Weeknote 5: Playing with Azure; Black Friday; substandard online deliveries; and the usual tech/cycling/family mix (Week 47, 2017)

This content is 7 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

This weeknote is a bit of a rush-job – mostly because it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m writing this at the side of a public swimming pool whilst supervising a pool party… it will be late tonight when I get to finish it!

The week

There not a huge amount to say about this week though. It’s been as manic as usual, with a mixture of paid consulting days, pre-sales and time at Microsoft.

The time at Microsoft was excellent though – I spent Tuesday in their London offices, when Daniel Baker (@AzureDan) gave an excellent run through of some of the capabilities in Azure. I like to think I have a reasonable amount of Azure experience and I was really looking to top up my knowledge with recent developments as well as to learn a bit more about using some of the advanced workloads but I learned a lot that day. I think Dan is planning some more videos so watch his Twitter feed but his “Build a Company in a Day” slides are available for download.

On the topic of Azure, I managed to get the sentiment analysis demo I’ve been working on based on a conversation with my colleague Matt Bradley (@MattOnMicrosoft) and Daniel Baker also touched on it in his Build a Company in a Day workshop. It uses an Azure Logic App to:

  1. Monitor Twitter on a given topic;
  2. Detect sentiment with Azure Cognitive Services Text Analytics;
  3. Push data into Power BI dataset for visualisation;
  4. Send an email if the sentiment is below a certain value.

It’s a bit rough-and-ready (my Power BI skills are best described as “nascent”) but it’s not a bad demo – and it costs me pennies to run. You can also do something similar with Microsoft Flow instead of an Azure Logic App.

Black Friday

I hate Black Friday. Just an excuse to shift some excess stock onto greedy consumers ahead of Christmas…

…but it didn’t stop me buying things:

  • An Amazon Fire TV Stick to make our TV smart again (it has fewer and fewer apps available because it’s more than 3 years old…). Primarily I was after YouTube but my youngest is very excited about the Manchester City app!
  • Another set of Bluetooth speakers (because the kids keep “borrowing” my Bose Soundlink Mini 2).
  • Some Amazon buttons at a knock-down £1.99 (instead of £4.99) for IoT hacking.
  • A limited edition GCN cycle jersey that can come back to me from my family as a Christmas present!

The weekend

My weekend involved: cycling (my son was racing cyclocross again in the Central CX League); an evening out with my wife (disappointing restaurant in the next town followed by great gin in our local pub); a small hangover; some Zwift (to blow away the cobwebs – and although it was sunny outside, the chances of hitting black ice made the idea of a real road bike ride a bit risky); the pool party I mentioned earlier (belated 13th birthday celebrations for my eldest); 7 adolescent kids eating an enormous quantity of food back at ours; and… relax.

Other stuff

My eldest son discovered that the pressure washer can make bicycle bar tape white again! (I wrote a few years back about using baby wipes to clean bar tape but cyclocross mud goes way beyond even their magical properties.)

After posting my 7 days 7 photos efforts last week, I saw this:

I’ll get my coat.

I also learned a new term: “bikeshedding” (nothing to do with cycling… or smoking… or other teenage activities…):

It’s scary to see how much we’re cluttering space – not just our planet:

There’s a new DNS service in town:

I’ve switched the home connection from OpenDNS (now owned by Cisco) to and will report back in a while…

This ad tells a great story:

Curve is now available to ordinary employees and not just business-people!

We recently switched back to Tesco for our online grocery shopping (we left years ago because it seemed someone was taking one or two items from every order, hoping we wouldn’t notice). Well, it seems things have improved in some ways, but not in others…

On the subject of less-than-wonderful online shopping experiences, after I criticised John Lewis for limiting website functionality instead of bursting to the cloud:

It seems they got their own back by shipping my wife’s Christmas present with Hermes, who dumped it on the front doorstep (outside the notified delivery timeframe) and left a card to say it had been delivered to a secure location:

It may be silly but this made me laugh:

Finally, for this week, I borrowed my son’s wireless charger to top up my iPhone. Charging devices without cables – it’s witchcraft, I tell you! Witchcraft!

