Cloud is no longer an exploratory area for IT leaders. The ongoing digital transformation has further accelerated the adoption levels amongst many stakeholder types within enterprises. However, one area that is extremely critical for supporting a cloud journey, but is often not given its due importance, is an enterprise impact assessment and integration of the cloud into the IT service lifecycle.
Given the multi-faceted impact of the cloud, it is imperative that the IT service model becomes synchronized for the cloud journey in order to optimize its operating and cost efficiencies for the organization.
Starting with a premise that the proliferation of cloud-based services does not substantially change or undermine the relevance or business objectives of IT service management frameworks (e.g., ITIL), we, however, recognize that the mechanics of how and where ITSM concepts are applied still require some adjustments to remain most effective.
Let us take a dive into the key ITSM considerations for a Service Management Office (SMO) that will complement an organization’s cloud journey. We explore the following phases in maturing ITSM capabilities in concert with a cloud journey:
1. Service Strategy
2. Service Design
3. Service Transition
4. Service Operations
5. Continual Service Improvement
The goal of service strategy is to ensure the IT organization thinks and acts in a strategic manner and for continuous improvement.
Cloud, owing to its consumption-based billing model and flexible elasticity as an organization’s consumption changes, offers obvious commercial benefits. At the same time, fluctuations in infrastructure costs (IaaS, versus application workloads via SaaS or PaaS) can threaten to exceed initial benefit projections.
Therefore, the financial management process must be evolved to: 1) provide data to enable a commercial view on whether movement to cloud will bring in expected efficiencies; or 2) drive predictability and build adequate internal controls through a FinOps function whose benefit is to limit financial risks while leveraging financial benefits.
The purpose of this phase is to design new IT services and to improve existing services; continual improvement by design is key. The scope of this is determined by the results of assessments carried out in the prior service strategy phase.
Depending on the cloud model(s) deployed (IaaS, PaaS, and/or SaaS), the availability and the capacity (in tandem with the demand management process) provided for the service need to be managed through a relevant set of KPIs and service level metrics (e.g., response time for a SaaS or PaaS service).
Another key element to consider during the Design phase is an integrated Information Security Management process given that, in a cloud model, the data does not fully reside within a private data center (though private/dedicated infrastructure cloud options do exist, these are not the norm). Therefore, for new or updated services, it is important to test if the cloud model being considered meets the organization’s security requirements.
The objective of the Service Transition process phase is to build and deploy the appropriate IT services and to make sure that changes to services, along with their service management processes, are carried out in a pragmatically managed and organizationally coordinated manner.
The objective of the service operations phase is to ensure that the IT services are delivered effectively, efficiently, and of high quality. The tasks and activities that make up the service operations lifecycle include the more routine operational requirements such as resolving service failures, fulfilling user requests, and resolving problems.
For most IT enterprises, the standards and metrics used to govern the services are codified within an SLA. The principle here is to ensure that expected value is being delivered regularly and that remediation of any disruption is coordinated across the relevant providers. All existing ITSM operational processes will remain relevant but likely will require some tweaks for cloud environments.
Additionally, the cloud allows for standard ‘low risk’ changes (e.g., provisioning of computing power, memory, etc.) to be automated through configuration. Such standardized changes can be defined (and automated simultaneously) during the request fulfillment process in order to allow for a significantly better user experience.
Since some of the traditional security mechanisms, like firewalls, etc., do not work as well (by themselves) in a cloud environment, access management processes and tools become critical to manage access rights to the data and other resources in the cloud; hence, needs to be strengthened.
Continual Service Improvement
The objective of this phase is to continually improve the effectiveness, efficiencies, and quality of IT processes and services, based on continual learning from past performance.
For cloud computing, this phase should focus on two themes: 1) improvement of services currently in the cloud; and 2) bringing more services into the cloud given the flexibility and cost benefits. For these, a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE) plays a pivotal role in the adoption of cloud services by an organization.
ITSM’s process-based foundation is still very relevant in the rapidly changing digital landscape. But it must evolve its approach to align with the needs of business users and enable them to respond to increased competitive pressures.
Not everything will move to the cloud, nor is this recommended. But agility and velocity are likely to continue to be focused upon as key evolutionary themes going forward. While there is no “one size fits all” answer here, as much as possible, ITSM organizations should look to reorient themselves from a ‘control’ mechanism to more of a ‘delegate and govern’ construct.
Also, automation should be leveraged where practical to build guardrails while embedding process efficiencies.
It is likely that non-traditional environments driven by DevOps (or now DevSecOps) and Product Management approaches will challenge existing centralized models. And it is likely that, in large enterprises with a mix of traditional and non-traditional environments in coexistence, the right balance between centralized and decentralized (federated) structures needs to be established as a basis for a Service Management Office.
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