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A Day in the Life of a Cloud Service Owner

Pierre Moncassin-cropCloud Service OwnerBy Pierre Moncassin

Customers often tell me, “I totally get the principles behind the role of Cloud Service Owner – but can you describe what do they actually do throughout their work day?”

Let me start with a caveat: we are all aware that in a knowledge economy few roles have the luxury (or burden, depending on the point of view) of a completely predictable, set routine.  We are in an era where many traditional, factory assembly line jobs have been re-designed to become more agile and less repetitive, at least in some leading-edge companies.  The rationale being that job rotation and innovation if not creativity, leads to higher productivity. Less routine, more output.

What is a Cloud Service Owner?

When I say Cloud Service Owner (CSO), I am referring specifically to the Service Owner role described in the VMware white paper: Organizing for the Cloud.

A CSO is a relatively senior role that includes responsibility for the end-to-end life-cycle of cloud services, with numerous levels of interaction with the business and cloud team members. So I will endeavor to highlight some typical aspects of a ‘day in the life’ of that role – bearing in mind all the caveat above.

Cloud Service Owner

The Cloud Service Owner ensures a consistent, end-to-end Service Lifecycle

Cloud Service Owner Stakeholders and Interactions

The CSO interacts with a number of key stakeholders, first of all within the business lines. When a new service is requested, the CSO reviews the requirements with the Business stakeholders; which may include not only the definition and costing of the service but also a discussion of how quickly it can be placed into production.

In a DevOps environment, that interaction with the business lines will still take place, with the difference that business and application development may be a single team (the business stakeholder may be an application product owner). When the (DevOps) business proposes to launch a new product (i.e. cloud based application or application features), they may need to discuss with the Service Owner how to develop the continuous delivery automation to support that new product.

The CSO will also interact with the members of the cloud operations team, for example with the Cloud Service Architect who will assist in all aspects of the design of the automation workflows and blueprints underlying the services.

Interactions will also include working with other support groups such as the Service Desk – for example, to review incidents relating to the services and work out patterns or root causes; possibly involve the Service Analyst to improve the monitoring and risk management underpinning these services.

Of course the list does not end there. The CSO may also interact with third party providers (especially in a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud model), as well as contractors. If the cloud platform is part of an outsourcing arrangement, the CSO will likely have a counterpart within the outsourcer.

Key Processes for a Cloud Service Owner

From a process perspective, our CSO will be involved in all aspects of the service life-cycle – this is by definition of the broad remit of the role. But I can highlight some key ‘moments’ in that life-cycle.

  • Initial definition of the service in cooperation with the business stakeholders.
    This is a critical stage whether both the scope of the service is defined, but also the expected costs and service levels.
  • Monitoring the performance of the service.
    In traditional IT, the review of SLA performance with business takes a key role once a service is up and running. In a cloud environment, much of SLA monitoring may be automated, however SLA review is still an important role for the CSO.
  • Continuous Improvement and ultimately, de-commissioning of the service.
    It is expected that the service will evolve and that ultimately it will be de-commissioned (possibly freeing some capability). This is also an activity that needs close cooperation with business lines.

Toolsets for a Cloud Service Owner

I mentioned at the outset that the CSO is not necessarily expected to a toolset expert.  However, in order to fully leverage the capabilities of a cloud platform, the CSO will be able to leverage the key cloud management tools, specifically:

  • vRealize Automation – the CSO will have a solid understanding of how blueprints are designed and where/when existing blueprints can be re-used to create new (or amend existing) services.
  • vRealize Business – understand the costing models and how they can be built into the tool to automate charging/billing.
  • vRealize Operations – leverage the tool to track service performance, and generally managing service ‘health’ and capacity.
  • NSX – the CSO is less likely to interact with this tool on a daily basis, but will benefit from a solid understanding the capability of this tool to help design the automation workflows and to plan the security controls that may be required when deploying the services (e.g. leveraging micro-segmentation).

The list is not exhaustive. Many organizations are considering, or already working towards DevOps adoption, and in those cases the CSO will benefit from a broad grasp of industry tools whether related to continuous delivery (think Jenkins, Codestream, Puppet, Ansible), or specifically to Cloud-Native Applications (think Docker,  VMware’s Photon OS).

