Archive for the ‘Education’ category

10th Annual TSIA Global Technology Survey is Now Open! Free Research Report for Participating

March 3, 2015

I’m pleased to announced that my 10th annual TSIA Technology Survey is now open! This survey covers 24 categories of tools and services used by customer support, professional services, education services, managed services and field service. The survey is open to everyone (not just TSIA members), and if you complete the survey, you will receive a copy of the resulting research report, “The 2015 TSIA Heatmap,” which discusses adoption levels of each category and top technology trends related to service organizations.

The survey addresses adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending for commonly used technologies including CRM, knowledge management, enterprise search, web collaboration, online communities, social media monitoring, analytic platforms, learning management, etc.  The survey asks which line of service you work for, then only prompts you with categories that apply. For example, if you work in Field Service, you will be asked about scheduling and dispatch tools, and if you work in Professional Services, you will be asked about professional services automation. So you won’t have to answer all 24 categories!

Along with the traditional service technology, the survey also addresses some emerging hot technology areas critical to TSIA’s B4B, customer success and expand selling messages:

  • Consumption Monitoring/Analytics: These tools are used to measure and monitor customer consumption of technology, gauging how quickly customers are adoption new tools, common process flows, top used features, number of users and length of session time, etc. Consumption Monitoring is a key piece of a Customer Success strategy.
  • Recurring Revenue Management: These tools are used by service professional to manage the sales and renewals processes for maintenance and service contracts. Functionality includes automating renewals, renewal dashboards, and analytics to predict likelihood of renewal and manage profitable contract/maintenance programs.
  • Upsell/Cross-Sell: Also known as offer management software, these tools prompt call center, tech support, field service, or renewal sales reps with contextual offers to extend to customers, using analytics to identify offers they are most likely to accept. Tracking extend and accept rates, the software continues to learn which offer to prompt for which situation and customer profile.

I make great use of the data collected, with mulitple reports published of the survey findings for the Spring Technology Services World Conference in Santa Clara. First is the 2015 Technology Heatmap, which looks at high level adoption and spending trends across service disciplines. This report will be sent to everyone who completes the survey. In addition, I will publish detailed spending report by service discipline, a separate report on EMEA, as well as the “top installed” report, listing the top used tools or service providers in each category. If you are a TSIA partner, ask your customers to take the survey!

The survey is open until March 31st. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete the survey. Your responses are kept confidential, and are only reported in aggregate. Here is the link to the survey:

Thanks in advance for your support, and after you take the survey, pass along the link to your friends in service organizations! The more responses, the better. And as always, thanks for reading!


Recapping 2013: Hottest Service Technology Trends

November 27, 2013

Is it too early to start recaps for 2013? With the end of the year barely over a month away, I’ve been thinking about what I heard this year that was new and interesting, and trying to put these trends/innovations into useful categories. Based on my member inquiries and partner briefings, here’s a stab at the hottest topics to emerge in service technology over the last year:

Large enterprises embrace cloud applications. Small and medium-sized businesses were early adopters of cloud applications, and as many OnDemand suites are much less sophisticated than their OnPremise counterparts, the lighter-weight tools met the needs of SMBs just fine. But this year I’ve talked to service executives of some the largest tech companies in North America and Europe who were in the midst of a migration from a legacy CRM system to a lower cost cloud suite. As I’ve written about before, large companies moving to cloud tools have to streamline and consolidate processes as the applications don’t support heavy customization. Unfortunately, about 3 months after the move to the cloud, I start getting calls asking about functional gaps they did not anticipate. Your cloud CRM tools probably do not include support for complex entitlement, automating renewals, or knowledge management beyond a list of solutions. With the move to the cloud all but inevitable, there is some heavy lifting that must be done to achieve extreme efficiency with the new technologies.

