Monday, June 4, 2012

Demystifying IT Service Definitions


Stating the Obvious

The business of I.T. services has many dimensions. 
Typically these dimensions are frustratingly confusing and overly complex to the outsider. Unfortunately, it is equally confusing and complex to those of us in the business of I.T.
For a while I thought that there were good reasons for this complexity. I thought that this complexity was engineered by clever people in the industry, and is needed to sustain an ongoing elusion. It is an important elusion that maintains high charge rates for scarce resources, that use increasingly complicated tools, which promises significant (although often hidden) business value.
However, I am now convinced that there is a much simpler answer: “This industry is frustratingly confusing and complex because the majority of I.T. Organizations have absolutely no clue on how to organize themselves, regardless of being a vendor or internal I.T. function.” I.T. services are not complex by design, rather it is complex by default. 
To address some of this complexity, I will attempt in this blog entry to demystify I.T. services. 
This simplification may help you to understand your place in the business, and also possibly provide a common understanding that will help in the effective organization of your I.T. business for, and services offerings to, your clients.
A number of entries in this blog focussed attention on what it is we do as I.T. Professionals in I.T. services delivery. Additional to those entries, I have also looked at the definition of I.T. Services in another blog entry. This should be used as contextual background to this conversation.
The Pyramid of Services
I.T.  Services can broadly be grouped into six main categories of services based on the typical outcomes and pricing approaches applied.
  • Business Process Delivery Services: At the bottom of the services pyramid you will find that the I.T. vendor or department is contracted to produce a business process outcome in its entirety as a service. For example: The IT department or vendor may be responsible for the bill processing, and printing services for the client. Another service could be the payroll processing and payment of staff. These services are usually contracted on a per outcome basis. For example: Twenty Dollars per printed bill, or a transaction fee per employee for the payroll processing. Clients typically do not care, and has very little input into the way that the service is constructed, as long as the outcome is achieved within agreed service levels and quality parameters. It is the Organization’s responsibility to oversee all aspects of the service for effective delivery. These include the management, solutioning, operating, support, evolution and use of the solutions that make the business outcomes possible.  
  • Solution Operate and Support Services: The two primary objectives of these services include: Service Availability and Optimal Performance of the solution; and Turning Unknown Errors or Defects with a solution into Known or Understood Errors, that are Assigned for Next Steps. For example, a business may outsource the Operate and Support of their I.T. solution to a vendor or department. This vendor or department is charged with ensuring that the deployed solution remains performing as intended. This is similar to a car owner using the services of a mechanic to service and maintain his vehicle. The client is typically charged an ongoing service fee because the nature of these services are routine or per eventuality. The key ITIL processes associated with this service include: Capacity, Availability and Continuity Management, Problem, Incident and Service Management. The resources used in this service include Technical Administrators, Support Analysts and Operations Managers. 
  • Solution Modification and Implementation Services: The primary objective of this service is the delivery of the modification or solution as per the identified requirements, with the least amount of negative interruption possible. This service includes the the delivery of the “new”. On a small scale it may only be the fixing of problems or defects with an existing solution, or minor enhancements. On a large scale this service may include the deployment of a “step-change” or new business process for the client. These services make use of a solution delivery life cycle (SDLC) like RUP  to deliver its outcome. The service is typically priced on a per modification basis, or per project or program. The I.T. Professionals included with this service are the Analysts, Designer Implementers and Project/Program Managers.
  • Resourcing Provisioning or Consulting Services: This is a service whereby the vendor or I.T. organization merely supplies individuals or a team of I.T. Professionals to assist the client in various endeavors like projects, business cases, designs, trouble shooting, or other. The supplier of this service is typically not rewarded for the outcome, but rather for the availability and access to skills and experience. It is up to the client to deploy this skills and experience for benefit.
I.T. Organizations typically offer a combination of the above services to their clients. If you are an internal I.T. function, you may be obliged to have all of the above available, in which case you may select to source some or all of the above from one or several vendors in an outsourcing arrangement. 
The easiest service to provide is the provisioning of Resource or Consulting Services. It requires less processes and less process maturity from organization. It is therefore one of the dominating service propositions offered by I.T. services vendors. Almost all the risk is with the client.
The most complex service to provide is that of Business Process Delivery. This requires the total process landscape associated with the delivery of a business outcome, and a high level of process maturity to provide the service outcomes cost effectively. In Business Process Delivery, the majority of risk is with the vendor or supplier.
There is one more service that is worth mentioning. This service cannot be classified an I.T. service, yet it is of significant value in the industry. The service is: Management as a Service. 
In this case, the management of an I.T. services is a service in its own right. For example: Project or Program Management Services to deliver a project or program of work. Another example is the management of a client’s I.T. services on their behalf. In this instance a party is contracted to manage the outcome and cost of I.T. services for a percentage or proportionate reward relative to the expected service outcomes.
I have made the case before that the knowledge and ability to effectively organize an I.T. business is a much needed and highly neglected art, mastered by only a few. The effective organization and propositioning around services like the above, is one of the ultimate goals of effective I.T. management.
Scope of I.T. Services

