as implement it correctly.

Shared service (SS) has three aspects: (a) the service provider's perspective; (b) the end user's perspective; and (c) the mode of delivery. If these three aspects converge to form a central idea only then SS can be successful. This central concept has to be focused around the following questions: (a) Who are the users? (b) What do the users want? (c) Is organization ready to implement SS from the user's point of view? (d) Is the end user happy while using the SS? (e) Is the end user willing to come back to use SS again? Among all these questions (d) & (e) are very critical for the success of SS. If we seek answers for these questions from the end users then around 90 percent of respondents would tend to have negative opinions. Still this is a reality and it is time for organizations to wake up to the reality of unsatisfied end users. If SS is already being implemented in the organization, then it is time to take a few corrective measures. If organization is in the phase of implementation, then it is essential to implement it in the right way. When organization fails to do so, it should be ready for sour taste of disgruntled end users.

Initially, SS provides linear benefits in terms of the cost savings because of the efficient usage of resources. However, after 1 to 2 years, its benefits become stagnant. This is because the adoption strategy is implemented wrongly. Using SS only for reducing cost isn't beneficial in the long run as it has to be well jelled with what the consumer wants.   

Till today, organizations have failed to see the real success of SS because these services aren't designed and implemented from a consumer centric view, and instead implemented in the way the organization finds it comfortable for them. The strategy, design and implementation of SS take shape in a manner in which the organization wants it to be. But are these being done in the correct manner is a much more serious question that organizations should ask? Implementers' are deciding the fate of SS and in turn organization's future. Are they offering SS from the organization's perspective or from the user point of view? Are they involving consumers during the process of adoption? Usually, in SS adoption focus is from the organization's point of view and not the consumer. This is another reason for failure of SS. Strategy needs to be corrected by focusing on what consumers want. It is possible by using agile methodology throughout the SS implementation.

Consumer encounters certain stages while using a service, such as the starting of service, consumption of service, and ending of service. While passing through these stages, a journey with the SS, the consumer gathers a certain experience about the service. The positive perception of the experience creates a long term impact on the consumer, and makes them loyal to the service. This loyalty drives the success of service. Therefore, it is necessary to create a whole ecosystem of service experience for the SS. This ecosystem must have tolerable level of service delivery and should meet the service goals. It should be able to meet the expectations of consumer.

Work place is changing fast. Technology is becoming the integral part of the workplace. Working timings are becoming flexible. For instance, some of the employees are working on the office workspace while others may be at home or some other place. Work places are shifting from office to home. Most of the organizations are allowing their employees to work from home. Hence, providing physical service at particular location is becoming next to impossible. Therefore, it is becoming very much necessary for the organizations to use technology on a large scale to provide SS required to employees. Technology also helps in the scalability of SS and it is possible to service anyone in the world.

While it comes to delivery of the SS, technology has a lot to offer. In last decade, shared service delivery has shifted from a very physical delivery mechanism to an information technology driven mode. Especially, when techno-users - gen - 'Y' and techno-savvy gen - 'Z' has entered the organizations the mode of delivery has moved from desktop to mobiles and tablets. Organizations that still embrace paper-pencil based SS are going to fail if they don't move fast towards technology adoption. The new generation wants everything through the technology. They are attached to the systems 24×7. However, in such a technology driven delivery mode human touch is missing. Therefore there is a necessity to provide smarter shared services (SSS) based on intelligent technologies such as machine learning and analytics. The SSS should be capable to identify the every move of user and provide them what they want.

Adoption of social media in SS is also important. It makes SS smarter and fulfills needs of Gen-Z and reduces dependency on employer for most of the supports.  Similarly, consumer doesn't want to depend upon the opinion of employer rather they are relying more on the opinions of others, wanted to see what others are doing, wanted to share their views hence adoption of social techniques is becoming a de-facto to strengthen offerings of SS.

