Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is now the time for a Service Management Initiative?

Yes, I'm still alive.

Very sorry I have not posted in a long time.(or as we say here in Boston " a wicked long time")
As many of you may have heard Vigilant was acquired by Inforonics in Littleton, MA. It's been a lot of work to get the acquisition accomplished, but we are excited about the new opportunities.
You can read more about that here: Inforonics Acquires Vigilant

Though I've delayed in posting for this particular topic, it may be a good thing.
I'll have to admit, that earlier in the year I may have written this quite a bit differently than I do today. It's been a wild ride here in the US with our economy, and the signs are still blinking as to our recovery. (imho). So my "If I were CIO" strategy is a bit different than in the past.

So what about the IT Service Management strategy that was so vigorously trumpeted in 2008?
From what I have seen there are 2 clear areas that every company needs to focus on, and they need to do it now.
Configuration and Problem Management.
(yes - I know, I didn't say Change, I'm shocked as well, but like I said this article has 9 months of my experiences behind it, so as opposed to the speculation I would have written about in January, I'm writing based on what I have seen.)

Why Configuration and Problem?
First off - the real issue is Problem Management. Companies are really bad at it! Thus when you are working on a problem, and making no progress, this means the business is suffering. Companies can not afford downtime and slowdowns from technology issues, ever - especially in this economy. They need to have systems up and running fast.

So what's the problem with their problem management?
Asset mapping and documentation. I've worked on several major performance and availability problems for clients this year. Serious revenue impacting issues! In each and every example the operational deficiency, and thus the reason to bring our team in, was a gap in understanding of how the technology really supported the business operation.

That is why if companies are going to invest anything in their Service Management initiatives this year, I truly believe it has to be in Configuration Management. Config Management is not just about the assets. It's about the business service, and how the asset's support them. If we (IT - the custodians of operational business technology assets) are going to add value to the business, we need to ensure that we have a handle on what the state of our operations truly is. We need to not only identify the asset relationship, we need to ensure that we can determine its health and its ability to perform on-going.

Yes, of course Change Management comes into play here. However, Change Management alone is not getting the job done. In each of the organizations I referred to above there was a CAB, RFC's, all that jazz. However, there was no record of truth or current health state of CI's. Changes were being made against assumed configurations, without any understanding of their current state of health. (in other words, no integration into event management) So changes were being made and requested against incorrect information and unstable CI's. Hence the problem kept getting worse, not better. (My analogy to the clients as "Stacking Cue Balls" each change caused another break - just like each ball stacked causes the lower ones to topple)

With a well thought out CMS strategy, including health monitoring and CI capacity analysis tools, Problem Management becomes a lot easier for organizations. A clear picture of the assets in relationship to each other helps the process of elimination, it provides a direct plan of attack to isolate root cause, and it also provides helpful information in getting the right people involved.

This is why companies struggle with Problem Management. They expect the PM process to give them root-cause. This will never happen if the proper data is not collected and managed in a meaningful way.

For my next posting I'm going to breakdown the Problem Management process we've used to isolate faults quickly. -I promise it won't take me 9 months to write it. :)


Jeff Roberts said...

Can you provide any real examples of how a "business impact" would be displayed on a dashboard so that decision makers would understand the impact via a graphic or metric at a glance?

Bruce said...

It seems to me that if you are in the middle of the torrent/flood there is no real way to have the proper perspective to be able to effectively gain control of your situation and eventually extricate yourself without help that is not encumbered by the day to day effort required to keep your head above water. IT professionals trapped in the day-to-day quagmire of servicing the business are unable to find the time, the clarity of vision and most importantly the ability to shake the corporate head trash and self limiting beliefs to get beyond the basic blocking and tackling of Problem Management, Change Control, and Configuration Management (and most of the time they can’t do these things well) so that they can focus on Service Management and delivering real value to the business. They need help!

Anonymous said...


What would you recommend as the first step in trying to implement a Config/Problem management strategy into a service organization that is "in the middle of the torrent/flood" (as described by one of your commenters).

Any tools or methods to recommend?


Jeff, The best relationship to business impact is usually in terms of revenue. Of course this is highly dependant on your business, but I'll use an example of a reatil bank. If you are getting transaction fees from ATM's and you have measured how much each ATM makes you on an average hour, then the simply show on a counter next to the ATM being out that not only show how long it was done, but how much that "could" have cost you. This of course is an overly simplistic suggestion, but imagine the difference the IT person approaches the situation when they thinkg of this ATM as a money make as opposed to just another PC in the field.


Excellent points Bruce.
That's the real challenge - put out or put up. Put out fires or put up sprinklers.

That is why it is imperative that the configuration management information be prioritized and collectec against prioritized business assetts. When folks are in a frenzy, we need to step back and analyze what are we worked up about, what's the priority to the business. So creating our business buckets needs to be the first step. Most of the time we have already done this in our service desk in categories. Starting here with these categories we can start business centric knowledge bases that allow us to group information that is relevant to business processes. At the end of the day it is about the accomplishment of the business process. If done securely, quickly, and with integrity then the business should be succeeding. Of course there are givens in IT services that are not in direct line to the business. (Email, Networking, Data Storage) there is no reason IT can not move full speed ahead on this shared services. (Hopefully that answers your question anonymous)