4 min read

Cloud Computing Risks and Rewards

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 29, 2010 11:00:00 AM

The relationship between ITSM and cloud computing is still a hot topic. Companies are still asking questions regarding what the cloud is, IT versus business roles in adopting cloud infrastructure, and whether the shift toward cloud computing is optional or inevitable. Ambiguity abounds.

We all know the business wants results, and requires IT to offer swift responses to business demands. The business ultimately wants to remain agile and flexible – able to adjust quickly to changing needs. IT can’t always deliver solutions as quickly as the business wants. The cloud can.

It’s easy and logical, then, for the business to leap toward cloud providers to meet their needs. In the cloud, the business can be in control of their relationship with providers – though if one doesn’t suit their fancy, switching isn’t always easy or possible.

There are hundreds of questions that pop up here – most about the risks and rewards of leveraging cloud platforming. Before we delve any further, consider this list:

Risks

  1. Security. Where’s your data – with your provider, or with a third, fourth, or fifth party? Is it safe? Does your cloud provider explicitly state rights to outsource your data? You should clearly understand your provider’s security-related responsibilities and guarantees described in its service level agreement.
  2. Re: Security – SAS70 and PCI compliance. SAS70 (a set of auditing standards designed to measure handling of sensitive data) and PCI (a worldwide information security standard) assure companies that their storage vendors are handling their data properly – so they don’t have to audit vendors themselves. SAS70 and PCI compliance policies may uncover details that aren’t specified in service agreements. Since server outsourcing can put your data anywhere in the world without the end user noticing a change, SAS70 and PCI are standards for cloud peace of mind. Google realized this early when they announced their SAS70 Type II certification in 2008.
  3. Re: Security Data Protection. If your data isn’t stored within your in-house network, it’s stored in someone else’s. It’s therefore subject to someone else’s protection framework. Be sure to ask for specifics from your cloud provider regarding the intrusion detection system (IDS), intrusion prevention system (IPS), firewall, and other security technologies they’ve deployed to clarify their integrity. These security appliances are required by PCI.
  4. Integration with existing systems. Will cloud-based applications integrate well with your internal network configuration, security infrastructure, and software?
  5. Governance. Who’s in charge of your data – you or your provider? Who’s in charge of application adoption and making decisions based on performance – the business or IT?
  6. Internet connectivity. Since the cloud operates through the internet, it’s completely bound to connectivity. No internet, no work.

Rewards

  1. Lower IT infrastructure costs. IT can supplement or replace internal computing resources; no need to purchase equipment to handle peak needs.
  2. Lower software costs. IT won’t be burdened with the costs of installing and maintaining programs on every desktop in the business.
  3. Unlimited, pay-as-you-need-to storage capacity. As much as you need, whenever you need it. Most providers allow you to pay for more space as you need it so you don’t have to commit to a large sum of space.
  4. Operating system compatibility. The cloud is built on browser-based applications, meaning OS’s just don’t matter.
  5. Easy group collaboration. Sharing documents? Anyone anywhere can collaborate in real-time.
  6. You’re no longer bound to specific devices. Change computers and your applications and documents follow you wherever you go.
  7. Low systems cost. You don’t need a high-powered system to run cloud applications, so the computer doesn’t need the processing power or hard disk space demanded by traditional software.

It’s clear why the momentum toward the cloud is so strong – the rewards appear to outweigh the risks. Notice, though, that the risks are coming from IT while the rewards make up most of what the business side is drooling over. It’s no wonder we’re concerned with IT and business alignment in this context. That alignment may determine the success or nightmare of cloud migration.

recent CIO survey reported that among companies not leveraging the cloud, many aren’t confident the cloud will reduce their IT costs. Half of IT decision makers, the report said, expect little reduction in IT spending after cloud adoption. Another 42 percent weren’t sure they’d save any money.

Among companies who had adopted cloud applications, however, cost savings topped scalability and flexibility as the top reason for adopting cloud computing. 83 percent of those respondents were using SaaS models.

CIO’s results indicate a lingering apprehension about cloud services, but also a prevailing wind toward the cost savings the cloud offers. Pew Research’s study on the future of cloud computing blew in the same direction: 71 percent of respondents said most people won’t be working with conventional PC software by 2020, leveraging internet-based applications instead; 27 percent said most people would still use superior PC-based applications.

We’re going to see more companies begin implementing cloud services in the next few years. This is clear. The IT-business strategy alliance is critical to the success of cloud implementations. Since more pressure lies on IT to adjust their infrastructure and methodology to accommodate cloud services, IT faces a greater challenge: grow toward an intimate partnership with the business, or grow in irrelevance to the business.

The question has one right answer – and with that answer come a host of more questions for another post.

For a more thorough look at cloud security, check out our upcoming security post.

Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog business enterprise library management process-consulting services technology tips tricks value cloud collaboration computing information infrastructure it itil itsm
2 min read

Four Ways YOU Can Ensure Cloud Security

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 16, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In our last Cloud post (Cloud Computing Risks and Rewards) we discussed a number of Cloud risks related to security:

These risks don’t “demonize” the cloud – but rather raise some critical questions regarding the protection of company data that’s migrated to cloud servers. The security of the cloud is still a bit (forgive the pun) cloudy to most – and may integrate well with existing security policies, protocols, and infrastructure.

Christofer Hoff – who offers excellent cloud perspective in his blog Rational Survivability-
claims it’s not the nature of cloud computing businesses should be worried about, but rather how companies implement and manage cloud computing.

