Modern Service Management in the Intelligent Cloud

Executive Summary

Microsoft’s compelling Intelligent Cloud platform, coupled with our modern approach and perspective on IT Service Management, provides the answers to an often-asked question; Why doesn’t Microsoft have a dominant IT Service Management (ITSM) tool in the marketplace?

First, our view on IT Service Management is that traditional ITSM processes and practices haven’t kept pace or evolved over the years and simply do not support and embrace modern capabilities the cloud provides, nor enable the agility and deployment at speed and scale required for digital transformation.  More and more Microsoft customers are asking for our assistance to “Transform and Modernize IT”.

Secondly, our Intelligent Cloud, Intelligent Edge along with our AppSource marketplace partners do in fact provide a compelling, modern approach for Modern (and traditional) Service Management and IT Asset Management scenarios. All with the capabilities provided in the Intelligent Cloud as shared at IGNITE 2017 by our CEO Satya Nadella –

…to be multi device and multi sense.   You start at one device using speech, you may end in another device using ink.  All of the experiences and all of the infrastructure, applications, devices, are going to be infused with AI, natural language, speech, computer vision are all just going to be part of what we do and what we expect.”

The following details how this is accomplished.

The Intelligent Cloud & Intelligent Edge

The cloud is sometimes still viewed and managed through the lens of organizations who incorrectly think it is all disconnected and “siloed”.  Microsoft calls our strategy the “Intelligent Cloud” and “Intelligent Edge” for a reason – it assuredly is NOT based on siloed mailboxes, stove piped applications and individual virtual machines.

The design intent of the Microsoft Intelligent Cloud is to “empower organizations to unlock greater insights, transform teamwork, and securely enable innovative solutions”.  The paradigm of the Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge is multi-device and multi-sense.  Everything highlighted in this article is or will eventually be closely unified.

For those in the IT organization, IT Service Management (ITSM) represents how IT manages, operates and transitions technology, designs services, and manages risk within the organization.  And more often than not, focused operationally and for infrastructure and not full stack applications.  Traditional ITSM hasn’t kept pace with rapid changes in modern applications and services, modern application development approaches, proliferation of cloud services, and automation.  This isn’t to say it won’t work. But simply put; you won’t achieve the outcomes and value as quickly from innovation and capabilities the cloud provides when managing them with a legacy mindset and approach.  Customers and colleagues in the ITSM industry often ask us;

  • “What impact does the Intelligent Cloud and Digital Transformation have on ITSM?”
  • “How does the Intelligent Cloud work with or enable IT Service Management?”
  • “What is meant by Modern Service Management?”

From purely an IT Service Management perspective, Microsoft has been continuously modernizing and evolving how technology is and should be managed.  This has driven updated practices and approaches in support of not only our Intelligent Cloud strategy, but in support of Digital Transformation. Transformation that businesses are keen to quickly achieve.  Lessons learned have then evolved our approach and guidance from traditional ITSM industry guidance into modern ITSM, also known as; Modern Service Management.

A senior Architect within our practice has suggested that Digital Transformation is the culmination of the following seven facts (augmented by this author);

  1. Business must innovate to compete (in their respective industries)
  2. Devices are inexpensive (think IoT)
  3. Compute is powerful and inexpensive (and easily automated)
  4. Storage is inexpensive (and easily automated)
  5. Internet (and network) connectivity is prevalent and inexpensive (and easily automated)
  6. Cloud enables transformational stuff to be at everyone’s fingertips e.g. garage developers now have access to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence thru the cloud
  7. Agile/DevOps makes it all happen faster (and easily automated)

Does your IT organization embrace and broker these facts?  Or stand squarely in the way of them?  This is a big change for IT organizations that often struggle to embrace this modern approach. Manually oriented, control-centric, and “technology agnostic” based practices give way to leaner, automated, self-directed improvements that reduce friction, manual efforts, failure demand, and IT inter-mediation -- resulting in greater business value.  We came up initially with an internal definition of Modern Service Management; A lens, intended to focus ITSM experts around the globe on the most important outcomes that evolve our customers from legacy, traditional IT models toward easier, more efficient, cost effective and agile service structures.   The following is just some of these traditional to modern positions and practices of Modern Service Management;


Modern Service Management like any change to an organization and the status quo is challenging.  But the outcomes are worth the effort from the successes I know Microsoft and other organizations have experienced... One of my favorite Machiavelli quotes holds very true today when introducing change such as this;

"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things… Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. “​  -  Niccolò Machiavelli

The Modern Service Management content above has been provided for context only.  There are plenty of articles, blogs and videos from myself and colleagues and covering this in detail is not the intention of this article.  For more information on Modern Service Management check out the reference links at the end of this article...

