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Better Service Through 
Promise Theory 
Jeff Sussna Ingineering.IT @jeffsussna
Work: help companies adopt IT innovation 
History: dev + QA + ops 
Method: design thinker, thought-process challenger
1.What is promise theory? 
2. What is service? 
3. How does one help the other?
Software is eating the world…
Every business is a digital business
The physical…
…merges with the virtual
Internal systems connect…
…with external 
experiences
Systems + People 
Functionality + Operability 
Physical + Digital
To understand complex socio-technical systems…
…you first must understand teenagers
“I promise I’ll clean my room before dinner.”
Intention
Expression
Intensity
Benefit
A promise is 
“a strongly stated intention to provide service”
Protip: promises aren’t always kept
A promise is 
“a strongly stated intention to provide service 
that may or may not come to pass”
I promise to store the word ‘foo’ in the file bar.txt
Real-world systems! 
Collections of autonomous agents 
collaborating through promises
Acknowledging uncertainty enables greater certainty
Auto-scaling 
Circuit breakers 
Continuous integration 
Design-for-fail
Treating agents as autonomous enables greater 
scalability and resilience
Microservices 
Self-organizing teams 
Scaling agile 
Needs + promises > requirements
What is service?
Experience, not thing
Relationship, not transaction
Value co-creation, not delivery
Service providers promise to help customers 
accomplish their jobs-to-be-done
“The product is the trip”! 
-AirBnB designer
All aspects of a service organization must collaborate 
to fulfill customer promises
Brand quality == ops quality
What is the traveler’s job-to-be-done on arrival?
How can Promise Theory help digital service quality?
What promises should we make?
Promise theory engenders empathy
What promises do we need others to make to us?
What should we do to maximize trust?
What promises do our customers need to make?
As a hotel operator 
I promise to help you rest as part of your trip
As a reservation system 
I promise to help you reserve a satisfactory room 
I promise to be functional usable and availabl...
As a hotel lobby 
I promise to help you transition from travel to rest 
I promise to be clean, attractive, and navigable 
...
As a front-desk system 
I promise to help you get the guest checked in 
I promise to be functional usable and available 
I...
As a hotel property 
I promise to support your larger service context 
I promise to update your airline rewards points 
I ...
Promise Theory helps span boundaries 
Horizontal and vertical silos 
Disciplines and perspectives 
Providers and customers...
DevOps is to Promise Theory as…
MktDesDevQASuppEtcOps becomes…
…Promise Thinking! 
(w/apologies to Design Thinking)
Model the organization from the customer in 
Customer journey 
Service blueprint
View relationships in terms of promises 
Benefit 
Empathy 
Autonomy 
Resilience
Unify design, operations, and repair
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Read: 
‘In Search of Certainty’, Burgess 
‘Promise Theory’, Bergstra/Burgess 
‘Unders...
www.ingineering.it 
blog.ingineering.it 
linkedin.com/in/jeffsussna 
@jeffsussna
Photo credits! 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/donhomer/12862086683/ 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/uniquehotelsgroup/56900...
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
Better Service Through Promise Theory
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Improving digital service quality by explicitly accounting for uncertainty.

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Better Service Through Promise Theory

