Chapter 1: Service Management Basics

Excerpt from System Center Service Manager 2010 Unleashed.

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As an expert, the consultant develops a hypothesis and tests it, which takes time and costs money. Instead of trying to solve a problem, many IT shops just throw more hardware resources at it—only to find that this does not necessarily improve performance. With historical records, they would see that system utilization actually dropped at the same time that users started complaining, and could look elsewhere to find the problem. Ideally, you would have historical information for troubleshooting and detecting trends.

Lack of Expertise

Do you lack the in-house expertise needed to support users calling the help desk? Is your documentation inadequate, and do you lack the knowledge to keep it current? Do you pay an arm and a leg to have contractors manage user support and expectations?

If the expertise you need is not available for those areas needing attention, you can incur additional costs and even potential downtime. This can translate to loss of user productivity, system outages, and ultimately higher operational costs if emergency measures are required to resolve problems.

Missing Incidents and Information

Sometimes problems are detected by what occurred elsewhere. The information being reported to your operations and change management systems can affect system availability and user satisfaction. If that information is not available to the help desk, it might as well be an isolated island of information.

One of the primary jobs of support personnel is incident detection and recording. A complete service management solution needs the capability to capture information occurring throughout your data center to generate trouble tickets as appropriate and manage user expectations as necessary, providing efficient and responsive support for end users. The CMDB must provide the information required for analysts to resolve issues quickly. Without the capability to integrate information from throughout your IT organization, the help desk is severely handicapped in the quality of support it can provide to its customers.

Reported incidents can also disappear from sight by not being assigned to an owner. Your service management solution must be able to track information from the time it enters the system until the problem is resolved and the issue closed.

Lack of Process Consistency

Many IT organizations still “fly by the seat of their pants” in terms of identifying and resolving problems. Using standard procedures and a methodology helps minimize risk and solve issues faster.

A methodology is a framework of processes and procedures used by those who work in a discipline. You can look at a methodology as a structured process that defines the who, what, where, when, and why of your operations, and the procedures to use when defining problems, solutions, and courses of action.

When employing a standard set of processes, it is important to ensure that the framework that is adopted adheres to accepted industry standards or best practices and takes into account the requirements of the business to ensure continuity between expectations and the services delivered by the IT organization. Consistent use of a repeatable and measurable set of practices allows an organization to quantify their progress more accurately to facilitate adjustment of processes as necessary to improve future results. The most effective IT organizations build an element of self-examination into their service management strategy to ensure processes can be incrementally improved or modified to meet the changing needs of the business.

With IT’s continually increased role in running successful business operations, having a structured and standard way to define IT operations aligned to the needs of the business is critical when meeting expectations of business stakeholders. This alignment results in improved business relationships where business units engage IT as a partner in developing and delivering innovations to drive business results.

Not Meeting Service Level Expectations

What is customer satisfaction? It’s all about perception. Customer satisfaction is not necessarily about objective quality of service; it is how your customer (end user and the business) sees that quality. There will be times that your users see the service as much better than it is, and also times when that service is perceived as much worse than it is in reality—usually due to bad communication or from isolated cases that have high visibility.

Keeping your end users satisfied is about providing excellent services, but it is also about managing their expectations about what excellent services actually are.

?End-user satisfaction = Perception - Expectation

The expectation part of this equation is managed by your service level agreements (SLAs) and how well you meet them. The goal of service level management is ensuring that the agreed level of IT service is provided and that any future services will be delivered as agreed upon. An SLA is just a document; service level management—the process that creates that document—helps IT and the business you support understand each other.

If you have not established expectations, you will not be able to satisfy your end users as to the quality of the service IT is providing, and you will not be perceived as a valuable part of the business.

What It’s All About

It can be intimidating when you consider the fact that the problems described to this point could happen even in an ostensibly “managed” environment. However, these examples just serve to illustrate that the very processes used for service management must themselves be reviewed periodically and updated to accommodate changes in tools and technologies employed from the desktop to the data center. By not correlating data across systems, being aware of potential issues, maintaining a history of past performance and problems, and so on, IT shops open themselves up to putting out fires and fighting time bombs (see Figure 1.3) that could be prevented by using a more systematic approach to service management, which is described in the next section.~

Figure 1.3

Fighting fires.

Service Management Defined

ITSM is a discipline for managing information IT systems, philosophically centered on the customer’s perspective of IT’s contribution to the business. As such, it stands in deliberate contrast to technology-centered approaches to IT management and business interaction.