Organizations are becoming global, and have offices across the various locations, be in the developed or developing economies. There are employees at these locations those come with various cultural beliefs and are become an integral part of the global work force. Hence, integrity of the organization is the greatest challenge. Serving them with the same type of ethics and transparency is becoming the need of the organization. Real challenge is round the clock service at all corners of the world. It is becoming more complex when consumer, provider and decision makers are sitting at different corners of the world. To connect them and serve the employee is unmanageable without the right service strategy and technology. In such a situation, when there is more reliance on technology, service experience is becoming a key challenge for the organization. Without right expertise if such a situation is managed then it may lead to worse implementation of SS.

Complexity of shared services is increasing as most of the offerings to consumers are moving on the shared platform. Consumers are flooded with many systems and complex processes of SS. The waiting time for moving from one process to another is increasing as there is manual intervention of decision makers. Organization should really look for automated decision making and work flows to avoid delays. Current technologies, based on decision science principles, have the capabilities to do so.

While offering SS, it is necessary to develop a feel good factor among the consumers so that they can rely on SS for their most of the services required from employer. Consumer should sense that they are served better and personally attended, and this feeling has to be developed in the technology driven environment. Consumer should be able to get a unique and memorable experience every time they consume the service. Therefore, blindly using the SS isn't going to solve all these issues. What's really required is a comprehensive smart shared services platform which is built on employee centric approach using modern technologies to create a whole service experience. This will fulfill the employees' needs and extend cost benefits to the organization in longer run.

 

(Authors: Dr. Manish Godse & Dr. Indranil Roy Chowdhury)

Using Smarter Shared Services to Connect with Employees

Employees are the core strength of any organization for building and making it profitable and successful. Therefore, having more competitive and productive employees is the central need for doing any business. Their productivity and loyalty towards the work and organization is mainly affected by their confidence in the firm. To develop the confidence of employees, organizations take all efforts to reach and connect with the employees from not only work standpoint but also emotionally. While developing connects between employee and employer, concern of conversation is what employees want and what is provided by the organizations. Organizations follow many channels or mechanism to develop a goodwill relation with the employees. One of the channels for developing favor relation is skill enhancement of employees. It is usually done through training in which both parties have many benefits.  

Organizations continuously make efforts to enhance the skill, knowledge and productivity of their employees. They invest enormous sums of money to maintain dedicated HR teams to achieve this goal. For an organization to maintain growth it needs employees who are always updated and skilled to handle any situation, be it adverse or favorable. Therefore, regular training of employees becomes pertinent as it is essential for the growth of the firm. There are a lot of activities centered on building the skills of its employees as organizations believe it's not just beneficial to them but also for the long term betterment of employees.  However, in this whole process firms are forgetting to ask themselves whether employees think on the same line. In case the views of the employees are divergent from that of the organization all the efforts become wasteful.

One of the major motivations for any organizational effort towards the employees is the longevity of employees with the organization. However, it has been observed that connect at the cognition level is missing between both the employee and the employer because of the one way relationship from employer to employee. There are many ways to enhance the bond, and better way is to adopt employee shared service for providing better services to employees by employer. These employee services by employer are need of any employee. If organizations succeed in providing these services in the way the employees want then employees are happier at work place and their productivity is more. This leads better employee engagement.

We managers always talk about employee engagement. What one needs to ask is, whether employee engagement has become just another additional management jargon or is it practiced in reality? If employees are engaged well then they may be energetic and more productive. Better engaged employees are willing and have the ability to contribute in the success of the organization. Highly engaged employees are well connected to organization. They always go one mile ahead to fulfill organizational needs, and delight customers cleverly with prompt and personalized services. We always look for these employees in the employee pool. However, are we getting enough highly engaged employees? Majority of the times answer is in the negative. Organizations also look for training current employees or recruiting new employees. Another question that we might want to ask is if we are really hitting the root cause of this problem of disengaged employees? The answer once again remains negative. The problem of employee engagement remains persistent because most of us see only one side of the employee engagement which we managers feel is important for company. We cautiously or unknowingly avoid having a perspective of the other side which is about - What employees wants from the organization?