Enabling Traditional or Modern Service Management in the Intelligent Cloud

How then do we enable, evolve and transition from traditional industry-based ITSM to Modern Service Management?  It starts by rethinking the goals and objectives of “Service Management” as well as the platform it executes on. It also starts by understanding what changes when you consolidate and move applications and workloads from on-premise physical/virtual to true private or public cloud.

To enable and support both traditional and/or modern IT Service and IT Asset Management capabilities, how does one utilize the Microsoft Intelligent Cloud?  It’s simple; Start with the industry leading, recognized modern business application platform Dynamics 365.  At Ignite 2017, our CEO Satya Nadella, stated "modern organizations can't be captive to the old way of doing things" in terms of business applications. “Applications need to be more modular and automated than in the past”.  The Dynamics 365 Software as a Service (SaaS) Business Application platform, for instance, now offers modular apps that offer limited slices of focused functionality. Also discussed was the promise of "AI-first business applications”, which hinge on artificial intelligence for their core functionality.  Microsoft is using our own AI technology to handle online customer service and support inquiries, and other major tech companies are as well.

Dynamics 365 is “The next generation of intelligent business applications that help you empower your employees, engage customers, and optimize operations”. Complete solutions such as Customer Care and Field Service are available as part of the platform.  In addition, the platform is extended by customers and ISVs at a fraction of the cost of developing an application from the ground up.  Dynamics 365 provides the application platform functionality one expects in an industry recognized and industry leading platform;

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) and On-Premises deployment options
  • Wizard driven configuration virtually eliminating the need the development, or scripting for forms, workflow, business rules and business process flows, while allowing for advanced development if needed using non-proprietary development skills (Javascript, .Net)
  • Reporting services for specialized reports, built in user and system Charts and Dashboards from current data, dynamic Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables, and PowerBI for analytics
  • Microsoft AppSource - an Application marketplace for utility functionality as well as complete business vertical applications
  • Industry recognized and leading Customer Service Solution that incorporates Microsoft Bot framework and Artificial Intelligence
  • Responsive portals implemented, modified and extended without advanced web development skills yet flexibility to extend through advanced means if needed
  • Modern mobile clients on all major mobile platforms and modern application for Windows 10 that allow access to data and functionality similarly available through web experience.
  • Unified Service Desk client for integration to call distribution systems, transcription of voice from callers, search knowledge and measure sentiment as transcription takes place
  • Stage based business process flows, workflow and business rules that allow adherence to process steps and activities

The above results in the following capabilities from just the Dynamics 365 platform to support and enable Modern Service Management;

  • On-premises implementations with consistent functionality that runs in the cloud (Dynamics 365 SaaS receives semi-annual updates). And hybrid implementation options that can locate data in the cloud or on-premises as needed or required.
  • Reduced backlog of configuration changes to IT and business outcomes within the Dynamics 365 platform
  • Easy creation of net-new functionality while allowing you to keep your changes separate from those of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and Microsoft.
  • Automated intake through email, chat, portal, social and other interfaces and increased quality of intake through automation - Ability to apply the power of artificial intelligence
  • Reduced time to value for the configuration and use of self-service portal, including multiple, diverse types of portal identity providers, reducing need to have multiple portals for interaction with external associates, customers, etc.
  • Responsive mobile portal access for associates/customers
  • Remote approvals through client or portal interface, and through Microsoft PowerApps.

The story doesn't end with Dynamics 365.  The Intelligent Cloud includes Office 365, the most popular cloud based messaging and collaboration platform.  Office 365 is seamlessly integrated to Dynamics 365 as one would expect in the Intelligent Cloud.

Dynamics 365 and Office 365 are very close family members of the Intelligent Cloud.  Minimally, they share the same portal for administration, operations, licensing and support and share Azure Active Directory for identity.  Many of the services provided by Office 365 and Office 365 ProPlus are natively integrated to Dynamics 365.

Office 365 in fact extends the Dynamics 365 common data service. For example, if you setup meetings with a client or associate, to discuss a request, incident or issue, etc., the case/ticket entity in Dynamics 365 can be automatically linked to the Meeting entity in Office 365.  Any entities created beyond what is in Dynamics 365 and Office 365 are available in the common data service.  Office 365 working in tandem with Dynamics 365 provides;

  • Email, scheduling, task and contact management
  • Automatic SharePoint, Groups and Teams integration to Dynamics 365 which provide simple and easy collaboration and document management among users and non-users of Dynamics 365
  • Service side and client-side integration to Exchange and Outlook allowing clients to work on Dynamics 365 application within Outlook.
  • Microsoft Flow and PowerApps integrations to Dynamics 365 for end user “citizen” automation without the need of development skills