  1. 1. Better Service Through Promise Theory Jeff Sussna Ingineering.IT @jeffsussna
  2. 2. Work: help companies adopt IT innovation History: dev + QA + ops Method: design thinker, thought-process challenger
  3. 3. 1.What is promise theory? 2. What is service? 3. How does one help the other?
  4. 4. Software is eating the world…
  5. 5. Every business is a digital business
  6. 6. The physical…
  7. 7. …merges with the virtual
  8. 8. Internal systems connect…
  9. 9. …with external experiences
  10. 10. Systems + People Functionality + Operability Physical + Digital
  11. 11. To understand complex socio-technical systems…
  12. 12. …you first must understand teenagers
  13. 13. “I promise I’ll clean my room before dinner.”
  14. 14. Intention
  15. 15. Expression
  16. 16. Intensity
  17. 17. Benefit
  18. 18. A promise is “a strongly stated intention to provide service”
  19. 19. Protip: promises aren’t always kept
  20. 20. A promise is “a strongly stated intention to provide service that may or may not come to pass”
  21. 21. I promise to store the word ‘foo’ in the file bar.txt
  22. 22. Real-world systems! Collections of autonomous agents collaborating through promises
  23. 23. Acknowledging uncertainty enables greater certainty
  24. 24. Auto-scaling Circuit breakers Continuous integration Design-for-fail
  25. 25. Treating agents as autonomous enables greater scalability and resilience
  26. 26. Microservices Self-organizing teams Scaling agile Needs + promises > requirements
  27. 27. What is service?
  28. 28. Experience, not thing
  29. 29. Relationship, not transaction
  30. 30. Value co-creation, not delivery
  31. 31. Service providers promise to help customers accomplish their jobs-to-be-done
  32. 32. “The product is the trip”! -AirBnB designer
  33. 33. All aspects of a service organization must collaborate to fulfill customer promises
  34. 34. Brand quality == ops quality
  35. 35. What is the traveler’s job-to-be-done on arrival?
  36. 36. How can Promise Theory help digital service quality?
  37. 37. What promises should we make?
  38. 38. Promise theory engenders empathy
  39. 39. What promises do we need others to make to us?
  40. 40. What should we do to maximize trust?
  41. 41. What promises do our customers need to make?
  42. 42. As a hotel operator I promise to help you rest as part of your trip
  43. 43. As a reservation system I promise to help you reserve a satisfactory room I promise to be functional usable and available I promise not to lose your reservation I promise not to let your credit card get stolen
  44. 44. As a hotel lobby I promise to help you transition from travel to rest I promise to be clean, attractive, and navigable I promise to be friendly and helpful I promise to give you a place to store your luggage
  45. 45. As a front-desk system I promise to help you get the guest checked in I promise to be functional usable and available I promise to find the right information quickly
  46. 46. As a hotel property I promise to support your larger service context I promise to update your airline rewards points I promise to help you find a nice restaurant for dinner I promise to let you work from your room I promise to get you a taxi in time to get to the airport
  47. 47. Promise Theory helps span boundaries Horizontal and vertical silos Disciplines and perspectives Providers and customers Service systems
  48. 48. DevOps is to Promise Theory as…
  49. 49. MktDesDevQASuppEtcOps becomes…
  50. 50. …Promise Thinking! (w/apologies to Design Thinking)
  51. 51. Model the organization from the customer in Customer journey Service blueprint
  52. 52. View relationships in terms of promises Benefit Empathy Autonomy Resilience
  53. 53. Unify design, operations, and repair
  54. 54. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Read: ‘In Search of Certainty’, Burgess ‘Promise Theory’, Bergstra/Burgess ‘Understanding Computers and Cognition’, Winograd/Flores
  55. 55. www.ingineering.it blog.ingineering.it linkedin.com/in/jeffsussna @jeffsussna
  56. 56. Photo credits! https://www.flickr.com/photos/donhomer/12862086683/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/uniquehotelsgroup/5690081235/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrbill/6566209207/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/neospire/3595638270/ http://www.rewardexpert.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Global-Entry1.jpg https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/7780990192/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/drainrat/14644026133 https://www.flickr.com/photos/crabchick/6261927068/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/mplemmon/2691465516/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/4596672640/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebrenner/305255359/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/5719382021/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmrosenfeld/3155170767/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/5785125108/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/11790927943/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/11553519@N03/4634956248/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/seafaringwoman/5461280385/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/surmolotto/3510114082/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/44124466731@N01/27687364/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/jylcat/538008079/
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Improving digital service quality by explicitly accounting for uncertainty.

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