Knowledge management evolves beyond support. I first published a report back in 2009 about knowledge management being a cross-discipline (support services, field service, education services, professional services, managed services) subject, with convergence needed to leverage existing tools and processes across the enterprise. But it wasn’t until this year that I started receiving numerous KM inquiries outside of support. PS asking for best practices to capture and share lessons learned across project teams. Field service wanting to know how to best leverage mobile tools to access corporate knowledge from the field. Education services interested in how to define KM roles, as demand shifts from teacher to librarian. And, as I heard at our recent Las Vegas conference, support may have their KM practices well-defined, but other groups see support’s approach too slow,  too complicated and too focused on experts instead of collaboration. I think what we consider “KM best practices” is going to radically shift, and I also expect to see more Knowledge as a Service (which I’m going to call KaaS) providers entering the market. Too many companies have re-implemented KM tools and jump-started KM practices every 3-4 years for the last 12 years, maybe it is time to try a new approach?

Professional Services Automation (PSA) is the new MUST HAVE application category. I’ve always joked that professional services teams were too busy implementing technology for their customers to ever use any for themselves. PSA, which includes modules for resource management, project management and project accounting, is still not that highly adopted (according to my 2013 Member Technology Survey, 58% of PS members are using PSA). But, spending is on the rise, with over half of PS members (54%) having budget for new or additional PSA in 2013-2014. And as a proof point, my inquiries on PSA have risen to become my third hottest topic, after CRM and KM. I just published a new report, Five Key Criteria in Making a PSA Decision, based on dozens of these conversations over the last year. If you are still managing your PS operation using spreadsheets, now’s the time to make a change.

Video in Service: Here to stay. A couple of years ago I gave a conference presentation about the future of video in service, and received more than a few snarky comments saying it would never happen. Never mind that even then, was using video chat tools with premiere customers, and the use cases for incorporating video into trouble shooting were many and varied. But video in service suddenly became a very hot topic recently when Amazon released the Kindle Fire HDX, and featured a video chat option, called the “Mayday button“, in print and TV advertising. The ads show a customer linking to a live video chat agent for help, with the agent able to take control of your device and even write on the tablet to illustrate how to do something.  Remote control of mobile devices isn’t new (checkout LogMeIn and Bomgar), but seeing it used along with video chat introduced a whole new user experience. That one commercial is going to convince consumers this is an option they need, so get ready for your closeup, Mr. DeMille.

“Core” is shrinking fast. I’ve written before about how service is constantly re-evaluating core verses context, realizing that less and less of corporate operations really are key to their success. Even outsourcing technical support was a bitter bill for many B2B companies to swallow, though I’ve talked to many who now realize they should have looked to partners for assistance a decade ago. But over the last year, with more companies trying to boost revenues and cut costs in the face of all the realities described in B4B, I’m seeing more and more options on the table for outsourcing. First it was technical support level 1, then level 2/3, field service, and now maintenance renewals, managed services, social media, online community management–there are no more sacred cows. As I alluded to earlier, I’m predicting 2014 is the year Knowledge as a Service emerges as a viable approach for more companies.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be thinking about how these hot topics will drive trends for 2014, and you can expect to see some of these ideas again when I publish my “state of the industry” reports in Q1. Stay tuned. And as always, thanks for reading!

How to Stream Training and Support Videos to Any Device? Ooyala to the Rescue!

June 15, 2012

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking with Caitlin Spaan, VP of Marketing for Ooyala, a very cool company enabling streaming video content delivered to iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Facebook, YouTube and more. I’ve published a lot of research over the last 2 years on mobility and video in service, and I’m starting to receive more questions from TSIA members about how to get started in this area.

Streaming video has several use cases for service. For education services, shifting from classroom training to OnDemand video training requires a lot of work not only to create the video content, but figure out how to deliver it to customers when they want, on the device they want, with high quality and consumption tracking. For support services, tutorials and “how to” videos are an excellent way of increasing self-service success–let’s face it, Gen Y customers are unlikely to search your knowledgebase or read your FAQ list. The mobile aspect of this is important, because early adopters created some fun online video sites using Flash, which of course isn’t consumable on popular mobile devices. Whatever content you decide to make available to customers must be accessible across all the flavors of mobile devices. There is no faster way of alienating a customer than to say, “Here’s all this great online content, but you can’t view it because you have a droid.”

Ooyala to the rescue. This Silicon Valley-based company enables content management and streaming of online video solutions for multiple audiences, including media companies (ESPN, Miramax, US magazine) and brand companies (Sephora, Victoria Secret, REI, Dell). On the brand side, Ooyala is working with companies to deliver training and support content, including makeup tips and “how to” videos for Sephora (who needs RuPaul’s Drag U?), video tutorials from REI on everything from fixing a flat bicycle tire to getting started kayaking, and Dell, who is using Ooyala as a video solution for sales (product overviews and feature demos) as well as support tutorials:

We are seeing companies get started with service videos on YouTube (including HP’s stellar YouTube channel, which I mentioned in my book, Lessons Unlearned), and that is a great place to get your feet wet. But when you want more control over the video streaming, including charging for content (key for education services) and/or inserting paid ads into content, a solution like Ooyala is required. Just to show how dedicated Ooyala is to customer success, their Senior Vice President of Customer Success is none other than longtime SSPA/TSIA board member, Dave Hare, a Silicon Valley service legend, who ran service operations for PeopleSoft, Oracle and Symantec before joining Ooyala.

If you are ready to take your service video strategy to the next level, check out Ooyala. With the broadcasters, publishers and consumer brands already using the service, this company knows all the ins and outs of successfully leveraging video, and they can help you define and execute your cross-device video strategy.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Fall 2012 TSIA STAR Awards: Nominations Due June 29th

June 14, 2012

TSIA’s STAR Awards are presented to association members at our Spring and Fall conferences. To win, members must submit applications which are judged by the applicable partner advisory board (Support, Field, Education, PS, Revenue Generation). This is a rare opportunity to tell your story and receive industry recognition, and even if you don’t win, you receive written feedback from the advisory board members about your operation. Over the years we have made adjustments to the program, changed a few categories and the application itself, and for Fall 2012, we have a number of new awards. The STAR Award categories for Fall 2012 are:

  • Innovation In Education Services Go-To-Market And Sales Strategy. This award recognizes the education services organization that exhibits innovative go-to-market and sales capabilities as demonstrated across the four framework pillars of a comprehensive strategy.  This may include the introduction of a go-to-market and sales strategy where previously none existed, or it may be a transformation of an existing go-to-market and sales strategy.
  • Innovation In The Application Of Social Media For Technology Services. This award recognizes the company that has advanced the effectiveness or efficiency of its services organization through innovation in the application of social media. TSIA’s definition of social media includes web- and mobile-based technology platforms that enable the creation and exchange of user-generated content and dialogue between organizations, communities and individuals. Social media technologies take on many different forms; including online forums and communities, blogs, microblogs, social networks, wikis, podcasts, photo and video sharing, rating, and social bookmarking.
  • Innovation In Closing The Consumption Gap. This award recognizes the company that has innovated in finding ways to close the consumption gap in the use of its products, whether on-premise or cloud-based, thereby delivering higher levels of business value to its customers.
  • Innovation In Leveraging Technology For Service Excellence. I’ve been pushing for this award, and this Fall we are offering this category for the very first time. Open to all service disciplines, this award recognizes the company that has best leveraged technology to improve operational performance, service levels, and the customer experience.  The winning technology project will be the focus of a case study written by me!
  • Innovation In Enabling Customer Success. This award recognizes the service organization that demonstrates the most innovative approach to the enablement of customer success.  Successful candidates should not only be able to demonstrate strong culture and process, but also clear benefits to the service organization, the company, and the customers, as a result of its customer success innovation.
  • Innovation In Professional Services, Large Enterprise. This award recognizes the large enterprise professional services (PS) organization that has most clearly and effectively embraced innovation to increase consultant productivity, project performance, customer satisfaction or other measure of PS business success. For purposes of this award category, “large enterprise” is defined as corporate revenues of US$250M and greater.
  • Innovation In Professional Services, SMB. This award recognizes the SMB professional services (PS) organization that has most clearly and effectively embraced innovation to increase consultant productivity, project performance, customer satisfaction or other measure of PS business success.  For purposes of this award category, “SMB” is defined as corporate revenues under US$250M.
  • Innovation In Recurring Services Portfolio Management. This award recognizes the company that has demonstrated the most innovative renovation of its recurring services portfolio, as evidenced by an overall growth in service revenue and/or profitability.
  • Innovation In Product Supportability. This award recognizes the company that most convincingly demonstrates innovation in product supportability through the deployment of remote monitoring, embedded diagnostics, and “self-healing” functionality.

