October 20, 2007

Ops Mngt Lesson 2 Exercise


This blog entry will analyze two processes by profiling them, establishing process choices and layout decisions that have been taken. The process are:

  • The Service Desk Process
  • The Request For Services Process (RFS)
The Service Desk is described in my previous blog entry. The RFS process in included in the serviced provided under an outsourcing contract and allows to the customer to request new services that are outside of the scope of the contract. As an example, we can imagine that the customer need a new system to manage the company Inventory, then asks IBM by means of the RFS process to install, configure and move into production the new system.

Profiling the Service Desk process:


The Service Desk process is typically a high volume process. In a medium size Help Desk, thousands of calls can be managed by year.


The part of the process related to call management is totally standard (a call it’s just a call) so no variation at all. The part of the process related to incident resolution has some level of variation although in my opinion is low for the following reasons:

  • The scope of the services provided is well defined (and reduced)
  • There is standardization on the types of requests (either new software installation or password reset, there is a well defined catalog of services that the Help Desk provides)
  • If the incident is too complex the Help Desk will transfer it to another group outside Service Desk
  • There is a knowledge database which effectively reduces variability by transforming and "unknown problem” to a know one with documented resolution. The knowledge database in my opinion, reduces the perceived variety

Variation in Demand:

Although there is high seasonality (number of calls during working days vs weekend days, in example), this is in general highly predictable (not taking into consideration the singular events described in my previous blog entry, which on the other hand are not predictable and are very infrequent). Managing the capacity (between certain levels) is easy just by scheduling the working times of the agents, the effective variation in demand (defined as the variation that can cause headaches to the operations manager) is low.


The Service Desk process has high visibility as almost the entire process is visible to the user of it.

Service Desk profile

Profiling the Request for Services process:


The number of new projects that a customer can sponsorize is very limited, so the Volume of the request for Service process in an outsourcing contract is typically medium-low.


The variety is very high. Every project will have his own solution (from architectural point of view), his own hardware and software products and will require a different skill set every time, even will require skills that are not available in the organization and will have to be contracted.

Variation in Demand:

The variation on demand is medium-low, although there is strong seasonality, usually exist an schedule months before the project commencement date.


The visibility is also medium-low. Mostly all of the process is similar to a manufacturing process. The customer ask IBM to produce something with well defined and documented specifications and when the job is done, the result is delivered to the customer. Unfortunately the specifications are not always completely clear and well defined and some interaction is needed during the implementation phase which makes the process less transparent to the requester.

RFS profile

Process choice of the Service Desk process:
  • Under the Slack et all taxonomy of process types it looks like the Service Desk is a “Mass Services” for the following reasons:
  • It serves high volumes but variety is controlled by means of catalog of services, escalation of complex problems to other groups…etc.
  • The Help Desk uses Knowledge systems with the intention of deskill the work.
  • The service is not customized and the customer has to accept that not every request can be solved by the Help Desk.
  • Value added is low (value is usually provided by the backoffice groups)
  • Customers spend few time on the service process (a big percentage of the calls can be attended and the incident solved in less than 5 minutes)

It’s interesting to note that a company’s internal IT Help Desk is different from a Help Desk receiving calls from customers (i.e. an air flight company). The last one is more on the Mass Services than the internal IT Help Desk as its model implies less customization.

Process Choice of the Request for Services process:

The RFS process falls under Professional Services type of process as it implements unique projects using a different set of high level skills for every project. Project typically can range from two months to more than a year, so the customer spend considerable time in the service process. The customization levels are high and the is one project manager designed for every project in flight which is the focal point with the customer for everything related with the project.

Layout decissions of the Service Desk process:

Although the most efficient process layout from Low Variety-High Volume processes (according to Slack et al) is “Product Layout”, the implemented Service Desk process Layout looks more like a Functional Layout. The Help Desk agents are normally grouped by skills (i.e. front desk, back-office for applications, back-office for operating system…etc) and in some occasions even by language. When a particular group cannot solve a problem and the call has to be transferred to another group there’s a virtual flow of the customer from one group to another, similar to the patients flow from one section to another in Hospitals.

This looks the most efficient way of organizing the work in a Help Desk. Having similar skills together has many advantages, from information sharing to economies of scale and the theoretical disadvantage of the time needed to travel from one functional group to another is minimized due to the fact that transferring a call between two groups is fast and easy and does not constitute a big issue for the customer.

Layout decisions of the Request for Services Process:

The request for service process is also organized like a functional layout. IT Technicians are grouped by skills (Database Administration, Operating System Windows, Operating System Linux, Mainframe…etc). When a new project arrives, the project manager do a breakdown decomposition of the work to be done and send every activity to the appropriate group taking into consideration dependencies and parallelizing when it’s possible. A specific tool is used to control all the activities in flight and the project manager is responsible for all the pieces fitting together the end of the process.


Slack, N.; Chambers, S.; Johnston, R. and Betts, A. (2006)
Operations and Process Management, London: FT Prentice Hall

WarwickUniversity, study notes

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Desmond Yarham

    Your choice of processes was quite different to most-many compare a a capital intensive extactive type operation with a short cycle manufacturing operation-very different 4 V’s!
    Your choice was more subtle but gave very different 4 V diagrams.

    21 Oct 2007, 10:03

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