7 habits of effective IT service providers

A seasoned IT service provider shares the most important considerations in evolving an IT department into a business technology service broker.

Not too long ago, IT departments were those folks who did the coding and made sure the servers were up and running. Now, IT is assuming a new type of role -- not just running and staffing the server rooms (though this is still an important role), but also providing guidance to their businesses on the best technology solutions. These solutions may still be found in the server room, or they are even more likely to be found outside organizations -- from cloud providers or partners.

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Photo: CERN Press Office

In the process, IT becomes the manager of many IT providers. Succeeding in this new role, as business technology service broker for the business, requires looking at how commercial service providers are rendering their services. To that end, Sandy Thorsen, senior enterprise architect at Rackspace, shares some of his experiences in satisfying the tech needs of business customers. In a recent Brightalk webcast, he describes how central IT can act on the new opportunities opening up in this service oriented world, and provides a handy checklist of the things that matter most:

1) First and foremost, understand the value of business services. "Ensure that the services you currently offer to the business units provide value," says Thorsen. A big part of this value is speed. Thorsen observes that the one priority of business consumers "is accelerated time to delivery. They're trying to manage towards a release date." Thorsen also suggests hybrid services that blend existing in-house services with external services may be the best route for many enterprises.

2) Develop an approved list of core business services. This can be accomplished through a service catalog of core business services, Thorsen says. "The goal here is to identify those services that are possibly repeatable, or are specific to a business unit use case and are repeatable," he explains. "Look for opportunities for digital services that are business unit specific." Another key part of the offering is "a pre-sales process, in which the customer gets access to a solution engineer or specialists who might be able to assist you in the design phase, where they help you build out that solution."

3) Manage your relationships. "Relationship management is the most important when it comes to the successful deployment of a service brokerage or IT as a Service function," says Thorsen. With communication and collaboration, "good things happen," he continues. "You get to not only keep a very transparent approach -- what happens within the process -- but you also get economies of expertise that the service provider brings to the table." Partnership is the key, he adds. "Build those relationships and maintain them over time."

4) Simplify consumption. The key is to "identify repeatable services," says Thorsen, who also recommends developing a self-service model, and "a single pane of glass to request services through. That single pane of glass is not only present. for the business consumer, but it's also how central IT manage the service broker function and all the workflows." This includes adding processes such as ITIL to support various workflows and roles incorporated within the service brokerage, he adds.

5) Manage multiple providers. "It's a multi-service provider world," Thorsen says. "Don't expect to consume services from a single-service provider. Look at different service providers and what they bring to the table as far as their solutions. A multi-service provider approach is what you need to leverage to get the best-of-breed services specific to meeting the use case requirements of your business users."

6) Take back control - know thy service. Proactive information is a best practice employed by service providers, Thorsen points out. "You really need to understand the services, and understand the metrics involved in assessing that service," he says. "You want to understand the financials, the technology that's involved, and the cost of that service." The goal, he continues is "to hold the service providers accountable for the SLAs they offer and ensure that you have the appropriate metrics identified and that you're following and reporting on them. You need to make sure the service provider is providing this information to you, either through automated means or through specific reporting and holding them accountable to what they're providing for you."

7) Sharing is caring. It's critical to give business units and consumers "what they need to really look at the specifics of the services they're consuming, so you really do become a service provider of choice to the business you're serving," Thorsen says. Monitoring helps customers determine if they using their resources effectively. This also includes maintaining a "proactive communication cadence not only with consumers but also providers," he continues. "Look at the usage of your resources over time, and adjust as needed. If you do this, you really become a service provider of choice to that business line you are serving."

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