Next week, I’ll be back with my customer in Rochdale, consulting on what risual calls the “Optimised Service Vision” so it was interesting to see Matt Ballantine’s slides on Bringing Service Design to IT Service. I haven’t seen Matt present these but it looks like our thinking is quite closely aligned…

That’s all folks!

That’s all for this week. I’m off to watch some more Halt and Catch Fire before I get some sleep in preparation for what looks like a busy week…

Six months to set up a new blog! What were you doing man?

This content is 14 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Yesterday, I wrote about how I’ve been working on setting up a blogging platform at work.  But I also said I’d been working on this for six months.  Six months! To set up a blog! What took so long?

To be fair, it didn’t take me six months.  At least not six months of solid work, just six months of elapsed time.  And, if you’re thinking about doing something similar in your organisation, this post includes some of the things you might want to consider.

Getting organised

All the usual project management, technology and service management issues need to be covered.  Starting out from a project mandate, I needed to ensure that all stakeholders were in agreement as to what we’re producing, and tie down some clear requirements against which a technology platform and service wrap-around could be designed. In my case, that was pretty straightforward, but it still required co-operation from various business functions in several geographies.

Getting organised and selecting a technology platform

With some requirements covered off, it was on to technology selection, and it’s no good just setting up a web server and putting it on the ‘net – the solution needs to be manageable and supportable, long after I’ve ceased to be involved!  Furthermore, because we’re a managed service organisation, it doesn’t look too good to be buying in web hosting services from outside, so it needed to be something that we manage ourselves.

As it happened, I found that some of my colleagues elsewhere in the company were already doing something similar – and they had space on their platform for us to set up an new instance.

Bingo! That’s the technology sorted, what else needs to be done?

Getting organised, selecting a technology platform, and sorting out the marketing

The whole purpose of this activity is demonstrating thought leadership – and thought leadership is marketing (argh! I’ve become a marketeer – much to the amusement of my marketing professional wife, as she witnesses her tame geek cross over to “the dark side”).  It’s no good going off half-cocked and so I worked with some of my colleagues who really are marketing professionals (not just playing at it like me) to create a social media marketing strategy.  Branding was another element.  It’s no good just picking a theme that I like from the ‘net and applying it to our platform.  I worked with our internal agency’s designers and developers to ensure that the appropriate brand standards were followed, so that the eventual blog platform site had the same look and feel as the corporate site, and that it functioned well in an accessible manner, across many browsers.  Ah yes. The corporate site. Time to work with the Web marketing team to ensure that the appropriate links and redirects are in place.  So, it seems that creating a corporate blog platform is not as easy as just throwing up a new WordPress instance then!

Getting organised, selecting a technology platform, sorting out the marketing, and the service management

I mentioned service management earlier.  However few users the solution has on day one, I needed to be sure that, as it grows (as these things tend to), there would be a supported route for managing capacity, ensuring that servers and software are maintained and kept up-to-date, and that if someone calls the IT helpdesk for support, the calls are routed appropriately.  There’s actually a whole load more to it than that, but you get the idea.

Getting organised, selecting a technology platform, sorting out the marketing, the service management, and the content

Content. Yes, content. Content is king and all that.  We talked about marketing, and we knew what we wanted to achieve in broad terms but someone has to actually write something to post on each blog.  Writing is a creative process; it’s not just something you can site down and do at 9am each day, but all of the content providers need to be sure that they can put aside the necessary time to write new posts – and consistency of posting is more important than frequency.  I don’t mind if there’s only one post a month, as long as there is one post every month. That meant creating a funnel of ideas for our content producers to draw inspiration from.

Getting organised, selecting a technology platform, sorting out the marketing, the service management, the content, and the supporting policies

Most large organisations will have policies that govern things like use of the Internet, marketing, speaking on behalf of the company, etc. and those policies may well cover the use of social media; however there’s a world of difference between responsible use of Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/whatever as individuals and writing on the company’s own website.  Also, it’s simply not practical (or even ethical) to pre-approve blog posts in the way that we might for a press release.  That meant that some policies might need to be updated, and some additional training needs to provided to users.

