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This chapter is from the book

Bridging the Service Management Gap

System Center 2012 Service Manager is Microsoft’s software tool for solving service management issues and is a key component in Microsoft’s management strategy and System Center. Service Manager is a comprehensive service management solution that uses its CMDB to collect information not only related to incident management, problem management, change requests and configuration management, and release management, but to consolidate information from other System Center components including Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. As discussed at the beginning of this chapter, Service Manager now incorporates the following benefits:

  • Integrates processes and knowledge across System Center: In terms of integration and knowledge for System Center, consider Service Manager, the CMDB, and its connectors, as the glue for System Center. Microsoft provides connectors for Active Directory, Exchange, Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Orchestrator to bring data into the CMDB from these other System Center components. Once data from these connectors are in Service Manager, IT departments have the necessary information available to work with in one place. Other System Center components such as Data Protection Manager and some other non-System Center products can also have their data brought into Service Manager’s CMDB using Orchestrator or CSV files.
  • Provides an accurate and relevant knowledge base: Knowledge management in Service Manager utilizes an internal and external repository. The service desk team creates internal knowledge base articles; external knowledge base articles simply are web links to external resources such as knowledge base articles on the Internet or technical articles that can be used to solve a problem.

    Knowledge–based articles can be linked to configuration items, incidents, problems, and change requests. Linking knowledge base articles to items in Service Manager ensures that the service desk has accurate and relevant information to understand and solve problems. End users can search and view knowledge base articles within the self-service portal, enabling them to view solutions that can resolve their problems on their own before opening a new incident. Figure 1.4 shows an example of a knowledge base article and a configuration item that has been linked to the knowledge base article.

    FIGURE 1.4

    FIGURE 1.4 Knowledge base article in Service Manager.

  • Lowers costs and provides improved responsiveness: Service Manager can help run IT services more efficiently, monitor responses, and meet metrics defined within its SLAs, leading to improved customer satisfaction. This can be accomplished using the features and functionality within Service Manager to accomplish the following:

    • Integrating with Operations Manager and Configuration Manager
    • Tracking all items and alerts that arise as configuration items and incidents
    • Using templates, workflows, and escalations to route incidents to the correct teams immediately
    • Improving time to resolution through knowledge management
    • Reducing the risks of changes through change and release management

    Ultimately, organizations will experience lower operational costs and improved service management responsiveness to end users.

  • Improves business alignment: Adoption of ITIL and MOF frameworks, as part of a Service Manager implementation, help achieve better alignment of IT with the business objectives of the organization.
  • Delivers immediate value with built-in process management packs: Service Manager’s built-in management packs enable better control of the organization’s processes for Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, Release Management, Knowledge Management, and Service Request Fulfillment.
  • Automates processes: Service Manager workflows can be utilized to automate and adapt processes into MOF and ITIL frameworks. For advanced processes, Service Manager can be used to surface Orchestrator runbooks, automating those advanced processes and enabling self-service automation.
  • Enables IT as a Service: Service Manager enables IT to be offered as a service within organizations. This is accomplished using a combination of request fulfillment, automation, and the service catalog. Utilizing Service Manager workflows and incorporating Orchestrator runbooks can automate many end user requests, change requests, or tasks that need to be completed to resolve an incident, freeing up IT staff to focus on more strategic needs.

Delivering System Uptime

Service Manager is an end-to-end service management platform that helps IT departments reduce downtime by providing service management through ITIL and MOF processes. Consider this example: Operations Manager alerts are recorded in the CMDB as incidents and routed to the proper IT personnel to take action before the issues cause outages. These alerts are also stored in the data warehouse for further analytical and reporting use. Tracking Operations Manager alerts can also assist with identifying bottlenecks, performance issues, health trends, and resource needs, in turn enabling IT to use proactive rather than reactive Problem Management to ensure service level agreements and service availability are met.

Addressing Configuration “Shift and Drift”

Service Manager’s change management and configuration management functionality assist in addressing shift and drift through enforcing configuration and compliance requirements, utilizing the Change Management processes within Service Manager and detection of noncompliant configurations through the Configuration Manager connector.

