Service management and the cloud

With so many cloud applications available, it is hard for most business IT departments to decide which they need or which share functionality and could be consolidated. It’s hard for many to see how this situation will be remedied in the short term, while users’ demands for support for cloud applications are only going to grow. IT Service Management (ITSM) can, however, offer a solution that maximises the value of the cloud and minimises its risks.

A cloud ‘free-for-all’ isn’t a solution

In this world of cloud, IT service management professionals are having to evolve their service delivery to match this changing environment, where even ‘officially-sanctioned’ cloud applications are proliferating almost unchecked. To add to the complication, it is no secret that many employees will bypass the IT department and simply procure their own cloud IT services and applications as they see a quick and easy way to meet their business needs, from CRM to email to marketing automation.

This trend is often fuelled by the inefficiency of traditional tools such as spreadsheets and email: recent research from ServiceNow has shown that inefficient applications such as these mean that managers are wasting up to two days a week on routine admin tasks that are not part of their key role. Is it surprising that they are turning to DIY solutions to make life easier?

However, as this situation develops, poorly managed end-user cloud purchases and deployments make for fragmented, redundant, unmanaged, and inefficient cloud-based outsourcing decisions with little or no input from IT. Added to the fragmentation and inefficiency, come the risks of poor security, with valuable data stored on unverified platforms in unknown locations.

Cloud isn’t supposed to make your IT department’s life harder

So how can IT departments, and IT service management teams in particular, wrestle back control and halt unchecked proliferation or ‘cloud sprawl’? The answer lies in applying mature service management best-practice to cloud, using proven ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) principles to reduce IT complexity and ensuring that cloud decisions don’t become costly mistakes. ITIL contains publicly available technical publications for the comprehensive planning, provision and support of IT services and it is the most widely used best practice for IT Service Management.

Ultimately, the solution is not about putting in place more restrictions, but instead implementing checks and balances using sophisticated ITSM solutions that are themselves cloud-based and which offer a range of capabilities to harness the ‘cloud sprawl’. These include:

Comprehensive IT Asset Management

Rather than drowning in the sea of cloud-based applications, ITSM professionals can keep track of all the applications in use on the cloud or elsewhere, assessing their impact and how they work within the company’s overall IT strategy.

Better management of service providers

With multiple cloud services in use, the ITSM team is able to create a service management layer that overlays all the individual SLAs, creating a comprehensive service catalogue with the SLAs clearly defined within it.

Automation and self-service

The technology should ensure that users are able to select and configure cloud-based services without special training or manual intervention, all within parameters determined by IT.

Integrated incident and change management

The governance of incident and change management acts as the glue that holds together the individual components of the cloud-based IT delivery model.

Pre-emptive problem solving

End User IT Analytics (EUITA) is a new kind of technology that has particular value in the world of the cloud. By placing a tiny agent on each end-user device, ITSM professionals can use a central database server to track whatever happens on the device including web applications, software, and hardware changes, application executions, input/output etc. This means that they can root out unauthorised use of applications and also detect problems in advance that are likely to affect other users in the organisation.

Sophisticated reporting and management

With the right metrics in place, ITSM professionals can track the performance of technology and applications across the enterprise. Rather than purely responding to problems, the latest ITSM technology supports proactive planning to get the most out of the cloud environment.

With this functionality, it is possible to envisage how enterprises can reduce the IT complication caused by cloud computing. Rather than a vacuum where the cloud becomes expensive, unwieldy, and risky, the new world of cloud can deliver on its promises of cost-savings, greater efficiency, and improved flexibility, by using ITSM.

Paul Cash, Managing Director of Fruition Partners UK

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