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Tag Archives: service delivery

Why Service Owners Are Integral to IT-as-a-Service Delivery

By Kai Holthaus

kai_holthaus-cropThe Service Owner Role

The service owner role is central for an IT organization that is operating IT as a service (ITaaS). Why? Because the service owner is accountable for delivering services to customers and users, and accountabilities include:

  • To act as prime customer contact for all service-related enquiries and issues
  • To ensure that the ongoing service delivery and support meet agreed customer requirements
  • To identify opportunities for service improvements, discuss with the customer, and raise the request for change (RFC) for assessment if appropriate
  • To liaise with the appropriate process owners throughout the service management lifecycle
  • To solicit required data, statistics and reports for analysis, and to facilitate effective service monitoring and performance
  • To be accountable to the IT director or service management director for the delivery of the service

Please note that I emphasize  “accountability” instead of “responsibility.” The service owner is accountable, meaning they set the goals and oversee the execution.  The actual execution is performed by individuals or functions that have the “responsibility” for each activity.

Let’s take a closer look…

The service owner is the main escalation point for all service-related compliments, complaints, and other issues. You can think of the service owner as a sports coach, directing how the team should play a particular game, but not really participating by playing in the game. As the coach is accountable to the team’s owner for the team’s success, so is the service owner accountable to the customer(s) and the service management director for ongoing quality of the service.

Responsibilities Throughout the Service Lifecycle

The service owner role has accountabilities in each of the five lifecycle stages, as defined by ITIL:

  • Service strategy
  • Service design
  • Service transition
  • Service operation
  • Continual service improvement

I recommend to my clients that they assign a service owner very early in the lifecycle, so that there is a single point of accountability throughout its creation and life.  If we compare this to the product world, a service owner is like a product manager at an automotive company who is accountable as the new car model is designed, developed, and built—and ultimately for the satisfaction of the car’s buyers.

Shifting to an ITaaS Model

While the idea of the service owner role is just as valid in an ITaaS world as it is in a more traditional IT service provider world, there are a few important differences.

Service Owners Must Enable a Faster Time to Market
Moving to an ITaaS model typically requires faster development and release cycles than in a more traditional model. This is usually accomplished by moving to an Agile development model, such as Scrum. Using such models means that the full set of requirements for a service to be released will not be available at the time when development starts. Instead, development begins with the best set of requirements available at the time, and relying on future development / release cycles to address missing requirements.

The certainty of receiving a fully defined set of utility and warranty of a service is being exchanged for more rapid improvement of the service. Service design and transition activities are executed more in a spiral-type model than in a waterfall-type approach.

The service owner in an Agile environment becomes the Scrum product manager, representing the view of the customer in the Scrum model. As the product manager, the service owner is responsible for the pipeline of customer requirements driving the development of the service.  Business decisions on whether to advance the service through another round of development and release is based on the available information at the time.

Service Owners Need a Better Grasp on Future Demand
Some services, particularly infrastructure services, such as providing CPU power or storage, become utility-type services, comparable with the utility services everybody experiences at home, such as electrical power, natural gas, or water. Instead of provisioning dedicated infrastructure at the time of service development or deployment, the service owners must ensure there is enough capacity when needed, e.g., storage should be available instantly available when required— similar to water flowing immediately when you turn on the faucet at home. This requires a much better understanding of future demand, patterns of business activity, and user profiles than is typically the case today.

Service Owners Will Give up Some Control to Enable Automation
Due to the nature of ITaaS, service owners will be required to give up some control over the configuration of the service. For example, automation tools already move virtual machines from one physical host to another based on current workloads, without any human control. To fully deliver on the ITaaS promise, this type of automation must increase. Increased automation will require either defining more changes as standard changes, which can be implemented without approval (and in this case, automatically, after the tool has recorded the change), or give up change control completely, and let the tools handle them. Such automation tools can also automatically update the configuration management system, so that valid information will always be available.

How Will Services Operate in the Cloud?
While today’s services are largely delivered from in-house data centers, the ITaaS model makes full use of hybrid and public clouds.  Service owners must understand the ramifications of moving parts of the service infrastructure (or even the entire infrastructure) into the public cloud. This requires a better understanding of required service levels, and what will happen if cloud providers experience incidents or even disasters.