“We’re struggling less with security technology solutions (as there really are few) but rather with the operational, organizational, and compliance issues that come with this new unchartered (or pooly chartered) territory,” Hoff wrote in his post Security and the Cloud – What Does That Even Mean?

Hoff’s quote pinpoints the simple source of our worries: we’ve developed a standard for IT security and compliance that’s being disrupted by something new. The question now is not whether companies should migrate to the cloud. The question is how our existing security methodologies will translate and apply to cloud computing. Since no industry standard for cloud security compliance has been adopted, organizations must steer their own ships as they sail toward cloud solutions.

Four ways organizations can retain appropriate data security as they implement elements of the cloud:

  1. Policy reviewing. A few thorough reads of your cloud provider’s policy will likely explain the rights they reserve to store and protect your data.
  2. SAS70 and PCI Compliance. As we said in our last post, SAS70 and PCI compliance policies may uncover details that aren’t specified in service agreements. They’re standards for cloud peace of mind.
  3. Choosing a public, private, or virtual private cloud. Public clouds allow secure employee access to company data from any system anywhere. Private clouds are more costly, granting access from company systems or systems within the company’s LAN network, providing greater control over data resources and security. Virtual private clouds use a public cloud infrastructure in a private /semi-private manner, providing more balance between cost efficiency and security.
  4. Leveraging ITIL methodology. ITIL offers a one-size-fits-all starting point for IT methodology. As more business adopt cloud applications, businesses will have opportunities to apply ITIL methodology to a new generation of computing.
Topics: atlassian blog implementation library management services technology tips tricks security cloud compliance computing information infrastructure it itil
2 min read

ITSM: The Backbone of Cloud Computing

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 15, 2010 11:00:00 AM

IT Service Management (ITSM) and cloud computing don’t always appear in the same discussion – even though one can’t be done well without the other. Integrating the two is especially important as we move further into (what could be) the fundamental shift toward cloud computing.

First – since the phrase “cloud computing” has taken on ambiguity as a buzzword – a quick clarification is necessary. Cloud computing doesn’t change what’s being delivered to end users. It changes how services are delivered. End users should receive the same services from you whether your data’s stored on a server you manage yourself in-house or on a server that’s managed by a provider in Timbuktu.

That being said, IT needs to understand the services they deliver to end users – whether the end user is the employee or the customer. This is the core of ITSM.

Some primary benefits of the cloud include:

  • Pay-as-you-go server costs; planned capacity
  • Annual savings in hardware and man power
  • Instant “green” IT options without long-term transformation costs
  • Higher rate of connectivity that extends anywhere

Those perks are the driving forces behind the cloud’s popularity – and have already borne fruit in organizations who’ve incorporated the cloud as a platform for daily operations. Some, however, raise concern over the difficulty to align the cloud with ITSM, which regularly involves:

  • A slow rate of delivery of tangible business benefits
  • An inability to relate the consumption of IT resources to customer activities
  • A lack of stakeholder support
  • Trouble integrating facilities management, security, and business continuity
  • Scarce resources

These difficulties won’t surprise anyone in ITSM. They’re simply the nature of the beast. Every ITSM team has to deal with a lack of stakeholder support, pressure to produce tangible benefits in short amounts of time, etc. When news of a new business decision reaches IT’s desk after it’s already been decided on, however, these difficulties become even more difficult – and the alignment of IT investments and business continuity is disrupted. The business has moved along without IT, and IT is left to run after it.

The same is true for the alignment between ITSM and cloud computing. Companies may rightfully lust after cloud services and decide to begin moving toward a cloud platform. While the results for end users (employees and in turn customers) may be clear, how to deliver them may not be. If the ITSM team isn’t intimately involved, the business risks ambiguity on both sides.

Ideally, the business should work to ensure inter-operability between IT assets and cloud applications. That (like everything else) requires the business to understand IT’s responsibilities, and IT to understand cloud concepts. The software market’s shifting toward ease-of-access software/SaaS; ITSM software vendors are having to market their simplicity and cloud-usability to stay competitive. Because of this, inter-operability is becoming more of an issue since businesses may be tempted to consider ease of use and cloud integration more important than ITSM.

The alignment is essential. With business strategy and IT well-aligned, leveraging the cloud can expand your ability to be flexible in doing business and save you overhead costs while preserving what’s delivered to end users.

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2 min read

Leveraging Technology to Drive Intelligence

By Praecipio Consulting on May 10, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Richard Veryard’s thought-provoking powerpoint “Technologies for Organizational Intelligence” claims that intelligent organizations:

  • recognize that business opportunities are complex
  • respond to them coherently
  • pay attention to weak and strong signs of inefficiencies for the purpose of collective learning and innovation

Veryard stresses later that intelligence is vital to a business’ survival. That idea should not sound revolutionary, but provokes one to question if businesses frequently consider how well they’re working to understand themselves and improve their knowledge and efficiency in order to grow.

This is highly relevant in the context of IT Service Management (ITSM) – an introspective, process-focused approach to managing IT systems. IT professionals who care about ITSM try to stay informed about technology advances, ways to improve customer experience, and align IT with business needs. It’s the duty of those in ITSM to maintain and promote a healthy, innovative IT environment that fuels the innovative capabilities of the business as a whole.

Those ambitions correlate closely with the actions Veryard attributes to intelligent organizations. He exalts a sort of “collective learning and innovation,” in which those in the business continually collaborate in order to learn more about how they do things. Fixing problems and developing innovative ideas are both natural products of this introspection. Each, in turn, impact the end product offered to customers.

While it may be difficult at times to devote attention to efficiency, it’s vital to the continued growth of a business. After all, those who fail to fix their problems and innovate aren’t the ones we talk about ten years down the road.

