Service Management in an As-a-Service World

 Author(s): , Posted on September 15th, 2015

Recently I led a discussion at an itSMF Special Interest Group meeting about IT service management in an “as-a-Service” world – a world where the way IT is procured, delivered and consumed has fundamentally changed with the advent of cloud computing. Not that cloud computing is new by any means – particularly in smaller organisations, but it is now becoming more and more prevalent in large enterprises. Or it is expected to be…

While there has been a lot of hype around “the cloud”, what became apparent at the meeting is that most information is targeted at the executives in high level overviews, or at techies in great technical detail.

Meanwhile, the IT service management team has been left in the cold. There is little clear direction on “how to” or “where to start” and too much hype versus fact. Yet it is the service management team who often has the responsibility to “make it happen”.

In our discussion, which included IT service management professionals from government, financial services and IT vendors, the concerns/queries about service management in a cloud environment were startlingly consistent across industry sectors:

  • What is the best way to monitor and report service delivery?
  • How have other organisations done it?
  • What is hybrid cloud and how do you manage it?
  • How do you manage service integration across multiple vendors?

The Australian Government defines cloud computing as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Interestingly, the itSMF group viewed cloud as a commercial model for delivering IT, rather than a technology. And the overriding concern is that these services are not in their control.

So how does cloud impact the policies, processes and procedures service management uses to plan, deliver, operate and control IT services offered to end-users?

For me it comes down to recognising that while traditional IT procurement has changed, you can still be in control; defining a clear – but flexible – business map for how the technology, processes and people will support the business; and ensuring transparency across multiple vendors.

New Ways of IT Procurement Don’t Have to Mean You Lose Control

Much of the fear of losing control comes from the feeling that IT departments are relinquishing control to IT third parties because they no longer own the IT and can’t see, touch or grab it. Yet in many ways they have more control than ever as it is easier to increase or decrease capacity quickly in response to changes in your organisation or the market in which it operates. And, if you chose the right vendor, they should provide you with regularly updated innovative solutions and contracted service levels rather than you being locked into a technology that will start to age as soon as you implement it.

Of course it’s not simple matter of moving everything into the cloud. Sometimes legislative requirements will dictate where data can be stored or who has access to it which may force an application to be insourced. Or it may depend on the maturity of an organisation’s approach to IT – an immature organisation may refuse to outsource because it is simply fearful of doing so whereas a mature approach is open to pushing risk outside the organisation.

And not all clouds are the same. A private cloud is used by a single organisation. A community cloud is for the exclusive use of a specific community of consumers with shared concerns (eg security requirements or mission). A public cloud is for open use by the general public. And a hybrid cloud is comprised of multiple distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community or public). Whilst the debate over public vs. private cloud services seem to still rage on, in the context of the above and the relative organisational needs and maturity, they all have a place.

This feeling of a loss of control can be exacerbated by departments choosing their own systems, easily bought and delivered over the Internet. However this “shadow IT” should not be feared – instead it should be seen as an indicator that the IT department is not delivering what they need. This is why business mapping is so important.

Use Business Mapping To Ensure IT Truly Supports the Business

A map looks at the context of complex systems. We’re familiar with technology roadmaps that match short-term and long-term goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals, often presented in a diagram. They are designed to help customers (including internal customers) understand the technology, current and future, that is at work in their business. But the technology view is only one part of the puzzle.

In addition to addressing the business’ immediate and projected needs you need to have a larger view of the product/capability that your organisation provides and the market forces that may impact it. The external forces range from market segment growth, competitive situation and your distribution channels through to political, economic and environmental factors – and more. There are also internal forces including the company, customers, suppliers and other constituents. This view is known as a market audit.

A business map takes this to the next level. It starts with identifying the need that the organisation is addressing with its product or service, the evolution of that product/service from an idea through to a marketable product and eventually a commodity.

Business maps arm the technologist, and business professional, with information that can be used to understand the overall business’ direction and what factors influence the various capabilities that underpin the central need of the value chain. This holistic view of the business gives context for recommendations and decisions. Hint: Get it right and there will be less instances of Shadow IT, as you will be able to understand the emerging needs of the business as it relates to its strategy

To start the mapping process can help you articulate the answers to a number of questions:

  • Where are we now with the business capabilities, supporting processes and technologies?
  • What is the visibility and Value placed on each of these
  • Where do we want or need to go with these? Ultimately the drive is to head toward commodity, however, that isn’t always the right answer as there are sometimes constraints.
  • How do we get to where we want or need to be?
  • As the organisation moves from new and novel to commodity, what are your options for sourcing and delivering?
  • How will we know that we are on track?

If you’d like to know more about business mapping read my blog.

Transparency across multiple vendors

IDC predicts more than 65 percent of enterprise IT organisations globally will commit to hybrid cloud technologies before 2016. This hybrid environment encompasses everything from applications, to platforms to business services, providing the services the business needs dynamically.

So once you’ve mapped your organisation and selected your solutions how do you track and manage service delivery across multiple delivery modes and suppliers? How do you let the business know what is available to it? And how do you encourage the innovation through the adoption of new services?

Integrating the disparate IT and business systems and providing a clear view of what services are available to the business based on Persona allows everyone to know what is available. Most importantly this provides a way of tracking and measuring the services, both individually and holistically as they underpin key business capabilities.

As an Enterprise Solution provider we face this problem ourselves in deliver services to both our internal and external clients. To solve this we created VantagePointSM. This is designed to be a multi-sourced business services automation and aggregation platform. It consolidates disparate enterprise systems into a unified, real-time and personalised stream of intelligence, delivered via a dashboard on laptops, tablets and smartphones. This visibility and control that this offers, allows us and out clients to reduce the effort in maintaining and managing services

So there’s no need to fear the cloud. Recognise it for what it is – a different way of delivering services that can actually give you more control, not less, provided you take the effort to jump into the driver’s seat and use your map.

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