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Three Steps to Optimum IT Service Delivery

IT service management really starts with change, configuration and release management, writes ITSMWatch guest columnist Mark Schouls of Novell.
Jan 19, 2010
By

Mark Schouls





IT organizations today aren’t judged solely on delivering IT services. They’re scrutinized based on how well IT systems deliver services that support the bottom line. To align IT with the business strategy, ITOs have discovered that repeatable, documented processes are essential to improving IT service delivery and management. Enter ITIL, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

ITIL is an effective framework for quality IT service management. This set of best practices addresses the planning, delivery and support of IT services and how organizations can consistently deliver these at a reasonable cost. Many pragmatic CIOs are basing their process-management improvements around ITIL.

Created by the UK government, ITIL is becoming the de facto standard for organizations looking to provision IT services in keeping with the current and future needs of the enterprise. ITIL provides best-practice guidelines and architectures on all aspects of end-to-end service management to ensure that IT delivers the correct and appropriate business solutions. ITIL adoption rates are increasing across all verticals on a global scale, as organizations are under immense pressure to implement industry standards.

The ITIL framework brings business processes and technology together via a series of interrelated management disciplines, including release, change and configuration management.

Release Management - Proper release management, which defines the process of building and releasing software, results in a greater success rate in the provisioning of software and hardware to the business, and perhaps more importantly, results in a perceived improvement in the quality of service. Bringing consistency and documented processes to software and hardware releases minimizes downtime, reduces support costs, improves resource utilization and increases confidence across all levels of management.

With ITIL measures in place, organizations can more effectively plan and oversee the successful rollout of hardware and software. This encompasses designing and implementing efficient procedures for the packaging, testing, distributing and installing of changes to the IT systems across the IT infrastructure in a controlled manner. This comprehensive process also creates a definitive source of documentation on changes that are made throughout the business.

By leveraging release management, organizations have one definitive source for enterprise content. However, this process is not without its hurdles. There may be some initial resistance due to more stringent control mechanisms, as not everyone likes change. Moreover, not everything planned in production is tested the same way in QA. It’s important to understand how to address deviations from the release management process, and to define individual responsibilities.

Configuration Management - Enacting configuration management processes gives organizations a single view of all corporate assets, including their dependencies and interrelationships. Having one federated repository as a point of reference ensures accuracy and eliminates time-consuming duplication of efforts.

Using ITIL measures for configuration management accounts for all IT assets and configurations within the organization and its services. It’s essential to gain accurate information on all configurations by verifying configuration records and addressing change inconsistencies with increased speed and greater accuracy. Organizations typically aggregate or federate their corporate assets into a configuration management database, or CMDB. This allows for reporting and tracking of all assets from a single repository or many federated repositories.

Change Management - Codifying change management practices helps organizations better align IT services to business requirements. With rigid processes in place, they eliminate rogue changes, thereby reducing risk and improving user productivity. To undertake change management initiatives, businesses must first accurately assess risk, understand the impact due to any change, analyze resource requirements and make adjustments to align resources as required. At that point they can enact a formal method for approving changes.

The processes of release, configuration and change management are interrelated. Organizations typically implement these three disciplines first, and then move on to others in the ITIL framework.

Optimum IT service delivery requires successful implementation of all three management disciplines. Further, these disciplines must interact seamlessly. For example, for the CIO to access SAP resources on the network, the system must understand authorizations, roles and other security issues; check on the configuration and patch levels of the access device; enact change management and potentially release management processes; track issues or problems with service continuity management and potentially provision new service-oriented components, requiring licensing and approvals.

Mark Schouls, senior ZENworks product manager for Novell, Inc.’s Systems & Resource Management Business Unit. Mark can be reached at mschouls@novell.com.

Tags:
Novell, change management, ITIL, ITSM, release management



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