Applications are due by June 29th. For more details and application criteria, click here. I look forward to reading your stories!

TSW Best Practices Opens with my Innovation Tour!

May 7, 2012

TSIA’s Technology Services World Best Practice Conference kicked off today at the Santa Clara Conference Center. The conference opened at 12:45 with my Innovation Tour. The tour is a presentation of all the finalists in the Spring 2012 Recognized Innovator Awards, which are presented to partners of TSIA at our Spring and Fall conferences. Partners submit applications for consideration, and case studies documenting business results are required. Winners are selected by a panel of TSIA members and industry experts.

The content for TSW 2012 Best Practices focused on “Defend, Optimize and Innovate,” allowing member companies to improve core operations while looking for new approaches to streamline operations and generate incremental revenue. Technology firms cannot accomplish these initiatives alone, and the Recognized Innovator Awards showcase the role TSIA partners play in enabling the success of today’s global service organizations.

Following are the award categories and finalists:

Innovation in Products: Innovative products that enable service operations to better compete through means such as increased productivity, cost reductions, increased revenues, improved customer satisfaction, or improvements to other key performance or financial metrics. The Finalists are:

  • Clarabridge, whose innovative text and sentiment analytics allow companies to accurately analyze customer feedback
  • Coveo, whose Insight Solutions for Customer Service turn disparate data from all content sources into actionable insight about your customers

Innovation in Services: Innovative services that help companies to meet and exceed business goals for service operation by allowing partners to manage specific areas of the business. The Finalists are:

  • ServiceSource, whose suite of cloud applications and managed services better connect and automate clients’ recurring revenue ecosystems.
  • SYKES, whose new Sales Assist offering blends proven support program excellence with sales program goals to create a new revenue stream for clients.

Innovation in Consulting: Innovative consulting services that help technology firms meet and exceed business goals. The Finalists are:

  • Value and Pricing Partners, whose TPS Pricing RapidAct™ provides PS leaders with guidance on their rates position relative to peers, and how to immediately improve rates performance to drive bottom line results.
  • Verghis Group, who designed a new approach to metrics, based on research from fields as diverse as aquaculture, championship weightlifting, traffic engineering and firefighting.

The winners will be announced on Wednesday during the closing awards ceremony. Hope to see you there!

2012 Services Technology Survey: NOW OPEN!

February 1, 2012

TSIA’s 7th annual Services Technology Survey is the only available source of actual industry data for adoption, planned spending and satisfaction across 24 categories of technology used by service organizations, including:

  • Support Services: All the tools used to support customers, including incident management, knowledgebases, multi-channel tools and web collaboration.
  • Field Services: Technology used to automate the field service process, including mobility, scheduling and dispatch, and parts logistics and warehousing.
  • Professional Services: Professional Services Automation (PSA) platforms to manage PS resources, projects and performance.
  • Education Services: The various tools used to deliver customer training, including Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Content Development (LCD).

In addition to these technology categories, the survey also tracks tools used across service lines, including Customer Relationship Management (CRM), social media and online communities, and reporting and analytic platforms. The survey also includes questions regarding the use of third party service providers/outsourcers and c0nsultants.

The results of this survey are usually available only to members of the TSIA, but for this 2012 survey, everyone who completes the survey will receive a complimentary copy of the survey results. Armed with this information, companies can benchmark their rate of technology adoption compared to industry peers, illustrating where you may be losing a competitive edge due to lack of automation or technology sophistication. Additionally, by identifying the top installed products in each technology area, you can shortcut your next search for a tool or platform by starting with a list of “best fit” solutions.  For the first time, the 2012 survey will also track responses by geography, identifying top installed products and planned spending for the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, and Asia Pacific.