In the above we’ve looked at the broad categories or groupings of the main I.T. services. What follows is a more detailed description of the typical scope and activities of each of the above services aligned with the ITIL Process Library and the Profile-IT IT Role Model. 
Business Process Delivery Scope

The scope of Business Process Delivery Services is specific to the business outcome required by the client. Therefore, each scope may be unique relative to a specific customer. 
Some of the services vendors have succeeded in packaging generic and simplified services like payroll or bill printing, and is delivering these as base service offerings across a portfolio of clients. 
Typically, if the same service can be delivered to multiple clients and the same resource pool, tools and infrastructure is leveraged, then there is more margin and business viability in providing the services. I am therefore not going to go into much more detail of the scope for this kind of service because each business outcome will have to be covered in its own right. There is no way near enough time to do it.
Operations Services Scope

Second on the list are the typical Operations Services. The main objective as stated above for this service is: Ensure Solution Availability and Optimal Performance.
The scope of Operations Services can roughly be covered in three parts or groups of outcomes and activities. These are: Systems Administration, Operations Documentation and Operations Management. 
Systems Administration’s Services Scope Activities include:
  • Availability Management and System Restoration: The objective is to ensure availability of the solution within the boundaries of the system constraints, and the agreed Service Level. In the case of an eventuality, to restore the system to its previously known working state. The key artifact at play in this service component is the solution in production. The key expected outcome is an available solution as per requirements and capability of the solution.
  • Monitoring and Tuning: During this service component the solution is monitored and maintenance and administrative tasks are executed as per the solution’s operating instructions. Tasks include systems performance and operating log monitoring, execution of tuning and maintenance tasks as per the permitted administrative task specification (actions that does not require testing). Logging latent issues that risks the systems performance and availability, with the Support Service that may require change or system modifications. The typical artifacts that applies include the solution’s Monitoring Logs, Check Lists, and Operating Instruction Specification or Manual. The typical desired outcome of this service component is an optimally performing solution.
  • Audits: During this service component routine audits are completed of the solution, for aspects such as usage, versioning, backup confirmations, compliance with policies, laws, best practices, etc. The key artifacts applicable are the production solution, policies and checklists. The desired outcome of this service component is a compliant solution. 
  • Security and Access Management: This service component applies security policies and manage access to the system (adding, deletion and permission management of users, etc). The key artifacts include the production solution and access management requests, as well as access policies applicable. The outcome is managed access, authentication and authorizations in compliance with policies. 
  • Capacity Management: This service component ensures efficient management and allocation of resources used by the solution, and flags capacity constraints or growth demands with Solution Support in time for re-mediation where required. The artifact applicable is the production solution and demand forecasts. The intended outcome is sufficient capacity for the solution to continue performing as required and expected.
  • Continuity Management: This service component focusses on the restoration of service into a Disaster Recovery environment or Back-up Scenario in the event of a disaster. It includes testing of continuity management for possible eventuality. The artifact applicable is the backup solution. The intended outcome is a restorable solution with minimum business disruption.
The Documentation Part of the Operations Service Scope include: 
  • Systems Administration Specification: This documentation activity specifies and keeps up to date, the documented operational and system operation, administration and maintenance requirements. The artifact is a Systems Administration Specification and the intended outcome of this activity is to have an up to date logical representation of the system’s operational requirements.
  • Systems Health and Audit Reporting: This activity reports on systems health, usage, versioning, trends, compliance, etc.. It is included in the document titled: Systems Health Audit Report. The intended outcome of this activity is to have informed management and clients. These parties should be informed about the system’s performance and operations.
  • Configuration Management Baseline: During this activity the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is maintained and kept up-to-date with information of the current state of the system. The tasks also ensures current copies of all installed solution binaries and configuration aspects of the solution. The artifact applicable in this service task is the information contained in the CMDB, as well as the installed binaries and solution configurations. The intended outcome is to have up-to-date information about the solution’s configuration and available copies of all solution binaries and configuration elements.
The Management part of the Operations Service Scope include:
  • Management Reporting and Client Interfacing: During these activities the manager reports at senior management level on key service metrics related to the service and its outcomes. The key artifact used is the Management Report with the intention of informing management and customers of the solution.
  • Exception Handling: The manager is to handle any exceptions where the standard operating practices does not deliver the desired outcome. The expected outcome is that the service operates as required, with the manager addressing any gaps and problems with the service delivery.
  • Management, Co-ordination and Control: The manager is to manage the Service. This includes typical planning, staffing, process design, execution, tools supply, etc. The desired outcome is that of an efficiently managed Service. 
  • Continuous Improvement: The management of the service is required to continuously improve practices and outcomes of the service. The intended outcome is evolution of the way in which the service is provided into an ever more efficient and cost effective execution.
Support Services Scope
The support service has the primary objective as stated above of: Turning Unknown Errors and Problems Into Known Problems that are Assigned for the Next Steps.
The scope of Support Services can roughly be covered in three parts or groups of outcome and activities. These are: Incident and Problem Management, Support Documentation and Support Management. 
The Incident  and Problem Management Services Scope and Activities include:
  • Support Request Management: During the use of a solution support requests are received. These requests are classify as known or unknown errors or other (data correction, training, feedback, new functionality, access requests, etc.). The request information is recorded, updated, and the customer is provided regularly with feedback and information about the status of their request. The main artifact used during this activity is the request or case data. The required outcome is an accurately recorded support request with up to date data, an informed customer, and a request assigned to the appropriate support group for further processing.