The combined capabilities of the above result in the following modern service management scenarios made possible with Office 365 and Dynamics 365;

  • Integrated groups and team collaboration with associates and resources that are not licensed users in Dynamics 365.  Examples include Release / SCRUM Teams, Problem Resolution Teams that have shorter time frames
  • Reduced cost of Dynamics attachment storage without sacrificing search capabilities.  Examples include storing screen shots, documents related to assets or CIs.
  • The power of Dynamics 365 available while you’re using Outlook on the desktop, web, or phone.   Examples include support resources responding through email to support requests or incidents and not having to go into a specific application
  • Synchronize not only email, but appointments, tasks and contacts as well support work actions and appointments with employees and associates
  • Ease of creation of After-Action reports in Microsoft Word from an individual record.
  • Dynamic Excel spreadsheets for synchronized, in most cases up to date reporting, data visualization and analytics.  Also provides easy means of importing data from other data sources.  Examples include Asset data import, Service and Application analytics.
  • Ability for regular users to automate their own work scenarios using Flow between Dynamics, their Office 365 account, Project, Visual Studio and many other services, without writing a single line of code.
  • Configure workflows between your favorite apps and services.  Examples include when a Release achieves a certain milestone, automatically create and link a project, or other service item available in Microsoft Flow, get notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more.

Office 365 and Dynamics 365 provide collaboration and business application capabilities that can then take advantage of services provided in Azure through multiple means of integration.

Microsoft Azure is “a comprehensive set of cloud services that developers and IT professionals use to build, deploy, and manage applications through a global network of datacenters. Integrated tools, DevOps, and a marketplace support you in efficiently building anything from simple mobile apps to internet-scale solutions.

And while Azure provides many services and capabilities that appeal to the developer, there are many other services that do not require application development skills to utilize.  By no means a complete list, but just some of the services arguably relevant to Modern Service and Asset Management include;

  • Azure Logic Apps helps you simplify and implement scale-able integrations and workflows in the cloud between Microsoft and non-Microsoft cloud services without scripting or development skills required
  • Azure Operations Management Suite (also known as OMS) is a collection of management services including Log Analytics, Azure Automation, Backup, and Site Recovery
  • Azure Automation runbooks run in the Azure cloud and can access cloud resources or external resources that can be accessed from the cloud or on-premise.
  • Azure Application Insights as an extensible Application Performance Management (APM) service for web developers on multiple platforms.  Can monitor health of Dynamics 365 and other non-Microsoft applications.

The combined capabilities of the above result in the following scenarios made possible with Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365;

  • Save time by designing complex processes across Office 365, Dynamics 365, Azure and many other services using easy-to-understand design tools and utilize templates to get started quickly.  Examples would include integrating Incident Management to Azure Operations Management Suite Log Analytics to analyze failure patterns.
  • Seamlessly implement patterns and workflows that would otherwise be difficult to implement in code Example: Case/ticket in Dynamics 365 triggers and integrates a Project in Microsoft Project and in parallel an Enhancement project in Visual Studio Online
  • Customize your logic apps with your own custom APIs, code, and actions. Connect and synchronize disparate systems across on-premises and the cloud
  • Build off BizTalk server, API Management, Azure Functions, and Azure Service Bus with first-class integration support
  • Leverage the power of PowerShell to automate activities on-premise and in the cloud Example: Creating a new user in Active Directory and provisioning updated services to that user based on role across a number of services
  • Monitoring compliance of Windows quality update servicing or monitoring the health of services
  • Monitoring “externally” and “Internally” the health and performance of applications across technologies and services.   Example: Monitoring Dynamics 365 instances for health requires code snippet provided from Microsoft into forms that can then be leveraged by Azure Applications Insight

If you have hung with the article thus far—waiting for the actualization of either modern or traditional ITSM and ITAM data artifacts, workflows and processes—you have arrived…

Leveraging all the aforementioned Intelligent Cloud capabilities provided by Dynamics 365, Office 365 and Azure in this article, is an AppSource certified, Global ISV Solution from Provance, Inc.  The Provance ITSM & ITAM Solution simply extends Dynamics 365 with the entities (e.g. forms, rules, processes, metrics) and capabilities one expects to find in traditional built for purpose ITSM Solutions and those well known in the marketplace.