The survey will take less than 15 minutes of your time, and your answers are completely confidential and will only be reported in aggregate. The first 50 people to complete the survey will receive a US $5 Starbucks gift card. Again, everyone who completes the survey will be sent a copy of the resulting research when it is released in May.

Please follow this link and complete the survey at your earliest convenience:

Thank you so much for your support!

Interview with Partner Advisory Board Member Ryan Hollenbeck, Verint: EFM/Voice of the Customer

December 12, 2011

TSIA has recently launched our very first Partner Advisory Board, consisting of technology, service provider and consulting partners in the TSIA partner network. This is a great opportunity for us to stay current on marketing and spending trends in other industries, as well as track emerging best practices in our own industry. We have an impressive list of partners on the board; here is a link to view the complete list.

Over the next few weeks, I will be bringing you interviews with our Partner Advisory Board members. This week’s interview is with Ryan Hollenbeck from Verint Systems, the leading provider of Actionable Intelligence® solutions and services for enterprise workforce optimization and security intelligence.

John Ragsdale: I’m very pleased to share an interview with one of our new Partner Advisory Board members, Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, Verint. I’ve known Ryan since the late 90s, when he was with Witness Systems, the original workforce optimization provider for call centers. I’ve seen the organization grow over the years, with mergers and acquisitions including Blue Pumpkin, the merger with Verint, Vovici, and most recently, Global Management Technologies (GMT).

Ryan, welcome.  My CEO has just published a book, Consumption Economics, that explains how the rush to the cloud is changing everything about the economics of servicing customers. A very central part of the story is the need to better mine customer data for business intelligence. I’d like to start by asking about voice and text analytics. Verint has won multiple TSIA Recognized Innovator Awards for your capabilities in this area. Could you talk about how companies can mine existing customer conversations for insight?

Ryan Hollenbeck:  Customer service has changed dramatically since you and I first started working together the late 90s. Back then, customers typically interacted with companies by calling into contact centers.  Today, consumers expect to conduct business using a combination of email, Web chat, text messaging, telephone, and social media postings. At the same time, competitive pressures are really pushing companies to do a much better job of tapping into the “voice of the customer” to make informed decisions and avoid costly missteps that can cost them business.

This ups the ante in customer service, since companies not only have to capture the “voice of the customer” across multiple channels, but also need to analyze it and use it for strategic and tactical decision making.  It necessitates a very different approach to customer service—one that involves the entire organization, rather than just the contact center.  So there has to be a way to capture, analyze, and share customer comments and sentiments across the enterprise.

Voice of the customer analytics solutions do exactly that by providing a platform for detecting, gathering, analyzing, and acting on insights across multiple communications channels.  They include speech analytics, social media analytics, email and Web chat analytics, and feedback analytics. They can even be integrated with workforce optimization software and strategies for a truly holistic approach to customer experience management. Voice of the customer analytics solutions offer a practical way for organizations to mine customer comments and sentiments, identify rising trends, determine root cause, and take action quickly.

John:  Another hot topic from Consumption Economics is how customers are more active in driving company and product direction. Clearly another Verint strong point is enabling enterprise feedback management. Can you talk about EFM, and explain why this is a bigger effort than just post-interaction surveys?

Ryan: Let’s start with post-interaction surveys, which are surveys that are delivered by the contact center, usually over the IVR, after the conclusion of interactions with agents. They’re almost always focused on the transaction that has just taken place.

Enterprise feedback management solutions expand upon this. They collect data across the entire enterprise, including the contact center, and centralize it so that it can be analyzed and tailored for various internal users.  Although EFM solutions can certainly include transactional surveys, they’re also used for relationship surveys, or to recruit survey panel members via social media. The surveys can be delivered over the Web, email, social media, and mobile devices, and text analytics can be applied to them to analyze open-ended questions. EFM solutions offer a practical way for operationalizing a voice of the customer program.

