Service Delivery System: IronBrick Associates I have abided by the University honor code on this assignment. Authors: Philip Larson 37303-81: Service Delivery System – Philip Larson 1) Introduction: IronBrick provides data storage, virtualization, and networking services to large enterprises.1 In particular, IronBrick (IB) has built a resale and systems integration business around the technology of 3 billion dollar companies in growth markets: NetApp (data storage), Oracle (databases/applications), and VMware (virtualization).2 Target Customer: IB’s target customers are businesses and agencies looking for complex data storage and virtualization solutions for their data centers. A detailed profile of IB’s target customer is provided in the table below.3 Demographics Data centers of businesses and local/federal government; US-based organizations (particularly mid- Atlantic); large data centers and large data storage needs; mature organizations with many on- premise software applications that require on-site data centers; substantial budget for IT Needs Rapidly growing data storage needs; complex virtualization requirements in pilot or in production; data storage needs tend to be driven by Oracle-based business applications; reliability of data storage; compliance with government & industry regulations; business continuity (100% uptime); disaster recovery; backup & archival; leverage existing infrastructure while evolving the data center to leverage new tech; minimize data center personnel/headcount; minimize IT maintenance; infrastructure that supports server and application virtualization; leasing arrangements in contracts Behaviors Willing to go outside the organization for sophisticated IT services; lack of IT expertise in virtualization and data-storage in-house; play with virtualization technology (testing or production); willing to adopt new technologies; tend to utilize Oracle for databases and VMware for virtualization; do not have strong personal or organizational ties to other storage vendors (HP, EMC) Attitudes Interested in simplifying data center management; appreciate simplicity in IT architectures; would like to reduce personnel costs of managing IT shared services; looking for advice for strategic improvement in data center operations; care about “green” IT (e.g. power consumption and cooling) Positioning Promise: To large organizations with complex, growing data centers, IB is the data storage solution provider that designs customized end-to-end storage solutions that will leave your data center more efficient and flexible while reducing costs because of the unparalleled depth of experience of its consultants and its unique “assessment”-based approach.4 Service Mapping (Stages & Activities): While IB has many services, this assignment maps out their “data assessment service” (DAS). IB uses data assessment services as an entry point into a client’s data center to better understand the client’s IT infrastructure and storage management needs.5 As part of DAS, IB consultants work with an organization’s IT team to assess their IT infrastructure and storage management needs, identifying gaps and predicting future requirements. While a small fee is involved, the primary purpose of this service for IB is to build a relationship with the client and gain information critical to understanding the organization’s long-term data storage needs.6 Understanding these needs positions IB well to provide more useful, customized solution proposals for the client moving forward. DAS provides IB with valuable insights about the client that help it sell larger solutions down the road. The basic stages and activities of DAS include 1) Sourcing the Deal (sales rep makes call, delivers pitch, schedules webinar/demo), 2) Client Demo/Finalize Deal (webinar, sales rep provides quote, receives signature, schedules service, 3) Pre-Delivery Questionnaire (professional services group delivers electronic questionnaire to get information about the systems in the data center, PS team configures the assessment appliance, PS team prepares questions and schedules interviews for on-site visit), 4) On-Site Visit (PS team tours data center, installs assessment appliance, discusses/explores customer needs), 5) Analysis Period (PS team waits 30 days for 37303-81: Service Delivery System – Philip Larson assessment appliance to collect data, PS team analyzes data, PS team asks clarification and follow-up questions with client), and 6) Wrap-up Deliverable/Billing (PS team provides final deliverable in Word & PPT providing recommendations for how to improve data center operations, PS team delivers report to internal sales organization to help up-sell the account).7 2) Service Blueprint Chart: A detailed blueprint chart for DAS is available in the appendix. The chart identifies the key steps in the selling, setting up, delivering, and billing DAS. Each step in the chart identifies the scripts and standards for front-line employees, physical evidence seen by customers, required actor (customer/employee) actions, as well as how these actions flow into IB’s internal information systems such as CRM, sales force automation, and ERP systems. 3) Reinforcing the Positioning Promise: IB performs a number of unique activities that help deliver on the positioning promise of providing premium, end-to-end, customized data storage solutions in complex data center environments. These activities are marked with a on the service blueprint. First, DAS itself differentiates IB from its competitors who for the most part do not provide data assessments as part of their service offerings.8 Competitors that focus on less complex data storage environments do not need this detailed information about their clients’ data centers. Second, even among competitors that do provide DAS, IB is unique in using webinars/demos to prove the value of the assessment to the customer before delivery to increase its penetration rate. Many data storage providers focus on smaller deals that can often be completed over the phone or internet with minimal human interaction. IB’s webinars provide a forum for the customer to see the benefits others have received from assessments and understand the final deliverables they can expect from the experience.9 Third, IB is unique in its use of a pre-visit questionnaire to better understand the client’s IT infrastructure environment prior to delivery of the service. This questionnaire helps IB be more prepared (and more efficient) once on-site and provides IB with detailed information that helps it make more nuanced, customized recommendations for the client. Fourth, IB is unique in its use of a data assessment appliance (DAA) that it connects to the client’s network for 30 days to collect information about server/storage utilization, network traffic, and peak usage times. This information is critical for IB to provide customized recommendations about where investments in infrastructure will have the largest impact for its client. Fifth, IB provides a unique comprehensive 20+ page report as a final deliverable from the DAS. This report provides detailed insights into the client’s current IT infrastructure and network utilization combined with recommendations for how the client can improve its existing storage infrastructure moving forward. Most competitors summarize their findings in e-mail or as part of a future proposal. They do not provide a clear leave-behind deliverable as part of a data assessment service.10 HR Practices: IB’s HR practices contribute to delivering on its positioning promise. First, unlike competitors that do not focus on specific technologies, IronBrick’s focus on NetApp, VMware and Oracle enables them to have deeper relationships with these organizations. Their hiring process benefits from referral of candidates from these billion dollar companies that are happy with IB’s quality and average deal size (very high) and would prefer these candidates work for a company that specializes in their technology. As such, IB frequently avoids the crowded, competitive general market for people. Second, IB’s focus on these three technologies enables it to target hiring people with strong certifications and accreditations in these areas without having to overpay for candidates with certifications that will not help them with their core business. Third, IB continually measures the number of NetApp (storage), VMware (virtualization), and Oracle (database) certifications its employees have received and gives spot bonuses to employees who receive certain certifications. Other organizations are hesitant to encourage employees to collect certifications because it makes them more marketable to other firms. At IronBrick, because they focus on complex data center environments that can leverage these three technologies, they encourage getting these certifications because they know they have more value to IB than to the industry at large that tends 37303-81: Service Delivery System – Philip Larson to value cheap generalists. Fourth, IB provides each new hire with 4 weeks of training on IB’s unique implementation methodologies. New recruits shadow seasoned professional services veterans to understand how to deliver core services the “IB Way” across all dimensions such as assessment, installation, configuration, and optimization. Finally, IB provides mentorship practices that include full 360-degree reviews (manager, customer, peer evaluations) of service delivery. These service reviews are used to identify strengths and weaknesses of individual team members as well as to brainstorm ways to continually innovate their service offering. Uses of Technology:11 Compared to its main competitors, IB makes better use of technology (customer-facing and employee- supportive) to help it deliver higher quality customized data storage solutions in complex data center environments. Its innovative use of data assessment appliances (DAAs) that monitor the client’s network for a period of 30 days is an example of this customer-facing technology not in heavy use by its competition. Additionally, IB uses standardized online presentation (webinar) technology to properly educate the customer on what it can expect prior to service delivery. Clients get sample reports and deliverables to better understand the information they will receive from the service and how it can help them improve their IT operations moving forward. IB has invested heavily in CRM technology in which it monitors all interactions with the client (phone calls, e-mails, delivery results, client surveys) using this information to continually improve its service offering. It also maintains a repository of results from its “pre-visit” questionnaires to build a database of common data center configurations to help it diagnose or upsell other clients. 4) Key Failure Points:12 An on the service blueprint marks key failure points in the service delivery system. From the customer perspective, the most serious failure points are those that will result in failure to access or enjoy the benefits of the data assessment service. Common failure points include 1) the availability of the DAA given that IB only has a small inventory of these machines, 2) the compatibility of the DAA with the client’s network and IT infrastructure, 3) the availability of the IB professional services team at times convenient for the client’s data center team, and 4) ensuring IB professional services has proper access to personnel and IT infrastructure in the client’s data center (access codes, passwords, etc.) during the on-site visit. Each of these areas represent “opportunities to screw up”, as described in our textbook. If the assessment appliance is not available (no inventory) when the client is ready for the DAS, the client gets annoyed and feels its time is being wasted. IB prevents this problem by partnering with the manufacturer of the DAA to ensure that if IB’s inventory is all in use, they can borrow inventory from the manufacturer with minimal cost or delay. If IB’s professional services team is heavily utilized on other projects making them unavailable to the client, the client quickly loses interest and the service fails. IB avoids failures due to overutilization of PS by partnering with trusted services organizations that can temporarily augment the IB staff to smooth out peak resource periods. If IB PS gets on-site and the DAS is not compatible with the client’s network infrastructure or if the customer is not prepared with the server/storage/application access codes and passwords IB needs to evaluate the infrastructure, the service will fail. The company prevents these failures by requiring customers to fill out a pre-visit questionnaire in which it receives information about the infrastructure including required access codes and passwords. IB PS will not schedule an onsite visit until it is certain the data assessment appliance will work in the customer’s environment and that it has the information it needs to properly install the appliance. When all else fails, IB offers the customer restitution by forgiving the cost of the data assessment. These assessments are generally priced low because they are used to gain insights to help fuel the larger resale and implementation business. Therefore, forgiving the price of the data assessment can be minimal to IB but is seen as a great gesture by the customer. 37303-81: Service Delivery System – Philip Larson 5) Innovating the Service Process: An on the service blueprint marks specific places where IB might innovate the service process to bring greater value to its customers. First, IB should use its CRM and client survey data to innovate its lead generation process. Currently, IB merely purchases lists and performs typical marketing campaigns to generate leads. Based on information from CRM and client survey data, IB should find companies likely to have similar infrastructure needs and perform more targeted campaigns. For example, if a DAS performed by IB for National Public Radio (client) shows that NPR has unique data storage solution requirements based on its need to stream digital content to its radio stations, IB should take this information and create targeted marketing campaigns to media companies based on its newfound understanding of the storage challenges in media organizations. Second, IB should configure the DAA (appliance) to provide branded e-mail updates to the customer during the 30-day waiting period of data collection. A weekly report automatically generated by the DAA and sent to data center managers will help maintain touch points during this period and prevent IB from being “out of site, out of mind” during this critical period. Third, IB should work with the DAA manufacturer to create a software-only version of its technology. A software-only version would remove any concerns of compatibility issues within a client’s network infrastructure and would make it easier for IB to scale its data assessments without growing its inventory of physical data assessment appliances. Fourth, IB should innovate its delivery and presentation of the final deliverable from the DAS. Currently, the final deliverable is provided via e-mail. This touch point is critical to the client experience as it is the moment at which the bulk of the value from the DAS (recommendations, insights into existing problems, etc.) is given to the customer. This important touch point should take place in person with key members of the client’s data center team and should be used as an opportunity to build trust and rapport that could help IB close larger data storage solution sales in the future. 6) Physical Evidence: Given the limited amount of on-site interaction during the DAS, much of the physical evidence comes in the form of digital communications. In particular, physical evidence of IB’s capacity to provide high-quality data storage solutions in complex environments comes from its professionalism during initial customer calls and the thoroughness and quality of insights in follow-up e-mails and demo/webinars. Further physical evidence include the pre-visit questionnaire which is detailed and well-organized. Similarly, the primary physical evidence during the on-site visit consists of the demeanor of IB consultants’ interactions with the client, the professionalism of the consultants’ attire, and the quality and style of the deliverables and handouts given to the client onsite. IB creates templates for its follow-up e-mails, demos/webinars, deliverables and handouts spending time and energy ensuring they are concise, easy to read and understand, and insightful. Client surveys suggest that the quality of these deliverables is much higher than its competitors and likely has a strong impact on their perception of the service experience. Nevertheless, beyond the professionalism of these communications very little physical evidence is done in a particularly unique way. Given the limited amount of on-site time, IB should work to strengthen the longevity of its physical evidence. For example, the DAA (appliance) should be branded in IB colors (maroon/gray) so that the client’s data center operators are reminded when they see they appliance that IB is supporting them digitally even when IB PS is not there physically. Moreover, IB should require all PS consultants working on site to wear a uniform of a maroon shirt and black dress pants that emphasizes the professionalism of the organization while further strengthening awareness for the brand. IB should also leave behind branded tools (fast access keys for certain data storage or virtualization commands) that clients can use to drive efficiency in its daily operations. If members of the client’s data center use IB materials to perform their jobs more effectively even when IB PS are not present, they will be more likely to turn to IB PS when a serious problem with their data storage needs emerge. APPENDIX A: SERVICE BLUEPRINT CHART FOR IB’S “DATA ASSESSMENT SERVICE” – SALE, SETUP, DELIVERY, WRAP-UP, BILLING 37303-81: Service Delivery System – Philip Larson Key Failure Points Common failure points in this service model include: 1) Availability of assessment appliance (IB has small inventory) 2) Compatibility of assessment appliance with client IT infrastructure 3) Availability of IB professional services team at times convenient for client 4) Accessibility of IB PS to conduct interviews and tour the client data center Unique Activities that Fulfill the Positioning Promise 1) Using DAS in general 2) Using webinars to promote DAS rather than just phone and e-mail 3) Use of pre-visit questionnaire to get details on client environment 4) Use of data assessment appliance to collect data on environment for 30 days 5) 20+ page final deliverable with recommendations for client to improve IT infrastructure moving forward 6) Use of CRM and ERP technology to keep detailed records of client data center environments Opportunities for Innovation 1) Better align physical evidence with positioning promise (branded DAA machines, employee uniforms) 2) Generation of leads based on previous customer successes and data from IB’s CRM system 3) Use final deliverable from DAS as an opportunity to get into a deep discussion about the organization’s future IT infrastructure needs through an in-depth, in-person review session Potential for Excessive Delays The DAS will require 30 days of data collection in addition to the on-site visit. Excessive delays could potentially annoy customers. Most likely points in service delivery process with potentially excessive wait times are: 1) 30-day data collection phase may need to be extended if data is insufficient to understand bottlenecks, infrastructure, etc. Lack of on-site interaction and support will make alternative communications critical 2) Limited resources in IB PS could create delays on scheduling the installation of the assessment appliance. 3) Limited resources in IB PS could create delays in analysis of the data that comes from the on-site visit (interviews) and the assessment appliance. ENDNOTES (DOCUMENTING DATA SOURCES USED IN THIS ANALYSIS) 1 www.ironbrick.com 2 Interview with CEO, Kevin Murphy. I conducted a series on on-site interviews with IronBrick personnel over Thanksgiving break that were incredibly valuable in helping me understand the overall business and the data assessment service in particular. These interviews included CEO Kevin Murphy, Director of Professional Services Rajeev Karamchedu, and Technical Sales Lead Daniel Brown. 3 The primary demographic, behavior, needs, and attitudes of the ideal customer were determined through an extensive Interview with Director of Technical Sales, Daniel Brown. 4 While this is not the IronBrick marketing boilerplate, this is what I believe their positioning promise is based on my interviews with key personnel. 5 Interview with Rajeev Karamchedu, Director of Professional Services. Rajeev designed the data assessment service and is responsible for its implementation within professional services. 6 Interview with CEO, Kevin Murphy. 7 Discussions with Kevin Murphy, Rajeev Karamchedu, and Daniel Brown were all critical in understanding the basic process of this service. There are major obstacles at each step that they have identified and figured out creative ways to get around. 8 Most of the larger resellers of data storage technology, such as CDW, ePlus Forsythe, Datalink, MSI, Merlin International, and GTSI do not have a separate data assessment offering as in depth as IB’s offering. This is based on internet research (secondary research) as well as the feedback from IB customer surveys and anecdotal evidence from the interviews with IB personnel. 9 While Kevin Murphy did not have statistics on conversions from webinar to DAS customer, he said these were very high. He found their use of webinar and demo technology to be a compelling differentiator from their competitors sales processes. 10 Rajeev Karamchedu provided details from client surveys in which the clients consistently referred to this “final deliverable” document as a fantastic feature of IB’s DAS offering. 11 Most of the technology uses came from the interview with Rajeev Karamchedu, Director of Professional Services. While it appears they have done some interesting things with technology, it is difficult to know how deep these differentiators are without a more in depth explanation of how their systems differ from those of their competitors. 12 Similarly, most of the “key failure points” became clear in the interview with Rajeev Karamchedu, although the CEO Kevin Murphy also discussed the issues around PS utilization and resource availability.
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