ITSM is process focused and has ties and common interests with process improvement movement (for example, Total Quality Management [TQM], Six Sigma, Business Process Management, and Capability Maturity Model Integration [CMMI]) frameworks and methodologies. Instead of being concerned with the details of how to use a particular vendor’s product or the technical details of the systems under management, service management focuses on providing a framework to structure IT-related activities and the interactions of IT technical personnel with business customers and users. Achieving this calls for coordination between technology, processes, and people, resulting in improved quality and productivity, as depicted in the IT service triangle shown in Figure 1.4.

Figure 1.4

The IT service triangle.

Evolution of the CMDB

A configuration management database is a repository of information related to all the components of an information system. Configuration management itself focuses on establishing and maintaining consistency of a system or product’s performance and its functional and physical attributes with its requirements, design, and operational information throughout its life cycle. A CMDB contains configuration item (CI) information and is used to understand the CI relationships and track their configuration.

The term CMDB stems from ITIL v2 (in ITIL v3, it is now known as a configuration management system, or CMS), where it represents the authorized configuration of the significant components of the IT environment. A CMDB helps an organization understand the relationships between these components and track their configuration. The CMDB is a fundamental component of the ITIL framework’s Configuration Management process. CMDB implementations often involve federation, the inclusion of data into the CMDB from other sources. Information in a CMDB is typically used for planning, identification, control, monitoring, and verification.

The Service Manager CMDB is a database containing details of configuration items and details of the important relationships between the configuration items. These CIs have relationships that capture, record, and provide output about the status, urgency, historical changes, and the impact of data between CIs.

Service Manager uses its CMDB and process integration to connect knowledge and information from Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, and Active Directory Domain Services. In this manner, it orchestrates and unifies knowledge across the System Center suite.

Strategies for Service Management

Microsoft uses a multifaceted approach to service management. This strategy includes advancements in the following areas:

  • Adoption of a model-based management strategy (a component of the Dynamic Systems Initiative, discussed in “Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative,” the next section of this chapter) to implement synthetic transaction technology. Service Manager 2010 is intended to deliver a service-based monitoring set of scenarios, enabling you to define models of services to deliver to end users using a service map: a combination of Operation Manager’s distributed application functionality with Service Manager business services.

  • Using an Infrastructure Optimization (IO) Model as a framework for aligning IT with business needs and as a standard for expressing an organization’s maturity in service management. The “Optimizing Your Infrastructure” section of this chapter discusses the IO Model further. The IO Model describes your IT infrastructure in terms of cost, security risk, and operational agility.

  • Supporting a standard Web Services specification for system management. WS-Management is a specification of a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP)-based protocol, based on Web Services, used to manage servers, devices, and applications. The intent is to provide a universal language that all types of devices can use to share data about themselves, which in turn makes them more easily managed. Microsoft has included support for WS-Management beginning with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, and it is leveraged by multiple System Center components.

  • Building complete management solutions on this infrastructure, either through making them available in the operating system or by using management products such as Service Manager, Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, and other components of the System Center family.

  • Continuing to make Windows easier to manage by providing core management infrastructure and capabilities in the Windows platform itself, allowing business and management application developers to improve their infrastructures and capabilities. Microsoft believes that improving the manageability of solutions built on Windows Server System will be a key driver shaping the future of Windows management.

Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative

A large percentage of IT departments’ budgets and resources typically focuses on mundane maintenance tasks such as applying software patches or monitoring the health of a network, without leaving the staff with the time or energy to focus on more exhilarating (and more productive) strategic initiatives.

The Dynamic Systems Initiative, or DSI, is a Microsoft and industry strategy intended to enhance the Windows platform, delivering a coordinated set of solutions that simplify simplifies and automates how businesses design, deploy, and operate their distributed systems. Using DSI helps IT and developers create operationally aware platforms. By designing systems that are more manageable and automating operations, organizations can reduce costs and proactively address their priorities.

DSI is about building software that enables knowledge of an IT system to be created, modified, transferred, and operated on throughout the life cycle of that system. It is a commitment from Microsoft and its partners to help IT teams capture and use knowledge to design systems that are more manageable and to automate operations, which in turn reduces costs and gives organizations additional time to focus proactively on what is most important. By innovating across applications, development tools, the platform, and management solutions, DSI will result in the following:

  • Increased productivity and reduced costs across all aspects of IT

  • Increased responsiveness to changing business needs

  • Reduced time and effort required to develop, deploy, and manage applications

Microsoft positions DSI as the connector of the entire system and service life cycles.

Microsoft Product Integration

DSI focuses on automating data center operational jobs and reducing associated labor though self-managing systems. Here are several examples where Microsoft products and tools integrate with DSI:

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