Proactive Service Assurance

Proactive Service Assurance

Hitting all your IT SLAs?
Delivering the services your business needs?
Do your customers still have cause for complaint?

Perhaps it is time to consider Proactive Service Assurance…

Across many companies and sectors, from manufacturing to financial, the traditional focus has been on managing the individual domains (applications, middleware, data, services, storage and networks) with comprehensive monitoring tools and dashboards. These usually focus on the availability across the domains and report against the Service Level Agreements (SLA), Targets, Objectives and Requirements that are in place.  Whilst this is very important, there is a risk that these domains operate as silos, with futile finger-pointing occurring, significant time wasted investigating root causes due to a lack of collaboration and slow reaction to scale to customer demands.

Focusing solely on the individual domains can mask deeper issues with the IT services provided: those short outages within each domain, which will occur, are managed by the highly-capable teams within agreed levels and the dashboard remains green.  However, the cumulative effect of those short outages on a service can be significant. Customers can experience multiple outages with a service and are frustrated when told that there are no major issues as the SLAs are being met.

Why is this so? The dashboard provides no reflection on the customer experience and the impact multiple short outages can have on the reality and perception on the services at the point of consumption.  Even with a target of 99.9% availability for each individual IT domains, compounded this could still allow over 15 days of outage to a service over a year whilst remaining within the SLAs that are in place.

In today’s dynamic environment, the outcomes must be measured by the customer experience with the delivered IT services. This means IT needs to continue to monitor the individual domains comprising the overall service, but focus the attention on how these elements support the service and how the service fulfils the customer need.

Technologies such as cloud and mobility, and the consumerisation of IT, have also driven the need to become more service-centric, leading to the establishment of cross-domain teams to manage the provision of services and address the struggles of managing all the service components to focus on the transaction, service and customer experience.

Moving forward with Proactive Service Assurance

Service Assurance ensures that what the business values is built in during Service Design and maintained during Service Operation. Whilst the quality of the individual IT domains is important and should be monitored, the focus is firmly on the customer experience for the services. The correct focus will instil confidence that the services will meet the expectations of the Service Owner and other key stakeholders, including customers and end users.

With a successful focus on the customer experience across the IT domains, the teams will be able to identify the high impact business services and map the supporting systems, applications and processes that create the customer experience for each service. Through collaboration and a common understanding of the components of the services and how they should interact, IT will be able to monitor, manage and assure that key services across the delivery chain are working properly and delivering the value intended.

Proactive Service Assurance provides maturity to the process by ensuring that any potential issues with the customer experience are identified prior to, and potentially resolved before, any impact to the service. The key processes required to deliver this are:

  • Performance monitoring
  • Trend analysis
  • Threshold monitoring
  • Problem prediction
  • Automation
  • Asset Management
  • Change Management

Firstly, strong Asset and Change Management ensures that all components of a service are defined, managed and linked to the services and customer outcomes. Having the full end-to-end view of the components of the service enables accurate impact assessments on the services due to changes or issues with any of the underlying components.

The proactive techniques of performance monitoring, trend analysis, threshold monitoring and problem prediction can all be applied to the individual components and IT domains of the service delivery chain. This will enable issues to be captured and mitigated before they impact the component and ultimately the customer outcomes. However, consideration must be given to the impact on the whole delivery chain for effective service assurance to be in place. Take the example of a threshold monitoring alert that indicates a potential capacity issue within a database. Whilst there is significant value in identifying and potentially resolving this before it directly impacts the customer’s service, consideration of the impact on the whole service needs to be understood. Resolving a bottleneck in a database without that consideration could lead to issues further up the delivery chain, causing issues within the middleware or application domains.

Automation adds the next layer by enabling self-healing to the components of the service, adjusting the components within defined parameters, based on conditions highlighted by the proactive techniques above.  Again, this cannot be implemented in isolation – consideration of the end-to-end service is critical and can be one of the most challenging aspects.

Is it possible that with proactive service assurance, IT will have finally adopted a service-oriented approach and truly aligned with the business? It may do, but one thing it will achieve is getting IT on the path from a frustrating silo mentality to a service assurance approach that promises efficient operations, optimised application performance and satisfied customers and end users.

 

If you would like to find out how iCore can help you with your Service Assurance needs, then please contact us on 0207 868 2405 or email info@icore-ltd.com