Take Aways:

  • For roles such as Cloud Service Owner, design activities should take precedence over fire-fighting. These roles will prefer an engineering approach to problems (fix a problem once).
  • Do not expect a rigid work-day pattern – the Cloud Service Owner is a senior role and will need to liaise with a range of stakeholders, and interact directly and indirectly with several tools and processes.
  • The Cloud Service Owner will maintain a healthy understanding of toolsets; and leverage that knowledge daily to design, manage and occasionally de-commission services. This is an aspect of the role that may be significantly different from more traditional Service Manager roles.
  • However, the Cloud Service Owner is not meant to be a toolset specialist. If they spend their entire day immersed in toolsets, it is a sign that the role is not fully developed!
  • The Cloud Service Owner will work in increasingly close cooperation with the business lines– not from silo to silo but through an increasingly permeable boundary.

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Pierre Moncassin is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in the UK.

Cloud Services Definition

Part 3 of the Cloud Business Management Series

By Khalid Hakim, Kai Holthaus and Bill Irvine

Services DefinitionIn our last cloud operations business transformation blog, we talked about the cloud business strategy and its importance in formulating the vision and the plan as to how you want to run your cloud as a business. In today’s blog, the focus begins to shift to executing the strategy and laying out the foundations of a service-oriented and business-driven “operating model”.

There is a saying: you can’t manage what you can’t control, and you can’t control what you can’t define.  Imagine that you are planning to open a new business. The first step is to define what services/products you want to offer your consumers and what distinguishes your market value among the others. Similarly, cloud business management starts at this point. IT should identify and define what cloud services would be offered to its consumers in order to truly drive a services-oriented and value-driven organization.

Key Areas of Services Definition

VMware recommends a unique approach for defining cloud services, through which a service owner defines a 360-degree view of how the cloud services would be established, managed and delivered effectively and efficiently to meet or exceed the expected value. To paint this panoramic view, cloud service owners should consider the following areas:

  • Service Overview – describe the service in terms of its purpose, goals, consumers, criticality, availability criteria and rhythm of business.
  • Virtual Service Team – organize your team members around the services you deliver. Team up as a virtual service team.
  • Services Definition ChartService Chart – map out the end-to-end cloud service in a graphical representation that is easy to consume. The service chart helps to visually understand the core components of a service and contributes when costing services.
  • Service Portfolio and Consumer Management – the service portfolio answers the questions, who are our customers and why should they buy the service from us. It contains all of the service categories and the business units that consume them and aids with making informed “service” and “business” based investment decisions.
  • Service Design and Development – provide high level information about how the services will be designed and developed, especially if the service isn’t yet in production. This helps with understanding the customer business need and developing the most valuable solution possible.
  • Service Catalog Management – identify service catalog structure parameters and possible blueprints. Also, define what columns or key fields should be included in service catalog entries.
  • Service Level Management – define key SLA/OLA targets to ensure provisioning time and quality meets specific business needs.
  • Service Desk Management – describe how the service will be supported. Draft a plan for service-desk requirements, skills needed and required knowledge transfer.
  • Proactive Operations Management – define the service operation requirements for support and reliability from the event and performance monitoring to availability, demand, capacity, continuity and security management.
  • Provisioning and Change Management – define the service provisioning lifecycle and associated change management policies including how the service will be pre-approved and auto-provisioned (for maximum efficiency). New leaner change management workflow needs to defined / refined (i.e. standard changes).
  • Service Financial Management – define the service cost and charge back/ show back model along with pricing and connections to the service catalog.
  • Service Performance and KPIs – define any applicable service related strategic, tactical and operational performance indicators (KPIs), and the metrics that will be collected to demonstrate that required performance was achieved. Also define how and when the KPIs and metrics will be reported, and to whom.
  • Service Reviews – define service-based review meetings to discuss and remediate any operational or consumer related topics. Follow a standard cadence for all services. Discuss potential changes in demand for services. Capture new or enhanced service requirements.
  • Service Marketing – define the key applicable service marketing elements for a successful service promotion and value realization within different company cultures.

Now, how long do you think this exercise will take? In most of our engagements, defining a service takes between 1 to 2 weeks. It is never intended to fully document all the areas above immediately, or establish all of the processes, as many organizations don’t have this all of this information available. Think of the Service Definition as a living and breathing document. The service owner should establish a working draft, develop it to the point of release and then maintain in for its life as an active service offering. All undefined services are treated as areas for improvement.