All of this is just scraping the surface

It’s been a long haul – I’ve covered some of the main considerations in this post but, of course, as should be expected in any large organisation there were various challenges to overcome that I haven’t gone into the details of here. It’s been a steep learning curve for me, but fun too. And it’s great to look back and look at the number of things that we had to do to get to where we are today, and how many people were involved, each adding their own unique element to the project.

That’s it for the work-related posts on this blog – for the time being at least – but this isn’t really about the company that I work for, it’s about the effort that’s involved in pretty much any new technology implementation.  And if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!

How tablets will disrupt desktop managed service delivery

This content is 14 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’ve been watching the tweets from this week’s Gartner Symposium with interest and it looks as though there is a lot of interesting stuff happening out in Cannes this week but I was rather surprised to see this tweet, from Graeme Hackland:

“#gartnersym consensus in the room seems to be that the iPad is either a consumer product or an executive toy. There is a lot of potential!”

I wasn’t sure if Graeme was disagreeing with the rest of the room (after all, he did say that the iPad has potential) or if he was agreeing with the concensus view but, within seconds of retweeting his comment, I had multiple responses to suggest that many will disagree (and not just consumers and executives – my followers consist of a mixture of IT administrators and architects, journalists, analysts and even some business end users.

It made me think of a paper that I’ve been writing and, as it’s not been published yet, I’ll share some of the current draft here…

Over the last few months, there has been a frenzy of interest in small-form-factor “next generation” tablets as Apple first announced and then launched the iPad with other device manufacturers producing competing devices running a plethora of operating systems. So what does this resurgence in tablet computing mean for enterprise IT? Or is it just a consumer-focused irrelevance?

A stagnant market

Tablet PCs are not new – I know of at least one OEM that has been producing tablets in a variety of form factors for almost 20 years and Microsoft has included tablet support in Windows since 2002. Furthermore, they are a niche technology and, although manufacturers cite the form factor as providing the features of a notebook PC with the flexibility of a notepad and pen, the market for such devices have been limited. Whilst a variety of form factors have been available, many devices are convertible notebook/tablet PCs, running Microsoft Windows on standard PC hardware.

Those who see the potential of tablet PCs cite great advantages in their ability to take notes and generally enhance office-based productivity but the reality is that tablet PCs cost more than a standard notebook and that the weight of the device, combined with a lack of “instant on” capability seriously inhibits adoption. In addition, Windows-based tablets make use of a stylus, with multitouch capabilities being a fairly recent development. Converting written input to computer-readable text (e.g. when entering an address into a web browser) has also placed constraints on device usability. In short, the market for tablet PCs has stagnated.

It’s a tablet, not a PC

Despite what the consumer-focused press might lead us to believe, Apple is not a technological innovator – the graphical user interface (GUI), digital music players, smartphones, and tablet computers all existed in some form before Apple brought products to market. But Apple has been exceptionally good at refining and popularising these items – in an extremely convincing manner, largely due to their attention to the design of the device, making them extremely accessible to non-technical users. Microsoft Windows may be the dominant GUI-driven PC operating system but Apple‟s iPod and iPhone dominate in their respective markets – and the iPad may well be their breakthrough tablet device, certainly if early sales figures are to be believed.

Modular desktop modelFor 25 years, we‟ve been using personal computers at work and at play. Over that time we seen many changes to the ways in which we use these devices and it‟s become apparent that the biggest single factor in driving down the cost of ownership is efficient desktop device management. But, rather than being about thin clients, or a virtualised desktop – or indeed about standardising an any single desktop delivery model – the key to desktop device management is the separation of the desktop into component modules that can easily be swapped out: hardware; operating system; core applications; specialist applications; user data. It makes little difference whether the “desktop” runs on a PC, or a phone, or virtualised in the datacentre – as long as users can access their data using the applications that they know and as long as the IT department can manage the device.