Now Modern (or contemporary) IT Service and Asset Management processes co-exist with other business applications, utilizing the power of the common data service, Dynamics 365, Office 365 and Azure.  Some of the features of the Provance ITSM Solution include;

  • Addition of eleven (11) Pink Verify™ certified processes including Incident, Problem, Change, Request, Release & Deployment, Knowledge, Service Continuity, Service Portfolio, Service Catalog, Service Level, and Event Management
  • IT Asset and Configuration Management Included
  • Integrations to System Center 2016 for existing cloud or on-premise implementation
    • Configuration Manager for Asset/Configuration Item management and reconciliation,
    • Operations Manager for monitoring, event generation
    • Orchestrator for automation.
  • Native Integration to Azure OMS for monitoring alerts
  • Automation framework that allows for Azure Automation, Powershell, Orchestrator and 3rd party automation integration at activity level.
  • Integration to Visual Studio Team Services or Team Foundation Services for Cloud or On-Premise implementation out of the box (can also be configured using Logic Apps/Flow)
  • Pre-Configured Self-Service Portal which is modified through Dynamics 365 and portal administration
  • Pre-configured roles, views, forms, business rules, business process flows, workflows
  • Templates for all ticket types
  • Configuration settings housed in data rather than solution for easier administration and promotion to production and data oriented administration federation to non-administrator
  • Third Party Notification for external suppliers (underpinning contracts)

The combined capabilities of the above result in the following scenarios made possible with the ITSM Solution accelerator, Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365;

  • Virtually out of the box ITSM and ITAM Solution that is ready for an adapt and adopt approach to implementation but is easily extended as needed for specific requirements within Dynamics 365
  • Easily import configuration and data from legacy ITSM solutions through simple Excel import (must follow business rules and relationships so no bad data in)
  • Ability to intake tickets, incidents and service requests through IM Chat (Skype for Business, CafeX), recorded and analyzed voice (in multiple languages) and self-service portal and email
  • Pre-configured deep ITSM and ITAM analytics available from Dynamics 365, PowerBI and Provance ITSM
  • Ability to manually or automatically apply templated tickets that pre-populate incidents, requests, changes and problems with values, relationships and activities including automation and approvals.

The "all up" Intelligent, Modern Service Management Solution

What results from all of the above is a natively integrated modern platform for both legacy ITSM processes and procedures, but more importantly a pathway to Modern Service Management patterns and practices that represent where IT organizations need to be in the future to remain relevant to their business.

There is a proliferation of ITSM solutions on the market.  We see more and more organizations desiring to consolidate and simplify technology, consolidate both internal and external service and support, automate intake and processing, increase levels of self-service and knowledge management, and utilize capabilities such as citizen automation, Release Pipeline, artificial intelligence, machine learning and Bot technology for improving employee/associate productivity and value.

This article is intended to simply provide a point of view on how Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge supports not only your overall strategic Digital Transformation, but also supports operational aspects such as IT Service and IT Asset Management.  It is important to note that these capabilities may not exist in all regions or government clouds.  Additionally, cloud based services may or may not be available for on-premises implementations.

For more information contact your Microsoft TAM, Account Executive, or Digital Advisor.   You can also contact Provance directly to better understand their IT Service Management solution on Dynamics 365.

Modern Service Management References

Below are just some of the videos, documents and blog articles on Modern Service Management;

Modern Service Management Modern Service Management for Azure Whitepaper Channel 9 Video The Release Pipeline An example of Release Pipeline automation using PowerShell The Release Pipeline Model videoModern Service Management Customer Service and Support Next-Generation Service and Support in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World, Part 1 Next-Generation Service and Support in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World, Part 2 AXELOS Blogs on Modern Service Management Service Monitoring Service Outputs Service Monitoring Service Building Trust in the Service Monitoring Service. Making the Service Viral Service Monitoring Application Development Monitoring Service Health. The service monitoring service – rounding it all up Modern Service Management for Office 365 Modern Service Management for Office 365 Monitoring and Major Incident Management Monitoring: Audit and Bad-Guy-Detection Leveraging the Office 365 Service Communications API Evolving IT for Cloud Productivity Services IT Agility to Realize Full Cloud Value - Evergreen Management Service Desk and Normal Incident Management for Office 365 

About the Author

John Clark is a "Modern" IT Service Management Solution Architect in the Microsoft Enterprise Services / Americas IT Service Management practice and Community Lead for the Modern Service Management Worldwide Community.   John's contributions to Microsoft have been recognized from being selected as TechReady19 WW Communities Award Winner, member of the Microsoft Services Senior Technology Leadership Program (STLP), and recently achieving 2016 Gold Club.  John was formerly President of the Ohio Valley itSMF LIG winning the annual "LIG Of the Year" award during his leadership from itSMF USA.  John has extensive background in Technology Management and IT Service Management, as well as Dynamics 365, Office 365, Hybrid Cloud, Azure and System Center.  He has published articles in various industry journals, co-authored a book on System Center , and has spoken at various industry tradeshows on ITSM, Enterprise Architecture, Business Process Management and Design.