Archive for September 2011

Automating Quote to Cash: End-to-End Process Automation Improves PS Utilization and Profitability

September 26, 2011

I just completed a joint research paper with NetSuite on the subject of quote to cash and the impacts on professional services (PS). The paper will be making the rounds in the weeks and months to come, but I wanted to highlight some of the report since this was a new topic for me and a fun project overall.

Quote-to-cash is the macro-level process for enterprise technology purchases, encompassing the acquisition of customers, the sales process, implementing technology purchases, ongoing support for customers and, above all, timely and accurate billing and accounting, including the initial purchase, add-ons, as well as renewals. In the past, automating the quote-to-cash process has been an unreachable goal for most companies because the number of technology components and required integrations were too complex and too expensive to justify—if even possible with existing customer relationship management (CRM), professional services automation (PSA), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools.

Fortunately, this is changing, as industry consolidation has created viable end-to-end solutions, and on-demand suites with highly scalable Web services components are making integrations faster, easier, and less expensive to deliver to customers. Companies that automate and streamline the quote-to-cash process see advantages in three primary areas: more precise advanced resource planning and revenue projections; more timely and accurate project accounting, which can increase the revenue stream and reduce days sales outstanding (DSO); and ultimately, higher service levels for customers, which drives satisfaction, loyalty, and repurchase.

The new joint research report defines quote-to-cash, identifies the required components and integration points to automate this macro-process, and explains the advantages of automating quote-to-cash in regard to professional services and overall company profitability.

Automating quote-to-cash involves streamlining processes across three separate enterprise applications.

  • CRM. Customer relationship management, or CRM, provides software to manage the customer life cycle, including marketing automation, sales force automation, and customer support automation. At the core of CRM is the “360-degree view of the customer,” a single view of the customer including every contact and interaction they have with your company. CRM is often referred to as a “front office” application, meaning the tools are customer facing.
  • PSA. Professional services automation technology, or PSA, allows professional services teams to more effectively plan, manage, and execute customer projects, providing tools for resource management, project progress and utilization tracking, project billing, and reporting and dashboards to measure operational success.
  • ERP. Enterprise resource planning suites, or ERP, integrate internal and external management information across the enterprise, embracing financial administration, managing accounting and DSO, as well as manufacturing and supply chain tracking. ERP is often referred to as a “back office” application, meaning the product is not customer facing.

The Quote-to-Cash Process

The report includes some best practices, ROI analysis, a discussion of “quote-to-cash in the cloud,” and a great case study from NetSuite. The report will be posted to the white paper section of our website in a few days and I will post a link when ready. I hope you all will check it out!

As always, thanks for reading

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Knowledge Anywhere Strategies Raise the Stakes for Search: Webcast Thursday

September 21, 2011

One of the major trends I’m tracking for 2012 is the evolution of knowledge management from a departmental problem to a corporate problem. With CIO’s all on alert that baby boomers are retiring over the next 3 years, taking with them the lion’s share of corporate wisdom, knowledge management is hotter than ever. But what I’m hearing from TSIA members is that the CIO doesn’t want to fund departmental solutions, they want to implement an enterprise KM system. As a proofpoint, enterprise content management tools like EMC’s Documentum is now showing up on my survey on KM products in place, and MS Sharepoint is now the most installed knowledgebase by TSIA members, outside of using the KM tools in Salesforce.com.

The challenge here is how to locate and leverage content wherever it is stored across the enterprise: knowledgebases, communities, databases, applications, CRM customer history, billing and payment systems, EVERYTHING!

If this sounds a like a challenge you are facing, please attend our webcast this Thursday, “How Leading Companies Power Customer Service with Insight Through the Confluence of Enterprise Search 2.0, Knowledge Management.” I will be interviewing a panel consisting of Coveo, an enterprise search vendor whose motto is “Stop moving data,” and Tina Yarovsky, Vice President, Online Support Services,Trading Technologies International, Inc., who has gone through the process of implementing enterprise search and had dramatic improvements to support operations as a result.

