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Mind the Gap – Service-Oriented Management

IT management used to be about specialization.  We built skills in a swim-lane approach – deep and narrow channels of talent where you could go from point A to B and back in a pretty straight line, all the time being able to see the bottom of the pool.  In essence, we operated like a well-oiled Olympic swim team.  Each team member had a specialty in their specific discipline, and once in a while we’d all get together for a good ole’ medley event.

And because this was our talent base, we developed tools that would focus their skills in those specific areas.  It looked something like this:

"Mind the Gap"

But is this the way IT is actually consumed by the business?  Consumption is by the service, not by the individual layer.  Consumption looks more like this:

"Mind the Gap"

From a user perspective, the individual layers are irrelevant.  It’s about the results of all the layers combined, or to put a common term around it, it’s about a service.  Email is a service, so is, but both of those have very different implications from a management perspective.

A failure in any one of these underlying layers can dramatically affect to user productivity.  For example, if a user is consuming your email service, and there is a storage layer issue, they may see reduced performance.  The same “result” could be seen if there is a host, network layer, bandwidth or local client issue.  So when a user requests assistance, where do you start?

Most organizations will work from one side of the “pool” to the other using escalations between the lanes as specific layers are eliminated, starting with Help Desk services and ending up in the infrastructure team.  But is this the most efficient way to provide good service to our customers?  And what if the service was and not something we fully manage internally? Is the same methodology still applicable?

Here is where we need to start looking at a service-level management approach.  Extract the individual layers and combine them into an operating unit that delivers the service in question.  The viewpoint should be from how the service is consumed, not what individually makes up that service.  Measurement, metrics, visibility and response should span the lanes in the same direction as consumption.  This will require us to alter the tools and processes we use to respond to events.

Some scary thoughts here, if you consider the number of “services” our customers consume, and the implications of a hybrid cloud world.  But the alternative is even more frightening.  As platforms that we do not fully manage (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) become more integral to our environments, the blind spots in our vision will expand.  So, the question is more of a “when” do we move in this direction rather than an “if.”  We can continue to swim our lanes, and maybe we can shave off a tenth of a second here or there.  But, true achievement will come when we can look across all the lanes and see the world from the eyes of our consumers.


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