End=Lean IT; Means=Service Assurance

Integrated Service Management

Yesterday, I wrapped up a nine-city national series of seminars sponsored by Network World on “Lean IT.” Throughout, my role has been to advocate a couple of key positions that EMA (Enterprise Management Associates) believes are essential and to give some practical advice on how to make progress on the road towards the strategic high ground – proactive, service-oriented management process and practices that align with business/organizational priorities – while also accomplishing the seemingly opposite goal of controlling IT costs. One of the things that EMA analysts do on a regular basis is talk to IT practitioners, either through case study projects or conference attendance or our direct research. And we’re hearing some very clear themes lately regarding current challenges. Loudest and most clear is “Do More With Less”. I’ve been checking with the audiences on this seminar series to see if anyone is being told to “Do Less With More”, but so far I haven’t found anyone in that fortunate position. And let’s be frank – even in the best of times, IT is forever under pressure to cover an expanding ecosystem of IT infrastructure and application components without expanding the cost of operations. So how do we handle this? Doesn’t it cost more to deploy service management than basic, bare-bones break-fix tools? Well yes, in the short term, but it doesn’t take long for that balance to shift. The more time I spend talking to IT practitioners, the more convinced I become that one of the best answers is to adopt service assurance as a guiding principle across the IT organization. And by this, I mean paying attention the ultimate customer of IT services – be they end users, partners, subscribers, or constituents – in terms of what they expect, what they need, and what they are getting. Just as important is adopting a proactive stance by figuring out what current indicators and planned changes translate into in terms of customer experience impact. Along the way, you’ll have to define and model your services, and build an understanding of all of the infrastructure elements that have to sing in harmony in order to achieve quality service delivery. Service modeling is where the real value paybacks start coming around. Getting your arms around service delivery element relationships helps with faster root cause and better understanding of impact, whether something has broken or degraded or a plan is being laid to make changes. This deeper understanding of connectedness and interdependencies across domains can yield significant improvements in both MTBF as well as MTTR. The challenge is, of course, building service models, and keeping them current/accurate in the face of constant change. The best hope here is service-layer management tools that automate the process as much as possible by importing service models from available domain managers as well as CMDB/CMS solutions, coupled with regular discovery processes that recognize changes being made or occurring in the managed environment. CA is taking a stab at this with their Spectrum Service Assurance Manager, tying together service desk, CMDB, infrastructure management (networks, systems and databases), as well as application performance management. Other management vendors are making headway here as well, but it’s not possible to over-emphasize the need for automating the maintenance of service models via import and automatic updates – it’s the only way service management can be kept current and relevant without requiring a cadre of new administrators. One other final parting thought from this tour. Along the way, I was fortunate to meet a couple of folks that actually carried job titles related to Service Assurance. In Tyson’s Corner yesterday, I actually met a person who had (until recently) been Director of Service Assurance. In other cities, I met a Service Assurance Manager, and others that were responsible for trying to match business SLAs to the underlying IT machinery. This is the direction that IT teams need to head – where they have personnel (perhaps those freed up by more efficient and proactive management!) acting in the role of advocates for their served community. It may not be as glorious as firefighting, but it’s sure to put you in a more strategic role in your organization!

Related:

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022