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Optimizing ITSM And Data Center Implementations, Part II

By Marlin Ness, Dan Stavola and Hugh Lang Many organizations are recognizing the need to improve their IT operation to produce a higher level of customer satisfaction while doing more with less.
Mar 29, 2005

ITSM Watch Staff


By Marlin Ness, Dan Stavola and Hugh Lang

A critical component for success is having personnel skilled in ITIL implementations support the gathering of operations stakeholder requirements for all service support areas. The focus should be on process re-engineering in support of the future operations.

Corporate and business visions, strategies, architectures, plans, and objectives will be used for requirements development. Service support plans and policies will be gathered for the ICT strategies, architectures, processes, policies, and tools. Standard process re-engineering requirements gathering is necessary for all the service support areas:

  • Service Desk
  • Change Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Release Management

The Service Delivery processes will shape and trigger significant requirements that will directly impact the technical design of the data center. The service delivery processes can materially impact the topology, architectures, high level designs, and detailed technical designs. A couple of key areas for consideration are provided below.

Service Level Management
The goal of Service Level Management (SLM) is to maintain and gradually improve business aligned IT service quality through a constant cycle of agreeing, monitoring, reporting and reviewing IT service achievements and through instigating actions to eradicate unacceptable levels of service. Therefore, as part of the requirements gathering, it is extremely useful to define what range of services are to be provided by the data center and what are acceptable service levels for each of these services.

Preparing and maintaining a Service Catalogue, which describes each service along with its Service Level Agreement (SLA), metrics, costs and charges can best describe this. SLAs can be service-based or customer-based. Some organizations find it helpful to have Multi-level SLAs, which summarizes generic SLM issues in high-level SLA sections for all customers coupled with any customer-specific variations in lower-level SLA documents.

The SLAs with the organizations customers need to be supported by corresponding Operational Level Agreements (OLA) with internal providers and Underpinning Contracts with external service providers, e.g. international and metro circuits, network and server infrastructure component maintenance agreements. The purpose of preparing and maintaining a Service Catalogue and associated SLAs is to grow an active relationship between the Customer and the Provider.

SLM can spearhead the business transformation of an organization to move up the maturity ladder towards exceeding customer expectations and becoming a trusted partner. This in turn will change the role of the IT service management function from a cost center to a value center. The Continuous Service Improvement Program (CSIP) may specify additional requirements that should be considered early on in the project.

Availability Management
Availability Management ensures services are available when the customer needs them, and is influenced by business demand and the cost required to meet customer needs. In assessing the functional requirements of the data center, the current Availability Plan should be used, but an Availability Plan may have to be developed, which defines the long-term objectives for proactive improvement of IT availability within the imposed cost constraints.

Availability is at the core of business need and user satisfaction. Setting realistic, customer-focused goals for initial and long-term availability targets for all data center components (applications and infrastructure) is essential for managing customer expectations. Availability requirements have a direct effect on the functional and technical designs of the data center and on the total cost for implementation. Understanding and insuring the true business requirements during this stage can reduce future costs by orders of magnitude.

Capacity Management
Capacity Management requirements must focus on ensuring that the capacity capabilities of the organization meet the demands of the business. The current Capacity Plan should be used for inputs to the capacity management process. They should be captured to ensure the designs for the data center will be sufficient. Capacity management inputs will provide many of the most forward-looking requirements that will help forecast the future success of the IT operations. Business capacity, service capacity, and resource capacity management sub-processes will all provide relevant requirements that can have a direct and material impact on the design requirements for the data center.

IT Service Continuity Management
In addition to setting infrastructure availability targets, it is also necessary to understand what data center service continuity targets are required. Current business continuity plans, IT service continuity plans, and disaster recovery plans should be used as requirements. This will help determine the number and location of data centers and associated failover and backup mechanisms.

The development of a revised IT Service Continuity Plan in close alignment with the Business Continuity Plan will provide focused input to the design process leading to standardized architectures, which can more readily be mirrored at disaster recovery/ backup sites. IT Service Continuity Management is therefore concerned with managing an organization's ability to continue to provide a pre-determined and agreed level of IT services to support the minimum business requirements, following an interruption to the business.

In the case of outsourced data centers at collocation facilities, it is important that the service provider not only assesses the risk and vulnerability to its own business following disaster or major failure, but also seeks to mitigate risk on behalf of its clients.

Financial Services for IT Management
Another area that is useful to develop early on is Financial Management for IT Services. In the past, because IT departments have been technically focused, they often have not had to cost justify the services they provide. This process seeks to readdress this balance.

Its goal is to provide cost effective stewardship of the IT assets and the financial resources used in providing IT services. Since this is often new territory for many organisations, selected IT staff will need to be trained in finance techniques and work closely with the Finance Department to gain the most benefit from this process.

Financial Plans and Financial Management of IT Services can assist in the management and reduction of overall long term costs, identify how IT adds value to the Customers business and identify the actual cost of services and their provision. This can be done through rigorous calculations on Total Cost of Ownership and Return on Investment. Current or pending vendor contracts and negotiation documentation will also be examined to account for penalty clauses or savings through consolidated purchasing power.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that one of the business requirements gathered during requirements capture may be to achieve certification in Service Management as an organization as a mark of service excellence, by gaining BS15000 certification, (which is shortly to be adopted as ISO20000). It is not a requirement for a service organization to have adopted ITIL best practices or ITIL terminology to achieve compliance with BS 15000. Following ITIL best practices will make it easier to do this.

A Data Center Optimization project may be part of a wider service improvement program. Any interdependencies with other projects within this program will also need to be included at this stage. Mistakes in understanding stakeholder requirements compounds future risk mitigation efforts, the ability to meet recovery objectives, and to survive disasters.

Stakeholder Requirements gathering is a fundamentally important first step in ensuring future success and must be performed correctly. The discipline of requirements management is essential to the success of all projects.

Marlin Ness is the VP, for IT Service Management Optimization Solutions for Greenwich Technology Partners. He has over 24 years of practical IT architecture, engineering, and operations experience.

Dan Stavola is a Master level ITIL certified Enterprise Management Practice Leader at Greenwich Technology Partners and has been leading the most difficult IT optimization projects for 23 years.

Hugh Lang is a London-based Enterprise Management Practice Leader at Greenwich Technology Partners, who has over 20 years of design, cost optimisation, project management and operational IT experience.