Desktop service provision is changing – business end users are asking why they can’t do the same things on their work computers that they do at home: indeed, why do they need separate “home” and “work” PCs? The fusion of personal and professional computing is an entirely separate discussion but many organisations are looking seriously at Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) schemes, generally with some form of secure corporate desktop (perhaps virtualised) existing alongside consumer-focused IT (personal e-mail, multimedia applications, etc.). And, if all that‟s required is a connection to a remote desktop somewhere on the corporate network, perhaps it’s time to consider whether a PC is the right device.

That‟s where tablets come in. Whether they run iOS, Android, Windows or something else (e.g. WebOS), tablet devices are just end user computing devices – they take care of the hardware and operating system layers of our desktop service model and, as long as appropriate applications can be provided, end users can access their data as they would on a PC. What Apple looks to be doing, just as they did for the smartphone market, is legitimising the market for tablets. They haven‟t invented a new market, but they have focused on making tablet devices attractive to consumers and, by extension, those devices are finding their way into enterprise computing.

What’s interesting about Apple is that, even though they were late to enter the smartphone market, Apple has succeeded in pitching their device as a highly desirable, premium product and they are now looking to do the same with the iPad, drawing on their reputation for quality, desirability and ease of use.

Apple’s iPad is not a smartphone; and nor is it a PC. It has features in common with both of those devices but it’s an entirely new class of device. Too heavy and too large to slip in a pocket, but small enough and light enough, with a long enough battery life to allow mobile computing to take off in a way it has not previously. The iPad, and similar tablets, present a new method of accessing the corporate desktop – one that addresses issues of device ownership, mobility, and the consumerisation of IT.

Comparing Apples with… Android? Windows?

Apple’s iPad may be the tablet that‟s got everyone talking but it’s probably not the one to be watching. Just as Apple has focused on premium devices for personal computing and smartphones, the iPad is a premium tablet and there are many PC manufacturers with tablets (more accurately, slates) in development or coming to market. In addition, Apple‟s decision not to support Adobe Flash has limited the number of websites that the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad can access – and could be one of the reasons that Apple is losing ground to competitors in the smartphone market. For some, Google’s Android smartphone operating system is an attractive proposition on a tablet – Android has seen massive growth over the last year – but Microsoft is sticking to its view that Windows is the operating system and that slates are just a new form factor. Whilst Windows 7 includes touch capabilities, Microsoft’s view is clearly focused on the enterprise market – their new Windows Phone operating system has an innovative new user interface that could be perfect for tablets, but lacks the application support that Microsoft is hoping will allow them to remain dominant in personal computing. For the time being at least, after cancelling a dual-screen tablet codenamed Courier, Microsoft is pinning its hopes on tablets running Windows – but they need to convince their partners, and customers (enterprise and consumer) that they need Microsoft too as the traditional Windows on Intel PC marketplace fragments.

Why are tablets suddenly so interesting?

Aside from a general trend towards the consumerisation of enterprise IT, next generation tablets such as the iPad present new computing opportunities that do not work with traditional PCs – and whilst Gartner is still predicting growth in the PC segment, they expect mobile PCs to account for nearly 70% of PC shipments by 2012:

“Apple’s iPad is just one of many new devices coming to market that will change the entire PC ecosystem and overlap it with the mobile phone industry. This will create significantly more opportunities for PC vendors as well as significantly more threats”

For a while, netbooks looked as though they may be successful, with their low cost making them attractive as second PCs for mobile use. That phenomenon was short-lived though and, with Gartner‟s prediction that up to 40% of PCs will be replaced by hosted virtual desktops by 2013, tablets suddenly seem attractive as highly portable, low-cost, general purpose computing devices. Gartner are not alone in this view either – Forrester is estimating that tablets will account for 20% of PC sales by 2015 and IDC is expecting Apple to sell 48 million iPads by 2014 whilst fuelling a broader market for next generation tablets. In part, the success of smartphones such as the Apple iPhone and the plethora of Android-based handsets have blazed a trail that simplifies the adoption process for next generation tablets within the enterprise.