John:  While we are on the topic of surveys, could you talk about the Vovici acquisition? The timing of the acquisition was interesting, because we at TSIA had just evaluated multiple EFM vendors and selected Vovici, which we now use for all our member surveys. You picked a fantastic company, amazing user interface, sophisticated reporting, and as a TSIA member, a great service operation! How did Vovici fit into Verint’s strategy?

Ryan: The Vovici acquisition fits very well into Verint’s strategy. By adding Vovici’s enterprise feedback solutions to the Verint Voice of the Customer Analytics platform,  we’ve created a single solution set to support voice of the customer initiatives across voice recordings, surveys, email, chat, and social media. We’re also filling a void in the market by enabling organizations to extract tremendous value from this emerging toolset for their chief customer officers. Enterprises can benefit from Verint’s proven speech and text analytics solutions and workforce optimization suite, as well as Vovici’s advanced functionality, including sophisticated survey management, customer profile management, interactive dashboards, and ad-hoc analysis across any customer touch point.  Verint can now correlate this information and offer a single-vendor solution for collecting, analyzing, and acting on customer insights, and that’s a compelling value proposition.

John:  You and I have talked about a few topics for years now, and one of those topics is looking at productivity in the back office and how it impacts customers. I remember first discussing this with you a decade ago during my Forrester years, when I was getting complaints from support organizations that so many  customer issues (account discrepancies, refunds, shipping problems, etc.) disappeared into the back office and never returned, leaving the support agent on the hook for an answer, but no way to get one. Clearly, the customer experience encompasses a lot of back office activity. How does Verint help improve customer-facing processes across the enterprise…including the back office?

Ryan: I remember those early conversations and scratching our heads!  The industry has come a long way since then, and Verint remains laser-focused on this issue.  Verint solutions offer visibility into the entire customer service chain, from contact centers to branch and remote offices to back-office operations.  And in the back office, one of the greatest challenges is capturing activity and performance information across a diverse set of tasks, functions, and teams.

Unlike the contact center, there’s no ACD to provide this critical information. Instead, Verint’s back-office software collects data from any available electronic sources, such as workflow engines, CRM, email, people queue management, imaging, and business process management systems. Since the penetration of those applications is still relatively low, our solution also provides a manual data entry interface and electronically logs volumes and activities into the system as work is processed. This enables managers to predict their ability to meet processing deadlines given resource availability, skills, and equipment/deadline constraints.  They can take corrective action proactively, which in turn can help companies avoid a flood of calls or emails into their contact centers.

John:  Your most recent acquisition, GMT, expands your customer experience message into banking. It seems that retail banking has a lot of the same challenges as workforce management for call centers:  you have customers waiting, limited staffing dollars, and if you don’t have the scheduling right, customers walk out the door, taking loans and deposits with them.

Ryan:  Yes, those are all significant challenges in retail banking, along with very  intense competition. Banks are under heavy pressure to drive sales, service quality, and customer satisfaction while lowering their costs, enhancing productivity, and retaining staff.

Verint addresses those concerns on a variety of levels.  Our retail financial services solutions automate forecasting, scheduling, and quality analysis across branches while enabling banks to predict customer demand accurately, which helps reduce wait times.  Our solutions also provide real-time customer and productivity information to regional and store managers for enhanced cost management, customer service, and sales. Managers can track how well employees are performing against their goals and even assign eLearning automatically to staff at their desktops during times when customer volume is low.

Verint has offered solutions designed for retail financial services for years.  Yet through our acquisition of GMT, a huge domain expertise in financial services, along with key differentiating functionality, such as robust technology value optimization and sales effectiveness tools, as well as a comprehensive set of consulting services and methodologies.

John:  Clearly companies need help getting EFM programs off the ground. In fact, nearly half of TSIA members said they had budget for consulting partners in 2011-2012. I believe the GMT acquisition also expanded Verint’s partner network. Could you talk about your partner ecosystem?

Ryan: Verint has its own highly successful consulting operations, offered by our own industry experts.  We have also long maintained partnerships with leading companies to extend the reach of our solutions.  From large, distributed consulting organizations with dedicated practices to smaller boutique firms, our customers have many options for ensuring the success of their WFo and VoC initiatives.

