Optimising IT Service Delivery through Enterprise Systems Management

In this article, Feathered Owl describes the concepts and methodology we follow during an Enterprise Systems Management engagement. It’s a long one, so make sure you’re sitting comfortably…

What is ESM?

Enterprise Systems Management is concerned with control, monitoring and the management of IT infrastructure and applications in order to optimise IT service delivery.

It’s been around for a number of years and came into existence as a direct result of the almost universal adoption of distributed network computing and the new set of management challenges this created. ESM is essentially based on a marriage between remote monitoring and configuration techniques originally developed for distributed networks and control and management practices borrowed from mainframe and midrange computing environments.

A well-designed and properly-implemented ESM solution allows IT personnel to support and manage a larger, more complex and more geographically-dispersed IT infrastructure than would otherwise be the case. This is achieved primarily through automation of monitoring tasks which would otherwise require periodic manual checks of every system to ensure that the network devices, servers and applications used by an organisation were functioning properly.

Automated notification of detected faults allows personnel to rely on the ESM systems to tell them when there is a problem that requires their attention, enabling them to use their time more productively on project delivery and other “value add” activities. In some cases it is possible to delegate the resolution, as well as detection, of problems to the ESM systems, providing further opportunities for efficiency savings.

Performance monitoring, tuning and capacity management techniques – again borrowed from larger host-based computing environments – also fall under the “ESM” banner. Other activities such as job scheduling, software distribution, IT inventory management and data backup/restore may be included in a wider definition of ESM depending on the particular requirements, culture and structure of an organisation.

In recent years, ESM has evolved from a primarily technology-centric to an increasingly service-centric discipline, as organisations embrace IT Service Management (ITSM) in the drive to deliver continued competitive advantage through technology. The emergence of ITSM best practice frameworks such as ITIL has prompted a paradigm shift in which the “traditional” ESM disciplines of network, server and application monitoring, performance tuning and capacity management have become components of a more holistic, business process-aligned effort to maximise IT service quality, availability and continuity. It is becoming increasingly common to see ESM being used as an enabler for ITSM by providing better visibility of the availability and quality of IT services delivered via IT infrastructure and applications.

The principal benefits which organisations derive from ESM are as follows:-

  • Reduced IT headcount required to support a given size of IT infrastructure leading to salary savings and/or increased resource availability for project & development work
  • More efficient utilization of valuable technology assets allowing upgrade or expansion costs to be avoided or deferred
  • Increased availability and performance of technology infrastructure and applications meaning that users can work more efficiently and business is not lost to competitors when applications are down
  • Optimisation of IT service delivery leading to improved customer satisfaction and perception of IT as a business enabler rather than just a cost

As globalisation and the rise of the Internet dictate ever-increasing increasing reliance on technology to remain competitive, ESM is becoming an essential aspect of organisations’ IT activities and a large number of products from many vendors are now available to support implementation of solutions to support their requirements in this field.

How we can help

Many companies’ ESM environments consist of isolated solutions which may monitor the health and performance of servers, networks, websites and so on reasonably effectively, but fail to provide an overall view of the health of the IT services used by the business to go about their daily activities.

We can provide best practice insights into your existing IT processes, the data they employ and the applications supporting them. We help you produce an architecture, deployment plan and technology recommendations that supports your business needs from immediate tactical benefits towards a fully integrated ESM environment.

We work to ensure our customers reap the significant benefits which can be provided by ESM solutions if the right tools are selected and implemented properly in line with real requirements according to established IT best practice.

We deliver an ESM solution precisely tailored to each customer’s specific requirements, leveraging existing tools wherever possible or based on the most suitable products selected from the ESM marketplace – a marketplace which we know inside out.

Our service is aimed at:

  • Companies undertaking IT Service Management (ITIL) programmes
  • Companies with existing investments in ESM tools considering replacing them or otherwise unhappy with them
  • Companies with an existing ESM capability that is primarily technology/silo focussed and who want to develop “up the stack” into application and service management – frequently this will be as part of a wider IT Service Management initiative (see above)
  • Growing companies moving (or wanting to move from) from “cottage industry” to “industrial strength” IT
  • Companies with application performance issues
  • Companies with large complex IT estates that are difficult to support with the available staff
  • Companies wishing to downsize IT support departments
  • Companies who have recently merged with/taken over other companies

Our Approach

It is rare these days to find an organisation which has no ESM capability whatsoever and, even the smallest company may have some basic monitoring or performance management systems already in place. However, irrespective of whether you have nothing, or are just starting out or have already invested extensively in ESM solutions don’t worry – the service offering is aimed at all companies regardless of their current level of ESM capability.

