Do you manage the forest or do the trees manage you?

If anyone is familiar with satisfying “needs of the moment,” it’s your local Operations team…application errors, network failures, DoS attacks, deploying new applications, etc. A lot of times it’s simply hard to see the forest through the trees so to speak. As our Senior Director, Todd Weeks, stated in his last post, you need to understand the system if you’re going to effectively manage, influence, and improve it. So what is the system I’m referring to? It’s your organization’s Services. If you don’t know what your organization’s Services are then chances are you’re handling the daily events but the organization just doesn’t seem to run as effectively as you think it can. You probably also find it difficult to quantify your organization’s work, its value to the larger business need, and prioritizing internal improvement projects. Defining and managing your organization in terms of its Services not only creates transparency for your customers but also for everyone in your organization. For the rest of this post, I’ll provide a brief description of how Services can be modeled and leave discussion of Service Catalogs, implementation obstacles, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), costing models, etc., for future posts.

So what is a Service? Your organization is providing Services whether or not they’re well defined, otherwise your organization wouldn’t exist. Organizations typically want to define their Services from the inside-out because the daily tasks and functions are what individuals are most familiar with. Because Services are intended to create value for your customers, not your own organization, you need to define Services from your customer’s perspective. Doing so, you’ll find yourself bundling the tasks and functions into Services that are meaningful to your customers. To give you a formal definition, Services are the technical or professional capabilities which enable one or more of your customers’ major business processes or needs. Most Operations teams find defining their Technical Services (ex. – email, phone, network, etc.) easier than defining their Professional Services (Incident Management, Change Management, Financial Management, etc.) because Technical Services quickly translate into servers and applications, while Professional Services are usually more process oriented. The basic structure for modeling an individual Technical Service is Service\System\Subsystem\Component, while a Professional Service will follow the structure Service\SubService\Capability or Activity\System\Component. The following link provides a visual for modeling the two types of Services. The Professional Service example is a partial model of the customer application onboarding process described in this previous post.

In addition to dependencies between parts (logical and/or physical) of a given Service, as you model more of your organization’s Services you will undoubtedly uncover interdependencies between Services. All of your organization’s Services together define your organization’s “system.” Knowing what your system is, you now have improved transparency to the organization’s goals, a consistent method for measuring the organization’s performance, and the ability to consistently quantify the benefits of proposed changes/projects. All of a sudden it’s not so hard to be able to see BOTH the forest and the trees which will allow you to more effectively manage, influence, and improve the system you live in.

MSCom Operations has started down the road of Service Management but is far from finished. An observation that excites me is that as we define our Services the focus of individuals is shifting from a “functional team responsibilities” view to a more of a holistic “Operations Service Provider” view which is where we want and need everybody.

If you’d like to read more about IT Service Management sooner rather than later, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) are both great references. As you define your Services MOF’s Continuous Improvement Roadmap will help you set the course for becoming even more responsive to your customers’ needs.