So, how does a business make sure they’re “intelligent”? Veryard lists quite a few ways, including:

  • Understanding that business environments are complex
  • Approaching problems with rational, collective solutions
  • Employing people and technology that works well together

The third remedy is the primary concern of ITSM. IT can build a foundation for organizational intelligence by implementing an enterprise-level platforming technology that can facilitate collaboration within the organization – especially if the platform is adopted across the entire enterprise.

Without an effective, efficient technology that integrates well with a business’ existing software, the collective effort toward ITSM growth is kept on the ground. Frequently gathering information that paints an accurate picture of performance requires predictable, repeatable processes that can be technologically executed. Such a technology drives consistent progress toward efficiency and innovation – and serves as part of the backbone of an intelligent organization.

As Veryard said in his presentation, intelligence is vital to survival. As introspective folks with technological literacy, those in ITSM can have a profound impact on the progress of their organization by leveraging technology to build an intelligent business.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business enterprise library management process technology value collaboration continuous-improvement information infrastructure intelligence itil itsm operations
2 min read

The Difference Between Cloud Computing and SaaS

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 21, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In a business world clouded with buzzwords, it’s easy to lose track of the actual meanings of terms relevant to the IT industry.

Take cloud computing, for example – one of the tech industry’s biggest buzzwords at present. A number of software vendors have been using the phrase “cloud computing” to market their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. Are the two terms different from one another, or the same? Or is cloud computing truly a meaningless buzzword?

In truth, the two terms are different. SaaS refers to software that’s owned, delivered, and managed remotely by a one or more providers. The provider handles all the “heavy-lifting” associated with the service: server maintenance, support, etc. SaaS products are usually out-of-the-box tools that don’t require extensive setup. They’re accessible by web, and usually paid for on a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

Cloud computing refers to the broader concept of allowing people to access scalable, technology-enabled services via the internet. The term has become virally fashionable in the tech industry – much like the word “organic” in the food industry. Cloud computing – more commonly referred to as “the cloud” – is an on-demand way of providing services. It’s usually touted as an intelligent approach to computing in today’s fragile economy.

SaaS is essentially a subservice of cloud computing. Not all cloud applications are SaaS applications, but nearly all SaaS applications are in the cloud, which provides the computing power to run those applications. SaaS applications, therefore, are offered on the cloud platform. The folks at Common Craft do a good job explaining these differences in their video “Cloud Computing Plain and Simple.”

Cloud computing and SaaS refer to different things. While SaaS refers to out-of-the-box applications offered on the cloud platform, cloud computing refers to the bigger picture of how software can be provided more efficiently through the internet.

That bigger picture includes the transition of the software industry toward a Software-as-a-Service model, where customers make decisions based on the value of the service. Daryl Plummer – Chief Fellow at Gartner, a US-based IT research and advisory firm – said in a 2008 podcast that this economical change in the software market is the power of cloud computing: “The way we actually charge for cloud-based SaaS services won’t be based on how many servers we’re running, how much maintenance costs we’re taking on, or which software products we bought,” Plummer said. “It’s going to be based on the value of the service to the customer, and when you start getting into that consumer-provider relationship, the customer ends up setting the value.”

Two years later, Plummer was right.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: atlassian blog enterprise library management services technology tips tricks saas cloud collaboration computing information infrastructure it itil
2 min read

5 ITIL Change Management Tips

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 19, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In order to remain competitive, a firm’s IT environment must be aligned with the firm’s business strategy – meaning IT should share responsibility in delivering value to the customer.

This is why Change Management is so important: changes to the IT environment must not disrupt the value delivered to the customer. IT must maintain stability even during change. ITIL’s Change Management methodology provides a clear framework (with defined roles, responsibilities, and processes) that can facilitate success.

Change Management should be considered a major undertaking. Determining where your firm stands in terms of ITIL maturity and developing a realistic project plan will improve your ITIL effectiveness.

Here are 5 Change Management tips to consider:

1. What’s a change, exactly?
Reality check: changes happen all the time. Nearly everything in IT involves some sort of frequent change. That being said, it’s important to figure out just what you consider to be a change. You can then determine when to apply ITIL Change Management principles.

Every change (even small installations and deletions) should be handled in terms of Change Management. The smallest of changes could cause major disruptions if no one knows about them.

2. What, specifically, will Change Management accomplish for my organization?
It’s no surprise that some firms have trouble defining ITIL in general. Since ITIL methodology isn’t something you can learn on a coffee break, most IT and non-IT folks alike don’t have the time to study ITIL for days.

Even if someone understands ITIL, they may not understand how it applies to efficiency. Someone might think implementing Change Management will fix issues related to Release or Incident Management. Pinpointing what Change Management will accomplish for your organization is therefore vital to understanding what it’s actually doing – managing the oversight and approval aspects of the change process in a unique organization-specific environment.

3. Articulate the benefits of Change Management to each level of the organization.
This goes right along with our last tip. Once you pinpoint the applicative benefits Change Management will have for your organization, advertise them. Getting buy-in at every level of the organization is critical to the success of your ITIL implementation.

There are multiple stakeholder groups within every organization – that is, folks personally and organizationally affected by the change. They’ll want to know “what’s in it for me?” in order to judge whether they’re on board with the change. Presenting accurate change information tailored for each stakeholder fosters better accountability from stakeholder groups – and improves buy-in.

4. Don’t Buy a Tool Until You’ve Determined What You Need.
While it may make sense to buy software to guide your Change Management implementation, doing so before laying out your process framework is counter-productive.

A more productive approach includes determining your needs before adopting a tool, so you can better evaluate which tools fit your needs instead of adjusting your needs to your tool.

5. Use Change Management Success to Promote Other ITIL Initiatives.
Folks are usually familiar with the Change Management component of ITIL – and oblivious of its other processes. If you track your Change Management successes and gather supportive data from Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can use success stories to promote the benefits of other ITIL processes like Release Management, Incident Management, etc.

One final tip: It’s worth noting the incredible value and need for leadership/executive support in the Change Management process. It’s important for company leadership to sell and support the change despite resistance in the company to organizational and cultural change. Often times, Change Management implementations are resisted since they uncover underlying issues that some within the company don’t want to uncover. Ultimately, though, Change Management helps make everyone proactive and out of the reactive, fire-fighting mode.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog implementation library management process release technology tips tricks change continuous-improvement incident-management information infrastructure it itil operations
2 min read

5 Quick ITIL Implementation Tips

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 17, 2010 11:00:00 AM

According to Forrester’s latest research, IT spending is expected to grow 6.6 percent in 2010 to $568 billion. In order to realize the value of these investments, organizations may adopt industry-consistent frameworks like ITIL to improve IT process and establish reliable data points to measure success.

Here are 5 useful ITIL implementation tips:

1. ITIL is an IT-Wide Strategy
Any ITIL process implementation has IT-wide impacts. Because of this, the implementation must be aligned with other IT initiatives within the organization, focusing on accomplishing ITIL success while preserving the overall benefit to the organization. ITIL should guide all strategic initiatives.

2. Consider Post-ITIL Organization Before Jumping Into Implementation
Introducing ITIL processes creates new tasks and roles that could impact an organization’s current IT service management structure. Foreseeing this possibility helps guide management toward supporting a new IT organization.

3. Prioritize Process Selection
Implementing every ITIL process at the same time isn’t necessary. ITIL processes should be selected based on areas where the organization needs improvement, and areas that will drive the most business value/greatest ROI.

4. Set Your Baseline Early; Have Realistic Expectations
The acceptance of change, of course, takes time. ITIL’s implementation is a significant change to an organization’s IT environment, and its processes will have to mature before subsequent ROIs are recognized. The delay of ROI-producing data points will delay the qualified legitimacy of the ITIL venture—making the change harder for employees to swallow.

Establishing an early baseline of key performance indicators (KPIs) from which to monitor ITIL success helps employees be more open to and engaged with the change. Chosen KPIs should be business-focused and clearly understood, so employees don’t waste time measuring unnecessary data points.

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate Success
Let’s face it: implementing ITIL isn’t a quick job. The longer a project takes, the harder it is for employees to see its worth.

This is why communicating success to everyone involved in the implementation is essential—so employees are reminded they’re working toward something that will make them more efficient and profitable, and prepared for change. Success not only boosts morale. It qualifies and legitimizes the project. Failure to communicate success may double employee resistance to change over time.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog implementation library management process-consulting services technology tips tricks change information infrastructure it itil itsm
1 min read

Implementing ITIL: Pinpoint Your Focus!

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Ever heard of an ITIL implementation that was anything less than huge and complex? Well, we haven’t either. That’s why implementations require outstanding project management. This blog will share some of our perspective.

Implementing ITIL for starters: believe it or not, the technology is NOT the solution. The processes and people who carry them out are. A huge part of implementation is making sure you’re accurately communicating the purpose of ITIL to your employees, empowering them to understand exactly how to implement the framework comfortably, fitting your business model.

Also, never begin the implementation with unrealistic, lofty expectations. Such a strong desire for quick value may overwhelm the implementation process, which is certainly more of a journey than a sprint.

Bringing ITIL into a business first requires a foundation. The foundation is built on an initial assessment of needs. This typically involves a thorough gap analysis, which determines how much change will need to happen by the business to meet new ITIL standards. By establishing this early on, you’ll know exactly where to start building— and exactly what progress to expect. This, in turn, will narrow your scope to align with your intended business value from ITIL.

We have a passion to implement ITIL for businesses effectively and accurately. We believe we can help you through the process and build a solid foundation for your new ITIL framework—business value guaranteed.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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1 min read

Jira and Confluence: Hand-in-Hand Collaboration

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 3, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian claims Jira and Confluence were “designed to complement each other.” What some don’t realize, however, is how easy and convenient this integration really is.

Confluence has proven itself as an effective project management tool, flexing its muscles as an innovative wiki allowing users to create and share rich content. Jira manages workflows and tracks issues in a well-designed, coherent user interface (UI).

For IT professionals using Jira to track issues, Confluence provides a fertile ground to collect a team’s knowledge. In Confluence, the team may collaborate by embedding Jira content (including graphics) into a collaboration space—and easily link Confluence and Jira pages. They may also embed Confluence pages into Jira. The 3-minute explanation shows you everything you need to know.

The embedding process is remarkably easy. We believe teams using Jira and Confluence can bank on this integration, from a project management perspective.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bpm business confluence efficiency enterprise issues library management process services technology tracking collaboration incident-management information infrastructure itil
1 min read

Jira 4's 2.0 UI Makes Issue Tracking Simpler, More Nimble

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 26, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Australian-based Atlassian debuts Jira 4 today, October 6.

Atlassian first debuted Jira in 2003 as an innovative issue tracking and project management software. As we mentioned in our previous blog Jira - Complexity Made Simple, Jira is a huge asset in enterprise collaboration. It’s completely permission/Java/web-based, highly customizable, and amazingly simple to use.