Consolidating Information

Service Manager consolidates information throughout System Center by pulling information into the CMDB. Data is moved into the data warehouse for long-term storage, available for analysis, dashboards, and reporting use. Information generated directly in Service Manager such as incidents, problems, changes, activities, and service requests are first stored in the CMDB and then moved to the data warehouse. Examples of information contained in the CMDB are users and printers from Active Directory, computers from Configuration Manager, alerts and objects from Operations Manager, and virtual servers from Virtual Machine Manager. Other types of information contained in the CMDB include business services, environments (production or development), computers, users, software, printers, software updates, and other objects. Figure 1.5 shows examples of configuration item types within Service Manager.


FIGURE 1.5 Configuration items within the CMDB.

Providing Historical Information

The data warehouse in Service Manager serves as a resource for historical data, not only regarding activity in IT but also for configuration items. The data warehouse lets you view the information it contains quickly and efficiently, presenting that data in ways that make it easy to view, print, or publish. Service Manager also provides historical information through Change Management processes. Figure 1.6 shows an example of reports found in the Service Manager data warehouse by default. Notice there are different reporting categories—such as Change Management, Incident Management, and Configuration Management. These reports show information that is important for metrics and measuring IT service management performance. These reports are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reporting, dashboard, and analytical capabilities found within Service Manager.


FIGURE 1.6 Reports in the Service Manager data warehouse.

An example of further analytical capability found within the data warehouse is the ability to analyze your service management data in Excel PowerPivot. The report in Figure 1.7 is an example of active versus resolved incidents, represented in a PivotChart made with Excel PowerPivot using a cube in the Service Manager data warehouse.


FIGURE 1.7 PivotChart in Excel from Service Manager data warehouse data.

Delivering Expertise

Service Manager delivers expertise to your IT teams through the MOF and ITIL frameworks upon which it was built, helping IT teams to start using ITIL processes. Utilizing ITIL processes such as Incident Management presents a consistent way of handling incidents that in turn helps improve end user satisfaction, incorporating Change Management improves tracking of changes within your environment and reduces risk, and using Knowledge Management helps document solutions to problems and enables you to resolve problems faster.

Utilizing Incident Management and Change Management helps processes be consistent, providing documentation even with personnel turnover. These help to lower your operational cost and reduce the time needed to find solutions to resolve issues. In addition, all incidents, change management information, and knowledge base articles are stored in the CMDB and the data warehouse for historical purposes.

Addressing Missing Incidents and Information

All incidents, problems, and changes can be tracked in Service Manager. Data from other systems can be brought into Service Manager’s CMDB through connectors and tracked as asset information. One example of information flowing from another system into Service Manager is System Center Operations Manager, which monitors your infrastructure and generates alerts. While Operations Manager can track and address these alerts, the effort to resolve those alerts is not tracked. Bringing alerts from Operations Manager into Service Manager enables the alert to be made into an incident; the effort it takes to resolve each issue is tracked and prioritized, along with any changes that need to be made to resolve the incident.

Providing Process Consistency

Utilizing Service Manager’s change management, templates, workflows, and automation capabilities assists in providing improved visibility and accountability, and reduces operational risk. The activities and approval matrix within Service Manager’s change management feature help IT departments to build dynamic yet controlled processes around changes in infrastructure such as updates, releases, and tracking.

Meeting Service Level Agreements

Service Manager can help IT departments to progress from being reactive to proactive, from being cost centers to service providers exceeding service level agreements, and move to a true ITaaS model. Moving to an ITaaS model utilizing System Center components can help IT departments become strategic and be prepared to move toward cloud-based services. One of the many ways Service Manager can help IT move to an ITaaS model is by offering out-of-the-box service level objective (SLO) tracking and metrics as well as chargeback. Figure 1.8 shows an example of priority calculations within Service Manager. Priority calculations help track the urgency and impact of incidents being a part of SLO and metric tracking.


FIGURE 1.8 Priority calculation in incident settings.

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