As you pointed out, the GMT acquisition has augmented our partner portfolio by adding strong partnerships with leading financial services organizations, including Talaris and Q-matic. It’s all part of our commitment to offering customers superior solutions and outstanding business value.

John: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.

Ryan: It’s always my pleasure, thanks John.  I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to serving on the TSIA partner advisory board.



Call for Judges: Spring 2011 Recognized Innovator Awards

February 8, 2011

It is that time again! I am building the judges panel for the Spring 2011 Recognized Innovator Awards, and I would love your help!

The categories for this round of awards are:

  • Innovation in Knowledge Management (KM). Creating, maintaining and leveraging content to speed issue resolution and project success is not only a core process within every technical support operation, but increasingly other services divisions are launching KM initiatives to share learnings from the field across a global operation. The Recognized Innovator in this category will provide documented case studies of how their technology and/or services are enabling service organizations to more easily publish knowledge and effectively use that knowledge to improve business results.
  • Innovation in Value-Added Services. As documented in “Complexity Avalanche,” Value-Added Services (VAS) programs enable customers to fully consume purchased products and services, helping them quickly receive full business value and speed the repurchase cycle. In addition, VAS programs are providing new revenue sources for budget-strapped service operations. The Recognized Innovator in this category will have documented case studies showing how their technology or services are being leveraged to boost service and support revenues through delivery of Value-Added Services.
  • Innovation in Social Collaboration. When evaluating the impact of social media and communities on service organization, it is important to separate the hype from business value. While customer social media strategies continue to struggle for staffing and a credible ROI story, leveraging social media tools and processes to enable enterprise collaboration—between employees AND between employees and customers—has emerged as way to effectively share information across the enterprise, identifying experts on any given topic and making their expertise available to others. The Recognized Innovator in this category will have documented case studies showing how their technology or services are being used to improve the capture, sharing and consumption of ideas and expertise across employee, partner and customer communities.

Awards will be presented during the closing ceremonies of Technology Services World Santa Clara on May 4th. I will recognize the judges during the awards presentation, and judges will be listed in the published research that recaps the winners.

As a judge, you would be responsible for only one category, approximately 5-10 applications.  I will provide a scoring sheet; judging will take less than an hour.  You will receive your applications and scoring sheet on Monday, February 28th, and have 2 weeks to complete scoring.

If you are in the service and support industry, as a practitioner, vendor or service provider, I would love to have you on my judges panel. If you are interested in participating, please send me an email (, and I’ll add you to the list.

Thanks so much, and thanks for reading!

2011 Trends Poll: Weigh in on what will most impact Technology Services this year

January 6, 2011

In my monthly article for TechTarget’s SearchCRM website, I published my top trends back in October, but these were specific to customer support. My boss, Thomas Lah, TSIA’s executive director, just launched a poll on his blog to capture input on the top trends for 2011 impacting all of technology services, across support services, professional services, field service and education services. Please weigh in with your thoughts here:

Key Trends: 2011

Thomas included the following areas in his poll:

  • Cloud computing. The move to the cloud is having big impacts on both product companies and customers. Product companies are competing on price more than functionality, and the cost of supporting OnDemand customers may be higher as more procedural questions are received from end users than in traditional on premise deployments. On the customer side, so many products are being ‘dumbed down’ to work easily in the cloud that critical functionality may be missing from applications.
  • Social media. When the topic of social media comes up, everyone seems to immediately start talking about Twitter. But the real heat here is the power of collaboration, with customers answering other customer questions (see my previous blog entry–Forums answer more customer questions than the self-service knowledgebase now), and idea storming models that actively incorporate customer feedback into release priorities.
  • Commoditization. In the endless cycle of technology emergence, growth, maturity, and decline, many products we used to pay top dollar for are becoming commodities. As I said in my 2011 predictions, open source products are maturing and becoming viable options, threatening the revenue stream for vendors in some segments. With all the predictions coming out of CES this week, it looks like the next victim of commoditization will be the laptop. With consumers (and business leaders) moving toward tablet computers, laptop sales and prices will be dipping fast.
  • New major markets. Obviously China is the big driver here, but other areas of Eastern Europe and Asia are becoming more connected, more capitalistic, with a growing population of consumers and businesses hungry for technology. Let’s face it, many companies screwed up their first foray into Japan a decade ago by underestimating how cultural differences impact business practices. You can expect to see that again in China, Singapore, the Philippines, and other countries. We are already seeing questions about partner strategies in emerging markets–old approaches don’t work in these new regions.
  • Engineering the experience. Customer service organizations began embracing “customer experience” a few years ago, and you see more companies today with executives with experience in their titles, like ‘chief experience officer’, or CXO. Thomas is tracking the understanding and importance of the experience shifting from a support issue to an overall sales and service issue, forcing companies to rethink their approach to product development, marketing, the sales cycle, etc.  I’d say social media has some influence here, as poor customer experiences are now being broadcast to millions of people, thanks to social networking sites.
  • Other. If none of these float your boat, write something in. Personally, I wrote in “Mobility,” as I see mobile requirements driving both hardware and software in 2011 and beyond.

Please take a moment and weigh in on the poll, it will greatly help us prioritize our research by understanding the topics you see as most impactful to the industry in the year ahead.

Leveraging PSA for Education Services: Resource Management

November 15, 2010

Earlier this year we launched our new Education Services discipline, and the TSIA Education Services Advisory Board is now live, with more than a dozen education executives from companies including BMC, Red Hat, HP, Kronos, SAP, and others. A big shout out to my research team member driving education, Maria Manning Chapman, who is doing a fantastic job building out the discipline. My contribution to our education members will be covering the core technology used by education services, and in anticipation we added a category for learning management systems (LMS) to the 2010 Member Technology Survey so I already have some information about what tools companies are using and how satisfied they are with them. In 2011, I will be working on a market overview of learning management technology, which covers a wide array of tools including content development and management, knowledge management, video and screen capture tools, remote delivery/distance learning, etc. Look for this report around mid-2011.

The first inquiry I received from an education member was not about LMS, however, but more on core resource management. What do large companies use to manage education resources? Are there specialty tools, are do they rely on an existing resource management tool?

To answer this question, keep in mind that education services are part of professional services in many companies, with administrator and/or end user customer training part of the total package of services typically sold in a deal. Today’s professional services automation (PSA) suites are sophisticated enough to manage complex scheduling scenarios, making staffing recommendations and warning about resource shortages using analysis tools that factor in consultant skills, training, certifications, location, salary costs, etc.

To get some real-world examples, I contacted Compuware, whose Changepoint PSA suite was named a Recognized Innovator last month in Las Vegas. Today I had a chat with Kirstin Roberts, Lori Ellsworth and Rick Morreau from Compuware, who confirmed that their PSA customers frequently use Changepoint to manage resources for education, making sure the right resource is allocated for any training class, and alerting in advance of training classes scheduled with no clear instructor resource available. It sounds like lots of things are making education resource management more complex these days. As an example, remote/distance learning means that a single resource can teach a class for the East Coast in the morning and for the West Coast in the afternoon, all from their office with no travel required.  With this level of flexibility, resources can be scheduled for multiple projects in a day.

Education customers use more of PSA than just resource management. The integration to billing systems and ERP means attendees can be entitled, tracked and billed correctly. The Compuware team offered several examples of how education services are using Changepoint today.

  • One company uses Changepoint, integrated with their online registration system, to track class sizes, manage training resources, and even generate invoices for all the people registered for a course.
  • Another company tracks each training class as a separate SKU within Changepoint, which are sold as packages to customers along with other consultant services. Delivery of all services, including training, are managed by the product manager as part of their deployment methodology.
  • Another customer integrated Changepoint with their LMS to handle training “credits” and track cost.

I clearly have a lot to come up to speed on for our new education services members, so if you have any cool examples of how companies are leveraging innovative technology for the process of education customers, let me know! And as always, thanks for reading!