Employees have other story to express. They expect the organization to solve their problems which they face at the workplace. These problems are actually small but they occupy employees mind like a ghost hence, they fail to concentrate on their work which instead affects their productivity. Most of the problems that employees face are related to HR, accounting or finance. However, many times they may have to go through multiple hurdles because these services aren't well designed and developed. These services offered by HR, accounting etc. many times don't have proper processes and work flows, and most of the times aren't managed very well as well. This hampers the overall experience of employees which in-turn is reflected by their negative inclination towards the organization, further creating a psychological disconnect with it. This process is very fast in case of gen - X and gen - Y employees. When the negativity crosses a certain threshold employees tend to leave the organization.

To tackle employees' problems a simpler solution is adoption of shared services. While using shared services across the business geography it is necessary for the organization to change its mindset where-in employees are treated as customers of the organization. With this small change the whole meaning of providing employee services goes through a change. If services are designed and delivered from customer centric view then net effect will be an increase in employee loyalty and productivity.

In order to deliver services as per the expectations of employees, only shared services aren't sufficient. It is necessary to have smarter shared services which will understand the employees better and act smartly. To make shared service smarter, it is obvious to use technologies extensively while delivering the services. Technology has enabled delivery across the globe on a 24*7*365 basis. Another good example of technology is mobile computing. It has made it possible to push the employees' services on mobiles hence they know that when there is a query, they have solution are on their mobile. This has helped employer to impact positivity on employer. Therefore, technology enables firms to create stronger connections between employer and employee. Employees get the feeling that they are cared and pampered by the company.  

Smarter shared services (SSS) are technology enabled platforms that help fulfill the needs of employees. This service platform uses predictive analytics so that it is able to recognize proactively the next likely expectations of an employee. Considering the unique service experience required for each employee, the personalization is another key ingredient in SSS platform. It enables automation of decisions and workflow that helps in creating memorable experiences for the employee. Each unforgettable experience of an employee makes psychological connect with the firm greater. 

Organizations can become smarter by proactively acting towards the issues of employees. Firms can treat them as customers. In other words, employees are also customers of the business house. By bringing a change in their status, they are treated well and served better, and their issues are sorted out at priority. Although, this is small change in the business strategy its impact are visible in the long term, and helps in creation of faith in employees towards the organization and furthers their loyalty.

 

(Authors: Dr. Manish Godse & Dr. Indranil Roy Chowdhury)

March 28, 2013

Building tomorrow's Asset-intensive enterprise

Assets are the heart of an asset-intensive enterprise... which means the overall performance of these companies is completely driven by the performance of their critical assets, and the impact of poor performance can be significant.

At the same time, asset-intensive industries by their very intrinsic nature are faced with a distinct set of challenges- which need to be efficiently managed to achieve long-term success.

These issues tend to be the relatively same set that doesn't  change as time goes by, and includes the following

  • Increasingly large number of assets to manage and a wide varieties of them
  • Extremely complex assets that have completely redefined the failure patterns
  • Multi-vendor equipment with diverse technologies and protocols
  • Aging assets due to tough economic decisions
  • Extremely long lifetime and the need to maximize the life-time asset performance
  • Geographically spread assets, often located at harsh and hard-to-reach locations and overseen by a field-based workforce
  • Increasing financial pressures to improve return-on-asset and reduce total-cost-of-ownership
  • Increasing regulatory focus- changing regulatory frameworks and tighter controls

And this list is only expanding...

In reality, these industries are struggling to effectively mitigate these challenges and are fraught with key issues like increased downtime, low utilization & productivity levels and increased operational & maintenance cost.

A recent survey conducted by Mckinsey has revealed that currently the production equipment by global manufacturers is just put to 52% utilization on an average. While the other 48% is consumed in maintenance, upgrades, shutdown, training and replacement activities.

Tomorrow's asset-intensive enterprise is all about achieving Asset Efficiency
With the looming uncertain economic conditions and competitive marketplace ahead, companies in the asset-intensive industries are forced to focus on their assets, to drive efficiency across asset lifecycle. There is going to be a renewed emphasis to somehow reduce downtime, improve performance and productivity. Plant and machinery would be expected to perform at levels that were not thought possible a decade ago. Expectations towards improved asset efficiency and their associated performance would elevate the speed and pressure on asset intensive industries to manage their assets effectively. While achieving asset efficiency has been a big challenge, the industry well understand that this could mean the difference between profit and loss, achieving and missing production targets, regulatory compliance and non-compliance.

Therefore understanding the most effective and efficient ways to achieve efficiency is the critical task for any asset intensive enterprise.

In this context, I thought it would be a good idea to focus on some of key aspects of achieving 'asset efficiency' through a series of articles tilted 'Building tomorrow's asset-intensive enterprise'.

Note: Please look for the upcoming posts as a part of this series

March 25, 2013

Key Challenges in Shared Services

Shared services business model is based on the concept of consolidation of common services across an organization under a shared services center to reduce cost by optimizing resources and increasing productivity. Though, it isn't a new concept it has been accepted well only recently for its cost benefits.

Implementation of shared services has become very tempting for organizations as economies have been shrinking in last few years. However, there are certain key challenges which organizations should keep in mind for successful implementation of shared services.  In the following paragraphs, we have provided major challenges and the possible solutions to overcome those.

1. Strategy

Developing the right strategy is the key challenge for using shared services within the organization. Central belief for using shared services is to save cost. Decision maker mostly fails to see what user wants from the services and how much is the cost required to provide the services. There is high probability that strategy focused only on cost may lead to ineffective usage of shared services.

Strategy focused only on cost saving might not lead to an entirely successful implementation of shared services. In this approach the usefulness of shared services to the consumers is neglected leading to them remaining unsatisfied. It makes difficult to achieve the long term benefits through extensive use of shared services. Thus, shared services strategy has to be consumer centric rather than an organizational one. When strategy is to provide what consumer wants then the whole direction of implementation changes. Strategy shouldn't only appreciate tangible benefits of reduced cost and resource usage but should also take into account the intangible befits such as user satisfaction and its impact on controlling cost.

2. Transformation

This is very important issue while implementing shared services. Lots of resistance can be observed from the people who might directly or indirectly get affected as their roles may change, to the extent of their jobs becoming redundant. Also, while redesigning the processes the people who control them may show too much resistance because their importance in the 'value chain of processes' gets reduced. As the roles and importance of people in the value chain changes, there is certain amount of unlearning and learning required for the end users. Therefore, it is necessary to take enough precautions so that the changes in the organization are communicated well and accepted by everyone. Transformation towards shared services organization has to be well planned and implemented such that it should be welcomed rather than rejected.

Employees, users and stakeholders need to be well informed about the reasons and benefits of shared services. Transparency needs to be adopted at every step and they need to be involved when it is related to them. 

3. Resources, Systems and Processes

Fundamentally, shared services model is focused on the optimization of organizational resources, systems and processes. Thus, it is necessary to find out all possible ways to do it without affecting the user needs from shared services. It's essential to eliminate the redundant and duplicate resources, systems and processes.

Integration of heterogeneous systems and processes is necessary so that data can flow smoothly across systems. This helps in avoiding duplication of data and efforts required to update or provide same data for multiple systems.

It's necessary to understand that the optimization of resources isn't a onetime activity rather it's a continuous action, thus the organization has to be innovative always. Organizations must always look for cost effective solutions in shared services, and improvements in management and operation processes.

4. Technology

Shared services wouldn't be cost-effective without maximizing the use of technologies. It's imperative to use the popular technologies such as cloud, social networking, mobile computing and analytics. Current technologies offer lots of features and facilities to make shared services self-reliant so that dependence on human support can be reduced. However, it's important to understand that selection of right technology is important and their usage should justify control on the cost.  Technology should be capable enough to integrate the systems. It should be able to manage the business processes and work flows. It should support the implementation of rich user experience across multiple devices.

It's essential to understand that the ERP solutions form the backbone of shared services for managing the processes and data across the organization. However, it doesn't mean that ERP is the replacement for shared services. 

5. Service Experience

User loyalty is critical for the success of shared services and is derived from the service experience. Users always judge the services while consuming. Their judgment derives their satisfaction and loyalty towards the service. Therefore, services have to de designed scientifically to create rich service experience. We advise reader to read our white paper on "service experience." In this paper, we've explained our framework on generating service experience.