The steps in our approach are as follows: –

Current State Analysis

We begin with an analysis of the client’s business activities, organisational structure and IT systems. We look in detail at existing ESM activities undertaken by various teams within the organisation, including identification of any existing processes whether formal or de-facto, documented or undocumented.

The purpose of the analysis is to allow us to generate the ‘ESM Big Picture’ which is fully characterises the client’s current ESM setup. It shows business processes, applications associated with these and the infrastructure elements that support them.

The main purpose of the ‘big picture’ is to show the client how they are currently set up and forms the basis for mapping the changes to the current working practices which may be required in order to assist the company migrate to a new ESM strategy. The company can see the amount of effort it requires to undertake, the underlying benefits if it does and the tools they need to fully manage applications and their underlying infrastructure from a business perspective, increasing performance and availability while helping to reduce costs.

Process Redesign

Having established the current ESM capability a company has we then focus on redesigning processes tailored to meeting their business objective and creating an ESM solution. When designing the new way of working we leverage best practice frameworks such as ITIL and FCAPS and, most importantly, draw upon our consultants’ extensive experience of designing, implementing and supporting ESM systems in some of the largest companies in the world. The current level of capability has a bearing on what we would do; the following commonly-encountered scenarios will serve to illustrate this point: –

No ESM Capability

These companies are usually:

  • New start-ups building technology infrastructure from scratch or an established company with few if any implemented management tools
  • Organisations undergoing complete technology refresh across some or all of their IT infrastructure and/or application stack

In this case we would:

  • Define monitoring requirements for infrastructure and applications
  • Align requirements with wider IT processes e.g. ITSM, application development lifecycle, operational handover (this stuff is in itself another big opportunity we should look at in more detail sometime)
  • Define ESM service in terms of activities, roles, responsibilities & processes, including integration with and amendment of existing processes if any
  • Design the new ESM functional architecture.

Immature and Fragmented ESM

In this instance ESM systems tend to have grown up in a fragmented fashion over a period of time. Different teams and/or silos have implemented vendor-supplied or home grown solutions to satisfy their own requirements. Functionality is not always consistent across silos/departments and there may be little or no integration between the various tools and/or correlation of the information generated by them. There may also not be a clear ownership of or accountability for ESM and processes around ESM are inconsistent or absent altogether.

To address these issues we would do some or all of the following: –

  • Work with client to define “target mode of operation” for ESM and define any replacement or new processes, roles & responsibilities to deliver this. We would also include linkages or enhancements to other IT processes e.g. Change Management, Release Management, Operational Acceptance, Application Development Lifecycle, Datacentre Installation etc.
  • Identify unmonitored technology platforms and applications and define requirements for these
  • Define consistent monitoring requirements for platforms which are already monitored but inconsistently
  • Where fit-for-purpose monitoring exists but is undocumented, “reverse engineer” monitoring requirements documentation
  • Identify tools within exiting portfolio which are fit-for-purpose, agree adoption as standard with relevant stakeholders; may require ask to market (RFI/ITT etc.)
  • For functional gaps, identify suitable new tools or extensions to existing tools to fill these
  • Design overall functional and technical architecture for ESM and identify required product integrations.

Too Many ESM Tools/Vendors

In this instance companies face an inflated cost of ownership due to; requirements to maintain diverse range of skills within organisation, higher overall support contract costs with numerous individual vendors, increased complexity and product integration overhead within ESM architecture.

This results in a higher unit cost for new product acquisition due to reduced supplier leverage as well as inconsistent monitoring functionality across platforms supported by groups using different tools. Incident troubleshooting may be more difficult due to different tools across service delivery infrastructure.

To address these issues we would do some or all of the following: –

  • Define and/or reverse engineer functional requirements for monitoring
  • Determine which tools from their portfolio can satisfy which requirements
  • Invite proposals from vendors to extend coverage of their tools and buy out other vendors products
  • Design new overall technical architecture for ESM
  • Present and agree proposed product selection(s) and architecture with stakeholders to get their buy-in.

