July 18, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
I was recently asked how I start a typical workday. What one good habit can I share to help others manage end-to-end technology services? Without hesitation I responded, "I dial into our day-start call at 7:30 a.m. - even when I'm on the road."
"What's a day-start call?" was my colleague's reaction.
"Our goal is to deliver timely, enterprisewide information to key decision-makers at the start of each business day." I described how we rely on our Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)-based Service Management Center (SMC) to coordinate daily operational issues across our organization.
ITIL is a set of best practices meant to ease IT management's pain by creating well documented operational processes for tasks such as incident identification and resolution, service-related changes, and hardware and software updates that tie to service offerings.
The SMC is our enterprise's "eyes and ears," monitoring all operational activity on a 24/7 basis. It communicates status for incidents, problems and change management events that affect critical business applications and technology services for Michigan state government's executive-branch agencies.
Whether introducing new shared network components, tracking down what changed last night or troubleshooting ongoing system problems, an understanding of the big picture is essential for success. I urge you to watch this brief video that demonstrates the pragmatic benefits we've seen by using ITIL processes.
Government IT professionals need an all-encompassing, prioritized perspective to successfully address complex system issues for medium/large government operations. As we all strive to improve services and save government IT dollars, smarter coordination is a must. Specifically if you're consolidating operations, consider this approach. I would feel blind in directing our infrastructure staff without the SMC.
It wasn't always this way in Michigan. Our day-start calls began about four years ago and have evolved in various ways. While we communicate a massive amount of information in about 15 minutes, the major focus is always the operational status of critical business functions, like Secretary of State services. During several major virus outbreaks over the past four years, as well as two international Cyber Storm exercises, the SMC provided the essential processes, procedures and communication to ensure that all activities were coordinated.
How could your government head down this ITIL road? Here are some of the actions we took in Michigan:
o IT staff were trained on ITIL concepts, and key members are ITIL V3 certified at the foundation and practitioner levels.
o All incidents are now managed, tracked and communicated by the SMC until services have been restored. This has enabled a better response to quickly resolving critical service outages.
o All IT business services are classified by criticality of service. "Urgent" services may impact the life and safety of our citizens, and these are tracked 24/7. A "red card" of critical applications was generated that has become standard issue for state agencies.
o A current operations status board is available in five office areas, including the executive offices. As employees walk by the incident board, they check it for new incidents that may affect their service areas.
o In the event of an enterprisewide service outage, the SMC assists with the activation of the department's Emergency Coordination Center (ECC). The department's emergency management team is assembled and the emergency is managed until resolution, using the same tools and processes we use daily to manage IT incidents. The ECC coordinates with our state Emergency Operations Center.
o Post-incident review and root cause analysis are performed on all major incidents.
When I started my career at the National Security Agency 25 years ago, I was taught the wisdom of the adage, "You don't know what you don't know." In recent years, I've learned that with ITIL practices such as a day-start call, you'll know a lot more about what's happening in your enterprise.
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to