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Good, Fast or Cheap: Pick All Three in Request Fulfillment!


I am sure that you have heard the saying, “Good, fast or cheap – pick any two.” But why is it acceptable to only choose two? Provided the components are fit for purpose, I believe we should be able to have all three.

Service Management strives to ensure the business has exceptional customer service. Request fulfillment, like many components of service management, is important. The key is to really understand your team’s capability to provide that service as expected in a timely way with a minimum of cost (good, fast or cheap).

Unfortunately, the challenge that arises for some IT organizations is that they don’t understand their current capability to provide request fulfilment. They make some assumptions from their current reporting, or in other cases they say, “The business isn’t complaining, so we must be doing something right.” The trouble is we end up making assumptions about one of the largest regular interfaces with our business.

So let’s take a closer look at how we can improve on good, fast and cheap.


Good can be a very subjective term; however, we need to scrutinize the level of customer satisfaction of the service(s) we provide. Despite your method of service delivery, you need to connect with the business on some level to see really what is going on from their perspective. This could be done when they call in, or could be a call out to the customer to see if the service you provided was what they expected and if there are any areas for improvement. The key is to actually have a conversation.

This fact-finding mission, while simple, will allow you to identify why they are calling in the first place. This in turn could help you to outline any potential self-service options you could provide down the road. Another great reason to informally speak with your business is that you may gain some insight into their future business needs. This information should be reviewed as a team so that you can build out a strategy for areas of improvement. For example, they may indicate that another office might be opening in the next year which you weren’t aware of.

While many IT organizations rely on their internal metrics, the challenge is that we may not be getting the whole picture. Despite what our “numbers” say, getting a firsthand account will also let us know if our metrics are getting close to reflecting the customer experience. A good example of this is application performance. While our metrics show that we have had no outages, a conversation with the customer may reveal that the application performance has been getting slower over the past year but was not reported.


Everyone wants to get service as quick as possible. Whether it is at work or at home we want to get things without delay. People will expect the rate of service to improve so long as it does not compromise quality and value. For example, if I order a coffee I want a minimum of wait time provided that my coffee is the right size and is not cold. However, much like “good,” we need to quantify with your business that the rate of service is what they are expecting.

Expectation on service delivery is always changing. In the past a customer may have been able to choose a phone or email escalation with 24 hour turnaround. At that time this may have been acceptable. Fast forward a few years and as many as one-third of modern consumers (those who regularly utilize Twitter and Facebook) want action in some form in 4 hours or less. Because of their experiences outside of work, they are also looking for a variety of ways to engage with those who provide services to facilitate this, besides phone and email. Having some form of self-service available will further improve your ability to ensure the speed at which you are able to respond to customers. In fact, those customers now expect it as well. These modern consumers are more capable of searching out the answers on their own, so having a knowledge repository to manage frequent questions will free up resources to assist others.


I must admit I don’t much like the word cheap. What we should be striving to achieve is value. Think about it in these terms: if you bought a cheap pair of shoes and over the course of the year had to replace them, what would you have saved?

As it applies to request fulfillment, we need to address the activities that are being completed every day and determine if the work we are doing provides value. A commonly used example for this would be password resets. In some cases, organizations still handle these as manual escalations. The question to ask yourself is, “Does this provide value for delivering service?” The answer is no. Service desk analysts may be performing this potentially automated task instead of something that has more value to the customer. The first point that may be raised is that this automation costs money… That is true, but performing a cost benefit analysis on this activity might show that it actually costs us more over the course of the year for people to do this rather than purchasing an application to do it.

From here your assignment is to take a closer look at the three of these items, and see what balance of good, fast and value make sense to you and your ability to deliver services within your organization.


For more brilliant insights, check out Ryan’s blog: Service Management Journey

About Ryan Ogilvie

Ryan Ogilvie is a Service Management consultant in Calgary, Alberta with Blackfriar Consulting inc. While working with stakeholders to achieve their business outcomes is his main focus you can also catch his commentary on his blog – Service Management Journey. You can connect with him via the various links below.

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