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IT Service & Operations best practice: six steps to better management

Digital transformation is inarguably a deciding factor today to stay ahead, keep companies competitive, and customers well-served. But what to do when your legacy estate is holding you back? This is where a little savvy around IT management can really help.

Businesses at a higher maturity in their IT modernization drives are experiencing better results - despite any initial uptick in financial commitments, they can soon pay off in time-to-market for customers, as well as enabling re-investment into the core business.

But before they get there, organizations can easily find themselves in a quandary. Achieving that balance between improving digital offerings and 'keeping the lights on' can prove tricky. Common hurdles include running siloed operations, service availability issues, and rusty end-user experiences for both employees and customers, who have come to expect a premium experience from the consumer apps they're used to.

Although it's by no means the simplest of tasks, there are steps organizations can take to get their IT house in order. In conjunction with ServiceNow, we'll highlight six ways to get on the road to success.

#1 Establish a centralized Configuration Management Database (CMDB)

By creating a CMDB, your firm can have a 'single source of truth' across the entire IT estate - leaving you with a system of record that can be used to better optimize IT service management (ITSM) and IT operations management (ITOM) capabilities.

In short, before you get started trying to improve the entire setup, it's important to know where and what your assets are, and how they relate to IT and business services. Something's better than nothing, so even if you're collating only a few elements to begin with - say, network and some services - you're already in an improved position.

How can this help?

To name a few benefits: by knowing the lay of the land, you'll be able to better plot change delivery and releases. That will help on the compliance side, too, by providing a snapshot of data and systems for governance, risk, and compliance activities. And having a CMDB in place improves your core understanding of services and how IT delivers them - allowing you to exert greater control over IT assets you own, or those contracted by a third party.

Don't be put off by the CMDB's reputation as difficult. Start by getting to grips with all your possible use cases for the CMDB - and talk to different IT teams to get their view.

Try to establish what the desired end goal will look like, and work towards that. Focus on the quality of data rather than quantity - you want useful data over noise. Make sure the CMDB is allocated enough resources, not just at the start, but to maintain it over time. If you can, automate as much as possible; and finally, remember to protect your most important asset - your people - because they can be resistant to change.

#2 Discovering infrastructure and business services

Now that you have a CMDB, it's time to populate it with information. We recommend starting with infrastructure discovery, painting a clear picture of your IT estate. It's important to include hardware and virtual assets, plus cloud services such as those of AWS or Azure, to get a comprehensive view. Think of this as a horizontal chart.

Then you can begin with service discovery, to establish what business services you are offering. Think of this as a vertical chart - a 'service map' that tracks the underlying infrastructure that those services rely on. These intersecting charts will help understand how infrastructure changes will impact business services.

#3 Proactively identify service issues

Now that you've got visibility, it's time to use it. Outages are never desirable, but in today's always-on world, any downtime at all can mean hemorrhaging customers, so getting in front of these as they happen is business-critical.

Getting an event management solution in place and working with your existing monitoring ecosystem allows IT teams to correlate data against the business services and configuration items in your brand new CMDB.

This shines a light on exactly what's happening within your business services and can provide advanced warning of potential issues in future - auto-generating high-priority incidents for service teams to investigate.

#4 Informed incident response

When an issue occurs or there's an outage, it's vital to reach a quick resolution with informed incident response. Speed counts, especially in major incidents. By using platforms such as those offered by ServiceNow, rules-based routing will get the issue in front of the right team - and with the underlying CMDB in place, there's full visibility into the history of the service and the infrastructure affected.

Team members assigned to an issue can now keep it better monitored and set up automated alerts to flag any further problems.

#5 Automated remediation

We'll always need people, especially when dealing with complex IT problems. But the laborious tasks should certainly be automated as much as possible so staff can focus on what they're good at.

ServiceNow can provide IT support with the information they need for remediation, while keeping IT operations in the know about whether the necessary actions have been taken or not. Orchestration capabilities can be set up to leave the remediation to the machines with a great deal of confidence - for example, if an issue with a web application can be solved most of the time by recycling the server.

Automated remediation provides more intelligence, too, as auto-generated logs can be sifted through to determine repeat-offending issues.

#6 A single view across IT services and operations

With all this groundwork in place, such as a single system of record and in-platform analytics, all ITSM and ITOM activities can be viewed easily and in real time. With ServiceNow, customers can view end-to-end activities for both service management and operations management, and that includes incidents, events, or problems, discovered asset and service data, changes, and maintenance of your CMDB.

Major organizational efficiencies can be drawn from this sixth and final step, because the joined-up view provides insight into issues as they happen or before they affect your business, as well as assisting in helping to more closely align operations and services to business goals.

Expect to achieve a significant reduction in incident resolution time, as well as lower incidents of SLA breaches. By automating data collection and reporting, your organization could save hundreds of thousands a year; not to mention thousands of hours of labor time with real-time reporting and dashboards.

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