Mature Component-Based ESM, Needs to go to Next Level

Such organisations have probably been doing ESM for a while and have good coverage at the component level (network, servers, databases, webservers, storage etc) but lack the visibility of end-to-end application and service availability and performance.

There is likely to be a dedicated ESM organisation working to defined processes and agreed service levels; alternatively ESM accountability and activities may be distributed across a number of teams (e.g. server support, DBAs, Network ops).

Typically, organisations in this position need to extend their ESM capabilities to provide monitoring and reporting for end to end applications and IT services delivered to the business. They will have evolved their overall IT operation to the point where they have started, or are contemplating adoption of IT Service Management in order to optimise IT service delivery.

To assist in this process, we would align with any ITSM programme being undertaken and identify the additional functional requirements associated with new processes being implemented within the IT organisation. If there is existing data and/or documentation of business processes and the end-to-end applications which support execution of these, these can be used to build up metadata defining the relationships between components, applications and services (this is one of the cornerstones of ITSM; ITIL prescribes the enshrining of these in a configuration management database or CMDB). Alternatively it may be necessary to undertake some business process analysis to help in the definition of these CMDB relationships.

What is then required is to select new and/or additional tools which will: –

  • Deliver the required CMDB capability to store the component-application-service relationships and appropriate processes or process enhancements/linkages to ensure that these are kept up to date (e.g. Change Management, Moves/adds/changes, decommissioning etc.) Ideally, CMDB relationships are protected and maintained through an over-arching Configuration Management process that is implemented as part of wider ITSM implementation
  • Present real-time and historical ESM data (typically alerts and performance data) within the context of e2e applications and IT services delivered to the business (e.g. server goes down which impacts three applications all using a database resident on it which in turn impacts three different lines of business – as opposed to “a server is down”)
  • Allow correlation between alerts from multiple sources (e.g. server monitoring, database monitoring, network monitoring, end-to-end (e2e) app transaction monitoring, external website availability monitoring) and determination of root cause (e.g. server has become inaccessible but only because the network link to it has gone down). Instead of generating multiple alerts, only root cause alert is escalated – symptomatic alerts are suppressed or presented in association with root cause)
  • Do the same as above, but retrospectively. This capability allows historical root cause analysis and identification of “systemic errors” within the IT environment – which is what ITIL call “problem management”
  • Allow a knowledge base of known alerts and resolutions to them to be built up and presented to operations staff via the ESM tools when alerts are detected. The endgame of this process is to automate fixes to known errors within the ESM tools themselves. Removing the need for human intervention altogether

There are many other possible scenarios and whatever you current ESM Capability we tailor our service to create a comprehensive solution to meet your specific business requirements.

Technology Selection

We are experts in translating strategic ESM business requirements into a technical specification. This is a document which defines the specific ESM technical requirements based on the solution we would have designed and the new working practices.

We document the requirements in some or all of the following depending on the scope of the engagement: –

Network Management

  • Automated monitoring of distributed IP networks
  • Fault, Configuration, Availability, Performance and Security management
  • Network performance management
  • Network inventory and configuration management.

Systems Management

  • Automated monitoring of distributed UNIX and Wintel computers; also midrange systems e.g. Vax, AS400
  • Server performance management
  • Monitoring of storage infrastructure (SAN, NAS, Backup/restore etc)
  • Database monitoring
  • Inventory management.

Application Monitoring

  • End-to-end monitoring of distributed (client-server, N-tier etc) and host-based (UNIX, VMS, mainframe etc) applications e.g. C++, Visual Basic, .NET, J2EE, SAP, Exchange
  • Application performance troubleshooting and optimisation.

Capacity Management

  • Server, network, SAN, database, webserver, Email etc. performance troubleshooting & optimization
  • Application capacity management
  • Optimization of application transaction performance
  • Application governance – ensuring applications perform in line with SLA when released and on an ongoing basis throughout their lifetime.

IT Service Management

  • Integration of Systems, Network & Application monitoring tools with IT Service Management dashboards & Configuration Management databases
  • ITIL Service Delivery (Service Level, Availability, Financial etc)
  • ITIL Service Support (Incident, Problem, Change etc)
  • ITIL Configuration Management.

