How Lego© cars can help to understand IT Service Design Thinking

FNT and partners were on the road again during the “Expertenveranstaltung 2016” ( from September 07 until September 22. This yearly roadshow around IT service management and IT Service Design Thinking was held in eight cities in Germany and (for the first time) in Switzerland. We met more than 380 people in Bern, Zürich, Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich to discuss recent trends in IT service and infrastructure management.

This years the theme was “Service Design Thinking – Surviving in the Age of the Digital Transformation.”

Together with our Partners from bluEDGE, SERVIEW, OpenAdvice, Materna, ITC, Isonet and itSMF we provided an interesting agenda, including presentations about methodology and software tools for IT service design and catalog management, service monitoring, and holistic business process management. We also engaged in discussions about the importance of change processes, DevOps and the IT factory.

The presentation from FNT was held by Patrick Büch, Head of Business Line Service Management at FNT, and he talked about the challenges that ICT providers are facing today. He also discussed how FNT ServicePlanet can help with digital transformation processes by providing an integrated methodology to increase agility, reduce costs and time-to-market while optimizing risks.

Thanks to digitization, companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Uber are using new business models to enter traditional markets, where they are changing the rules forever. The agility of these companies is achieved through a strong focus on customer service combined with systematic deployment of the latest IT technologies and platforms.

The existing vendors in these markets require a new set of tactics to compete with these “digital natives.” Most Service Providers are not on par with digital natives who use 21st century technology; they are encumbered with 20th century legacy technologies. With complex, hybrid IT they have to make their technology infrastructure more flexible and agile to meet market challenges and changes.

One thing Patrick explained in his presentation is the transition from the conventional, well established build-to-order model to a more product-oriented approach; a reactive posture to one that is proactive. As part of this transition, the idea of a product catalog is moving center stage and becoming a major driver when it comes to competing and succeeding in markets that are being transformed by digitization. ICT providers need to move away from situations of trying to reinvent the wheel.

To underpin this explanation Patrick used a quote from a director of a managed service provider which illustrates the current challenges very well: “I can give you a private cloud in five minutes, if you can just give me a 100 days notice.”

As a result of this trend the product and service catalog serves as a centralized data hub for the delivery of products and services, supplying information to wherever it is required, be it an end user portal, a service monitor, ERP system, CMDB, or helpdesk. This catalog-driven model covers the entire end-to-end process and provides a central database for all participating roles.

However, the product catalog alone is not the only thing that ICT providers need. Taking a product-oriented approach requires the adoption of industrial production principles, such as standardization, modularization, version management and variable vertical integration. This can only be achieved when the product catalog is created with the aid of a consistent methodology that allows providers to plan the production of their services in the same way car makers plan the building of their vehicles.

Using this type of methodology is particularly important in product management, since the resources required to deliver a service are usually a hybrid mix of conventional, outsourced and cloud-based IT. Through careful modularization and disassembly of a product into its component parts, and through the application of variant management, it is possible to bridge the gap between marketable units and the resources required to make and deliver them. This enables product managers to assemble new products quickly and easily based on ready-made modules – just like using Lego(c) – and adapt existing products to suit changing market conditions.

To make this approach more tangible and comprehensible Patrick used the metaphor of Lego cars that are available in boxes. You can buy one box of Lego elements containing the same assets and components but based on your building plan you can build three different variations of cars with one box using the same resources. Patrick gave three packages to people in the audience and asked them to build a sports car. After a while he checked the results and could see that every sports car was built different and looked unique. After handing out the building plan to the audience everybody was able to build the same sports car. And with the available set of resources the participants could even have build different variations of sports cars. This on-site experiment underscored the need for a consistent methodology in IT that allows us to design, plan, offer and operate IT services throughout the whole value chain.

This methodology is especially important when combining classic IT services with telecommunications services and then marketing the finished article as a single, standalone product. Without such a methodology, it is utterly impossible to combine multiple service components from these disparate industries to create an integrated offering.

The tried-and-proven bE_Method® from FNT’s consulting brand bluEDGE is a best-practice methodology that provides the ideal platform for building product catalogs using industrial principles. It also serves as the basis for the standardized FNT ServicePlanet software package, which enables users to generate new services by means of rule-based provisioning based on predefined products. FNT ServicePlanet not only fulfills the central role of a product catalog, it is also fundamental to the entire service tool landscape through the service catalog that is generated. Provisioning is controlled with the aid of status models and workflow engines. Functions such as lifecycle and versioning, as well as offer and contract management, enable easy management of the product and service catalog as a coherent, integrated whole.

For instance, Patrick provided an example of one client who had over 147 different types of server configurations in the catalog. Through our methodology, which leverages the usage of variant management, we were able to reduce this to just three configurable items that covered all of their needs and client expectations.