The key news about Jira 4? Atlassian has worked hard on integrating Web 2.0 capabilities into its latest version– and appears to be most proud of its new, “dynamic” user interface (UI).

  • Jira 4′s home page will feature “click-and-drag” windows showing content the user chooses. It also includes widgets from other websites like Google. For example, a Jira home page may feature five boxes in three adjustable columns: current issues, priority issues, resolved issues, project folders, and local weather (via Google). These five boxes may now be dragged around to any location on the home screen, and color-coded for organization.
  • Jira 4′s search function has been  ”2.0-ified,” so to speak. Now search results pop up below the search bar after each character you type, much like in the “to” box in most email interfaces. This will likely make the search for a particular issue simpler and more efficient.
  • Jira 4′s Greenhopper plugin adds a broad collection of project management capabilities to Jira– great for development teams. GreenHopper represents issues as color-coded “cards,” sorted with what Atlassian calls “drag-and-drop simplicity”– which we consider a powerful organizational capability.

    We highly recommend Jira for your business’ issue tracking and project management processes. Our team is experienced in implementing and using Jira to its maximum potential. Jira 4′s 2.0 capabilities should make using the software more simpler and efficient than it’s ever been before.

    Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bugs enterprise issues library management services technology tracking collaboration help-desk incident-management information infrastructure it itil
2 min read

All About Release Management...Version 1.0

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 7, 2009 11:00:00 AM

ITIL’s Release Management process bears a striking resemblance to ITIL Change Management—in fact, one could fairly consider Release Management to be a directly supportive process to Change Management. Release Management focuses on the practical need for organized coordination in the change process. It’s meant to ensure that changes are implemented in accordance to business needs and concurrent IT Service Management processes.

Release Management more specifically applies to changes to a “live” environment—that is, a working software or hardware environment (a word processor, email interface, software application, etc) that’s active, being used internally or externally. Release management protects these live environments by regulating the release of new configuration items; it uses the ITIL framework to control and monitor the flow of upgrades into live environments, where each upgrade is considered a “release.”

To more clearly illustrate this concept, consider these three levels of releases to a live environment—using the fictional email service “Mockingbird Version 1.0″ as an example:

  • Major Releases introduce completely new functions to a service, drastically improving the service’s capabilities. Major Releases advance the version number by a full numerical increment—for example, Mockingbird Version 1.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.0.
  • Minor Releases introduce fixes for known problems into the baseline technology of a service. Such changes would reflect themselves numerically by advancing the version number of a service by the first decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.
  • Emergency Releases introduce quick (and at least temporary) fixes to repair unexpected problems that interrupt critical services. These changes advance a version number by the second decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.1 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.1.

It’s best to consider each release as a separately-deployed part of the service, the progression of which should look like this:

  • Planning
  • Building
  • Testing
  • Deploying

ITIL clearly describes two “levels” of Release Management in its book:

  • Service Design (higher level)
  • Release and Deployment Management (lower level)

The Service Design level should handle the framing and building of the release solution, while ITIL suggests the release project stages listed above should be handled by the lower level and should involve a project team, scope, design, and plan of its own. The Release and Deployment Management level literally drives the solution’s release, but only because of the sound development and planning by the higher level—meaning it is almost impossible to achieve lower level success without a solid understanding of the higher level.

We hope this blog provides you with a basic overview of Release Management. It’s sometimes difficult to explain ITIL concepts without using laymen’s terms– from our experience consulting companies on their use of ITIL, a basic overview is an essential foundation for understanding the application of ITIL principles into your business.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm library management process release services technology change information infrastructure it itil
3 min read

The Cost of Quality

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 24, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Cost of Quality (COQ) business model describes a method of increasing profits without increasing revenues.

Here’s how it works: COQ increases profit by shrinking business costs. If your business has a 5% profit margin, for example – and you decrease costs by 5% – you’ve doubled your profits. That’s simple enough, but how do you decrease costs?

COQ identifies the importance of shrinking costs without taking the usual cost-cutting measures like not buying everyone’s favorite pens or not stocking refreshments in the break room — the “let’s avoid morale buzz-kills to save a few bucks” approach to increasing profit. Instead, COQ promotes lessening mistakes and increasing business process efficiency.

Companies adopt and tweak COQ to reflect their business goals and in turn their profitability. The model applies to not-for-profit businesses too: budgets are tight; grants, revenues, or contributions may not increase, but the same valuable services need to be delivered with less and less money, right?

COQ is made up of three elements: conformance costs, non-conformance costs, and opportunity costs. We’ll explain these before we explain the rest of what the graphic illustrates:

Conformance Costs

  • Communicate
  • Review
  • Report
  • Status-Check
  • Inspect
  • Train
  • Validate
  • Benchmark
  • Test
  • Prevent
  • Plan
  • Preinstall
  • Check
  • Audit
  • Appraise
  • Survey
  • Evaluate
  • Proofread

Non-Conformance Costs

  • Fix
  • Repair
  • Rework
  • Retrofit
  • Revisit
  • Overstock
  • Re-do
  • Refer
  • Reorganize
  • Scrap
  • Error
  • Constraint
  • Incorrect
  • Excessive
  • Late

Opportunity Costs

  • Under-utilize
  • Cancel
  • Downgrade

Notice these three cost categories are not associated with the cost of producing the output. Materials needed to assemble a product (labor, supplies, etc) are not included. The three elements merely reflect the costs associated with the business process. As we always say, “the profit’s in the process.” The efficiency of your business processes determines your efficiency as a business. If you’re going to maximize your efficiency and profitability, you need a sound understanding of the cost of quality.

Think about it: process is where value is added and where profit is made. Consumers don’t squeeze oranges to make juice anymore. Okay, maybe on rare occasion, but who cuts down trees and processes timber as a raw material to make paper?

The cost of quality is associated with the cost incurred to ensure process outputs (products and services) meet customer requirements. For example, let’s say Company A manufactures pens, a process that takes ten steps to complete. About half of the time, the process works effectively, and high-quality pens are made. The other half of the time, however, is plagued by faulty manufacturing— lackluster execution in the assembly process. As a result, Company A has to keep half of its pens in its shop for a bit longer for fixing/repairing, incurring non-conformance costs. This leads to a lack of consistency. Ultimately, this waste is passed onto the customer with an increased price per unit and/or inferior product— making it more and more difficult to compete.

That’s why COQ’s biggest cost adjustment occurs in reducing non-conformance costs— tightening the process and ensuring customer requirements are met. This may require spending extra money to do some work over again.

Now, to run through the graphic:

  • Conformance costs are important and help ensure a business’ success and stability. when optimizing your business, conformance costs should stay the same or in many cases increase.
  • Non-conformance costs, as we’ve mentioned, need to drop significantly— though you can never expect to be without them, strive to get rid of them.
  • Opportunity cost is the value of the next best choice. It’s the “what could have been.” If a business is suffering from non-conformance costs, the “what could have been,” is higher in the left portion of the graphic, where non-conformance costs are much higher. If a business is succeeding financially, there is little “what could have been,” therefore reducing the opportunity cost.
  • Operating costs are constant. They’re the costs of a business’ building, utilities, licenses, etc— which fluctuate, but not enough to factor into this model.
  • Profit looks like this: $$$. Reducing non-conformance generates more $$$.

So, how do you reduce non-conformance? Remember: the $$$’s are in the process.

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Topics: blog bpm business efficiency library management practices predicatability process services technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil itsm operations
2 min read

Turn and Face the Change—with ITIL

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 21, 2009 11:00:00 AM

As with any aspect of business, great processes and infrastructure do not always stay great—new technologies and customer needs arise all the time, and usually require changes to business procedures. The same is true in the context of IT Service Management, as new IT needs and technologies inevitably arise as time goes by—creating the need for the ITIL discipline of “Change Management.”

ITIL defines the goal of Change Management in the context of IT Service Management as “to ensure that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all changes, in order to minimize the impact of change-related incidents upon service quality, and consequently improve the day-to-day operations of the organization.” If the ITIL language sounds a bit daunting to you, the definition more basically means Change Management is meant to ensure standardized methods and processes are used to implement all changes in a timely manner, and to achieve and maintain a healthy balance between the need for change and the potential impacts changes might have on the business processes they affect—ie predictability. Every change to IT infrastructure must of course be managed and controlled systematically, minimizing the impact of IT services delivered to the customer.

The need to change IT infrastructure may result from problems observed in a business process or from external legislation—or merely from the desire to make a business process more efficient and productive. Once a need is identified and proven, a change may be developed. ITIL’s discipline becomes valuable at this point as a change becomes drafted, documented, and implemented.

ITIL V3 prescribes these seven questions to ask when proposing the implementation of a change—titled the Seven “R’s:”

  • Who raised the change?
  • What is the reason for the change?
  • What is the return required from the change?
  • What are the risks involved in the change?
  • What resources are required to deliver the change?
  • Who is responsible for the build, test and implementation of the change?
  • What is the relationship between this change and other changes?

Other relevant questions to ask when proposing a change may be:

  • What is the cost of the change?
  • What is the timeline for implementing the change?

The leadership team at Praecipio Consulting consists of experts whose job is to implement change for companies based on ITIL. We have helped our clients implement valuable changes to their IT infrastructure, and have a great deal of familiarity with defining good and bad processes by leveraging ITIL best practices. Change Management provides a way of managing and controlling the way changes are initiated, assessed, planned for, scheduled and implemented—Praecipio Consulting offers you the intelligence and support you need to not only guide you through implementing IT Service Management Changes, but also to provide you with a proven model and valuable business direction for a future of changes.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management predicatability services technology change information infrastructure it itil itsm
2 min read

Incident Management: The Responsible Way to Gold-Star Customer Service

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 14, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Incident Management is debatably the most important area of IT Service Management because of its direct impact to the Services customers rely on. One of the ITIL disciplines, the focus of Incident Management is to restore services following an incident as quickly as possible—be it a business operations issue or merely an internal or external lack of technical understanding. Incident Management activities, often executed by a Service Desk, include:

  • Discovering details of an incident
  • Matching incidents against known problems
  • Resolving incidents quickly
  • Prioritizing incidents according to their impact and urgency
  • Escalating incidents to other teams when needed to ensure timely resolution

Incident Management is one of the most difficult ITIL disciplines to maintain—operating a Service Desk for anyone struggling with technology can be a daunting task given the consistent learning curves existing as businesses adopt new technologies and optimize old ones. This is why Incident Management should be a big deal to businesses.

ITIL Incident Management aims to minimize disruption to the business by restoring service operation to agreed levels as quickly as possible. The total Incident Life Cycle is described as follows:

  • Occurrence
  • Detection
  • Diagnosis
  • Repair
  • Recovery / Restoration

The above steps of the Incident Life Cycle serve as key data points that, when measured, provide a great deal of value. The intelligence that is derived from these data points helps IT organizations focus and invest their time in those projects and activities that will shrink the Meantime to Recovery (aka Mean Time to Repair). In the event the time it takes to detect an outage is long (Detection Time Stamp minus Occurrence Time Stamp), an IT organization can focus on automating outage detection or increase the ease of reporting issues by clients to the Service Desk. In the event the Diagnosis time (Diagnosis Time Stamp minus Detection Time Stamp) is long, the IT Organization should focus on training, escalation path definition/automation and/or tool sets to ensure IT staff has the adequate means to make an accurate assessment. Without going into more detail, it is clear that a well-defined process like Incident Management can help streamline and shorten the Incident Life Cycle thereby minimizing the Meantime to Recovery.

Incident Management is often the first process instigated when introducing the ITIL-quality framework to a Service Desk, and offers the most immediate and highly visible cost reduction and quality gains. Some brief reasons why you should consider implementing ITIL-based Incident Management:

  • Achieve and maintain impressive levels of customer service
  • Provide outstanding service availability
  • Achieve overall staff efficiency and productivity
  • Significantly improve customer satisfaction

Praecipio Consulting has a proven track record of excellent Incident Management/Service Desk support for its clients, and intentionally aims to minimize disruption to their clients’ business by restoring and applying ITIL framework to incident recording, tracking, and resolution.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management services technology incident-management information infrastructure it itil itsm
1 min read

CMDBs: The Secret to High IT ROI

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 9, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Just what is a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)?

For starters, it’s not a database—or, rather, not merely a database. A CMDB is a virtual warehouse holding information from every nook and cranny of an information system. CMDBs show which system components are needed to create efficient business processes. It can be seen as both an encyclopedia of IT services and a DNA map of a business’ IT environment. It’s a decision support tool.

ITIL v2 defined a CMDB as “a database that contains all relevant details of each CI (configuration item) and details of the important relationships between CIs.” ITIL v3 now defines a CMDB as “a database used to store Configuration Records throughout their lifecycle. The Configuration Management System maintains one or more CMDBs, and each CMDB stores attributes of CIs, and relationships with other CIs.”

A product of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), CMDBs are important because they align technology with business process. An example of this? It’s common sense that without timely information, bad decisions can be made by the business unintentionally. ITIL-based CMDBs control workflows, and use a workflow to manage and collect process metrics and present them logically and accurately.

While there are many variations of CMDB workflows, five common high-level steps include:

  • Identification: To put it simply, “identifying” IT components and their inclusion in the CMDB.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Control: The management of CIs, indicating who is authorized to ‘change’ each one.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Verification: Reviewing data to make sure the CMDB is accurate and timely.

A properly implemented CMDB system can save an enterprise quite a bit of cash. There are, however, some direct overhead costs associated with the data capture process itself. The CMDB’s ROI will depend on the quality and reusability of the data it monitors, company size, and business strategy.

The CMDB bottom line: the more automated and consistent asset management methodologies become, the higher the ROI will climb. CMDBs allow businesses to become more efficient internally and more effective in their market.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency library management practices process technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil lifecycle operations
2 min read

The ITIL-Based Service Desk

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 7, 2009 11:00:00 AM

ITIL is divided into three major areas: Service Support (ITIL disciplines that enable IT Services to be provided), Service Delivery (management of the IT services themselves ensuring delivery to customer), and Security Management (structured fitting of security in the management organization).

The ITIL Service Desk is where Service Support happens. Considered the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for customers, the Service Desk is where customer needs and problems are streamlined—and where customer feedback originates. Many organizations with a large amount of customers have a Service Desk, though some may call it a “Help Desk” or “Call Center.” The difference?

Call centers are meant to handle large amount of incoming (customers) and outgoing (telemarketing) calls, hence the name. Help Desks are meant to handle incidents and issues regarding a specific technology niche of a supported product (internet browser, software, a particular cell phone, etc). Service Desks share some features with call centers and Help Desks—to explain, here’s a list of typical, primary Service Desk functions:

  • Acting as a customer liaison (incoming/outgoing calls)
  • Issue/request tracking
  • Assessing requests and resolving them/referring them to someone who can
  • Informing customers of the status of their requests (after all, every bit of communication with the customer impacts their satisfaction level)
  • Managing the lifecycle of requests (a request should not be closed until the customer verifies it)

These functions are drastically important to any organization with a large customer base—which is logically why developing a sound Service Desk based on ITIL framework is necessary for companies seeking to develop their service desk responsibly. A sound ITIL-based Service Desk will also integrate with other ITIL functions such as Incident Management, Problem Management and so on. Praecipio Consulting’s consulting professionals have rich experience developing and implementing ITIL framework, and seek to help companies go from ITIL theory to the practice of implementing an IT Service Management Solution.

Our first recommendation for companies planning to implement an ITIL-based Service Desk: buy and read thoroughly the ITIL Service Support book, and proceed to educate employees to get key people acquainted with ITIL language to raise the collective state of mind of the organization. Since implementing a Service Desk framework can create vague, undefined issues, it will be important to stress referring to ITIL when questions like these arise; having an adequate level of ITIL literacy among employees during the implementation process is essential so no one is running around with their head cut off.

Adopting ITIL framework is so important because it promotes a standard and integrated way of doing things. ITIL provides a “common language” to facilitate better internal communication and customer relationships. It is hugely beneficial to an organization implementing ITIL to be backed with the guidance and knowledge of someone well-versed in ITIL framework and custom application. Praecipio Consulting is capable of guiding you through the implementation process with a mindful leverage of ITIL best practices and tested experience—as well as developing unique, custom ITIL solutions to best fit your specific needs.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library services technology help-desk information infrastructure itil
1 min read

Jira: Complexity Made Simple

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 30, 2009 11:00:00 AM

It is awe-inspiring to consider the vast number of software applications that attempt to make business organization simple and efficient. In issue tracking and business process management, organizational, process-driven technology is crucial to successfully processing information and facilitating progress. Atlassian, an Australian-headquartered software company specializing in collaboration software, has produced a widely-used software that makes the issue tracking process work more simply than ever before.

The software, Jira, currently serves over 12,000 customers in over 100 countries. An issue-tracking system (ITS), Jira allows enterprises to record and monitor every issue a user identifies until the issue is resolved—issues ranging from simple customer questions to detailed technical reports of errors or bugs.

We have acquired sound and valuable knowledge of Jira’s user and process benefits from our own experience amassed through client implementations of the product—highlighted here:

  • Highly customizable to unique business processes
  • Amazingly simple to use and easy to train employees
  • Completely permission-based (people may view statuses of issues without the capability to change them)
  • Completely web-based
  • Java-based (runs in Tomcat, and is compatible with most Operating Systems)
  • Flexible database (supports Oracle, Postgres, etc)
  • Task change email notifications

These perks boil down to a centralized view of a business’ entire team. Jira makes it easy to view and track all tasks assigned to a person, group, or project with very few clicks—allowing non-technical users to benefit from it. Businesses can tailor Jira to make it useful for nearly every imaginable business process, from marketing tasks to help desk requests.

Adopting appropriate software for our clients’ business processes is what we do at Praecipio Consulting. Atlassian, our business partner, has developed and produced a magnificent product in Jira that we recommend highly for streamlining our clients’ BPM and ITIL implementations. Our implementations of Jira have a lasting, positive impact because of our focus on business processes.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bugs enterprise issues library management services technology tracking change collaboration information infrastructure itil
1 min read

Implementing Cost-Effective IT Operations: Our Methods, Your Results

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 23, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a comprehensive documentation of best practices in IT Service Management; the library consists of a compilation of texts providing guidance for the successful delivery of IT services. ITIL was developed due to business organization’s growing dependency on IT.

This dependency comes as organizations are implementing the use of innovative information technologies to simplify and speed-up business processes ultimately lowering costs—dramatically increasing the need for high-quality IT services. We provide a well-designed implementation framework for the delivery of operations improvements and initiatives based on ITIL best practices. We’ll help you go from ITIL theory to the practice of implementing an IT Service Management Solution.

Our steps:

  • Assessment – Define and prioritize
  • IT Management Strategy – Determine current and future needs
  • Service portfolio definition – Catalog and understand services
  • Solution design – Ensure integrated approach solves problems
  • Solution deployment – Deliver, transfer and transition

Your results:

  • IT-Business Alignment
  • Cost savings
  • Operational Excellence and Maturity
  • Maximized ROI on Business’ Investments in IT
  • Predictability

We love helping others—especially with IT.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management practices services technology continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil operations
2 min read

ITIL: An Overview

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 2, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is currently the best (and only) comprehensive documentation of IT Service Management best practices.

The library is made up of a series of books which thoroughly explain (in really, really big laymen’s terms) what quality IT services should look like. The books describe how IT services should operate—as well as what base structure and functionality an organization needs to be able to effectively support IT.

Thousands of companies around the world have adopted an ITIL philosophy from the library, which clearly defines the organizational structure and skills requirements for an IT organization. ITIL theory works. The library’s standard operational management procedures and practices allow the organization to effectively manage an IT operation. The operational procedures and practices apply to all aspects within the IT Infrastructure.

The major disciplines (main focuses applicable to IT service providers) of ITIL are as follows:

  • Service Desk (Help Desk)
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Release Management (Software Control and Distribution)
  • Configuration Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Capacity Management
  • Continuity Management (Contingency Planning)
  • Availability Management
  • Financial Management (Cost Management for IT Services)

While these terms are probably familiar to most ITIL personnel, the formal explanation ITIL gives these disciplines is typically far beyond the level of sophistication in the majority of IT organizations. Additionally, the specificities and separation of IT tasks within each of these ITIL support disciplines are considerably more defined than those which most companies have implemented in the past. The distinction between “incidents” and “problems,” for example, is something companies still do not usually recognize—whereas ITIL clearly defines the two terms as separate disciplines with their own unique set of processes.

An incident is active only until service is restored; a problem continues to be active until appropriate outputs/remedies are created and implemented. Incidents and problems are therefore not synonymous—instead incidents, problems, and changes have thorough relations with each other.

The “library” itself continues to evolve. ITILv3, the library’s third edition, was released in May 2007 and includes five distinct volumes: ITIL Service Strategy, ITIL Service Design, ITIL Service Transition, ITIL Service Operation, and ITIL Continual Service Improvement. The volumes can be purchased from their publisher, TSO Books.

ITIL is a framework. Praecipio Consulting has qualified ITIL-certified consultants with the experience, intelligence, and innovative ability to help your company implement ITIL confidently and effectively. Understanding ITIL can be difficult; if this is the first content you’re reading about it, you’ll probably agree. We wish to implement ITIL in a manner that makes the most sense for our clients’ business models. As the de facto standard and model for IT Service Management, ITIL not only enables businesses to run more efficiently and reliably—it also helps IT managers reduce incurred costs associated with IT Service Delivery.

If you’re curious, ITIL was originally created by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) with the sponsorship of the British government, and is a registered trademark of the UK Government’s Office of Government Commerce (usually known as the OGC).

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management services technology change information infrastructure it itil itsm

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