The trouble with Service Providers is just that - they have to provide services! If they do not have a suitable service for your customers, well that is just too bad. But is that really good enough?
The business will of course typically get the service they want anyway, raising the spectre of shadow IT. Business leaders are looking at cloud based apps and thinking "wow, we could do more or save more if we had this or that app". Some go right ahead and download without even thinking about it. However, it should be understood that these are not deliberate anti-IT actions.
According to an Economist Intelligence Unit Paper - A Blended Future, they are not always doing this because IT is too slow or too expensive. Instead, when in need of new or improved services 46% of business leaders cite the lack of any comparable services by IT as the reason source solutions outside of IT. Speed and cost were only cited by 29% and 28% respectively.:
So, what can you do about it?
If the business is engaging IT and coming up woefully short, does this mean as a service provider you are compelled to offer everything? If so, then invariably the customer experience suffers as the pursuit of offering more services comes at the expense of lower quality. The conundrum of course is, do you offer a small number of services delivered well and run the risk of becoming irrelevant or do you offer lots of mediocre services and risk going out of business?
The decision is simple - mediocre is not an option! The solution is to stop being a service provider and start being a service broker. Provide services where you can deliver a remarkable customer experience. Build an ecosystem of services that deliver that same remarkable customer experience and give the business access to them.
Let's look at some examples to see how this works:
Zapier is a cloud based Application Programming Interface (API) proxy. You have an app and you want it to talk to another app - trouble is you are not a programmer. Zapier enables apps to talk to each other so you can integrate apps without all the programming hassle. In order for Zapier to be relevant they need to provide API hooks (or Zaps as they call them) to as many apps as possible. Zapier aggregates into one place a myriad of app integration points. Furthermore, they need to tell the world all the new Zaps and apps that are available. So, if you had a need for an app and wanted to integrate with an existing app, which app would you choose? By checking out which apps Zapier already have available the decision is made. As an aside, if you create an app and you want the world to know about it what better way than riding on the coat tails of a service broker like Zapier.
Closer to home, Xero are using brokering to extend their reach and services. Xero enables business accounting and they support a number of integration points with certain banks. Xero provide access to these through their Add-On Marketplace. Now, if you had Xero which bank would you choose? If you were banking with a bank that integrated with Xero, which accounting software would you choose?
Yet another close to home example is Vend. They are brokering services through their product add-ons. From Vend I could add-on Shopify and of course from the app store on Shopify I can integrate with Vend. And as you would expect, from Vend I find Xero, and from Xero I find Vend.
Service BrokeringTo be clear, service brokering is not simply a service catalogue by another name. Nor is it just about app integration points. It is the active discovery and management of complementary services that are not delivered by you. It is about finding services for your customers, not customers for your services. There is a large element of trust involved that the other service will keep its promises - to you and your customers. These are themes we touched on in a recent blog on right-sourcing.
Service brokering extends the traditional service catalogue way beyond the scope of internal IT. It also extends the scope of IT way beyond the business. This is OK, because who knows what the business will need?
Furthermore, never second guess what the business will do with a service or an app. One of the more famous (mis-attributed) quotes of Henry Ford is that if he asked what his customers wanted they would have said a faster horse!
This is why the customer experience is so important. How many times do we upgrade apps or completely change them just to hear customers say they preferred it the way it used to be. You can make improvements as long as you maintain or improve the customer experience. Note that improvement in customer experience is always defined by the customer, not by you!
Essentially, service brokering is the answer to delivering all the services your customers want while maintaining a remarkable customer experience. The path to a service broker begins with understanding key business processes and the apps that enable them.
When that is known you will need to ask the following questions:
- Are there any complementary services or apps to support your business processes?
- Are there any strategic alliances that can be made to enhance your business processes?
- Are there any seamless service or app integrations?
- Are we able to create any integration points that are not available?
In conclusion, service brokering can help you focus on what you do best while opening up opportunities for your business that even they do not know they will need. And in that, you open up the path to remarkable customer experiences.
Check out our other blogs on Service Brokering: