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So, What Do You Offer?

Failure to understand the services delivered by internal IT groups can lead to costly decisions being made on incomplete, inaccurate data.
Feb 27, 2006

George Spafford


Internal IT groups are under constant pressure to justify their existence.

When compared to an outsourcer, internal IT (IIT) is at a disadvantage because the outsourcer can readily present management a list of services that are available, descriptions of each, available service level plans and their associated costs.

More often than not, IIT is not prepared to list all of the services offered and their costs. As a result, management, which often is befuddled about benefits relative to costs when it comes to IT in general, may lean toward the outsourcer as they can more readily understand the cost-benefit scenarios the outsourcer sets forth.

This is a very real risk to IIT and the business because failure to understand the services delivered by IIT risks management decisions being made on incomplete and inaccurate data. Rather than wait for a crisis to occur, IIT groups need to develop what ITIL terms a "service catalog" that describes the breadth of services that IIT provides to the business.

The first step is to discuss the need for a service catalog with senior management and stakeholders. Most importantly, IIT needs to understand what management needs to understand. At the same time, you want them understand the benefits of a service catalog and cooperate.

As with many process changes, this will affect culture and is most likely to succeed if supported by a strong tone from the top. You cannot create a service catalog, blindside the business with the concept of tracking services provided and associated costs, and expect success. The goal is to prove the value IIT brings to the key stakeholders, not to disincent the business from using IT.

The second step is to assemble IT staff and discuss what services actually are currently rendered. This must be at the level of the people providing the services because both formal and informal services must be captured.

Avoid Dangerous Delusions

This can be disconcerting to some as they guard knowledge in the belief that they are safeguarding their jobs. Quite to the contrary, unless the knowledge in their heads can be captured, the continuity of the IIT team can be at risk, both if something happens to that person (such as an accident or vacation) or if management concludes that outsourcing will be "easy" because it is unaware of everything IIT provides. The mistaken belief of power is a dangerous delusion to the employees and the organization.

The IT staff meetings should be held in a non-threatening environment and the reasons for the need to collect the data must be articulated. Candidly, job security should be high on the list. Care must be taken not to criticize in these meetings or the staff will become less and less forthcoming. The goal is to discover and record - the details can be, and should be, collected later. Take care not to disrupt the flow of information as people begin to talk.

What you will likely find is that breadth of services provided to the business is far larger than anyone in IT, or the business for that matter, expected. It's not unusual to see IIT groups own anything with a computer, display or communications capability. As a result, IT may own maintenance of shredders, FAX machines, phone systems, etc. all on top of the traditional IT systems.

For each item, the related services should be documented from cradle to grave - purchasing new equipment, assembling, testing, training, deployment into production, security, administration, ongoing end-user support and, finally, decommissioning. They all take time, resources and money, which is why this exercise is so very important.

Next, discuss services provided with the business stakeholders. The intent is to identify errors in perception and to determine if any existing undocumented services or unmet needs were overlooked. Again, one of the primary goals is awareness and especially not political surprises.

Existing service, incident and problem data from the configuration management database (CMDB) can be used to verify services and departments to a certain extent. The data usually will not be as rich as actually talking to the IT staff, plus much is likely being done that management is unaware of and these hidden activities must be captured. This highlights the need for the previously mentioned candid staff meetings. Again, the service catalog must be all-encompassing to accurately reflect what IIT is doing for the business.

Drill Down to the Details

After the initial service discovery meetings have been held, go back and collect and/or research the details for each service, including correlating the departments using each service, frequency of the calls, average duration, expected response time, and business ramifications if the perceived service levels are not met.

For example, a technician may elaborate that "When production calls, if I don't get the carton printer back on-line in 15 minutes, then the manufacturing line will have to stop. Those calls usually take an hour as I have to stop what I am doing, go out to the line, diagnose the problem (which is often a dirty print head), fix it and then return to what I was doing." That type of statement helps illustrate the service, department, expected service level and gives the foundation for the impact to the business should the service not be delivered in the expected time.

The next step is the costing component. IIT needs to understand the total cost to deliver the service. An astute financial person who is versed in costing can help put together a conservative costing model that can withstand scrutiny.

Be sure that the cost models are both intuitive and defensible. When presenting costs to management, you do not want to be torn to shreds by an irritable management team that does not agree with the model set forth and it is indefensible.

The cost model must take into account initial purchase price, depreciation, the cost of annual support from the vendor(s), the cost of annual license agreements from the vendor(s), the cost of having the related servers in the data center, backup media, and so on. There is a very real need to understand the relationships between a service that is offered to the business and the underlying components and services including people, documentation, network infrastructure, and so on. This need for relationships in costing services highlights one of the many reasons that Configuration Management is so very vital in ITIL.

Once the current service catalog has been assembled and discussed with management, it needs to be communicated to the business. The desired goals are to use this information to negotiate service levels and to provide relevant management reports that show the use of IIT and justify the business' investment. Yes, IIT does cost money but it also delivers a great deal of value.