  • Known Issue Management: If the support request is a known error, problem or defect, then chances are that there is information on hand of a work-around or status of a modification that will fix the problem for the client or user. This activity is therefore to communicate status and work around (if available) to customer. The main artifact in play is the support request information with available status of a planned modification or workaround. The intended outcome of this activity is to make available to the customer the workaround, or the information about the status of the modification. 
  • Unknown Issue Trouble Shooting: In this activity the objective is to trouble shoot and ensure trouble shooting of unknown issues and solution service failures by the appropriate service team (Operations and Modification Team). Through the trouble shooting unknown errors are turned into known errors with identified root cause. All applicable parties are involved to achieve this outcome. The typical participants in root cause analysis include: Technical Administrators, Software Architects or Designers of the service. Again, the support request data, known error workarounds and statuses of root cause and modifications in flight to resolve the issue, are applicable as artifacts. The required outcome of this service activity is to produce a root cause for an identified issue. By identifying a root cause the unknown error is turned into a known error.
  • Service Restoration: This activity focusses on arranging service restoration as soon as possible, while minimizing any negative effect on business processes. It sees to it that service is restored to the previously known working state of the solution, if possible. The intended outcome is a restored service and/or modification request to get the service to be restored as required.
  • Modification Requests: This part of the Support Service is there to raise Modification Requests with a Modification Service for issues that require a modification to resolve a known error, or address a customer request for additional functionality, and to see to it that the modification is deployed as per business priority and required release schedule. The applicable artifact is the modification request with information about the root cause or request. The desired outcome is a modification of the solution with a fix or change to address the support request or solution error.
  • Monitoring: In this activity of the Support Service systems performance is monitored, application logs are monitored, etc. with the intent of logging latent issues as Support requests where required. The monitoring logs are the main artifacts and requests for solution modification or problem workarounds are the intended outcome of this activity.  
The Documentation Part of the Support Service Scope include:
  • Knowledge Base and Support Request Case Data: Here all the information about the support request is specified and tracked. It includes information about the request, known and unknown errors, user help, workarounds, case status, support instructions, escalations, responsible parties, customer impacts, etc. The intended outcome is to have up-to-date and complete information in a knowledge base accessible to all support service participants (including customers).
  • Call Management and Customer Satisfaction Reporting: This document reports on support request numbers, frequencies, outcomes, trends, systems quality, user feedback, customer satisfaction, etc. It is a document with the intent to have informed clients and management of the service.
The Management Part of the Support Service Scope is similar to the Operations Services Management Scope. It include:
  • Management Reporting and Client Interfacing: During these activities the manager reports at senior management level on key service metrics related to the service and its outcomes. The key artifact used is the Management Report with the intention of getting informed management and customers.
  • Exception Handling: The manager is to handle any exceptions where the standard operating practices does not deliver the desired outcome. The expected outcome is that the service operates as required, with the manager addressing any gaps and problems with the service delivery.
  • Management, Co-ordination and Control: The manager is to manage the Service. This includes typical planning, staffing, process design, execution, tools supply, etc. The desired outcome is that of an efficiently managed Service. 
  • Continuous Improvement: The management of the service is required to continuously improve practices and outcomes of the service. The intended outcome is evolution of the way in which the service is provided into an ever more efficient and cost effective execution.
Solution Modification and Implementation Services Scope
The main objective as stated above for this service is: To implement a solution or solution modification as per requirements, with the least service disruption possible.
The scope of the Modification and Implementation Services can roughly be covered in seven parts that are typically aligned with a standard SDLC. The parts include Requirements Management, Design, Build or Implementation, Test, Deployment and Transition, Documentation and Management.
The Requirements Management part of the Modification Service is typically involved with the analysis and requirement elicitation for the product or modification on hand. During this activity the aim is to identify all actors, use-cases, functional and non-functional requirements and anything else relating to the expected product or modification outcome. 
Typically it includes business process requirements, technical requirements and test requirements for the modification. All these details are usually captured into a Requirements Specification. The desired outcome is to have all requirements for the modification or product known and identified.
The Design part of the Modification Service designs the target business processes, and/or technical solution for the product or modification. It also designs the test scenarios to verify compliance with requirements (including software, user interface, persistence (data management), logical, physical environment, etc.). These designs are captured into a Design and Testing Specification. The intended outcome of this service component is to have an effective design for the modification.
The Build or Implement part of the Modification Service constructs the product or modification as per the design. The solution is then specified and packaged with the deployment instructions. The outcome is the deployable solution or modification to the solution.
The Test part of the Modification Service tests the modification as per the designed tests. The intended outcome is to have a quality verified modification or solution.
The Deployment and Transition part of the Modification Service transitions the product or modification into production for use by the client. The outcome is a successful production deployment of the solution or modification.
The Documentation part of the Modification Service Scope includes:
  • Installation and Systems Administration Specification: This activity specify the documented installation, operational and system administration requirements for product or modification.
  • User Help Documentation: This activity prepares user help documentation to assist with the use of the product or modification.
  • Configuration Management Baseline: This activity updates the current state of the system in the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) and ensures current copies of all installed software binaries and solution configurations.