Another key trend for 2012 is increased mobility, with mobile tools and applications driving field service automation and education, as well as productivity tools for support and professional services. Search is a big element of this trend as well, letting both customers and employees have access to content from anywhere at anytime on a smartphone or other mobile device. This ‘just in time’ knowledge access is already proving valuable with field employees, and giving customers ubiquitous access to content is certainly a way to improve lackluster self-service results. Coveo was one of the first search vendors to offer a mobile product, and I will touch on this as well during the webcast.

Hope to see you Thursday for a great webcast!

The Art of Managing a Tech Support Center: Conversation with Bill Rose

September 19, 2011

One of my ongoing concerns is balancing tactical and strategic when it comes to research content. Though long term industry vision is important, it doesn’t do much to help support employees who are driving to their annual MBOs, which largely focus on metrics. When it comes to the day-to-day life of a support professional, no one knows as much as Bill Rose, SSPA’s founder. Today, Bill continues to help support organizations through Bill Rose Inc., his latest effort, offering consulting, advisory and training services for technology support.

I’m very pleased to announce that Bill has launched a series of workshops, entitled “The Art of Managing a Tech Support Center,”  a 2-day hands-on workshop presented by Bill, coming soon to a city near you. Last week I sat down to talk to Bill about what’s new in support, and to get more info on his traveling workshop.

John Ragsdale: In my experience, most support managers were promoted from the ranks of tech support engineer, and the two jobs couldn’t use more different skills. Before we dive into the content of your upcoming workshop, could you talk about why you created the workshop? This seems a niche that has needed filling for a long time.

Bill Rose: Most tech support managers learn on the job!  You are correct that the best techs do not always make the best managers because the roles require totally different skills.  I felt that there was a real need to provide a foundation for all of the elements and speciality skills required to manage the customer delivery department.  As I started to layout the agenda it was apparent that the skills required to manage a tech support center are vast and varied.  This is a complex job in a very complex environment and the need for training helps to ensure success for service managers.

John: I love the title, “The ART of Managing a Tech Support Center,” because I believe it is as much art as science, and not something easily learned from a textbook.  Could you  talk about the art of managing customers?

Bill: Tech support managers are truly caught in the middle between customers, support reps, upper management, product development, and sales.  Their role is one of ‘customer advocate” to the rest of the company and, at times, this can be a very challenging position.  There are speciality skills required to manage between the customer and the company and this is where the “art” comes in.  Customers can be demanding and service needs to have the skills to handle any situation that arrises with little time to prepare,  In other words, they need to be prepared in advance to handle customer issues and ensure that the customer is fixed, as well as, fixing the technical issues.

John:  I’m looking over the content for this 2 day course, and it really looks like a “roll up your sleeves” kind of workshop. Having 2 days is a luxury, but I bet you still debated about what to include and what to leave out. Could you give an overview of the content you plan to cover?

Bill: The biggest challenge in pulling the agenda together was to determine which topics were the most important to service managers.  There are so many specific areas to cover that picking the best topics became a big job.  After some great feedback from peer service managers, I believe we have the perfect mix of strategic and tactical topics.  Also, we will focus on “what” managers need to do and couple that with “how” they get the job done.  This should appeal to a broad base of tech support management.

John:  You have done a ton of work over the last few years on “wrestling to the ground” definitions and best practices for response and resolve time. Could you highlight why this is such a complicated topic, and how companies approach it differently?

Bill: We all know that resolve time and response time are key customer satisfiers but we run into problems when we try to benchmark these metrics.  We can really see this when we look at resolve time.  It seems like each company measures this slightly differently.  Some use total work time and others use calendar time.  These two metrics provide totally different results.  Over the past couple of years I have been working on developing a Resolution Management Index (RMI) that will contain a series of key metrics and role them into a 2 digit index.  The RMI will provide a consistent method to measure resolve time and to benchmark against others.

John: Of course, my area of interest is services technology, and I see you plan to spend some time on the alphabet soup of technology acronyms (CRM, KB, ACD, CTI, IVR, etc.). What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in services technology over the last 10 years?