To conclude, the specific accountabilities associated with the service owner role don’t change dramatically when an IT organization moves to an ITaaS model. Primarily, a service owner will need to shift from defining architectures and infrastructure as part of the service design to defining the service in terms of requirements, and necessary service levels for supporting services. Also, traditional controls over the infrastructure may no longer apply when automation is used to fully deliver on the promise of ITaaS.

While the shift in the service owner’s responsibilities isn’t dramatic when transforming to an ITaaS model, the importance of the role grows significantly.  If you haven’t already explored implementing or expanding this role as you transform to deliver ITaaS, be sure to include this as part of your roadmap for moving forward.

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Kai Holthaus is a senior transformation consultant with VMware Accelerate Transformation Services and is based in Oregon.

To Succeed in the Cloud, CIOs Must Look Beyond Technology

By Paul Chapman, VMware Vice President Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations

I’ve watched with interest as cloud solutions and services have matured in recent years to offer more agility, cost optimization, security, and quality of service for the full range of enterprise needs.

Yet I continue to see many businesses adopt cloud services in an ad hoc—rather than holistic—fashion. This is often driven by business leaders who feel the systems they need can not be delivered fast enough by corporate IT, if at all.

CIOs and IT leaders can’t wait any longer—now is the time to lead development of an enterprise cloud strategy that strikes the right balance between agility, efficiency, security, and compliance. I found Forrester’s “Achieve Cloud Economics for Operations and Services” provided some great guidance for how to do just that.

As the paper points out, IT organizations tend to focus on the part of a cloud transformation that comes naturally to them—the technology. It’s easy to see why. But success equally depends on transforming how IT operates, factoring in people resources, processes, financial management, governance, service delivery, communication, and more.

A cloud strategy that doesn’t include these elements will never reach its full potential for business transformation. CIOs can avoid that fate by developing or enhancing the following key competencies. You can further explore these elements of a successful cloud transformation in this interactive infographic.

  • Service Delivery:  The business demands agility and finance demands efficiency. Virtualization up and down the stack, combined with automation of standard repeatable tasks, is an essential first step. These advancements enable IT to meet service-level agreements independently of hardware, and to deliver innovative approaches to service delivery, such as on-demand and self-service models.
  • Talent Acquisition and Development: IT’s transition to the cloud demands new talents and skills. Leaders should ask themselves: Do I have the right people, competencies, and expertise in my organization to enable next-generation IT and business innovation? Strategies to address these needs include:

– Hiring new talent with the right skills
– Retraining and educating current team members
– Building a culture that encourages team members to embrace new responsibilities
– Working with sourcing and vendor management professionals to build up cloud skills

  • Financial Management: By investing strategically in the right technologies, IT leaders can help fund future IT transformation. To take advantage of the cloud’s pay-as-you-use cost advantages, procurement and budgeting will need to be updated for “elastic” resources. Financial transparency will also be key to positioning IT as a business driver, not a cost center.
  • Governance: Traditional IT policies and procedures will not be adequate in governing cloud solutions. Although it may prove challenging, designing combined roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities for combined marketing and IT teams, for example, is critical.
  • Sales/Marketing/Communication: IT Leaders traditional approach of “pitching” ROI, cost-benefit analysis, and business cases is no longer sufficient to develop relationships with executive management and elevate IT to a more strategic, consultative role. Professional “trusted partner”-level selling needs to be an iterative process of developing IT capabilities, marketing those capabilities, managing stakeholders, generating demand, and presenting line-of-business leaders with resonating and often proactive proposals.
  • Business Strategy: IT leaders will need to strengthen their business acumen and develop a deeper understanding of the company’s business, as well as the operations of each line of business. By researching and proposing technology innovation that is business-driven, and by designing solutions around corporate priorities and business outcomes, IT can become an active participant in business strategy development.

To be clear, I’m not recommending you tackle all these initiatives at once. I suggest building a tiered change management strategy and transformation roadmap that identifies top priorities, then sequencing broader changes over time to avoid chaos and facilitate adoption to ensure success.

Are you focusing on operational transformation to support a successful cloud strategy? Which areas are proving the most challenging? I welcome your thoughts and experiences with this set of challenges.

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