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Continual review and improvement

Changing business needs and customer demand may require the levels of availability provided for an IT service to be reviewed. Such reviews should form part of the regular service reviews with the business undertaken by SLM. Other input should also be considered on a regular basis from ITSCM, particularly from the updated Business Impact Analysis and Risk Analysis exercises. The criticality of services will often change and it is important that the design and the technology supporting such services is regularly reviewed and improved by Availability Management to ensure that the change of importance in the service is reflected within a revised design and supporting technology. Where the required levels of availability are already being delivered, it may take considerable effort and incur significant cost to achieve a small incremental improvement within the level of availability.

A key activity for Availability Management is continually to look at opportunities to optimize the availability of the IT infrastructure in conjunction with Continual Service Improvement activities. The benefits of this regular review approach are that, sometimes, enhanced levels of availability may be achievable, but with much lower costs. The optimization approach is a sensible first step to delivering better value for money. A number of Availability Management techniques can be applied to identify optimization opportunities. It is recommended that the scope should not be restricted to the technology, but also include a review of both the business process and other end-to-end business-owned responsibilities. To help achieve these aims, Availability Management needs to be recognized as a leading influence over the IT service provider organization to ensure continued focus on availability and stability of the technology.

Availability Management can provide the IT support organization with a real business and user perspective on how deficiencies within the technology and the underpinning process and procedure impact on the business operation and ultimately their customers. The use of business-driven metrics can demonstrate this impact in real terms and, importantly, also help quantify the benefits of improvement opportunities. Availability Management can play an important role in helping the IT service provider organization recognize where it can add value by exploiting its technical skills and competencies in an availability context. The continual improvement technique can be used by Availability Management to harness this technical capability. This can be used with either small groups of technical staff or a wider group within a workshop or SFA environment.

The impetus to improve availability comes from one or more of the following:

  • The inability for existing or new IT services to meet SLA targets on a consistent basis
  • Period(s) of IT service instability resulting in unacceptable levels of availability
  • Availability measurement trends indicating a gradual deterioration in availability
  • Unacceptable IT service recovery and restoration times
  • Requests from the business to increase the level of availability provided
  • Increasing impact on the business and its customers of IT service failures as a result of growth and/or increased business priorities or functionality
  • A request from SLM to improve availability as part of an overall SIP
  • Availability Management monitoring and trend analysis.

Availability Management should take a proactive role in identifying and progressing cost-justified availability improvement opportunities within the Availability Plan. The ability to do this places reliance on having appropriate and meaningful availability measurement and reporting. To ensure availability improvements deliver benefits to the business and users, it is important that measurement and reporting reflects not just IT component availability but also availability from a business operation and user perspective.

Where the business has a requirement to improve availability, the process and techniques to reassess the technology and IT service provider organization capability to meet these enhanced requirements should be followed. An output of this activity is enhanced availability and recovery design criteria. To satisfy the business requirement for increased levels of availability may require additional financial investment to enhance the underpinning technology and/or extend the services provided by the IT service provider organization. It is important that any additional investment to improve the levels of availability delivered can be cost-justified. Determining the cost of unavailability as a result of IT failure(s) can help support any financial investment decision in improving availability

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