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From CIO to CEO: 5 Steps to Organize an IT as a Service Provider

Jason StevensonBy Jason Stevenson

In my last CIO to CEO blog, we discussed How to Run an IT as a Service (ITaaS) Provider by providing services to meet customer needs using a commodity as an example. In this blog, we will discuss how to organize governance and personnel within an ITaaS Provider.

IT as a Service ProviderTo provide business/mission-value and remain relevant, many IT organizations are positioning themselves as a Hybrid Cloud Broker; providing both public and private cloud services to their customers and users. To be successful, these organizations must adopt ITaaS; a model in which IT is a commodity, providing services on demand to meet business needs through a scalable and measurable pool of resources using integrated and automated processes. This is accomplished through a blend of:

  • Cloud computing standards
  • Service management best practices
  • Leading cloud and virtualization technologies

The following provides five steps to reorganizing IT to become and ITaaS Provider.

Step #1: Service Owners and Managers

Misconception #1:
Service owners and managers are lower-level resources that: a) do not have financial responsibility, b) are not fully accountable for their service, and c) report into functional/project directors.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderAs part of service portfolio and catalog management, IT assigns owners for each service.

  • Service Owners (SO) are accountable for service strategy including fiscal responsibility and understanding customer demand for their services. Service Owners solid-line report to the CIO.
  • Service Managers (SM) may also need to be identified for each organizational sub-unit such as lines of business, cost centers, geographies, etc. If used, service managers are accountable for service operation and potentially service transition. Service Managers dotted-line report to service owners.
    • In larger organizations, service owners and managers may use a one or more Business Relationship Managers (BRM) as a conduit to customers paying for the service. BRMs solid-line report to the CIO but are embedded with their customers. The CIO may also have an IT Financial Manager (ITFM) to coordinate ITaaS provider budget allocations to service owners and consolidated service chargeback to customers.

Step #2: Service Life Cycle

Misconception #2:
Service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement are just names of service management books.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderThough many organizations claim to be service oriented, their organizational structures remain functionally and/or project oriented. The following diagram illustrates an organizational pyramid providing service orientation through a service-life-cycle-based organization.

  • Directors are assigned for each service life cycle step including service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement. The CIO also acts as the service strategy director and also performs demand management. Directors solid-line report to the CIO but dotted-line report to the service owners/managers. These directors’ budgets are an aggregate allocated by the service owner.

Step #3: Process Owners and Managers

Misconception #3
Process managers can be an afterthought and “peppered” throughout the organization.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderTo be successful, an ITaaS Provider must have mature processes under the control of process managers and owners.

  • Process Managers maintain unit procedure documentation. Monitor process reporting. Reviews process records for compliance. Provide ongoing process and system training to unit. Contribute to continual process improvement. Ensure compliance with policies, processes, and procedures. Facilitate regular process meetings and communication channels. Coordinate interface with other service management processes. Take corrective action if needed.

For organizations with intensely “siloed” or “stovepiped” cultures, process owners many need to be introduced. This is not preferred but a common reality.

  • Process Owners champion policies, process, roles and responsibilities. Provides ongoing process and system orientation. Facilitates quarterly reviews. Facilitates annual audits. Enables continuous improvement.

The Service Portfolio Manager (SPM) also fulfills the role leading a service/project management office. The office may including control, technical writing, quality assurance, etc.

Step #4. Technical-Facing Service and Configuration Item Owners and Managers

Misconception #4:
Technical resources for service design and operation do not need to work together in abstracted technical-facing services.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderThe business-facing services discussed above are supported by functions each with its own owner.

  • Infrastructure Function Owner (IFO)
  • Application Function Owner (AFO)
  • Data Function Owners (DFO)
  • Service Desk Function Owners often fulfilled by the Incident Manager (IM)
  • Operation Center Function Owners often fulfilled by the Event Manager (EM)

These functions may be further decomposed into technical-facing services. Common technical-facing services for ITaaS include network, compute, and storage and each must have an owner.

  • Network Service Owner (NSO)
  • Compute Service Owner (CSO)
  • Storage Service Owner (SSO)

To be a successful ITaaS Provider, technical services are not “siloed” or “stovepiped” and therefore do not require managers in addition to owners as they are shared services. However, the components supporting technical-facing services often have:

  • Configuration Item Owners fiscally responsible for the component
  • Configuration Item Managers operationally responsible for the component.

Life Cycle Gravitation

Configuration Item Managers are often referred to as DevOps in an ITaaS environment; especially for configuration items supporting the application function. Depending on an organization’s culture, DevOps may dotted-line or solid-line report to the Service Design Director or the Service Operation Director. As the organization matures, resources naturally gravitate from operations to earlier phases within the life cycle.

Step #5. Users and Assignment Groups

Misconception #5:
ITaaS is just jargon. IT departments are about IT personnel delivery IT.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderIn a mature organization, classification of events, incidents, requests, etc. are aligned to the business-facing and technical-facing services within the catalog rather than legacy Category/Type/Item classifications. In this respect, the Technical-Facing Service Owners and Configuration Item Managers discussed above may also be referred to as Assignment Group Managers. The remaining technical employees within the ITaaS provider report to these Assignment Group Managers.

Every individual employee of an ITaaS Provider must move from technology to process, to service, to customer, to mission, and then ultimately to a value focus. Because these individual employees are the first, second, and third line of support for the users receiving the service it is critical for these IT employees’ tools and training to encourage user value focus.

Though impractical from a presentation standpoint, the entire ITaaS Provider must conceptualize their role as an inverted organization chart with the users at the top of the organization, then IT employees supporting the users, and then IT management supporting IT employees.

Organize an IT as a Service Provider

Move from CIO to CEO by leveraging a Strategist from VMware to address the people, process, and technology elements necessary to transform your organization to an ITaaS Provider.


Jason Stevenson is a Transformation Consultant based in Michigan.