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Reaching Common Ground When Defining Services – Highlights from #CloudOpsChat

On May 30th, we hosted our monthly #CloudOpsChat on “Reaching Common Ground When Defining Services.” Thanks to all who participated for making it an informative and engaging conversation. We would also like to thank John Dixon (@GreenPagesIT) from GreenPages and Khalid Hakim from VMware (@KhalidHakim47) for co-hosting the chat with us.

To kick off the chat we asked, “What exactly is an IT service?”

Our co-host @KhalidHakim47 suggested they are intangible by nature, unlike products. Our other co-host, @GreenPagesIT, gave the textbook answer: IT services are an asset worthy of investment. He added that an application alone is not an IT service. @kurtmilne defined an IT service as something designed to deliver something to someone in a form or function that meets their need. @AngeloLuciani said that an IT service delivers a business outcome. @KongYang saw it as a bounded deliverable that states which things are being provided by whom and the support that’s to be rendered when things fail.

Next we asked, “Why should you define services in the first place?” Followed by, “What are the benefits of doing so for your users?”

@KhalidHakim47 started off by saying that you cannot claim you manage services until they are defined in the first place. @kurtmilne said service definitions set expectations, which are a key dependency for creating satisfied users. @jfrappier added to Khalid’s point, saying that you also can’t control your public cloud vendors, so as a consumer you need clear definitions. Khalid went on to say that without a service definition, the boundaries may be loose between IT deliverables – setting expectations becomes much clearer when you address a well-defined service. @harrowandy chipped in saying the definition of services helps to make sure that the customer and IT are expecting the same outcome, with which @alamo_jose agreed. Co-host @GreenPagesIT said IT services help to organize people around a delivery objective instead of a technology objective.

We then noted that multiple roles contribute to specifying a service definition and asked, “What roles are involved in defining each service?”

@KhalidHakim47 argued that the driving and accountable role for defining a service is the service owner/manager, but it is not a one-man show. According to Khalid, @CloudOpsVoice and @alamo_jose, some of the key roles involved include the Business Unit Liaison, IT Service Manager, Consumer Relationship Manager, Portfolio/Catalog Manager and Architect, the Service Liaison Manager and Service Catalog Manager. Co-host @GreenpagesIT explained that at first pass, it’s a small group that defines the service, but eventually more parties become involved as you roll into CSI. @harrowandy said the service must have an owner who takes the service from cradle to grave and from initiation to retirement.

We then asked our audience, “Are there recommended approaches to getting multiple groups of users to reach consensus in their service definition?”

@AngeloLuciani explained that groups need to be driven by the business strategy and outcomes. @harrowandy agreed, adding that if groups don’t know the business strategy, how can IT provide them what they want? Co-host @KhalidHakim47 suggested that during the service definition planning phase, all roles that are expected should be looped into the exercise with clear goals and outcomes. @KongYang made a great analogy, saying too many chefs in the kitchen will kill the service – instead, we should look to have one chef for one service, a point with which many of our participants agreed.

Next, co-host @GreenPagesIT wondered: “Are there recommended approaches to balancing the needs of both IT and service consumers?”

@kurtmilne said that IT can deliver fast and cheap if standardized, but slow and expensive if customized. Agreeing,  @KhalidHakim47 said there’s a balancing act between packaging/standardizing and customizing. @harrowandy suggested using the “80/20” rule: You can get 80% of what you want now, or wait a certain number of weeks for the remaining 20%. Kurt also brought up the fact that IT service standardization gives users more flexibility and business process level, with which @alamo_jose agreed, adding that IT must help the business understand that reality. Co-host @KhalidHakim47 noted that standardization drives efficiency, but allowing more service levels gives more freedom as well. Co-host @GreenPagesIT added that requirements should be negotiated during the service definition and not specs.

Switching gears, we then asked “What service components do you think should be included in a service definition?”

@kurtmilne stated that pricing services is key – pricing requires accurate costing, and costing requires clear service definition, thus making the whole process come full circle. @alamo_jose added that ownership, SLA/OLA, a clear definition, features, cost and related services should all be included. Co-host @GreenPagesIT said that knowledge of how to access the service is a necessary service component, as well as hours of operation.

To round off the chat we closed with the question, “What do you do after you define services? What are the next steps?”

For @jfrappier, the answer was, “IT needs to define, then document and automate.” @alamo_jose chipped in, saying that once the service is defined, it should be published in the Service Catalog, with @AngeloLuciani adding that IT also needs to educate and communicate on how to leverage the services. @ckulchar, however, had a very different answer – once services are defined and delivered, he suggested, users should drink beer and celebrate!

Thanks again to everybody who participated in our #CloudOpsChat, and stay tuned details around our next #CloudOpsChat!

Feel free to tweet us at @VMwareCloudOps with any questions or feedback, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags.