In IT, the list of projects and tasks never ends. Business units and internal customers continue to demand more and better services from IT, and you respond. You expand your IT environment and adopt new technologies. But you also face mounting pressure to reduce costs. This begs the question, will you ever catch up to business demands by using the current approach of working harder?

The answer for many IT organizations may be to work smarter with IT modernization. When you hear the term modernization, you might immediately think of technology. Yes, modernization does involve implementing new technology solutions that replace prior generations of technology. But the focus isn’t just on the technology. It’s also about people and processes. It also involves dealing with the culture-related changes and challenges that occur as the implementations of the past are replaced with new technologies to meet existing and future requirements.

Service assurance, sometimes called service awareness, is the logical starting point for focusing attention on the issues that matter most to the business and can help IT organizations modernize. Service assurance is a core business service management (BSM) discipline. BSM is a comprehensive approach and unified platform for running IT that reduces cost and maximizes business value. You can modernize your approach to service assurance by using solutions that offer the ability to anticipate events, predict their impact and respond automatically before the events degrade performance or disrupt services. The following steps can help you get started.

Step 1. Overhaul Silos in IT Processes

When IT organizations work in technical silos, they usually have fragmented and inconsistent processes across disconnected groups. Each group monitors only those IT infrastructure components for which it is responsible. This limited visibility of each group means that many problems go undetected until users report a slowdown or failure of an IT service.

Modernization calls for consolidating and standardizing processes, integrating them across groups, and ensuring their proper governance. When you standardize on proven best-practice processes, such as those specified in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT) or other frameworks, you are more likely to achieve significant gains in effectiveness and efficiency.

Step 2. Streamline Tasks and Processes through Automation

Automation ensures that your IT team consistently follows best-practice processes. Using automation cuts costs, eliminates human error and frees up staff for high-value projects. Prime candidates for automation include routine administrative and remediation tasks. Tools can provision and update software installed on servers, desktops and laptops, as well as restart failed applications and recover failed databases.

But don’t stop there. Look for ways to automate more complex IT efforts. Changes to the IT infrastructure and changes in workload profiles are great examples. The increasingly dynamic nature of the IT environment makes it impractical and virtually impossible to implement and track IT infrastructure changes manually. By automating routine and repetitive manual processes, you’ll increase your agility in adapting to change.

Step 3. Focus on Becoming More Predictive

Modern IT organizations don’t react to problems that have occurred. Instead, they anticipate problems and remediate them before service quality drops. This predictive approach requires you to analyze events and trends, assess the short-term and long-term impact on service quality, and deal with problematic events before a small issue becomes a big problem.

Short-term prediction focuses on analyzing IT infrastructure events, such as workload spikes, as they occur. The analysis determines in near real time if an event poses an immediate threat to service quality and notifies the IT operations staff accordingly.

When you have the capability to filter and consolidate events, you can prevent “alert overload” by dramatically reducing the number of events coming into operator consoles. Intelligent event handling goes a step further, helping operators distinguish between normal and abnormal operating variances. Then your staff can focus on only those events that indicate conditions outside the normal operating band.

Long-term prediction focuses on issues that pose future threats. These issues are usually related to the capacity of your IT infrastructure. Long-term prediction requires you to analyze usage trends, predict impending capacity shortfalls and act before service degradation occurs. Intelligent capacity planning ensures that you will have the capacity you need, when you need it, without overpurchasing IT resources.

Step 4. Analyze Root Cause Quickly

The more time your IT team spends diagnosing IT problems, the more your organization’s mean time to repair increases along with your costs. Today, virtualization, service-oriented architecture and other new technologies scatter services across multiple resources, and virtual servers continually move among physical hosts. The dynamic nature of virtual machines also makes root-cause analysis in a virtual environment challenging and time-consuming.

You can simplify and speed root-cause analysis by providing tools and information that help technicians quickly and intelligently analyze issues to determine their probable cause. The tools must leverage and consolidate information gathered by the system. The tools also must help the staff analyze that information and zero-in on the probable cause. This capability shrinks MTTR and reduces the skill level required of your IT staff.

Step 5. Prioritize Problems

Problems constantly loom in the IT infrastructure. Some are more critical than others. Fixing a performance degradation on your customer-facing order-entry system, for example, is more important than restoring a failed server running a graphics application for three people in your publications department. However, unless your IT staff understands how infrastructure components relate to the services they support and which of those services are critical to the business, they can’t tell which problem they should fix first.

By providing staff members with a view of the infrastructure that maps components to services and shows the business priorities of those services, you give your staff the ability to prioritize problems and focus on the ones that have the biggest impact on the business.

Create More Business Value

To meet business demands, you need to implement IT processes that are as modern as the technologies you’re deploying and managing. By modernizing your approach to service assurance, you position your organization to reduce service disruptions, improve service delivery, increase agility, and enhance security and regulatory compliance. You can achieve these results by reducing IT staff workload, to increase staff efficiency while providing a higher level of service delivery. This will improve the bottom line today and position your enterprise for greater success tomorrow.

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