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IT Service Strategy: Catalogs and Portals

Insight from the EMC and VMware 2016 State of IT Transformation Report

self-service portalGuest Blogger:
Denise Partlow, Director, Product Marketing Cloud Professional Services, EMC Corporation

IT organizations are experiencing a cultural revolution. CIOs want to run IT like a customer-focused business. They want to empower users with self-service and enable them to make value-based consumption decisions. This means packaging IT services for easy consumption by the business, providing financial transparency through unit-based pricing and billing, and developing processes, roles, and skills to successfully manage the supply and demand side of the portfolio.

As I mentioned in my last blog, EMC and VMware have been doing workshops on IT transformation with our customers for several years now. We recently analyzed the data collected during these workshops. The top gap, identified by all organizations, is their ability to provide and efficiently manage user requests through a service catalog and self-service portal. 80% plan to have a self-service portal and service catalog in place by the 2016-2017 timeframe.

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What Does It Mean for IT to Be Customer-Focused?

By John Worthington

worthingtonp-cropBy definition a service is a means of delivering outcomes that a customer wants to achieve, so it’s important not to forget where these outcomes originate in order for IT to be customer-focused.

Transforming IT from a technology-oriented to a services-oriented organization is at the heart of IT service management.  The “specialized organizational capabilities for delivering value to customers in the form of services” must be developed, refined, and continually improved with business outcomes in mind.

If IT is working well, with a true service orientation, your customer will see that:

  • IT actions align with the business, particularly in ways that help the business serve external business customers
  • IT costs are controlled and reduced wherever possible
  • Quality of end-to-end IT services is improved
  • IT agility in responding to business needs is improved
  • IT is focused on customer results
  • Prioritization of IT expenditures and actions is based on business priorities

For the IT organization, this service orientation starts with defining what constitutes a “service” in the context of the particular business and cataloging all the services available. Then the resulting service catalog, and the full service portfolio of which it is a part, become the means of ensuring that IT and the business are always completely in synch around IT services and their value.

What your customers want from IT
When I work with IT organizations that are building their initial catalog of services, I’m interested to see who views whom as the “customer.”  This is fundamental, however, since it is IT’s customer who defines value.

Frequently, service definition work is driven between particular IT groups, which can essentially put the entire effort within the boundaries of the IT organization, as illustrated in Figure 1.  This can result in an internally focused view of the customer/supplier relationship.  The focus is on supporting services, and parts of the IT organization itself end up being treated as “customers” of other parts of IT.

Figure 1 – Supporting Service Focus

Undoubtedly supporting services are important, since these are the building blocks that provide the capabilities that enable the customer-facing, outcome-oriented services.  But they are not what the business is ultimately concerned with.  Enumerating supporting services does not provide for the benefits the business expects – surely we don’t intend the service catalog to be limited to the IT organization!

Another approach I see my clients commonly take is to begin defining services that face the internal customers — the business — which establishes service catalog boundaries within the enterprise as illustrated in Figure 2.  Services are defined as what IT does for the business itself, without reference to the external customers of the business.

Figure 2 – Internal Customer Focus

This approach reflects a critical step in the evolution of an IT organization’s maturity as a service provider.  IT has begun to look at customer outcomes, with the customer being the business the IT organization serves.  I believe such an approach can lead to a more coordinated, collaborative way of working within IT; the various IT groups focus their attention on end-to-end service provisioning, not merely on their own IT silos.

So while initial service catalogs often start with the existing applications and infrastructure and package that for customers, a best practice approach that I recommend is to begin with the outcomes that customers desire and define services based on them as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3 – External Customer Focus

The truth is, there will need to be multiple cycles of service definition and re-definition that need to continue indefinitely, since customers’ desired outcomes and perceptions are under constant change.

Defining services from the top down, starting with external services, is also a recommended approach. But this is easier said than done, since it quickly exposes a need to define both internal customer-facing services and supporting services.

Accelerating the journey to IT as a Service
This is the exciting part of being part of VMware. By establishing re-usable supporting IT services enabled by a software-defined data center and transformation road maps that make sure people and process changes are in place to realize the IT-as-a-service vision, I can help the IT organizations I work with to accelerate their ability to be truly customer-focused.


John Worthington is a VMware transformation consultant and is based in New Jersey. Follow @jMarcusWorthy and @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter.

Service Catalog Is The New Face of IT

By Choong Keng Leong

Keng-Leong-Choong-cropMany organizations on their journey to delivering IT as a service have chosen to adopt and implement VMware vCloud® Automation Center™ to automate the delivery and management of IT infrastructure and services through a unified service catalog and self-service portal.  As this transformation requires a new IT operating model and change in mindset, a common challenge that IT organizations encounter is:

  • How do I define and package IT services to offer and publish on the service catalog?

This is analogous to a mobile operator putting together a new mobile voice and data plan that the market wants and pricing it attractively.

Here’s a possible approach to designing a service catalog for vCloud Automation Center implementation.

Service Model
Service catalog is the new face of IT. It is a communication platform and central source of information about the services offered by IT to the business. It is also empowering users through an intuitive self-service portal that allows them to choose, request, track, and manage their consumption and subscription to IT services.

The first step to developing the service catalog and identifying the services within it is to understand the business requirements as to how these demands are going to be fulfilled — that is to develop a service model. For example, you could start with a business function — Sales — and then pick a business process — client relationship management (CRM). CRM can be further broken down into three domains: operational CRM, collaborative CRM, and analytical CRM. Each of the CRM systems can be instantiated in different environments (product, test, and development). Each instance is technically implemented and delivered via a three-tier system architecture. What you would get is shown below in Figure 1, which is a service model for CRM.

