Presentation on theme: "6th Module: Service Management: Structure: 1.What is Service in the IS context? 2.Service Level Agreements 3.Capacity Management 4.Organising the IS Function."— Presentation transcript:
6th Module: Service Management: Structure: 1.What is Service in the IS context? 2.Service Level Agreements 3.Capacity Management 4.Organising the IS Function 5.End User Computing
What is Service in the context of Information Systems? Service in IS = Provision of IT products, facilities and technical support on a continuous basis. System development is no longer the only purpose of IS companies. Due to rapidly changing technology and due to changing customer demands, it is much more important that IS companies serve their clients on a continuous basis. This is also the role of many Oracle and SAP consultants.
Nowadays, IT is far more complex than it used to be, and it is unrealistic to assume that Information Systems always run without any problems. The more ambitious the aim of the customer, the more developers will contribute to an IS solution. The more developers, the more likely there will be hidden bugs in the system that turn out to be problems at some stage of running the system. As a result, consultants need to be available who can provide continuous service.
Typically, there are 2 IS Management Questions that every IT manager has to answer before s/he starts acting on the problem (Duncan, 1997): 1.Is the present level of service satisfactory given the resources that are currently allocated? 2.Using the current situation as a basis, what has to be done in order to provide for future services?
The answer to these questions will tell the IT manager what expectations the organisation has from its Information Systems. Ultimately, the success of the IS implementation will be judged by the fact whether these expectations have been met or not. Considering IS from a service perspective has certain advantages, e.g. the organisation can specify its service requirements. Moreover, targets can be specified explicitly, which can be evaluated (compare with module 5: Evaluation).
In the past, Information Systems Management often failed to reach the targets of the users, because it did not know their expectations. By taking on a service perspective, there is communication between both parties (=between IS professionals and customers/users), so that the IS professionals are clearly informed about the users expectations. Expressed shortly: Conceptualising the role of Information Systems as a Service Provider will assist users in communicating their expectations.
Service Level Agreements What are Service Level Agreements? They are a kind of contract stating the user service requirements and the commitments of the IS professionals to meet these requirements. These measures of service must be quantifiable in some way, and the record of service becomes the performance measure (e.g. if the server stops running, service needs to be there within 24 hours to make it run again).
A typical service level agreement is described by Jackson (1986, Chapter 6). The contract type of the service level agreement resembles traditional contracts between customers and suppliers, but is adapted to Information Systems Management. Benefits of Service Level Agreements are: They facilitate communication, which in turn leads to an improved understanding of user concerns. They provide a record of services and individual problems can be recorded. Moreover, IS resources can be directed to focus on those activities that benefit the users most.
Capacity Management Information Systems Management might be non- technical, but it is very important to have technical knowledge in order to provide good service. Therefore, specialist knowledge is required for many parts of the IS, e.g. processors, networks, telecommunications, programming languages, etc. The management of the technical IT capacity is referred to as Capacity Management.
From the organisations viewpoint, i.e. from the viewpoint of the company, hospital, trust, etc., it is particularly important that there is enough IT capacity to support the users needs. In order to determine these needs, careful plans are necessary (this is also termed capacity planning). Capacity planning involves determining the IT resources that are necessary to run the organisation successfully. There must always be enough capacity to support the present or future workload.
It is very important to also consider the future workload, as organisations may grow fast. In these plans, very careful consideration is necessary for resources that are shared among many people in the organisation, e.g. processors, data transfer channels or networks. The problem is that it is difficult to estimate future workloads, especially if the company is expected to expand but nobody knows at which rate.
To estimate future workloads, information must be synthesised from different sources. One source are the users, who perform computer transactions in the way they usually do them (which might not be the optimal way). Another source are the system developers, who know the optimal way of performing transactions, but who are unaware of how users do these transactions in practise.
Another source are system programmers, who know about transaction rates, response times, etc., but cannot relate them to business parameters. A Capacity Planner must collect information from all these sources and base his/her estimate on this information. According to Lucas (1989), there are 3 basic types of capacity planning problems: 1.Short term performance improvement 2.Ongoing capacity estimation 3.Long term/special case capacity acquisition
Each of these types requires different approaches to evaluate capacity requirements. 1.Short term Performance Improvement: Tuning the existing configurations (software and hardware). The system is analysed by performing statistical tests to identify problems. Different configurations are compared with each other and the best adjusted configuration is chosen.
2. Ongoing capacity estimation: Analysing data about the current workload and using this knowledge to make predictions about future workload.
3. Long term/Special case capacity acquisition: Acquisition of new hardware and software. In order to make good estimates in this regard, specialist bench-marking programmes are necessary to represent a typical workload and to compare and evaluate different hardware. These programmes are often provided by electronic companies. These are highly complex tasks, involving specialist diagnostic and technical skills, (e.g. the electronic company Rohde & Schwartz provides measurements for the performance of highly-technical, electronic equipment. As far as I know, Hewlett Packard does this as well)
Organising the IS Function The traditional structure of IS function assigns roles to staff according to their skills. Typically, the IS function was divided into system development and operations, and below this level into technical disciplines (e.g. computer operations, system support, telecommunications, systems analysts, programmers etc.)
The traditional structure had certain advantages, e.g. it supported a high degree of specialisation and let everyone do what they were best at. Moreover, the shared knowledge and experience in each group helped to increase the skill levels of individuals who were part of these groups. This type of traditional IS function is also called internally focused.
IS as a whole is externally focused, however, because the main purpose is to provide IT solutions for the entire organisation, not just for one internal unit. In order to sell the knowledge of the internal IS function to the rest of the organisation, the conflict between technical competence and service delivery needs to be resolved, i.e. it is not enough to just know about IS, because IS also need to be communicated to other units. This happens through service management, which combines service- based and skill-based knowledge.
There is disagreement in terms of how to optimally combine service-based and skill- based knowledge. There is agreement, however, in terms of the fact that decisions are dependent on the particular characteristics of the organisation. One solution that is adopted by many organisations is outsourcing, which means contracting an organisations entire IS function to a supplier such as Oracle, SAP or Medical Information Systems providers (e.g. Meditech, HKS).
It is important to consider, however, that outsourcing should not be seen as a solution to avoiding short-term IS problems. Careful planning needs to be done to see whether outsourcing would be beneficial. For many small to medium sized companies, SAP is still considered too expensive (but changes might be underway in this regard).
End User Computing Many people consider End User Computing (EUC) as a special case of IS organisation, but it can also be seen separately. What is EUC? End User Computing is about empowering people to derive the greatest benefit from their computer with the least stress. Source:
End User Computing embraces a broad range of technologies and techniques and looks at how they can be integrated and refactored to enhance system stability, security, and flexibility. Source: Users get more responsibilities for the IS systems they work with, but the IS function still keeps the main responsibility for the integration of computing facilities and corporate information, and the maintenance of technical and procedural computing standards.
The relationship between IS and the users becomes more complicated, especially if the users do not adhere to the standards set by the IS departments (e.g. downloading of illegal software/files on the organisations computers, etc.). There are many legal issues involved, and different organisations have different attitudes towards controlling their users. Many companies drifted into End User Computation, because their users were frustrated due to the inflexibility of their corporate IS function.
This is also a reason why companies such as Oracle and SAP try to provide very flexible solutions that can be implemented quickly and why they send consultants who find out about the users needs and preferences.
References: Duncan, W.M. (1997). Information Systems Management. London: University of London Press. Jackson, I.F. (1986). Corporate Information Management. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Lucas H.C. (1989). Managing Information Services (Chapter 16, Capacity Planning). New York: Macmillan.
The references for students who are interested in further reading can be found on pages 19 and 20 of the study guide.