The deliverable is a detailed design specification which includes the new ESM big picture alongside specific requirements describing the new processes the workflow and data flows.

We are supplier independent which allows us to be objective when selecting the appropriate technology and supplier to deliver the solution. However we know the latest tools and technologies which allow us to target only suppliers with the relevant technologies thus saving time and ‘searching’ for appropriate solutions. We have indepth knowledge of;

  • HP OpenView
  • BMC Patrol
  • Micromuse (IBM) Netcool
  • NetIQ
  • Microsoft Operations Manager
  • Mercury BTO
  • Managed Objects Formula
  • Others – we are constantly reviewing the latest in ESM technologies.

We usually go through a two stage approach filtering out in appropriate solutions and allowing 3 potential suppliers to show us how they would map your requirements to their technology and how it will deliver the benefits sought.

We help you put together a selection criteria around areas such as, the company and it’s background, it’s financial stability, the technologies they use (are the appropriate the latest etc.), where have they done similar projects before & are they referenceable, how well their solution meets your functional and technical requirements, What are the implementation costs, and the 5 year overall costs. We also review the SLA’s to make sure they provide the support your business needs? We can also help negotiate contracts to get you the best deal.

Technology Implementation

ESM projects are prone to failure because they are not managed correctly and this results in the supplier delivering s solution that ‘looks pretty’ but does not actually do what you wanted it to do.

No company buys an ESM solution for its own sake. Companies buy the benefits which improved technology can bring. There is no return to be had on investing in software while preserving the status quo.

As a result, the successful introduction of a solution is always accompanied by improvements to working practices and business processes. This introduces a number of challenges: –

  • The ESM solution is purchased and installed to match the improved ways of working
  • The introduction of this new technology and the changes in working practices consume management time, and normally the same individuals are key to both processes and to the day-to-day running of the company. This is the main reason why IT projects finish late and/or fail to deliver the benefits sought as time cannot always be dedicated to making sure the solution is delivered and works
  • While most suppliers will do a competent job of configuring a solution that contains a given set of technical capabilities, they do not possess the skills (and are not contractually obliged) to ensure that the solution is correctly used (or used at all!)
  • There are significant “transition” issues for which the supplier will not responsible. This includes ensuring that your staff are trained and ready to start new working practices on a given date, and finding a way to initialise the system without stopping business operations.

These are the things that a company must do internally to be ready for the new system and hence there are a number of tasks which need to be undertaken, on top of those contracted to the supplier. We help you setup an appropriate internal project team and facilitate the delivery of the new solution and its benefits.

1. Project Governance

The supplier is contracted to provide a configured solution. They will provide a project manager to ensure that their tasks remain on time and budget. However, the supplier is not responsible for organising your staff who will have a long list of tasks which they must complete (these include developing, testing, migration planning and training to the end users. Responsibility for ensuring that these tasks are scheduled correctly and completed on time is the company’s.

We put in place project governance and a project manager who will be responsible for managing the day to running of the project both externally, with the supplier responsible for assessing the risks inherent in any project. Actions can be taken to reduce and mitigate risk. However, many of these actions cost money, reduce the benefits accruing from the project or have other downsides. It is the project manager’s job to ensure that a sensible balance is maintained in the risk profile of the project.

We create the internal project plan detailing all of the tasks which must be carried out, who is responsible for each, what needs to be done, by when and in what format the output needs to be.

2. Requirements authority

The Supplier will expect a single contact-point in your project team who can give them rapid and clear answers to questions that arise during the construction of the solution. It is inevitable that issues and questions will arise when an idea is fully thought through, and this thinking will be happening right up to delivery of the solution.

We manage this interaction. Our technical consultant and project manager will closely monitor the supplier during the design and build stages and will be the main point of contact to address all process and/or technical questions from their project manager and their developers. This is a key stage in the project as if the design and build do not exactly replicate the ESM requirements, then the supplier will deliver a solution that meets only a few of your project objectives.

3. Test management

Once the supplier has built the solution they will send it over to you for final testing. You need to test it to make sure that it does ‘what it says on the tin’.

