Feb062017

As more organisations seek to derive the benefits associated with multi-vendor IT operating models, they are leveraging a Service Integration & Management (SIAM) approach.  Steve Morgan of  Syniad IT explains how to drive process consistency to deliver a seamless service to customers.

At the core of the most successful SIAM operating models, a process model exists to ensure consistency of process interfaces and confidence in process outputs.  In support of these processes, a robust set of tooling is required to support common tasks, such as exchanging incident, problem and change ticket data.  However, many organisations struggle to fully exploit the capabilities of the tooling in the following areas:

  • Ticket exchange between different service management tools
  • Development of a reporting tool which is “single source of the truth”
  • Project and programme tracking, monitoring and reporting
  • Exchange of asset and configuration data
  • Creation and maintenance of end-to-end service models
  • Tracking, monitoring and reporting of contractual service performance
Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Syniad IT

The activities above have long been seen as issues in IT departments across the globe.  However, the creation of an operating model based upon SIAM adds additional complexity, as each service provider could bring their own tools, thereby making the process of establishing tooling standards and develop robust, tool-based solutions more difficult.

As a result of this, I commonly see the following issues in organisations where a SIAM model has been developed:

  • Duplication of tooling
  • Gaps in process automation
  • Manual intervention
  • Over-reliance on data transposition in software such as Excel
  • Opportunities to improve are not delivered
  • Advances in automation and tooling are not delivered

Undoubtedly, the sophistication of the current tools available today presents organisations with a huge opportunity to enhance the efficiency of their IT operating models.  However, many fail to do so.  This is due to:

  • A lack of overarching strategy describing what’s required
  • An inability to capture require requirements from the business
  • An inability to realise the potential benefits of the deployed tooling 

This article explores some causes of this problem in more detail and describes how tooling can be leveraged to help deliver the benefits which SIAM promises.

What IT tooling is affected?
There is a tendency among IT teams to put too much attention on the IT service management tooling at the expense of other critical elements of the tooling jigsaw.  In our white paper, Why you really need a tooling strategy, we outlined the core elements of a SIAM tooling model as follows:

  • The IT service management toolset, which includes:
    • The ability to log, track and manage incidents, problems, changes and release
    • The ability to store information about IT assets, including critically, the relationships between IT assets and other less tangible things such as IT services, business processes, locations, people, etc.  This is commonly referred to as a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
    • The ability to manage workflow
    • The ability to discover network attached assets in your estate, as a means of populating and/or maintaining your CMDB
    • The ability to track and manage software license consumption in the desktop and server estate, using a software asset management tool
    • The ability to correlate events from various service provider systems, to identify potential incidents and demonstrate real-time service performance dashboards
    • The ability to correlate service performance data from various service provider into end-to-end service reporting for consumption by the business
    • The ability to track and improve IT process performance
    • The ability to undertake real-time and long-term capacity and performance planning

In addition to those listed above, organisations may also have a requirement for a single project tracking tool, particularly if their SIAM operating model encompasses project delivery.  More information on this can be found in our white paper, Why your SIAM Operating Model needs a single PMO.

SIAM diagram

So how can you ensure that you fully exploit your IT tools in a SIAM environment?
Develop a tooling strategy and stick to it. At the outset of your SIAM programme, establish a high level operating model, process model, and tooling strategy to support the processes.  Having a vision of the end-state at the outset of your SIAM programme is critical. 

You should also be establishing design principles which will govern how your tooling solutions will be developed.  For example, you might want to limit the requirement for system integration, and therefore you may state a design principle of “all SIAM suppliers will use our toolset”.  This will then govern how the final solution is developed.

In addition, you should be describing your proposed operating model, process model and tooling strategy in the Request for Proposals (RFP) that you submit to your proposed service providers. This will help them establish, articulate and cost their own solutions, and this will avoid unwanted surprises further down the line.

  • Configure, Don’t Customise
    Many tools offer fantastic capabilities to personalise it to your organisation’s requirements.  They may also offer a level of additional functionality that is possible via coding on the platform.  Avoid customisation at all costs, as this introduces additional support overhead, increased support complexity and the risk of “version-lock”, the term given to tooling which has been customised to an extent which prevents easy upgrade to future version.
  • Make sure that your requirements are documented
    The development of a strong set of functional and non-functional requirements is critical to the successful deployment of a robust tooling solution.  Not only will this ensure that the tools meet the needs of the business, a continuous flow of ideas and requirements from the business will drive a backlog of development opportunities, and inform the overall tooling strategy
  • Minimise systems integrations
    All tools will require integration with other systems at some point, to enable the smooth flow of data.  Use the tooling strategy to minimise the need for such integrations, as there is always a maintenance overhead involved, particularly in maintaining the data mapping between systems, and the maintenance of the technical integration layer from a monitoring and performance perspective.

  • If you must do system integration, choose a robust method of achieving it
    System integrations are inevitable, so if you must exchange data between systems make sure that you follow this simple advice:

    • If there are numerous integrations, consider a specialist integration capability or maintenance service
    • Keep changes in the data model to a minimum to avoid unnecessary re-mapping of data fields
    • Only develop a custom integration where no tested or certified integration method (e.g. a vendor’s API) exists
  • Measure tool performance, measure performance if you can
    Measure performance of the deployed tools, in terms of:

    • Their ability to meet the requirements that they were purchased to achieve
    • The extent to which the tool supports the strategy and direction
    • Availability, response time and reliability
    • User feedback
    • The ease with which the tools can be maintained and updated
  • Instigate a continual improvement approach
    In order to ensure that the tools meet the needs of the business as its SIAM strategy evolves, ensure that all tools in the SIAM ecosystem are subject to a continual improvement approach.  This involves analysing the measures discussed above, and taking action to improve performance of the tools.  This might involve:

    • Running a regular review forum where bugs, enhancements and version upgrade opportunities are discussed
    • Regular exchange of information with the tooling vendors, particularly in the context of the organisation’s strategy and the vendor’s roadmap for development of their tools
  • Governance
    The tooling landscape and the strategy which governs it should be subject to regular review.  Ideally, a steering committee should be established which is comprised of enterprise architecture / technical design authorities, procurement, supplier management and the technical teams who use the tool on a regular basis.

Much of the advice contained within this article could apply to any complex IT tooling landscape.  Operating in a SIAM ecosystem only exacerbates the need to follow the advice here, due to the increased complexity caused by multiple tools, operating mission-critical processes in an environment where service providers could enter or exit the operating model at any time.

Steve Morgan is director at Syniad IT.

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