ServiceCatalog

Figure 1. Service Model for CRM

Repeat the above steps for the other business functions. At the end of the exercise, you have defined service categories, catalog items, and service blueprints for implementation of a service catalog and self-service portal in vCloud Automation Center.

Service Catalog
Using the above business centric approach allows you to define a customer-friendly service catalog of business services. The service categories and catalog items are in business-familiar terms, and only relevant information is presented to the business user so as not overwhelm him/her with the complexities of the underlying technologies and technicalities.

The business services are provisioned using service blueprints, which are templates containing the complete service specifications, technical service levels (e.g., RTO, RPO, and IOPS), and infrastructure (e.g., ESXi cluster, block or file storage, and network).  The service blueprints allow IT to automate provisioning through vCloud Automation Center. To maximize business benefits and optimization of infrastructure resources, it is also important to establish a technical service catalog of technical capabilities and to pool infrastructure resources with similar capabilities. Then, vCloud Automation Center can provision a service via the service blueprint to the most cost-effective resource pool and providing optimal performance.

In summary, using a business-centric approach to designing your service catalog elevates IT to speaking in business terms and provides a whole new IT experience to your users.

——-
Choong Keng Leong is an operations architect with VMware Professional Services and is based in Singapore. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

The People and Process Behind the Service Portal

By David Crane

dcrane-cropAs more IT organizations move away from the traditional, siloed model of IT and toward becoming a service provider, new questions arise. Running a smooth, cost-effective, efficient service portal can ease a number of the issues that IT faces, but only if done correctly.

The portal serves as the interface that helps consumers navigate through available service options and select them as needed. Behind the scenes, IT is serving as a contractor, comparing service requirements to different capabilities that may be internal, on premise, or from other providers. The user doesn’t care, so long as they are getting what they need.

So you have a portal, and you have a cloud. Now what?

Consistently Capture Service Requirements
With the right foundation, managing the service portal can be a smooth process,. The first step is to understand the unique requirements that your users have, and deliver the resources that are going to meet their needs. The best way to understand that is to step outside the traditional organizational silos and engage directly with the lines of business.

Once you understand the various service needs, create service charts, such as the example below:

Service chartThese will serve to identify all the different components required in each service. Most of these components will be common across different services, and can then be built out separately. Take a “cookie cutter” approach to these components, so that when mixed and matched they will create the services needed. Part of correctly understanding these components will involve a deeper understanding of the service definition process. What tasks will need to happen across all operational levels? Who will be responsible for those tasks?

Right People, Right Services
Oftentimes, IT organizations feel anxiety about the level of automation that stands behind a portal. It’s challenging to think of users that have previously been carefully walked through specialized processes suddenly having the ability to requisition services through an automated process. Creating clearly defined roles and restricting access to the catalog based on those roles can alleviate these fears.

Once you have the roles defined, deploy provisioning groups to different IT resources consumers. Allow these provisioning groups to handle the issue of deployment capabilities and instead focus on using policies to govern how those deployments will take place. Use the defined roles for the portal to determine which users can perform which actions within their environment. The policies will dictate which components will be required in each context.

When Is a Service Ready to Go in the Catalog?
Some IT organizations, once their portal is set up, try to lump the service portfolio process in with the service catalog management responsibilities. This can lead to frustration and inefficiency down the line, and can undermine the cost savings and automation value that the cloud provides. Instead, use your senior technical resources to create the service definitions and components. This will be the best use of their skills, and is also the work that they are going to find challenging and interesting.

Once that is done, more junior resources can combine and deploy those components into the catalog. It becomes a simple process of handing the service configuration document to the person responsible for deployment.

Integrated Transition to Catalog
The transition process — getting services out of the catalog and into the portfolio — can be difficult and technical. Avoid a lot of the messiness by getting operational input early in the process so that all the requirements are understood up front. Here, again, is where it’s important to keep your senior resources working on high level issues: getting components aligned to the corporate enterprise structure, security, and any other issues that require IT’s attention. If the components are aligned to the business needs, the services that are composed of those components will also align by default.

Once the business and IT agree that there is a need for a service, the service owner and service architect should ensure that the required components exist. For any component, security, access policies and provisioning processes should already be determined — no need for testing, change process or QA. From there the service architect can take the components out to create the service configuration. Keep this streamlined and simple.

New Roles
Making all this work smoothly requires some new roles within the organization. A customer relationship manager (CRM) will act as the interface between the tech teams and the consumer. The CRM captures the requirements, keeps the consumer happy, and keeps IT aligned and communicating with the business. Unlike a managed service provider, the CRM should operate within the cloud tenants team to ensure and understanding of internal IT. The service owner, discussed above, is responsible for taking the requirements gathered and doing something with them, including negotiating contracts with the cloud providers.

The service portfolio manager will know the portfolio inside and out, and create a standardized environment. The service architects will combine components and author a configuration document whenever a new service is required. The service QA will test the created services. The service admin will be responsible for taking the configuration requirements and deploying into the catalog.

The service portal should serve as a powerful tool that connects consumers, both internal and external, with the services they need. By building strong component foundations, creating well-defined roles, and assigning resources where they will be most effective, IT organizations can ensure that their portal process runs smoothly and efficiently.


David Crane is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in the U.K.