Controlling the impact of service touch points is very important as they may otherwise dim the experience. Service level agreement (SLA) extensively affects experience. Hence, SLA metrics should be within acceptable level for users.  It's necessary to conduct periodic audit of SLA and if required metrics have to be tweaked to meet user expectations.

Experience is also affected by shadow processes as it delays service delivery. Thus, those have to be eliminated. Workflows have to be well planned such that it shouldn't require intervention by user or support executive. This helps to create positive impact on experience for consumer.

User should have single access points to the shared service centre and should able to service themselves through a single window or platform. It reduces their cognitive load, thus their sentiment always remains positive towards the service. 

6. Automation

Every interruption in the process for the decision making delays the delivery of service. Thus, human interventions have to be reduced. When there is a human intervention it reduces the quality of service. Shadow processes cause major disruptions in smooth delivery of service. Unmanaged work flows also postpone delivery of service. Therefore, wherever possible automation has to be done.

Conclusion

There are many concerns while implementing the shared service. Rather than discussing each issue, we have presented only those challenges which highly affect the shared services. If those problems aren't tackled well they may lead to failure of shared services. While, all issues discussed here are equally important, we believe that priority should be laid on managing service experience. 

 

(Authors: Dr. Manish Godse & Dr. Indranil Roy Chowdhury)

Influence of Service Experience on Long-tail of Shared Services

 

Shared Services

Shared services are about the consolidation of common services from various units in an organization and offering those to legitimate users. Commonly used services are pooled from their respective units and consolidated under a shared services center. These services are attached with service level agreements and then provided within or outside of the organization.  

Though, shared service isn't a new concept it wasn't accepted till a few years back. However, when economies stared slowing down, suddenly it became important for decision makers. Many organizations including governments have initiated the implementation of shared services. The main motivation for adoption of shared services is to control the cost because of consolidation of resources and avoiding duplicate efforts.

Practically, shared services can be implemented in any business including government organizations when decision makers think of consolidating services under a single umbrella.

Adoption Stages of Shared Services

The stages in shared services project are: (1) Strategy, (2) Design, (3) Implementation, (4) Transformation, and (5) Maintenance.

Strategy has to be decided for successful implementation and use of shared services. The adopted strategy has to be incorporated in design and needs to be implemented by modifying processes and systems. One of the key points of strategy has to be maximizing the use of new technologies. Along with the implementation, it is necessary to do an organization wide transformation so that shared services can be embraced by users and desired success can be achieved. Transformation stage is very crucial as it is requires changing the attitude of users towards the effective use of shared services. Maintenance stage is about modification in offerings of services as per requirements.

Service Experience

Service experience is an event during consumption of a service. It also includes a mental stage before and after usage of service. Experience is usually intangible and is the perception of a user. It depends on the presentation and the way it is delivered by the service provider.

Unlike products service can't be manufactured hence, they are always exposed to variability which is dependent upon the skills of the service provider. Therefore, service should have a certain zone of acceptance. If service is offered within this zone then user receives it positively otherwise negative sentiment is created in the user's mind. Positive sentiment creates loyalty in the user whereas negative sentiment removes the user from further usage of the service. Therefore, creating a good service experience is very essential for effective usage of a service.

Long-tail of Shared Services

Shared service is a long-tail commercial model of cost savings where maximum savings comes from long-tail because of regular usage of shared services.

Huge savings can be achieved in very short span of implementation phase of shared services (Figure 1) because of reduced usage of resources, systems, and processes. However, during operations stage rate of savings will reduce or become stagnant (Figure 1-B). But, it is most likely that after certain period, operations cost of shared services will start increasing (Figure 1-A). This stage shows that shared services are unsuccessful. It is essential to understand the reasons of failure.

It can be easily observed that in the shared service, implementation stage is mostly one-time activity. Savings achieved in this stage are tangible and only one time. Whereas operations of shared services are the regular activities and savings are on regular basis. These savings are mainly intangible, and in form of improved productivity or reduced service delivery time. Thus, a delivery of service during regular operation state plays a vital role is controlling the cost on regular basis.