How does this affect desktop managed services?

Traditional PCs are not going away any time soon – for most enterprises there will be a mix of devices according to the computing needs of the end users. What will change (and is changing already) is the type of device that is used to access the desktop. Rather than taking a notebook PC from place to place in the device-centric manner that we do today, enterprises will adapt to human-centric computing models, with end users increasingly accessing their desktop from a variety of devices – perhaps starting out with a smartphone on the way to work; switching to a hosted virtual desktop in the office; using a tablet during meetings; and perhaps using the family PC to finish up some work at home in the evening, with local desktop virtualisation opening up new options for secure computing away from the corporate network. That‟s just one scenario though: with an increasing variety of tablets entering the marketplace and BYOC models becoming commonplace, the tablet could be an end user device that’s used to stay in touch whilst mobile, docked with a full-size keyboard (maybe a screen too) in the office for access to a corporate desktop, and which also provides access to the personal media (music, video, photographs, e-books), social networking and casual gaming that is increasingly part of our digital lifestyles?

If Gartner’s predictions come true and 40% of PCs are replaced with hosted virtual desktops, “thin client” applications like Citrix Receiver can be used to access a full Windows desktop from a tablet (it’s also possible to do this with a simple remote desktop application using the RDP or VNC protocols – although probably not desirable in an enterprise context). There is no mouse (something that Windows and Linux desktops are designed to make use of), but touch support is present, and it‟s also possible to use an external keyboard or stylus if necessary. Tablets won’t work for everyone, but they may provide the perfect balance between usability and portability for many users, with capabilities including instant startup and avoiding the physical barrier that notebook PCs present in meeting room scenarios.

Another advantage of tablet operating systems such as Apple iOS or Google Android is the “curated computing” approach. Forrester defines curated computing as “a mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences”.

In effect, the end user’s ability to access the device is constrained (they can install applications and adapt preferences, but can’t generally make low-level operating system tweaks) allowing greater levels of control to be achieved by content publishers who select content and functionality that is appropriate to the form factor. In contrast, running Windows on a tablet allows the end user to run commands, connect easily to peripheral devices, save files locally – and, crucially in Microsoft’s view, provides access to the same applications that are used elsewhere in the enterprise.

For businesses that adapt the Windows approach, the concept of enterprise application stores (e.g Citrix Dazzle), combined with application virtualisation, is attractive as this approach provides a degree of end-user self-service – improving responsiveness and potentially reducing costs. Meanwhile, those who adopt a curated computing approach still have options for installing applications without going via public application stores (e.g. Apple’s iPhone Developer Enterprise Programme, or Google Android’s ability to allow applications from an unknown source).

There are those who have concerns about security (e.g. device encryption, multiple user profiles, etc.) but Forrester believe that Apple’s devices now give enterprises “enough security options to […] say ‘yes’ rather than ‘no'”, noting that “some require higher levels of authentication assurance, resistance to attack, manageability, and logging than the [platform] can provide”. Similarly, other platforms (e.g. Android, Windows, WebOS, etc.) require assessment based on regulatory profiles and risk exposure.

Enterprise readiness is another concern. Quoting a Burton Group analyst:

“[a next generation tablet] does provide a ‘fundamentally transformative computing experience’ and it ‘will meet the needs of many business users’, but is it an enterprise computing platform?”

The real point here is not about whether tablets can be managed in an enterprise as a traditional desktop would, but that they are gateway devices to the corporate desktop, enabling BYOC models to be adopted. Using a tablet, end users can be provided with access to enterprise applications in a desktop-as-a-service model (e.g. as a hosted shared desktop, or as a virtual desktop), whilst the Internet, corporate e-mail, etc. are accessible in the same manner as for a mobile device today.

