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Business Process Metrics

There have been numerous stories in industry publications that describe service provider difficulties in managing new technologies, digital subscriber line (DSL) services being a prime example. Customers were annoyed by the delays and operational interruptions. Many customers investigated alternative technologies with different service providers and subsequently left their original provider.

When customers defect, service providers suffer with lost business and revenues. Many startups in the DSL space, for example, could not deploy their services and generate revenue quickly enough and are out of business after exhausting their initial funding.

Many customers still view most of their providers as being behind the curve, sluggish, and unable to help them execute their business strategies fully. Typical complaints about interaction with providers often include the following:

  • Difficulty in finding experts at the provider who actually understand the provider's own services

  • Mistake-prone business processes for interacting with the provider

  • Revenue impacts when scheduled services slip their delivery dates

  • Voluminous, and often incomprehensible, bills and reports

  • Bombardment from competitors offering equally incomprehensible services

Although such issues have made the service-provider marketplace somewhat turbulent, the good news is that the situation is improving because of two developments.

The first is the continuing build-out of the Internet core with optical transmission systems of tremendous capacity coupled to the widening deployment of broadband services for the last mile access links to the customer. When this capacity is fully in place, bandwidth services can be activated and deactivated without the delays associated with running new wiring and cable. As these high-capacity transmission systems become more widespread, it becomes a question of coordinating the activities of both customer and provider management systems for more effective and economical service delivery.

That introduces the second enabling factor: the development of standards, such as extensible markup language (XML) and Common Information Model (CIM), and other factors, are making the sharing of management information easier and simpler than it used to be.

Customers and service providers can use mechanisms such as XML to loosely couple their management systems. Neither party needs to expose internal information processes to the other, but they can exchange requests and information in real time to speed up and simplify their interactions.

Customers can allocate their spending more precisely by activating and deactivating services with finer control and thereby reducing their usage charges. They can also temporarily add capacity or services to accommodate sudden shifts in online business activities.

Providers have a competitive edge when they have the appropriate service management systems. They can meet customer needs quickly and use their own dynamic pricing strategies to generate additional revenues.

Business process metrics measure the quality of the interactions between customers and service providers as a way of including them in an SLA and thereby improving them. Some of these metrics may be incorporated in standard provider service profiles, while others may need to be negotiated explicitly.

Many customer organizations maintain relationships with multiple service providers to avoid depending on a single provider and to use the competition to extract the best prices and service quality they can negotiate.

Business process speed and accuracy will be even more important in the future as customer and provider management systems are integrated, and as services are activated and deactivated in real time. Service providers must be able to provision quickly, bill appropriately, and adjust services in a matter of a few seconds to a few minutes. Customers must also be able to understand their service mix and adjust their requests to the service provider to match changes in their business requirements. It is this environment that will begin to accelerate the use of business process metrics as part of the selection and continued evaluation of a set of service providers.

Table 2-3 lists two emerging categories of business process metrics. Problem management metrics measure the provider's responses to customer problems, whereas real-time service management metrics track the responses to customer requests for service modifications.

Table 2-3 Business Process Metrics



Problem Management Metrics

Trouble Response Time

Elapsed time between trouble notification by customer and first response by provider

Notification Time

Elapsed time between trouble detection by provider and first notification to the customer

Escalation Time

Elapsed time between first response by provider or notification to the customer and the first escalation to provider specialists

Trouble Relief Time

Elapsed time between first response by provider or notification to the customer and the furnishing of a workaround or fix for the problem that permits normal operation to resume

Trouble Resolution Time

Elapsed time between first response by provider or notification to the customer and the furnishing of a permanent fix for the problem

Real-Time Service Management Metrics

Provisioning Time

The elapsed time to provision a new service

Activation / Deactivation Time

The elapsed time to activate or deactivate a provisioned service

Change Latency

The elapsed time to effect a parameter change across the entire system

The following sections describe the nuances of each metric in turn.

Problem Management Metrics

Service quality problems are inevitable, although, ideally, they are becoming more rare with time. A metric of primary importance is the trouble response time to a customer problem report or query. This metric can be used to measure both the first response to a customer call and the first response to automated notification from a customer's management system.

Notification time measures the interval between the provider detecting a service problem and reporting it to the customer. Agile customers will activate their own procedures to deal with the interruption and will want a quick notification time to minimize any disruptions.

Escalation time measures how quickly a problem is moved from the intake at the help desk to more highly qualified experts. Faster escalation times will usually carry a premium the customers will be willing to pay when critical services are involved. As is true for other problem management metrics, escalation time may depend on the severity of the problem and the priority assigned to the user's request.

Trouble relief time is that point at which the customer reporting the issue has a workaround in hand, or has overcome the service interruption. Relief is distinct from resolution: even if it's not known what caused the outage, the customer is back in business. However, the customer will want the provider to promptly identify the root cause of the outage and take corrective action to prevent it from happening again. That final stage is known as resolution time.

Real-Time Service Management Metrics

Customers and providers will both exploit real-time service management capabilities as their management systems begin to interact with each other. Customers will be able to fine tune their resource usage and control their costs while coping with the dynamic shifts that are so characteristic of online activities. Service providers will also have the advantage of maintaining control while allowing their customers to take over many of their management tasks and thereby reducing their staffing costs substantially.

Customers want to be able to change their service environment on their time schedule rather than waiting for the provider to do the job in the traditional way. This may involve, for example, activating services, such as videoconferencing, on a demand basis. At other times, customers may want to add capacity to handle temporary traffic surges, or they may want to change the priorities (and costs) of some of the services they use.

Provisioning time is the time needed to configure and prepare a new service for activation, including the allocation of resources and the explicit association of consumers with those resources for billing purposes. Activation/deactivation time is the time needed to activate or deactivate a provisioned service.

Change latency is an idea for a metric that arose from the experience of one of my colleagues. She works for a large multinational organization with approximately 1,200 global access devices. Some access points support a small number of dial-in users, while others accommodate larger buildings and campuses. Her organization wanted to change some access control policies and asked the service provider to update all the access devices. The problem occurred because the provider changed only portions of the devices in phases over two days rather than all at once, leading to a situation in which devices had inconsistent access control information. The result was disruptions to the business.

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