Hence it is very important that your project team fully test the solution before they rely on it. This is an onerous task – every feature in the solution needs to be tested with example data, including situations which may arise only rarely. Tests are required to ensure that some things don’t work.

We assist you in creating test scripts for all process and situation eventualities, we will assist in setting up the testing environment, we will facilitate the testing of the system by the internal project team. We will be able to identify whether a problem found is due to the business process or a bug in the solution. We will then be able to go back to the supplier and explain the problem and get them to fix it.

4. Training

The supplier will provide training in the use of their solution. But this only trains people on the mechanics of how the solution is setup. The supplier has an incomplete understanding, at best, of the conventions of your new ESM strategy and how the solution works to attain that strategy. Training in the use of the solution needs to be given simultaneously with a description of changes in working practices. These changes are often politically sensitive and have to be presented carefully.

We help your project team put together a training plan. We would recommend that the key project members are fully trained on the system and train the other individuals who will use the system, this allows your company to share the knowledge of the system between many and be responsible for training others.

5. Go-live

There are always problems that arise on the days before and after go-live. Very often, tasks in the last few days in the project overrun and contingency plans have to be put in place to allow the system to go live without all the pieces of the jigsaw in place. There are always users who have forgotten their training or who find an unusual situation that wasn’t addressed. This phase often coincides with the supplier handing over the project from development to support teams, which can raise problems of its own. We will be on hand with the key project team to ensure the smooth transition to the new system and to deal with any problems that arise.

Post Implementation Review

Following implementation and handover of the ESM solution but before project closure we will conduct a post implementation review (PIR) to verify that the project has done what it set out to do, i.e. that all the objectives have been met and that each identified requirement has been satisfied. The PIR is the final activity in the quality management process which goes on throughout the project’s lifetime.

As many of the benefits of ESM solutions are realised over time after implementation, we will help customers define ESM key performance indicators (KPIs) and develop data capture and reporting mechanisms – often as part of the solution itself – that will allow the improvements in IT service availability and quality following project completion to be measured.

Final Thoughts

ESM is now seen as a business critical area which allows IT departments to better serve the other functional elements of a business.

Feathered Owl Technology has a thorough understanding of the ESM marketplace and has strong relationships with leading vendors. Our In-depth understanding of IT infrastructure, operations and support and real-world experience of IT Service Management and the use of ESM to support its adoption, allows us to create a comprehensive ESM strategy tailored to a company’s individual needs.

We do not ‘sell’ a technology and are therefore better positioned to take an objective view when selecting the most appropriate technology. We manage and execute a full ESM project lifecycle:

  • Current situation analysis (if applicable)
  • Requirements analysis
  • Project scoping, definition of objectives, benefits calculation and business case preparation
  • Solution design, product selection & assistance with procurement cycle (if desired)
  • Solution development, product customization, integration & testing
  • Operational process development and/or optimization
  • Solution deployment, training, documentation and handover
  • Post implementation review

Unlike other consulting firms who are only technology focussed, we are business focussed and look at creating working practices that have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. Irrespective of a company’s size, business sector, we have many years’ experience of ESM and a comprehensive knowledge of the ESM marketplace – we really have “been there and done it”.

We offer a free, no obligation ESM “healthcheck” during which we will conduct an initial audit of any existing ESM tools and processes, carry out initial requirements analysis and suggest ways in which your organisation’s ESM capability can be enhanced to improve IT service quality and deliver lasting benefit to the business.

To find out how we can help you with your ESM needs or to arrange a healthcheck, contact us via the Feathered Owl Technology website.

12 responses to “Optimising IT Service Delivery through Enterprise Systems Management”

  1. So is your firm a consulting company? Do you provide business analysis, or just the IT portion?

    Can you send me a link to your other posts?

    Justin Davis

    Legal Disclaimer: Author does not represent any legal position of
    Lightspeed Systems Inc. and is the author’s opinion only.
    Lightspeed Systems provides an internet filter to K-12 schools and institutions

  2. “It is rare these days to find an organisation which has no ESM capability whatsoever.”
    Working with smaller (<100 employees) companies it seems it is very hard for them to justify the costs of ESM to management. Unless someone at board level has previous experience at a much larger company who had the money to invest in such a system most of the time they see the benefits but baulk at the costs.

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