Wrapping up

Next generation tablets – not just the Apple iPad, but tablets running a variety of operating systems – will fundamentally impact the way in which desktop managed services are delivered, opening new opportunities for BYOC schemes and providing flexibility in end-user access to corporate applications and data. Questions over security and enterprise readiness will continue to be asked; however I strongly beleive that tablets are part of an overall mix of end user computing devices within a broader desktop access strategy.

Whilst I was writing this post, Graeme challenged me to name five things beyond email and web browsing that make the iPad a business tool. I hope I’ve done more than that: it’s not about individual features but about the way in which next generation tablets (such as the iPad) will (are?) disrupting desktop services provision.

An introduction to Service Management for technology-focused architects

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

As an experienced infrastructure architect working on a service-led pre-sales exercise, I have struggled to get to grips with what the overall solution looks like and have had to learn a lot about delivering IT Services in a very short time. This article is intended to express the basics of service management for architects who, like myself, are more familiar with technology than service. It’s not a complete reference, and a service architect may be dismayed by my interpretation of the processes; however it is based on advice and guidance from a specialist service management consultancy and I am grateful to Keith Webb for his assistance in reviewing and editing the article.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) takes service management best practice and presents it in a format that can be applied to IT (and non-IT) service support and delivery. Organised as a number of processes, ITIL describes:

  • Incident Management.
  • Configuration Management.
  • Problem Management.
  • Change Management.
  • Release Management.
  • Service Level Management.
  • Availability Management.
  • Capacity Management.
  • IT Service Continuity Management.
  • Financial Management for IT Services.

Looking at the way that service is often implemented, end users may raise a service request or incident (for example via a website, or by calling a service desk) or incidents may be reported automatically (e.g. an alert generated by an IT system). The incident or service request will be reported to a service desk and an incident record created and stored in the service management tool. Typically, the service desk will have access (via the Configuration Management Database – CMDB) to user information (from various directories – e.g. the Human Resources system or Active Directory) and asset information – the incident record will link to these as appropriate.

From an incident management perspective, the service desk will own the relationship with the end user through to resolution and closure, managing the communications and ensuring that the incident/service request is resolved to the user’s satisfaction (and closed after a pre-defined interval if user contact is not possible). Drawing on resources such as a known error database, the service desk’s aim in incident management is to ensure that service is restored as soon as possible according to defined priorities and within timescales agreed with the business. This can be achieved by what is known as a first time fix (where the incident is resolved by, and does not leave, the service desk); however some incidents will need to be assigned to second/third-line support teams for further tests/investigation. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the service desk to manage the incident through to resolution and closure, even if the incident is assigned elsewhere in the organisation.

Configuration management makes use of the CMDB to record information of any assets (typically in the live environment) the organisation wants to control – this may include people, documentation, hardware, software, network equipment, locations, service management information, contractual information, “howtos”, etc. and, whilst the assets may well be recorded in an asset database, this tends to be more about financial details (date purchased, end of warranty, etc.) and the CMDB builds out on this asset data to provide a more complete record – including relationships between services and relationships between configuration items which combine to provide a service. Some items may not exist in the asset database (e.g. a PC, a monitor or a printer may be considered too expensive to track and inexpensive to purchase, so might be managed as a consumable) and it is part of the configuration management role to agree with the organisation which items are to be controlled (and hence stored in the CMDB). Whilst the CMDB is a relational database, providing a hierarchical structure of the relationship between assets (e.g. a server is a piece of hardware with a number of individual components, and certain software installed, configured in a particular manner, and connected to various networks, to provide a service as defined in a particular document, etc.). These relationships can quickly become complex, and the CMDB does not necessarily store all the records (e.g. certain configuration items may exist in another repository, linked from the CMDB) and the real value of the CMDB is the relational nature which allows for extremely flexible reporting. In reality, whilst various products may feed into the CMDB, the CMDB itself tends to be built around a service management tool such as BMC Remedy or HP Service Center.