Bill:  Services technologies add a layer of complexity to the service delivery process but we all know that technology is the heart of the service delivery system.  Some challenges that we see today is the integration (or lack of integration) of the various systems and in developing common reporting tools.  Service managers need to see the activities of all of their technology in one common place and they need to see it realtime.  This means that building and using a service dashboard is a major challenge for most organizations.  In addition, we are still struggling to get funding from the company to purchase new technologies that we know will make our entire operations more effective and efficient.

John: TSIA members are always asking, “Why don’t you do a roadshow and come near us?” I’m thrilled to see your workshop will be traveling around the US. What cities are you visiting and what are the dates?

Bill: The roadshow concept is not new but one that really works well for all involved.  Although we have plenty of content being delivered via webcasts there is a lot that can be gained through face-to-face meetings. Establishing solid contacts from other local service managers can easily be done when you spend a couple of days with them in a workshop.  Also, it’s much easier for me to travel to select cities than it would be for all of the attendees to come to me.  I have selected cities where there is a strong group of IT service managers so cities like Boston, Dallas, Santa Clara, Atlanta, Orlando, and Toronto are on the list of places we will hold the workshops over the next few months.

John: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Where can my readers go for more information on “The Art of Managing a Tech Support Center?”

Bill: A detailed agenda and additional information can be found at www.regonline.com/billrose

John: Thanks Bill! And thanks to everyone for reading!

TSIA 2011 Social Media Survey Now Open

September 16, 2011

Each year, TSIA’s social media guru, Shawn Santos, surveys the community about social media adoption, staffing and business impact. Not only does this content drive Shawn’s publishing agenda, but I use the information as well in member inquiries, research reports and webcasts. This year’s survey launches today.  It will take approximately fifteen minutes to complete.

In return for completing the survey, we will send you a “pre-release” report containing the full data set and specific read outs for the technology services industry. Also, the first 50 people who complete the survey will receive a $10 Starbucks gift card. The results will be initially unveiled Monday, October 24 at Technology Services World 2011 in Las Vegas during the breakout session “The State of Social Support: New TSIA Research Uncovers Leading Trends & Best Practices.”

Please complete the survey no later than Friday, September 23rd to ensure your responses are included in the final report.

Thank you in advance for your time & insights!

> Click here to launch the survey!

2012 Channel Predictions: Rise of Chat and Mobile

September 13, 2011

One of my most popular blog topics is channel traffic. It is fascinating to see how the percentage of interactions by phone, email, chat, web, etc., evolves every year. I’m doing a webcast with LivePerson on Thursday, “Servicing Today’s Connected Customer: The Importance of Multi-Channel Engagement Strategies,” in which I will reveal my estimate for channel volumes in 2012. Here’s the link to register:

http://webcasts.tsia.com/home/listing/tabid/64/listingkey/141/servicing_todays_connected_customer_the_importance_of_multichannel_engagement_strategies.aspx

As a teaser, here is the most accurate picture I can create of channel traffic for TSIA members for 2011, using actual numbers from our benchmark database as well as the annual social media survey.

The numbers are pretty close to what we expected for 2011, with chat making its first appearance in B2B with 2%, and social media (which for this graphic includes online customer forums as well as interactions through social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) used for 9% of customer issues.  Email is at 16%, and I continue to hear from members that they are on a mission to reduce email traffic, migrating it to chat or the forum.

I’m expecting modest growth to social media and chat for 2012; tune in to the webcast Thursday for the numbers.

Also on the webcast is something really sexy–examples of how Cisco Linksys is chatting with customers via a smart phone chat interface. This allows customers to interact with support anytime, from anywhere, providing an excellent customer experience–especially for customers who are smartphone addicts. I love seeing how mobility continues to force service to evolve, and as I’ll be talking about at our TSW conference in Las Vegas next month, video is now accelerating mobile adoption.

Please tune in Thursday for our 2012 channel predictions, as well as some case studies in companies that are handling customers across channels, all on a single platform, providing a fantastic customer experience. And as always, thanks for reading!