Shaping IT Service Management at The Hartree Centre: Service Design

The third in a series of blog posts from Dave Cable, Head of Service Operations here at The Hartree Centre, gives us an introduction to service design, transition, configuration management and change management.

In my previous post, I described the key aspects of the ITIL Service Operation area that we have implemented at the Hartree Centre.  In this post, I’ll move on to Service Design and Service Transition.

What is Service Design?

The ITIL area of Service Strategy considers all the business requirements for IT services, and from them constructs a high-level view of the range of services to be offered.  Service Design turns this high-level portfolio into a set of service specifications for inclusion in the organisation’s Service Catalogue.  It takes account of the requirements for information security, availability and capacity.  Service catalogue entries also include details of standard service levels (SLA metrics) and provide, where appropriate, pricing information.  Note that non-standard service levels may be negotiated with individual customers.

What is Service Transition?

Service Transition describes the processes needed to implement the services specified by Service Design.  It provides a solid foundation for the proper control and monitoring of core service functionality, ensuring that (for example) unapproved configuration changes are not allowed, since these could have a negative impact on service levels and give rise to incident reports.  The specific Service Transition processes we are working with are Configuration Management, Change Management, and Knowledge Management.

So what is Configuration Management?

The configuration management process describes the collection, recording and management of configuration data for all the individual components (such as servers, network switches and storage sub-systems) that together make up an IT service.  This information is all stored in the Configuration Management Database (CMDB).  It’s vital to have this information to hand, as it is used whenever we need to log a hardware or software support call with vendor support, or when we need to plan budgets for extended warranty cover.  Configuration management also enables us to understand the impact on business services when a component fails, or when we need to do preventative maintenance.

And Change Management?

Change Management provides a formal, documented, process for:

  • Planning configuration changes;
  • Describing timescales for implementation;
  • Understanding potential risks and impact;
  • Preparing back-out plans;
  • And, most importantly, seeking approval from the service owner and other relevant parties.

Change management is vital for preventing unexpected outcomes and negative impacts on services.  At the Hartree Centre it covers everything from kernel security patches and middleware updates to scheduler configuration changes deriving from customer requests.  A Change Advisory Board (CAB) is routinely convened to assess planned changes and approve or reject them.

What about Knowledge Management?

Knowledge Management is, unsurprisingly, about capturing understanding and documentation.  We bring together process documentation with technical operations’ information, solutions to incidents and problems, and user guides into a series of Knowledge Bases.  Different knowledge bases are available to different communities, but all are searchable in a variety of ways.  The customer-facing knowledge base is accessible from our customer service portal and provides an excellent self-help facility.  One benefit of this should be a reduced need for customers to log incident reports.  In our particular implementation, customers can also rate the usefulness of knowledge articles, which will help us to improve them over time.

To recap: Service Design provides a service catalogue that describes the specific services we provide.  Service transition includes a range of tools and processes used to implement and manage services.  In the next post, I’ll discuss Continual Service Improvement.

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