When users are unhappy with the shared services then they will turn away from services or may become reluctant to use it. This will reduce the productivity of user. Users will find other means to get their work done by bypassing shared services. Thus, it will strain other resources to provide services to users which otherwise shared services should have provided. The key reason for unhappiness of users is the experience of shared services.  

If user experience is rich then the acceptance of shared services is easier otherwise rejection happens. How service is delivered matters a lot to develop loyalty of consumer. Therefore, more savings don't come by simply implementing shared services rather they will be achieved by providing better consumer experience of service during regular delivery.

Longtail_of_Shared_Services.pngFigure 1: Long-tail of Shared Services

Conclusion

First time implementation of shared services will show immediate effect on the reduction of cost within very short time. However, cost advantage may become stagnant or may reduce after certain days of implementation if it isn't implemented well. It is quite possible that cost may increase after some time this is the point of failure of shared services. To achieve cost benefits of shared services for longer term or to get long-tail of savings in shared services, service experience is the key as it increases loyalty of the user.

 

(Authors: Dr. Manish Godse & Dr. Indranil Roy Chowdhury)

March 20, 2013

How to eat a trillion dollar pie ?

There is a pie that is baking right now. It is big. It is really big. In fact Cisco pegs it at 14 trillion USD. To put that in perspective, it is roughly the size of the current GDP of the United States of America.  The obvious questions are a) what is this all about and b) how do we bite into it.

The pie is known by several names. Brand managers in corner offices of top companies are working overtime to ensure that the terminology is associated with their respective organizations. IBM calls it "Smart Planet". Google calls it the "Internet of Things". Qualcomm recently tied up with AT&T and decided to call it the "Internet of Everything". Cisco use to call it "Planetary Skin". Now they too call it the "Internet of Everything".  In essence the trillion dollar question is about connecting people, processes, products and data and whatever we need to do to make sense of it all. At Infosys Labs, we call ourselves the Machine to Machine communication group. We call ourselves so because we feel that the underlying commonality is about a lot of machine to machine communication, with a lot of machines representing individual personalities in the virtual world.   

Charting a course in the M2M communication space is a challenging task, primarily because our visibility of the ecosystem remains limited at this point. Before we go to answer how we bite into this pie it is important to understand how the space is shaping up and various positions are being taken. At the bottom of the stack are the silicon providers like Qualcomm, Intel, Texas Instruments etc . Their primary interest is to corner the silicon market. To provide chips for every one of those 50 billion devices that are expected to hit the market by the end of the decade.  It includes smartphones, tablets, ATM machines, connected cameras and what not. Now there are two categories of companies making these devices. There are a few large players like the Samsung and Apple and a large number of startup initiatives hoping to hit it big with a killer product. Also in the fray are the Microsoft and the Google of the world, whose innovation engines are churning out products like Google Glass, Microsoft Surface and Amazon Kindle regularly.

Next up in the stack are the are the alliances in the communication protocols, both wired and wireless. Wired protocols include HIVAC, MODBUS, OBD etc. and the wireless group  includes the Zigbee Alliance, WiFi Alliance and even alliances around 3G/LTE options. At this stage the data movers of the world come into the picture, the Ciscos on the internet side and telecom operators like AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone on the cellular side.

Storing all the data coming out of the billions of connected devices  is the next major issue. Naturally the next layer includes the data storage providers like Oracle, who incidentally have their own M2M platform offering.  The challenge here is to be able to make sense of the very big data sets and to be able to query over them. Slightly higher up are the data crunchers of the world, the Google and Amazons who can provide the computation power to run advanced analytics on the huge amounts of data.

Given this ecosystem, where would be a good place for Infosys to play in? Interestingly enough we have still not answered the question about how to address the consumer's business needs. It is in this space where system integration has a huge opportunity. If we play by our strengths, we can create powerful applications that can harness the innovations at every layer of the stack. What we need to do is to build the right partnerships and create the right ecosystem. If we can execute that part successfully, we can become the foremost system integrator in this trillion dollar space. With our deep client connects, the next wave of application development awaits us.

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