Make it easy for your customers to find and use your IT services through a proper taxonomy
The ultimate litmus test of IT service management is the ability to align your actions with what your customers want and need, and your business with your IT organization. Implementation of ITIL in your IT service operation can help you achieve this. But, you must also rethink and revamp the way you’ve been doing IT service. Failure to do so will result in your customers feeling the pain of sub par experiences.
So, think “customer in rather than IT out.” This approach, when combined with the right service portal and catalog technology, will empower you to deliver end-to-end customer experiences for your customers. A beautiful, complete and customer-centric service portal and catalog is an excellent starting point to lead customers more effectively and is the natural place to showcase good IT services.
But, if customer-centricity is your aim, you must build for it with a proper taxonomy.
Achieving customer-centricity requires clarity and organization
If you want a beautiful, customer centric portal and catalog, it needs to be clear and well organized from the start. If it’s too difficult for people to navigate, they simply won’t use it. Poor navigation is the first and most frequent reason for service catalog failure. Your service portal and catalog must be consumable by non-IT humans. Keep this formula in mind as you build your service catalog and portal: ease of use + visual appeal = good customer experiences.
When we set out to organize our solution for clarity and ease of use at Evergreen, we couldn’t turn to ITIL. I love ITIL; proper implementation of the framework improves visibility of IT, aligns business with IT, and improves service delivery and customer satisfaction. But, ITIL lacks the concept of a taxonomy. A taxonomy is a way of organizing large numbers of things effectively, so they can be understood. In the context of IT services, a taxonomy benefits both the customers and the providers.
So, I looked outside of ITIL, and built an IT taxonomy model based heavily on the Dewey decimal system, which is a great taxonomy approach in use at a quarter of a million libraries today. It is a good model for IT because it organizes elements starting very generally and then becoming very specific, just like we do in IT. I also researched a theorem called Miller’s Number. George Miller, a researcher with a PhD from Harvard, published the theorem in 1956. It states that humans can only handle 5 things error free – by 9, error free operation is very unlikely. So, the sweet spot for acceptable error rate is 7, +/- 2. With that in mind we know in general how much information our customer can comfortably handle, area by area. Evergreen’s numbers (of course we had to have our own numbers) deal with the flow from the highest level of the service taxonomy (how we organize services) down to the lowest level – the actual service, and the number of choices at each step. Our experience has led us to believe the number of levels through the Taxonomy down to the Service ought to be around 4 +/- 2. For number of choices at each level, Miller’s number has proven good with 7 +/- 2.
Figure 1: How much information can customers comfortably handle? A theorem called Miller’s Number helps us find the answer.
Today, Evergreen’s taxonomy model has over 600 elements, and we have found that generally 70-80% of it is applicable from customer to customer. Building a good taxonomy and importing it into your service portal and catalog gives your customers good, clear navigation – making it easy to find your IT services.
I also encourage you to take the example of the masters of customer centric service experience, including Amazon, Zappos and Airbnb. Much of their success in providing exceptional end-to-end customer experiences is founded on the 5 key principles which I discussed in an earlier blog series: simple, beautiful, complete, predictive and leading. We adopted these principles and applied them to our customer-centric portal and catalog solution built on ServiceNow (request your free demo login on our website).
Evergreen System's IT Service Taxonomy Framework in 5 Minutes
About the Author: Don Casson is CEO of Evergreen Systems, an IT consulting firm helping medium to enterprise public and private sector organizations to dramatically transform their IT operations. Don is a frequent writer, blogger and presenter, and has delivered over 50 webinars on topics in Service Management, including IT and shared services.