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The IT Portal - A Platform for Service Management

An effective IT portal improves service management and enhances the relationship between IT and the business, write CIO Update guest columnists John Stone, Derek Lonsdale, and Jamison Roof of PA Consulting.
Jun 15, 2006
By

Derek Lonsdale,Jamison Roof,John Stone





IT organizations across industries are undergoing transformations and restructuring to enhance the value they deliver to the business, reduce unit costs and better manage risk.

IT groups everywhere are realizing efficiencies from both IT management and technology implementation strategies, including: implementing new sourcing strategies; improving service management processes and managing resources, to name a few.

Successful organizations are able to reinvest savings from cost-reduction initiatives into new strategic development initiatives. Service management best practices, such as ITIL, are facilitating business and IT alignment, and improving IT services in a number of ways by making IT costs more visible, allowing better business demand management and providing faster resolution of incidents.

The common theme is these strategies rely on fast and easy access to a multitude of data and information for both the IT and business professional. The problem, typically, this information is spread across multiple channels within the organization, and requires specialist access and knowledge.

Yet few companies have brought together the service management tools that support the IT service manager. The service desk or help desk is the designated single point of contact for all end users, but there is typically no single, unified view of information.

Vital management information is spread out over innumerable disjoined reports, databases, spreadsheets, and documents.

Furthermore, IT organizations are not positioning the value of IT to the business. They are not communicating the available services and empowering the business users to manage their service levels and demand.

As a result, business customers experience increases in costs without a clear understanding about the value IT delivers. The “different languages” spoken by IT and business users exacerbate this divide.

The IT Portal is an important channel between the business and IT that can help remedy this situatoin while, simultainiously, supplementing sound relationship management and IT governance practices. An IT Portal can also improve service management and enhance the business client’s perception of IT.

Portal Design

To design a good portal start by taking a holistic approach. There are three key success factors in deploying an IT portal:

  • Use the portal to build a brand for IT.
  • Provide the tools the business needs to manage consumption.
  • Integrate the tools and information to enable ITSM.

    The portal is an opportunity to market IT and establish a brand with the user community. A professional, easy to use and service-oriented site will drive the brand for IT.

    A well-designed portal provides an experience that is consistent with the values IT would like to communicate—service, innovation and value.

    Excessive hype should be avoided. It is important the site stays focused on the information and resources valued by users, and the emphasis should be on content and user-friendly tools in a professionally structured, reliable service.

    Provide the Tools

    Since portals provide a platform to communicate IT services in business terms, the IT services catalog should be made available and continuously updated online.

    It is important for business leaders have ready access to a dashboard of management information required for effective IT prioritization and service consumption. Personalization and customizable views allow different messages to be targeted at the different business audiences.

    Tools and information systems required to manage the systems and the services portfolio would:

  • Make spending transparent to the business; ensuring a feedback loop through the system.
  • Allow an accurate accounting of actual spend accrued by business units.
  • Ensure a true alignment of business and IT goals.

    Typically, IT service managers must navigate a range of service management tools. The portal provides an integration layer for these disparate systems and information resources.

    By implementing a portal within a modular framework, it will be flexible and agile, providing only needed functionality while avoiding well-known pitfalls associated with large-scale, monolithic and custom implementations.

    The portal, for example, could integrate disparate CMDBs (configuration management databases), to provide a consolidated resource. Examples of other services and data that could be accessed via the portal include security tracking and management, a regulatory framework for Sox, Basel II, web access for self logging of incidents, etc., etc.

    The list is long, varied and really anything you want to make it. A unified, comprehensive view of management data is useful for managing finances, IT resources, IT processes, IT service continuity, and business users, for example.

    The IT Portal is a platform that brings together the information and tools for service management and business self-service. Designed correctly, the platform is an integration layer for a range of disparate tools and information sources and an effective channel between the business and IT.

    John Stone is a managing consultant in PA Consulting Group’s IS Implementation practice. Derek Lonsdale is a prinicipal consultant in PA's IT Infrastructure practice. And Jamison Roof is a consultant in PA's IS Implementation practice.




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