This interview with Christian Malone, Advisory Solution Architect at ServiceNow is an excerpt from our recent guide, Your Guide to to Productivity in Government.
We know that government has important objectives to meet, like protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure, delivering citizen services and regulating institutions. All of these mission-critical functions are enabled by constant, reliable IT service delivery. Unfortunately, many agencies find it challenging to deliver 24/7 service which hinders the accomplishment of these critical goals, while also hurting government’s reputation with citizens.
In an interview with Christian Malone, Advisory Solution Architect at ServiceNow, he identified three primary reasons that service outages occur.
First, there is a lack of service visibility. “If your IT staff can’t see all parts of their service environment and how they’re connected, they can’t deliver high-quality business services,” he explained.
That leads to a second barrier: unreliable service availability. If a component, like a server, goes down, IT teams won’t be able to address the issue until after it’s already happened. That results in reactively tackling the problem which leads to the third challenge of slow response and resolution.
Most of the time, IT staff have to manually correlate data to discover the cause of service outages. That requires spending extra time and labor on tedious tasks like sorting through naming conventions or looking up terms in support books.
But while these three challenges can often lead to poor service delivery, Malone emphasized that there is a way forward. To prevent service outages, agencies must harness three capabilities: proactively identifying service issues, pinpointing disruptions and automating remediation. ServiceNow recommends a five-step approach to ensure service delivery is maintained and outages avoided.
The first step is to discover and map relationships between business services and the IT components dependent on them.
Consider the example of a service presenting a citizen-facing website. You might have configuration information for your web, application and database servers but do you know on which this service is dependent to operate? Mapping the relationships between these dependent configuration items is critical to understanding what happens to the usability of the website if one component is affected.
It can be useful at this stage to leverage a central platform, like that provided by ServiceNow, to assist in mapping and correlating services. “We offer the ability to automate creation of and then visualize both your services and all of the dependent configurations of devices – how they affect each other and how they affect the service,” Malone said.
The next step is to make sure you keep service maps current. Continuously monitor the IT infrastructure for changes and have the service maps update in near-real time. “Technologies are constantly evolving and agencies are adopting them into their environments. You’ll need a method to identify these environment changes and how they might impact service dependencies,” Malone said.
Once your service maps are up-to-date, your third step is to ingest events from across the IT landscape. If you ensure all infrastructure events are collected in a single dashboard, you can gain a consolidated view of service-impacting events for a rapid and effective response. When IT can view all events in one place, they can make better decisions.
That leads to step four of prioritizing issues and automating fixes. Using technologies like machine learning, your IT staff can correlate alerts for improved organization and reduce multiple alerts to a single phenomenon. Automation also plays a critical role here, because it allows teams to tackle problems more quickly, reduce manual tasks and improve productivity.
“Correlating against ITSM functions is critical, if there’s an issue and it’s in a change window, we can suppress those alerts to help IT work the more important ones first,” Malone said. “ServiceNow provides a health service dashboard and service map that allows us to discover which issues are mission critical and address them appropriately.”
Using a single dashboard, IT can prioritize the issues that will affect the most mission-critical services and address the less important issues later.
That enables the final step which is to gain visibility into business services health. “This is where your organization can transform from an IT-focused agency to a service – and user – focused agency,” Malone explained.
Rather than focusing on what IT components were affected by outages or disruptions, your agency can focus on how services were affected. You can also prioritize the resolution of issues that will most significantly impact user services and experience.
While service outages may seem inevitable, they can be prevented. By leveraging a single platform to map, understand and remediate service issues, agencies can continue to deliver mission-critical priorities, saving time, resources and ensuring utmost trust from the public that government serves.