Patrick Büch is Head of Business Line Service Management at FNT Software.
To become a successful market player that delivers high quality, value-added services, Multi-tenant Data Centers (MTDCs) need to emphasize service design, prioritize catalog management, and embrace the paradigm shift to a product-oriented approach. Although enterprise spending and investment in private and hybrid cloud continues to create market opportunities for MTDCs, providers still have to differentiate themselves with value-added services in a crowded market. This will enable providers to gain new customers as well as improve customer retention.
MTDC providers must meet customer expectations regarding reliable, value-added services at reasonable prices, transparent SLAs, and high quality operational services and expand their service offering towards a full-service provider, anticipate customer demands and deliver value-added services fast, at reasonable costs.
This challenging task can be done by either offering managed services themselves, or by acting as a broker of those services through key partnerships with their service-provider’s customer base. In both cases, a differentiation through high quality, value-added services are mandatory. How this can be achieved?
MTDC providers can balance customer demands as well as business interests by defining a service portfolio upfront. Think of the catalog-driven approach as a menu offering an array of services and parameters that can be individually configured according to the customer’s needs. The catalog-driven approach is based on the industrial principles leveraging standardization, variant management and modularization. This allows providers to quickly design new services based on standard components, enabling them to react fast on market demands and respond to competitors in an easy and flexible manner.
The ability to become a provider of customer centric services will ultimately drive the competitive advantage of MTDCs.
The Customer Experience
MTDCs must consider the entire customer experience chain including all of the technical and commercial processes involved in the production and management of a service, as seen from the customer’s point of view.
If we look at the Customer Experience Chain (CEC), we see a huge gap between infrastructure operations and service delivery.
Infrastructure managers need a substantial amount of technical details to proceed with automation including a company-wide governance of services, roles and changes as they are responsible for high-quality services.
However, the customer view is different. Customers know what they want: a one-stop shopping experience with easy to understand, benefit-oriented descriptions of services. Customers typically don’t think twice about technical processes or how a service is produced, they focus on the end result (fast delivery, high availability, accessibility, and configuration to their specific needs).
How can MTDCs bring together two completely different views on the exact same topic?
To close the gap, a catalog-driven approach is necessary. A catalog-driven data center puts the customer center stage, determines their specific needs and requirements, and takes these findings into account for every decision made in the service design and delivery.
Standardized Building Blocks
For a data center to effectively offer a customer-centric product portfolio standardization is key. Similar to standardization in manufacturing, the end product is divided into small components which can be easily reproduced. With this modular approach, components are flexible and can be configured individually when a new product is created. This way, the production line stays highly standardized while the customer gets services tailored to their individual needs. As various delivery options are available, the customer feels like they are getting an individualized service although it is actually composed of standardized building blocks.
This approach drives business growth and increases efficiency in delivery and operations. A proper product catalog is the glue between the infrastructure and the customer and will make such a personalized 'service design' feasible.
When performing the service design based on standardized service components, MTDCs will benefit from accelerated time to market, the agility to react to market changes, and the structured rollout of new services. With this increased visibility, the catalog provides the holistic view needed to calculate usage-related costs and pricing structures to drive revenue.
A Complete Service Management Solution
For efficient service management, data centers must implement a software solution that offers a comprehensive catalog management system to define, manage, and monitor services over their entire service lifecycle. Additionally, the appropriate software should have the capability to deliver user-oriented descriptions for self-service portals while providing all of the necessary technical information for delivery. The provisioning of standardized products makes it possible for MTDCs to consistently deliver high quality services while reducing costs and complexity. The automated documentation of all available products and the configured services will offer greater clarity into the customer-supplier relationship.
In summary, the benefits of a catalog-driven approach include accelerated time to market, transparent cost structures, and efficient service delivery processes. A catalog-driven approach gives sales a precise view on what to sell and they will be able to tailor services to individual customer needs more quickly and efficiently. Additionally, it will support product portfolio managers to design new services faster and respond to changed customer and market requirements quicker.
The digitization of service-related information makes it possible to provide services in a flexible manner and with consistently high quality, while also keeping costs under control. The more standardization, the higher the quality of services. This, in turn, keeps customers happy and secures revenue.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.
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