The Management Part of the Modification Service Scope is similar to the Operations and Support Services Management Scope with a few minor changes. It includes:
  • Management Reporting and Client Interfacing: During these activities the manager reports at senior management level and to sponsors on key service metrics related to the service and its outcomes. The key artifact used is the Management Status Report with the intention of getting informed management and customers of the solution.
  • Exception Handling: The manager is to handle any exceptions where the standard operating practices does not deliver the desired outcome. The expected outcome is that the service operates as required, with the manager addressing any gaps and problems with the service delivery. The risk and issues log plays a role in noting the exceptions and approach to handling these issues.
  • Management, Co-ordination and Control: The manager is to manage the Service. This includes typical planning, staffing, process design, execution, financial control, tools supply, etc. The desired outcome is that of an efficiently managed Service. This is typically documented in the Project Management Plan.
  • Continuous Improvement: The management of the service is required to continuously improve practices and outcomes of the service. The intended outcome is evolution of the way in which the service is provided into an ever more efficient and cost effective execution. The changes to the service is typically managed as per the Change Management Plan and recorded in a Change Log.
Resource Provision and Consulting Services Scope
The scope of this service is determined by the skills and experience desired by the client. 
In Summary
Simplifying I.T. services is in no way easy. 
To grasp I.T. services in a simplified concept one is required to have a strong handle on the expected basic service outcomes, process models, organization models, roles and competencies and ultimately commercial models that underpins such a service offering.
It is not possible to do justice to all the above in one Blog entry. I will therefore include a mind-map with more details on the above. Please stay tuned for the link to this information.
Your comments and opinions are welcome as always.
Hendrik van Wyk  

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