Cloud services are more than a coming trend for modern businesses; they are a big deal. The broad availability of cloud services to support a variety of generalized and specialized business applications is fueling companies’ transformations into digital enterprises. For IT departments, cloud services are only half of the picture – service management processes are the other half.
A primary benefit of cloud services is that they are built on a native service-oriented foundation (a good start!) – components assembled by service providers into packaged offerings for simplified consumption. When leveraging cloud services, the service provider’s ITSM processes become an extension of yours – creating a critical process dependency that must be carefully integrated and managed to avoid introducing time delays, unnecessary complexity, security vulnerabilities and risk to your company’s IT operations. Since cloud service providers’ offerings start with a services orientation, it is reasonable to expect them to continue the services orientation in their internal operations and support processes, and to use them as the underpinnings of interactions with clients. If they do, then your company should be able to rely on the following basic ITSM expectations when interacting with cloud service providers:
- Abstraction of configuration details – With cloud services, you should be given more than “a box of parts” – you are consuming a set of components that are designed and provisioned to work as a unit. One of the key benefits this provides you (if the service is defined well) is that you don’t need to manage (or even know about) the various components. You can treat the service as a “black box” and just manage the interfaces.
- Clearly-defined SLAs for availability and service performance – Almost all cloud services are either re-offered to end users for consumption or packaged with other components as part of another offer. In both scenarios, your IT organization is responsible for providing SLAs and the associated service assurances to end users/consumers of your offerings. To do this effectively, you need the SLAs with service providers to be clearly defined and consistently achieved.
- Consistent change management processes – Cloud services and their technological components will evolve. It is essential that cloud service providers have robust change management processes in place to minimize service disturbances and communicate with you about any potential impacts, so you can set expectations with end users accordingly.
- Responsiveness to issues and service requests – As an extension of your internal ITSM processes, you will often pass service requests and service issues to the cloud service provider for diagnosis and resolution. Having a responsive service desk with agents available when your company must engage with cloud service providers (think time-zone issues) is essential to satisfying end-user SLAs for provisioning and incident management.
- Collaboration in problem management – Services will fail (expect it). When they do fail, you will need to work closely with cloud service providers to share information, troubleshoot issues collaboratively and develop remediation steps. With cloud services, problem management is a team sport.
Negotiating and integrating these core ITSM activities with cloud service providers will enable you to consume and incorporate their services more effectively into the offerings that your organization needs. Confidence in your suppliers will in turn give you the confidence to extend a robust set of service management processes to your company’s stakeholders. Cloud services combined with integrated ITSM processes will enable access to scalable and cost-effective technology options that your company may not be able to provide itself.