Without a strategy you cannot take the long view - The simple principles of good service management, part 5

 

     

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Service providers should make some time once in a while to reflect on their current situation, and define a strategy or road-map to stay relevant in the longer term.

Small improvements can make big differences, as they say, yet once a while bolder steps and moves into new territory may be necessary if you want to stay successful. In this video you'll learn more about what strategic thinking means in the context of service management, and what kind of advice you can find in the YaSM framework.

This video about service strategy is the fifth one in our series about "the simple principles of good service management - and how to apply them in practice": There have always been a number of time-tested, simple principles in service management that we must get right in order to become successful providers of services. In our videos we explain how you can bring these principles to bear in your organization.

Please ask your questions and share your thoughts in the YaSM support community!

Resources and further information

Video series: The simple principles of good service management
Related pages

Video transcription

Hello again, this is video number five about the simple principles of good service management, and today we discuss how strategic thinking helps service providers stay relevant in the longer term.

Video: Without a strategy you cannot take the long view. - Service strategy, strategic assessments and road-maps based on the YaSM framework. - Series: Good service management, part 5. Thinking strategically means that, once in a while, we make some time to reflect on our current situation and how the world is changing around us. Based on this assessment, we can define a strategy or road-map, for example for developing new capabilities and service offerings.

So in this video I want to tell you more about what strategic thinking means in the context of service management, and what kind of advice you will find in the YaSM framework.

Of course, in an earlier video we already talked about continual improvement, which is mainly concerned with enhancements to existing services on a smaller scale. Such small improvements can make big differences, as they say, yet once a while bolder steps and moves into new territory may be necessary if you want to stay successful.

Plainly, such moves shouldn't be based on quick decisions but require careful consideration, and strategic thinking is usually done in three phases:

  • First comes an analysis of our current situation.
  • Then we identify possible opportunities and explore their potential benefits and risks.
  • And finally we need to decide what we will do and define an action plan.

Inputs for the strategic assessment

For the initial assessment we need quite a bit of information, in particular about

  • Our own capabilities, weaknesses and strengths
  • The needs and future plans of our customers
  • Service offerings by our competitors, and
  • Technological trends and developments.

What's more, since we are service providers, the assessment of our current situation revolves, to a large extent, around our services, and to make this point a bit clearer I'd like to show you a real-world example:

Example: Assessing the service portfolio

Maybe you remember that, in one of my earlier videos, I presented a medical laboratory offering a blood test service - in two varieties: A slower standard service, and a fast express service.

Now, during a strategic assessment, we can ask questions around this service, like

  • Would it make sense to upgrade or enhance the service, for example by testing for additional parameters or by delivering the results even faster?
  • Could the service be offered in new markets, such as new customer groups or other geographic regions?
  • Or how about extending the range of services to include the examination of biopsied tissues or the analysis of urine samples?

Of course we should also evaluate if our existing services are still economically viable, and if one of them is not we may well decide to remove it from our range of services.

These considerations are all focused on the customer services, i.e. the services visible to our customers ...

Evaluating the supporting services

But a lot of things need to happen inside the organization before the customers can use these services, so it's important that we also assess our internal supporting services.

  • A key supporting service is the one for examining samples, and during the assessment we could check, for instance, if new technology is available that can produce more accurate results or takes less time for analyzing a sample.
  • Then there are a few more supporting services, such as the ones for collecting the samples and for billing.
  • Finally, all services need information technology to work, which is provided by an IT service.

For all of these services we should think about potential savings, for example by using external service providers. Typical candidates are commoditized services such as billing, where outsourcing may lead to cost savings.

Strategic thinking - a complex undertaking?

With these examples I wanted to explain what strategic thinking means in the context of service management. Sadly, the strategy part of the service lifecycle is not a priority for many organizations - probably because some service management guidelines make the topic look rather complex and academic.

Here, for instance, I have the official ITIL® book on service strategy. On some 500 pages you will find descriptions of concepts and principles... It's all useful and good information, but it's also a bit daunting, and that's why the service strategy book often catches dust on the shelf.

The strategic process in YaSM

And that's why in YaSM we describe a straightforward strategic process that's not too hard to understand and implement in practice.

If you watched my earlier videos you will know already that YaSM has a clear process structure

  • with five service lifecycle processes
  • and several supporting processes.

We find the strategic process right at the top of the service lifecycle.

As I mentioned before, we need, first of all, a bit of information for our strategic assessment. Some key inputs are

  • The service portfolio with the complete details about our services
  • Customer meeting minutes that tell us what the customers think of our services
  • Service review reports where we may find information about issues with our services
  • Financial reports with details about the costs of providing our services and their profitability
  • And also ideas and suggestions that may come from almost anywhere in the organization.

Based on this information, we perform a strategic assessment and document its results in a strategic assessment report. Once we have identified and prioritized our opportunities, we can create an action plan - which may, for instance, trigger the design of a new service.

Process templates for service strategy in the YaSM process model

These processes and documents are described in detail in our YaSM® Process Map.

In the overview of the YaSM processes, the strategic process is right here at the top, and we can click on a link to open the next diagram with more details about the process. First, let's zoom in on the left where we have the list of inputs. And here we can see the information we need for the strategic assessment, as mentioned before:

  • The service review reports from the service improvement process
  • The service portfolio from portfolio management
  • The customer meeting minutes from customer relationship management
  • The financial report from the financial process
  • ... and a few more.

In the middle of the diagram we learn that in YaSM, the strategic process is quite straightforward:

  • We perform strategic assessments,
  • provide guidance for the use of technology,
  • and then define, start up and monitor a number of strategic initiatives.

For each sub-process, YaSM contains a more detailed flow chart.

Let's click on the link and check out, for example, what needs to be done during a strategic assessment: The service strategy manager, the service portfolio manager and the steering group are involved in this process, as appropriate, and the activities to be performed include

  • Assessing the existing customer services
  • and supporting services, as well as
  • Assessing our capabilities, weaknesses and strengths.

Document templates for service strategy in the YaSM® Process Map

During the process, we create two documents:

  • A strategic assessment report and, at the end of the process,
  • we compile a set of strategic objectives.

In the upper part of this diagram we can see that these two documents are passed along as inputs to the subsequent processes, and YaSM also tells you precisely what information should be in these documents:

If we click on the link for the assessment report, for instance, this will open a text file in Word™ format. In YaSM, we call these files "checklists" and they describe the typical contents of the various documents we use in YaSM.

In this example the checklist starts with a brief definition of the strategic assessment report, and then it says that in a typical report there should be sections about

  • The findings from assessing our customer services
  • The results from evaluating our supporting services,
  • As well as insights from evaluating our capabilities, weaknesses and strengths.

As you may guess already, you can - of course - use this document as a template, so getting started with your first strategic assessment reports shouldn't be too much of a challenge.

Now, let's close the checklist and switch back to Visio® again, because I'd like to show you that in the top area, where we have the process outputs, we can also see what's supposed to happen next.

The strategic objectives, for instance, are an input for the definition of strategic initiatives or projects, and we can easily open the linked diagram to find out what's going on in that process:

  • First we identify potential strategic initiatives,
  • then we check them against a set of criteria
  • and define their objectives. It's also good practice
  • to create a business case for each initiative,
  • ... and so on.

I hope you will agree that strategic thinking is something every service provider should do once in a while, and that it doesn't have to be a time-consuming and academic and exercise, because in YaSM we describe a straightforward strategic process and we give you the templates you need to get started.

And if you have special needs, nothing speaks against exploring the many great books that have been written about business strategy and combining these ideas with the advice we provide in YaSM.

Thanks for watching! And as always, if you have any questions we are happy to answer them in the YaSM community.

 

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