Problem management examines incidents (either at one time, or over a period) and attempts to identify the root cause of a problem. Over time, this may feed into the incident management process but the two disciplines have distinctly differing attributes – whilst incident management is about providing quick fixes to restore service, problem management is about examining the underlying cause and may take an extended period of time. Problem management has both reactive and proactive aspects: the reactive aspect is concerned with solving problems in response to one or more incidents and the proactive aspect is concerned with preventing incidents from occurring in the first place.

Where an incident leads to a change being required, a change record is created (in the service management tool, by the service desk or the change team) and the change management process is invoked. The change team will typically assess the risk, impact of doing/not carrying out the change, urgency, requirement and effect on other services relating to a change, owning and managing any related testing and communication with users of the service until a request for change is rejected or implemented.

Sometimes, a number of changes may be packaged as a release, as part of the release management process. Release Management undertakes the planning, design, build, configuration and testing of hardware and software to create a set of release components for a live environment. A release may be as small as a tiny code change to a script or it could be a service pack, a number of software components, an application, or even a piece of hardware.

Service level management is the name given to the planning, coordinating, drafting, negotiating, agreeing, monitoring and reporting of services and their associated Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and service targets. It is also the on-going review of service achievements against those targets to ensure that the required and cost-justifiable service quality is maintained and gradually improved. As well as reporting on service targets (e.g. number of incidents which are resolved as first-time fixes, percentage availability of a service during the past month, etc.), service level management includes a degree of relationship management – agreeing the required levels of service with the customer. For example, a KPI for first-time fixes which is too high may be counterproductive as it will encourage rapid call closure rather than problem management (which would be expected to improve the overall level of service over time). Tools may be used to monitor or alert via alarms when service level limits (e.g. time to respond, time to resolve, etc.) are being approached for a given incident.

Capacity management is about providing appropriate capacity (the right level, at the right time) in an infrastructure component or service and needs to be aware of the business plans as these may have a serious impact upon service. For example, a major marketing campaign may increase the load on a website or a call centre and appropriate capacity will need to be provided in order to continue to meet defined service levels.

Availability management is linked to capacity management but is aligned with service continuity. If a service is judged to be business-critical and requires high availability, then additional components may be provided to increase the resilience of the solution but the use of such components needs to be balanced with introducing additional cost to a solution, affecting profitability (even if service is over-delivered against the agreed levels, it is unlikely that this will result in extra revenue). As new technologies emerge which provide dynamic solutions to capacity and availability management (e.g. server virtualisation) become mainstream, a new generation of service management tools will be required to cope with dynamic discovery and reporting as the CMDB is constantly updated to reflect changes to controlled configuration items.

IT service continuity management is concerned with managing an organisation’s ability to continue to provide a pre-determined and agreed level of IT Service to support the minimum business requirements following an interruption to the business. As organisations become more dependent upon technology, which is now a core component of most business processes, continued availability of IT and the delivery of IT services is critical to their survival. This is accomplished by introducing risk reduction measures such as resilient systems, and recovery options including back-up facilities.

Financial management for IT services accounts for the cost of service provision, providing a valuation of the services being delivered, the valuation of the assets that are in use in enabling those services to be delivered and the costs of operating and supporting those services. Financial Management also looks at to recover those costs, where applicable, in a controlled manner. It provides the sound stewardship of the monetary resources of the organisation. It supports the organisation in planning and executing its business objectives.

ITIL 2 is a non-proprietary framework of service management best practices – it is not mandatory but organisations may increase their effectiveness by adopting and adapting the disciplines that are most appropriate to the environment. ITIL 3 is an extension of ITIL 2 (i.e. it includes all of ITIL 2 and more).

ISO/IEC 20000-1 is an auditable standard, aligned with ITIL 2 and organisations can both gain or lose ISO/IEC 20000-1 accreditation as a result of their adherence (or otherwise) to the required standards.

A solution may consist of a number of service towers, each of which may implement various ITIL processes. In practice, the processes will be similar across the various towers; however the specifics may vary. There will be economies of scale where multiple towers are implemented using the same tools (i.e. introducing service efficiencies) and the business will typically be able to supply volumetric data which will aid in distinguishing the number of people required to deliver each service.