Using SharePoint to enable ITIL: Consequences of unmanaged services

Since technology appears simple to operation the assumption is that it’s simple to build and manage. What isn’t seen by end-users today is all the complexity behind a product or service. The consequences of operationally mature, technically naïve stakeholders and end-users are having to justify investments in information technology. While it’s not unreasonable to ask for such, it’s difficult due to the complexities and variables of how the services are created and used. Adding to this complexity, the financial measurements and analysis is still an immature field. Accounting systems only within the past few decades have started addressing services and other abstract assets. However how to measure benefits still raises strong disagreements between CIOs and CFOs.

In addition the expectation of I.T. Services is that they are as stable and reliable as other mature services telephone, water and electricity. As a result organizations have moved past I.T. as a “tool” that is adjunct to how work is accomplished and have or are weaving information technology into the very fabric of the business and in some cases integrating I.T. into the products and services they deliver. Two examples: First look under the hood of any automobile lately you’re faced with a mass of connections, even that mechanic that tune up your car now plugs it into a diagnostic computer. Second want to deal with the government or a financial institution, you’re likely to either go online for forms or visit an ATM. When was the last time you actually saw and spoke to a teller?

The level of integration of computer technology has skyrocketed and with it the dependency upon services hosted on them via various network connections and backend infrastructure, including the people that support all the onboarding, operations and creation of these services.

Thus this dependency has created increased risk. United Airlines recent reservation systems outage cost them dearly, not only in operations costs, but good will, penalties and legal issues from passengers denied access to their flights. An estimate of the damage has not been publically announced but you can be sure it was significant.

Without a good handle on managing services I can foresee a day when a business fails due to service interruption or I.T. failure. Imagine how long it would take Amazon to crash if its infrastructure failed. For Amazon, I.T. failure cannot be an option, they don’t have a physical storefront and they are totally reliant on technology to point them to where the closest inventory is to fulfill and order. I would expect a 12 hour failure like United’s would be deviating to the bottom line.

I.T. Product and Service failures could in the future lose the shield from disclaimers and fitness of use loopholes. The end user licenses that have been used to limit liability may eventually be used as evidence that the product is unsafe or unfit to be sold or that the company has engaged in false advertising. Thus I.T. Management may have legal exposures similar to Senior Corporate Executives via SOX and GAAP regulations.

Some of these service issues have gotten management mindshare and attention; witness the strong efforts around I.T. Governance and service delivery models. Still other efforts to cobble together some form of service agreements and measurements.

While customers (internal and external) are judging them on their own performance criteria which may or may not match up to Service Level Agreements (SLAs) these organizations have stitched together often on criteria that customers do not see and therefore do not measure against [i.e., network or server availability vs. service availability –what good is either to measure if they are not in sync to allow me to utilize the service e.g., the server was up 20 hours a day and the network was up 21 hours a day, however combined the complete service that required utilization of both was up only 18 hours (only 1 hour of the network outage overlapped the hours of server outage). Server and Network availability where reported a poor 84% and 88% respectively, however the Service Availability the customer experienced was a dismal 75%. That’s a quarter of the time a customer cannot use the service. Think of it as one in four times you go to use your car it wouldn’t work or worse yet, 6 out of every 24 hours a plane flies it just stops –hope you’re not over the Rockies during that window.

Thus the consequences of having unmanaged and poorly managed I.T. services are increasing.

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