Collecting and Organizing Information about Services

Signpost -- Where to?I’ve recently started a small service management program for my department. Because it’s a one-man effort for now, I’m mostly focusing on collecting information to organize in a service portfolio. My goal is to collect enough data about our services so I can write get some common descriptions written, approved, and filed.

Like most early-stage efforts of this sort, I’m not yet using a service management tool to categorize the information. As I’ve started conducting research about service management programs at various universities, it’s struck me how common it is for departments to continue using spreadsheets to capture and organize service data. I suppose it’s faster to update an Excel file than to work in a database.

My first set of considerations with developing a service portfolio was figuring out a basic organizational structure. As is the case with most IT services, certain services and tools can be grouped together in a logical fashion. For the moment, I’m using fairly broad categories and focusing on customer-facing services. It made sense to handle those first because they describe customer value more readily and can be defined more quickly. They’re also easy to refine later in the process.

At first, I adopted a very simple numbering scheme and documentation format for service descriptions.

  • Title: Svc-001
  • Name: Technology Enhanced Classrooms
  • Description Details: [one or two paragraph broad description, followed by a series of bullet points outlining specifics]

The format was pretty basic and didn’t address change management needs. It didn’t take long before I realized the inherent flaws in this scheme. I revised it just a bit.

  • Title: Svc-01-001
  • Name: Technology Enhanced Classrooms
  • Description Details: [one or two paragraph broad description, followed by a slightly longer series of bullet points outlining specifics]
  • Changelog: [running list of bullets with dates and change details]

This format has its flaws as well, and I intend to revise the scheme further. As I’ve started using these descriptions on a frequent basis, I’ve realized a good service portfolio entry needs at least:

  • service name,
  • a logical numbering scheme for organization,
  • organizational unit that owns the service (ideally just one that’s actually RACI accountable),
  • owner of the service,
  • service description,
  • hours of operation,
  • regularly scheduled maintenance window(s),
  • underpinning services,
  • services underpinned by this service,
  • and some form of version control for the service portfolio entry (possibly integrated with the numbering scheme).

Most full-featured service management programs will collect far more information and make sure services are linked together in a meaningful way. As I mentioned above, using spreadsheets to manage a service portfolio can be difficult because of the inability to contextualize services. If one service fails, how can you tell what other services are impacted if you can’t readily tell what services are linked to it?

As I develop this project more, I intend to explore using Microsoft SharePoint as a means to link all of this data together.

 

 

Interesting ITSM Links for the Week

LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_TypewriterAs we get underway, I’m hoping to share a few interesting ITSM-related links every week or two. There’s a lot of fantastic knowledge sitting out there already, so why not spread the wealth?

 

If you have any you’d like to share as well, feel free to use the Comments section or the Ask Me link above!

 

What are “Services?”

strictly-business-londonWhen you work in an organization providing technology to an enterprise, you tend to encounter many perspectives on the word “services.”

To some people, “services” are the individual technological tools they maintain and support. Maybe it’s a virtualization server or a series of network switches. Perhaps it’s the content management software (CMS) system for the organization’s website. Maybe it’s the individual application packages delivered to computers in the organization. These are typically specific technologies or platforms, often built by individuals that have experience or training with a particular vendor or methodology.

To others, “services” are the things the technology provider offers that add value to the organization. It’s not merely the virtualization server itself, but rather what others in the organization can do with the virtual machines hosted on that server. It’s not merely the series of network switches, but rather the complex series of interconnections of those switches that form an enterprise-wide data network. It’s not merely the CMS system for the website, but rather how it empowers non-developers to still maintain a website with ease.

Certainly ITIL believes the latter is the correct definition, but it’s worth understanding why this is so. It’s really a question of understanding the needs of customers. Technology providers have a unique opportunity to shape those needs by providing technological solutions that fit. But the risk to technology providers is the language barrier between technology tools and business needs. ITIL suggests that services provide “value” to the customer. Does the virtualization server or do the network switches themselves provide “value?” It’s more likely their application in solving business challenges create the value?

More often than not, customers come to the negotiating table with needs ideas but lack the ability to carry them out. Their needs are driven by business decisions, regulatory requirements, changes to the organization’s industry and external environment, and so forth. These things require adaptation of technology, either existing systems or new tools. Ultimately, customers want the ability to carry out their own jobs successfully and smoothly. Technology providers add value when their services add value directly and align with business needs.

In coming posts, we will explore how this service management concept is implemented from scratch in a real-world situation.

Welcome!

Welcome to my new website! I’m Edward Lee, a service desk manager and aspiring director of service delivery. I work at a major private university in the Washington, DC area. I’ve worked in higher education for 15 years at four different universities. Although much of my background is in technical support and client troubleshooting, I’ve also had several years experience in systems administration, computer labs management, and software development.

You might be wondering, why start a website when you’re plenty busy with day-to-day activities already? Good question. My major goal for this website is to document my journey as I build service delivery as a capability for my organization. Like most technology organizations, we do a good job of meeting customer needs and making improvements based on customer feedback. But I think we can deliver more value through the application of service delivery concepts and the ITIL framework. Over the coming months and years, I will use this as my place to explain service delivery through the prism of university classroom management and related instructional support service offerings.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to interact with me, use the Ask Me link at the top of the page to submit a question! I’ll try to turn interesting questions in to posts on the site for conversation.