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IT Operations Management Function in ITIL

As it is mentioned in this Service Operation article, ITIL defines four functions. We have described the Service Desk function briefly; now it would be a good time to address IT Operations Management.

What does it do?

IT Operations Management is a functional team of people “responsible for day-to-day maintenance and management of organization’s IT infrastructure to ensure delivery of the agreed level of IT services to the business” (ITIL ® Service Operation, 6.5). Basically, IT Operations performs a defined sequence of daily activities in order to keep IT going.

No, really, what does it do?

IT Operations Management is actually divided into two sub-functions, each performing a slightly different set of activities:

IT Operations Control is a central monitoring and control function carrying out operations tasks:

  • Console management – monitoring the IT infrastructure through various IT control tools and/or real-time reporting engines.
  • Job scheduling – You wouldn’t say it, but even in the 21st century most IT organizations still have to execute various scripts and batch jobs, which have to be triggered manually at scheduled times. A good example would be middleware jobs transferring data between mainframe applications and smaller-scale ERP or Human Resources applications.
  • Print management – Historically, operations management took care of centralized printing output. Nowadays, with distributed printing facilities, their responsibility shifts to various print management solutions maintenance.
  • Backup and restore – After a few decades of distributed server philosophy, IT moves to central server control and management through various virtualization solutions. Backup activities are somewhat easier to perform, but there is still a lot of work around backup: control, restarting jobs, media exchange. This is an important task of Operations.
  • Maintenance activities: Operations performs infrastructure maintenance activities requested by the remaining two ITIL functions: Application and Technical management. Operations is usually organized to work in shifts, so it can perform assigned after-hours tasks.

Facilities management manages physical IT infrastructure: server rooms, data centers and disaster recovery sites.  It takes care of all the accompanying functions: cooling, power, humidity controls, etc. Also, Facilities management must be in charge of large transitions: IT infrastructure consolidation, various construction projects concerning facilities, work on power supply, etc.

I have witnessed a few anecdotes which have (almost) led to a disaster: an air conditioning team working on a new ventilation opening didn’t protect the server racks, while facilities management wasn’t involved – in the morning all the customer servers were covered in a fine, white dust; a cleaning woman consistently plugged her high-power vacuum cleaner in a UPS outlet, so all the servers inexplicably restarted on Monday afternoons; and a few other examples related to unannounced electric power works. Facilities management HAS to be in charge of anything that can influence the infrastructure; otherwise, the IT Service continuity can be seriously endangered.

How is it organized?

IT Operations Management is a function. It leaves a lot of options open to an IT Organization.

  • It can be a department or a sector in large organizations.
  • In mid-sized IT organizations it can be a virtual team consisting of Application and Technical management team members.
  • In small-size IT organizations, competent Service Desk analysts can perform Operations tasks during their regular shifts, escalating more complex tasks to on-call engineers or tech account managers.

I have even seen midsize organizations running Service Desk as part of IT Operations. If you consider main objectives and purpose of functional units, do what works for you and your organization.

Important objectives

The main problem of Operations is that it has to reconcile a few objectives, which can sometimes conflict:

  • Achieving stability: it is in the nature of Operations to try to maintain the status quo, and minimize changes as the main source of service disruptions.
  • Continual improvement: to improve the IT infrastructure and services it provides. It implies changes, and it conflicts with the previous one.
  • Diagnosis and resolution of occurred operational failures. Here Operations has to cooperate tightly with Service Desk and Incident Management.

Off the top of your head, how would you organize IT Operations Management function in your IT?

Download a free sample of our  IT Operations Management function template to find out what to consider when defining the IT Operations function.

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