Many IT professionals see ‘service management’ (or ‘managing services’ if you prefer) as a simple phrase which describes what they do. Some see it as ‘doing the job properly’. Others do not like the term because it overstates what they do, or they do not consider IT to be a custodian of ‘services’. However, most IT professionals will accept that it’s at least ‘a way’ of describing the processes and systems used in the IT department to deliver IT functions to their users.
In IT, the services we manage are usually comprised of a number of components: a software application, a server, some storage, a network and so on. Traditionally, we’ve managed them separately, and at ever increasing levels of granularity, as management and monitoring tools have evolved.
Ultimately, nobody really has a consolidated view of all the components that combine to enable the service to arrive on someone’s screen and actually do what it’s supposed to. When something goes wrong, IT may spot a problem, but not know which service is being affected. Or a service may go down but IT doesn’t know what the cause is. Both net out to the same thing: neither is desirable, and both stem from the fact that creating a single view of a service isn’t that easy to do with the fragmented tools and systems in use by many organisations today.
But how important is it to have that consolidated view of a service, from source to delivery point? We might argue that it’s not very important, given we’ve been managing without it for a long time. However, this would be a short-sighted position to take.
The real answer lies somewhere between ‘quite important’ and ‘very important’, depending on the type of services you provide and the nature of the business your organisation is engaged in. That end to end view is very important if you want to be able to manage things from a business-user’s viewpoint – either in being able to maintain the quality of a service in the event of an increase in demand, or, being able to maintain the quality of service should an event occur in the IT department, either unexpectedly, or as part of routine maintenance.
Things are getting more complicated, too. What happens when you start sourcing IT services from outside the organisation? These may be full blown software applications, but every chance exists that these externally sourced services may not be ‘whole’ services but components, to be used with others to create a business service, or to be used in conjunction with other components as a business process is executed.
But we needn’t even venture outside the organisation to find scenarios where visibility is potentially reduced. The use of virtualisation within the data centre can lead to this scenario practically overnight, if not properly controlled and made visible from the outset. The upshot is that the management requirement doesn’t go away, in fact, it is heightened. Without it, organisations won’t use the new cool stuff, or will quickly stop using it when they get their fingers burnt.
So is management across internal and external services the holy grail of end-to-end management, or a mere distraction today? The answer is definitely more ‘distraction’ today for many organisations, but the rise of virtualisation technology, if not demonstrating the need for true end-to-end visibility of a service, certainly should make us think about ‘visibility’ regardless.
If we look ahead, some tempting choices are starting to turn the heads of business people. A lot of the ‘cloud computing’ story may be so much misinformed hype right now, but certain elements of it are starting to take root. Indeed, whether it ends up being short term compute or storage capacity, or frontline software applications which are sourced from ‘the cloud’, the need to assimilate services/service components into the existing IT environment from a management point of view is not reduced by virtue of them being hosted elsewhere.
From the service provider’s point of view, those that provide management APIs will win and retain customers, or at least those which care about delivering services to their users. Indeed, from IT’s point of view, ‘just an SLA’ isn’t enough. It’s their necks on the line when something goes wrong.
We might not quite be here yet in terms of trying/needing to blend our IT management capabilities across services, or parts of services, we own and those we don’t, but plenty of opportunity exists to take a broader look at the way resources are managed internally in the pursuit of better service management.
As always, we’re interested in your views in how things are changing – or not – in your organisation.