In our next blog, we will take this to the next level as we learn to establish a cloud service-based cost model and cost out cloud services end-to-end.  This will enable you to understand the cost of a unit of a cloud and provide the required level of cost transparency internally and to consumers.

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Khalid Hakim is an IT Business/Financial Management Lead with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice. You can follow him on Twitter @KhalidHakim47.

Kai Holthaus is a Sr. Transformation Consultant with VMware Operations Transformation Services and is based in Oregon.

Bill Irvine is a Principal Strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Colorado.

The Cloud Business Manager Role

Part One of the Cloud Business Management Series

Khalid HakimCharlie McVeighBy Khalid Hakim and Charlie McVeigh

Business leaders look at the cloud model and see new ways to accelerate innovation, create competitive advantage, and drive new business models. IT executives look at private, public and hybrid cloud models and see a host of new possibilities for positive IT outcomes, including among others:

  • Optimizing CapEx
  • Lowering OpEx
  • Shifting focus to optimize the “run IT” budget thus freeing funding for the “grow IT” budget
  • Improved service delivery times through app and infrastructure delivery automation
  • Improved asset utilization by understanding consumption and usage patterns in the cloud

Never forget your history lessons.   Have you ever participated in a successful transformation project that didn’t factor in People, Process and Technology? We still find that all too often, a critical aspect of harnessing the cloud is overlooked: the organizational impact of moving to the cloud model. The fact is, the transition to the cloud model requires an evolution in roles, skills, processes, and organizational structure.

Organizing for the cloud cannot be an afterthought in the formulation of an effective IT transformation strategy. When IT is in transition, roles and responsibilities are more important than ever. The right people, with the right skills, have to be in the right places and serve the right roles.

Chief among these critical organizational shifts is establishing a Cloud Business Management discipline. This blog is the first in a four part series recommending specific Cloud Business Management roles and processes to consider.

Cloud Business Manager Role:  Run Cloud Like a Business

The Cloud Business Manager role  drives a new business management discipline within IT to lead a comprehensive cloud business management practice, leveraging investments in vRealize Business. The Cloud Business Manager supports Cloud Infrastructure and Tenant Operations to help the business better manage:

  • Cloud spend
  • Rate cards
  • Showback and chargeback
  • Reporting of consumption and wastage
  • Service tier options
  • Fair recovery of IT costs
  • Incentives driving the right economic usage patterns by cloud consumers.

Cloud Business Management

Responsibilities of the Cloud Business Manager are in the following 4 categories:

  • Financial
    • The focus here is primarily to develop the cloud service-based cost model along with a repeatable service costing process for Cloud consumption. Among other responsibilities, this includes service-based cost allocation and classification strategy, tracking and management of cloud costs, cloud services rates settings, and defining consumption and showback/chargeback reports from both the provider and consumer perspective.
  • Business
    • Included here are responsibilities for developing a cloud strategy roadmap, a cloud services marketing program, and liaison work among IT, Corporate Marketing, and Business Unit consumers of the cloud.
  • IT/Cloud
    • Here the responsibilities include defining SLA’s, ensuring delivery, and making cloud workload placement decisions based on the right economic factors to avoid shadow-IT situations.
  •  Value
    • Responsibilities here include defining value metrics, continuous improvement reporting, and regular business performance reporting for key stakeholders. This enables the business consumers of the cloud to make the right economic decisions about where and how to run their workloads.
  • Corporate/IT Marketing
    • Develop a Cloud Services marketing strategy; offers and promotions to ensures cloud services consumption and value. Once you understand the economics of cloud workload placement, cloud marketing will drive users to that desired behavior.

What does the Cloud Business Manager contribute to the business?

The Cloud Business Manager helps IT deliver on cloud promises for the desired quality at the right cost, by ensuring tighter alignment and accountability between IT, Business and Finance.  This roles makes a significant contribution in the workload placement decision-making process, as well as hybrid cloud, cost takeout, application rationalization and bill-of-cloud.

Let us know if we can help you further define this role in your company.  And keep a look out for Part Two in this Cloud Business Management Series next month, where I cover the Cloud Business Strategy topic.

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Khalid Hakim is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice. You can follow him on Twitter @KhalidHakim47.

Charlie McVeigh is an IT business management strategic advisor for VMware. You can follow him on Twitter @cbmcveigh

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.