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Making Sure Your Service Provider Doesn't Fall Down on the Job

Written By: R. Krause
Published On: July 21 2000

Making Sure Your Service Provider Doesn't Fall Down on the Job
E. Robins - July 21, 2000

Event Summary

Forrester Research recently conducted a study on 40 top service providers, and discovered, as TEC stated over 3 months ago, that the site builders are rarely capable of providing all the services required for building a site from the ground up. Researchers said the relative inexperience of most companies involved in the site-building business accounted for only part of their limitations. Many of their problems arose out of a number of issues related to business processes that are essentially management issues.

Simple implementation procedures can go wrong and have a major impact. For example, requesting credit card information and authorization prior to letting the customer know how much they have put in the shopping cart drove away most of the customers of one service provider client. By the time the error was found and corrected, the client had lost a significant number of customers - and had its reputation impaired. These kinds of issues are process oriented, not technical, meaning a procedures manual for programmer and quality control could have caught the problem. It is also something worth documenting by the service provider for future reference.

Digital Business Service Providers must be capable of providing not only the services, but also the Quality of Service and Site performance. Such details may not be available to individual implementers, but could be specified in working documents that are part of the service provider services.

Much as ISO9000 has found its way into the manufacturing and some service sectors, a proper quality control and human factors engineering process should be part of a service provider's toolkit.

The figure in this news analysis is a rough schematic of what we believe are the basic components of an end-to-end solutions process. Each step, as in a manufacturing process, has its own complement of skill sets and procedures. Each box indicates some major function for which a set of procedures and/or processes should be in place to ensure quality throughout an end-to-end solution project.

Figure 1.

Market Impact

Although there is no significant market impact, per se, the quality of service can at an individual site level be significant.

Most Service Providers are of course too busy to set down their procedures, train staff and ensure quality. Users are also at fault for often demanding very tight deadlines be met, and for not being willing to shell out for the additional security of proper human factors analysis, and market testing the site prior to going live.

Small service providers (under 500 employees) are generally the ones who would find the heavy cost of documenting and developing processes to ensure quality the hardest to bear. It would seem from this perspective the larger service providers have the edge. However, this may not always be the case: weighed against size is the fact that employee turnover rates are lower in small companies, and their people's experience with the company methodologies and implementation processes are better (or at least more familiar). However, this is no guarantee.

If proper internal processes exist, a service provider should be able to develop internal standards and methods to make a site more bulletproof.

The marketplace should become more aware of what services and internal processes service providers actually have as formal procedures. Those companies that have developed systems to document and capture experience (i.e., that have knowledge management systems) are likely to gain some edge. Like ISO9000 manufactured items, each component in an implementation should have some basic procedure outlined and be traceable to some stated practice, despite the uniqueness of each site.

User Recommendations

In general, the user should determine how well prepared a service provider is to deliver a full solution. Making a check list of the steps needed for your solution, and determining if each vendor has set, documented procedures and processes in place to execute them, could be included as part of a vendor selection process.

Glossary

DBSP Digital Business Service Provider

EES End-to-end solutions - complete set of services from business model development to implementation

 
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