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Evolving to a Broker of Technology Services: Planning the Solution

By Trevor Williamson, Director, Solutions Architecture

A 3-Part Series:

  • Part 1: Understanding the Dilemma
  • Part 2: Planning the Solution
  • Part 3: Executing the Solution, again and again

Part 2: Planning the Solution

As I wrote before and continuing with part 2 of this 3-part series, let’s talk about how we plan the solution for automating IT services and service management within your organization so that you can develop, deliver, and support services in a more disciplined way—which means that your customers will trust you. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they won’t pursue outsourced, cloud, or other third-party services—but they will rely on you to get the most out of those services.  And once you do go through this process, some of the major benefits of implementing an automated service management infrastructure are:

  • Improved staff productivity allows your business to become more competitive. Your time is too valuable to be spent fighting fires and performing repetitive tasks. If you prevent fires and automate repetitive tasks, you can focus on new projects and innovation instead, when you apply automation tools to good processes, productivity skyrockets to a level unachievable by manual methods.
  • Heightened quality of service that improves business uptime and customer experience. Consistent execution according to a well-defined change management process, for example, can dramatically reduce errors, that in turn improves uptime and customer experience because in today’s age of continuous operations and unrelenting customer demand, downtime can erode your competitive edge quickly. Sloppy change management can cause business downtime that prevents customers from buying online or reduces the productivity of your workforce.
  • Reduced operational costs to reinvest in new and innovative initiatives. It’s been said that keeping the lights on—the costs to maintain ongoing operations, systems, and equipment—eats up roughly 80% of the overall IT budget rather than going to new or innovative projects. With more standardized and automated processes, you can improve productivity and reduce operational costs allowing you the freedom to focus on more strategic initiatives.
  • Improved reputation with the business. Most self-aware IT organizations acknowledge that their reputation with business stakeholders isn’t always sterling. This is a critical problem, but you can’t fix it overnight—changing an organization’s culture, institutionalized behaviors, and stereotypes take time and energy. If you can continue to drive higher productivity and quality through automated service management, your business stakeholders will take notice.

A very important aspect of planning this new infrastructure is to look toward, in fact, assume that the range of control will necessarily span both internal and external resources…that you will be stretching into public cloud spaces—not that you will always know you’re there until after the fact—and that you will be managing them (at least monitoring them) with the same level of granularity that you do with your traditional resources.

This includes integrating the native functionality of those off-premises services—reserving virtual machines and groups of machines, extending reservations, cloning aggregate applications, provisioning storage, etc., and connecting them to an end-to-end value chain of IT services that can be assessed, monitored, and followed from where the data resides to where it is used by the end-user:

It is through this holistic process—rationalized, deconstructed, optimized, reconstituted, and ultimately automated—that the system as a whole can be seen as a fully automated IT services management infrastructure, but believe me when I say that this is not nor will it ever be an easy task.  When you are looking to plan how you automate your service management infrastructure, you need a comprehensive approach that follows a logical and tightly controlled progression.  By whatever name you call the methodology (and there are many out there), it needs to be concise, comprehensive, capable, and, above all else, controlled:

1. Identify the trends, justify the business case, and assess your maturity. Before investing in an automated service management infrastructure, you have to assess the opportunity, build the business case, and understand the current state. This phase will answer the following questions:

  • Why is automated service management important to my business?
  • What are the business and IT benefits?
  • How prepared is my organization to tackle this initiative?

2.  Develop your strategic plan, staffing plan, and technology roadmaps. You translate what you learn from the prior phase into specific automated service management strategies. The goal of this phase is to help you answer these key questions:

  • Do I have the right long-term strategic vision for automated service management?
  • What are my stakeholders’ expectations, and how can I deliver on them?
  • What technologies should I invest in, and how should I prioritize them?

3.  Invest in your skills and staff, policies and procedures, and technologies and services. This phase is designed to execute on your automated service management strategies. This phase will answer the following people, process, and technology questions:

  • What specific skills and staff will I need, and when?
  • What policies and procedures do I need to develop and enforce?
  • Should I build and manage my own technology capabilities or use external service providers?
  • What specific vendors and service providers should I consider?

4.  Manage your performance, develop metrics, and communicate and train. Finally, to help you refine and improve your automated service management infrastructure, the goal in this phase is to help you answer these key questions:

  • How should I adjust my automated service management plans and budgets?
  • What metrics should I use to track my success?
  • How should I communicate and train stakeholders on new automated service management policies and technologies?

These phases and the associated questions to be answered are just a taste of what is required when you are thinking of moving toward an automated service management infrastructure—and of course, GreenPages is here to help—especially when you are in the planning stages.  The process is not painless, and it is certainly not easy, but the end result, the journey, in fact, is well worth the time, effort, and investment to accomplish it.

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