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Getting your service introduction right: you never get a second chance to make a first impression

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." While this phrase is particularly applicable to job interviews and blind dates, it also holds true when businesses introduce a new IT service. When Apple launched iOS 6, problems with the map software ended up wiping an estimated $30 billion from their market capitalisation. Similarly, RBS/NatWest’s troubled software upgrade locked millions of customers out of their accounts and resulted in widespread chaos. The RBS CEO issued a public apology and waived his bonus, but the reputational loss was immeasurably damaging.

Both the Apple and RBS/NatWest examples show that even well-run projects, aimed at launching a great new service, can rapidly backfire, damaging the brand, degrading expected benefits and undermining confidence in IT’s ability to deliver and manage services. As a result, the CIO is under increasing pressure to ensure new services are delivered ready-to-operate, without major issues, and with real potential to drive measurable benefits across the organisation.  

Based on PA's experience of supporting the launch of new IT services across a range of industries we recommend that CIOs focus on introducing a ‘service first’ culture, embedding service introduction activities early on and assembling a skilled service-introduction capability to drive activities.

Introducing a ‘service first’ culture

Hitting a pre-defined launch date has traditionally been the overriding priority for businesses launching new IT services. However, partly due to the consumerisation trend in IT – when new IT appears in the consumer market before spreading to business – users expect services to work first time and be simple to navigate and use. As IT services are often very complex and involve the integration of numerous technologies, services and suppliers, the priority must change with more effort going into design and launch to ensure the service is right first time. One major UK logistics company has dramatically reduced the number of high severity incidents in the first two months of operation of new services by setting up a dedicated a Service Introduction function.

Embedding service introduction activities into the project delivery lifecycle and service design

Successful service introduction begins at the design phase. Usability, reliability and supportability must be designed and built into IT services from the start. Failure to ‘bake in’ service experience and delivery considerations can lead to solutions being hastily reworked at great cost late in the project lifecycle. Avoiding such pitfalls requires service introduction principles to be embedded into the project methodology and IT operating model, ensuring that project teams are aware of what needs to be done at each stage.  Introducing a service transition checklist at one of the UK’s largest university IT departments has led to an immediate improvement in the way risks to new services are identified and managed. 

Assembling a skilled service introduction capability to drive related activities

An accountable and skilled service introduction capability will eliminate launch failures, minimise operational incidents and provide the critical link between IT projects and service delivery. Successful implementation of service introduction principles and processes is best achieved through a capability that is independent of the project management and service delivery organisations (while having experience of both). A service introduction team should also have wider knowledge of service improvement, knowledge sharing, and the construction of sensible processes and documentation that their IT colleagues will buy into and use. In both cases above PA has worked closely with client organisations, building the necessary internal skills and tools to implement a sustainable service transition capability.

Service Introduction is key to ensuring both effective project delivery and on-going service success, giving the business what they need and customers a service with which they will be delighted.

If you want your IT to make the right first impression, or speak to us about how to professionalise your service introduction model, contact us now.

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