We often hear about how ServiceNow enables enterprises to offer self-service web-based portal sites for their end-users and customers to initiate and view their requests from business services. That's a brilliant statement, but it contains many critical elements and it's too easy for a reader to miss something of significance. Let's break down and define exactly what that sentence means.
Defining the Sentence
Business Services - What do the shared services groups in your business offer to employees in the way of business support and enablement? These shared services groups are going to be IT, HR, Facilities, Legal, and others depending on each business. IT will provide your business with an Email Messaging business service and specific requests to open and close email accounts and AD accounts, for example. What are your other providers? What key services do they provide, and what specific request items do they offer?
Defining and mapping the business services you have is the most-important step and absolutely critical to document and share with the entire business. ServiceNow makes this process easier and business services are defined within the Configuration Management Database (CMDB). You may define criticality, SLAs, process and technical owners, and all related, critical, and associated equipment that makes the business service run as a starting point. From there, you can define individual and specific request items, which you then enable your users to be able to make.
Initiate [requests] - How do your employees request new laptops? Do they ask you in the hallway, call your phone, or send you an email with the request? Those are common ways, but each just eats up your time. You should be providing your employees an "Amazon-like" shopping experience. That's the experience they're used to at home and won't require any new training to use. It's intuitive. You define all the available items, and even segment them by location, position, or role, so employees can only see and request what they are pre-authorized.
This is your Service Request Catalog -- the authoritative menu of goods and services your employees may request. The Service Request Catalog should map to your Business Services (the list of which is called the, "Service Catalog"). Each request should have a defined fulfillment path, with elements like what approvers may be required and the notifications sent to keep the requester informed of the fulfillment progress.
View [requests] - Did you know that fully 1/3 of all calls to a service desk are status inquiries for a previous request. That's right; 30% of your calls are users wondering where their stuff is. Not only is it clear that users want the latest status updates, don't you think it makes sense to automatically expose this information to reduce in-coming call volume?
The screenshot below probably looks familiar. It's how a Customer using Amazon.com can check the status of his order.
It's clean, includes all the important elements, and a visual timeline. Are you able to offer the same experience to your internal business customers?
Customers - Who do you provide value to? These are each shared services providers' internal business customers. If you are an IT professional, your customers are the employees and business units to which you provide your Business Services, such as an Email Messaging service or an Infrastructure service to support wires and Wifi needs. If you are an Facilities professional, your customers include every employee who is affected by the air-conditioning, campus roads, broken windows, burnt-out lights, and more. Any shared services fulfillment group has customers.
End-users - Who interacts with your Business Services? Interaction is not the same as consumption. Vendors play a critical role in supporting shared services groups, so they are end-users. Partners and sub-contractors may be involved in the fulfillment process, making them end-users. In many types of government services, the general public may require notification and may need to be solicited for input and feedback, meaning everyone may be an end-user. Every party involved is an "end-user" of some capacity and it's important to identify both who they are, what they need to do through a portal, and how that experience should look.
It is often a blurry distinction between Customers and End-users and in many scenarios, the difference doesn't matter at all.
Portal Sites - The 1990's brought us the first concepts of portal sites. AOL, Prodigy, MSN, Yahoo and others needed a place for users to start their browsing experience and created portal pages that pulled diverse content together to help guide the journey.
You should be curating the same experience for your users with your business tools. Nobody likes having to hunt around to find what he's looking for, or having to ask someone where to find it. Access to business services, and catalogs, knowledge articles, and everything else related to the business should be easy and intuitive. Everything should start from a single portal and connect from there.
That concept needs to extend to your internal business. User experience, cost savings, and definable metrics all hinge on implementing an ESS portal in ServiceNow.
Web-Based - The beauty of the web is that it's available everywhere, anytime, on anything. Your employees and users can access their portal site 24/7/365, wherever they are located, and from any device. That's amazing empowerment. User don't need to worry about having the appropriate access client and can even use personal devices, of which they're already familiar.
Self-Service - Question: Do you like doing other peoples' work for them? Of course not! Why do we often not implement systems that let users do their own work? Not only will you reduce your workload with the more you can "push" on the users, but not having to bother someone else is probably how your users want to work anyway.
Consider the following process diagram on the steps required to resolve an IT incident comparing a managed service vs. a self-service model:
The self-service model is shorter (and cheaper!) to complete.
What about the user experience? How do you want to interact with support? Would you prefer waiting on hold, or scheduling a time for an agent to call you? I'd bet is the latter and that's another element of the importance of self-service -- putting the end-user in control of the interaction. Any Apple users reading today? Here's their support page:
Enterprises - Enterprise business exist to make money and do so by providing a good or a service to customers. The way their internal processes work, however, is what defines how truly effective the enterprise can scale to become. Employees require items and services to complete their jobs, and even in corporate support roles, need to work in harmony to make the business money.
It's absolutely critical to ensure your teams on all on the same page, are empowered to easily and effectively do their job, and you're practicing continual service improvement activities.
A cloud-based digital platform like ServiceNow can revolutionize your enterprise by acting as a single-point of truth and engagement. Utilizing what the platform has to offer and augmenting its capabilities with 3rd-party applications, like the Stave CMS+ ensure maximum value and best-of-breed technology leverage.
Now that we can fully define what is really meant by the sentence, "enterprises want self-service web-based portal sites for their end-users and customers to initiate and view their requests from business services", let's talk about how to get there.
ServiceNow's Portal Engines
ServiceNow offers two different engines to power portal design and development; CMS (for Content Management System) and Service Portal. There are pros and cons to building and maintaining your portals in each of the engines and we've developed a series of infographics that going into more detail here (CMS or ServicePortal: Which Option is Best for You?) and here (CMS or ServicePortal: Pros and Cons). We also have another blog on the topic here ("Bringing It Home: How Choosing Your ServiceNow Portal Engine is Like Buying a House
Web Portal Elements to Consider
Responsive Design - Refers to how the page renders on different-sized devices. With the advent of mobile devices, your users are on the go, but still demand the same access on the smaller screen. All portals built with Stave CMS+ are responsive by design and always mobile-friendly. We've written about responsive design before in this blog.
Role Access - Will you require a log-in for access? Will every type of user get the same experience and see the same things? Using ServiceNow's contextual role-based security, you can chose to expose or not expose any element of the page. Stave CMS+ offers a simple point-and-click field to assign roles to any page element.
Aesthetics and Style - What will your portal look like? Should it mirror your corporate website and branding? Are you able to leverage that existing design work and that site's CSS for consistency? You can import your existing CSS to maintain exact consistency with Stave CMS+.
Best of Luck, and Avoid Going Down the Drain
A portal is probably the single-most important user tool you can possibly implement because everyone will see it, and hopefully use it. And it's precisely because it's so prominent that you should due your proper due-diligence to get it right. The engine, the design, the elements, and the background data are all provided by the technology. Your end-users are the people. A proper design process is need to complete that triad for success.
It's an exiting journey and we wish you the best of luck. Have questions or want more? We're here to help.
Post your portal-related questions in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.