Friday, November 21, 2008

Three New Leading Practices of Application Management Webinars for December

Last month, Oracle launched a new webinar series on Leading Practices of Application Management. We are following up the initial set of events with new subjects for December.

Webinars in December include:

The first three are new subjects, while the last two are re-runs that are scheduled at times more suitable to the APAC audience. One of the challenges that we face when scheduling these webinars is the global nature of Oracle's customer base. There is no single time that works. In fact, we have to come up with three time slots - 11 a.m. Pacific for the Americas, 3 p.m. GMT for EMEA, which covers everything from U.K. to Turkey, and 5 a.m. GMT, which should be a suitable time for everyone from India to Australia.

Oracle E-Business Suite Install and Cloning Techniques Deep Dive
December 2, 2008 at 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern

Three Steps to Better Performance and User Adoption for Siebel CRM
December 9, 2008 at 10 a.m. Eastern / 3 p.m. GMT

PeopleSoft Service Level Management Best Practices
December 16, 2008 at 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern

Business Intelligence Management Pack Overview
December 23, 2008 at 5 a.m. GMT / 10:30 a.m. New Delhi / 1 p.m. Beijing / 4 p.m. Melbourne

Application Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite Overview
December 30, 2008 at 5 a.m. GMT / 10:30 a.m. New Delhi / 1 p.m. Beijing / 4 p.m. Melbourne

Thursday, November 13, 2008

People, Process, Technology - ITIL v3

From my previous post, you probably get the idea that I view ITIL favorably. It is a comprehensive framework that provides a lot of good advice, and it provides a common language for IT practitioners.

While it is useful, learning about ITIL can be a challenge by itself, as it is like learning another language even though the language may already be somewhat familiar. Last year, we conducted a survey at OpenWorld, which asked several questions about practices on service level management and change management. Many people checked the box indicating that they had some sort of processes in place. Yet, when we asked whether people were implementing ITIL, the same people who checked those boxes stated that they were not implementing ITIL. That was rather strange as service level management and change management were two of ITIL processes, so either people did not know what ITIL stood for, or did not think their process implementation was up to the standard that ITIL defined. We think the former reason was more probable.

So what is in the “ITIL v3 language?”

ITIL v3 is made up of five application lifecycle phases, which Wikipedia describes as:

Service Strategy - focuses on the identification of market opportunities for which services could be developed in order to meet a requirement on the part of internal or external customers. The output is a strategy for the design, implementation, maintenance and continual improvement of the service as an organizational capability and a strategic asset. Key areas of this volume are Service Portfolio Management and Financial Management.

Service Design - focuses on the activities that take place in order to develop the strategy into a design document which addresses all aspects of the proposed service, as well as the processes intended to support it. Key areas of this volume are Availability Management, Capacity Management, Continuity Management and Security Management.

Service Transition - focuses on the implementation of the output of the service design activities and the creation of a production service or modification of an existing service. There is an area of overlap between Service Transition and Service Operation. Key areas of this volume are Change Management, Release Management, Configuration Management and Service Knowledge Management.

Service Operation - focuses on the activities required to operate the services and maintain their functionality as defined in the Service Level Agreements with the customers. Key areas of this volume are Incident Management, Problem Management and Request Fulfillment. A new process added to this area is Event Management, which is concerned with normal and exception condition events. Events have been defined into three categories:
- Informational events -- which are logged
- Warning events -- also called alerts, where an event exceeds a specified threshold
- Critical events -- which typically will lead to the generation of Incidents

Continual Service Improvement - focuses on the ability to deliver continual improvement to the quality of the services that the IT organization delivers to the business. Key areas of this volume are Service Reporting, Service Measurement and Service Level Management.
If you are familiar with ITIL v2, you probably recognizes that many of these processes are similar to those in v2. I think one way to look at v3 is that it is an improved and superset of of v2.

For more details on these processes, you need to get the official books from Office of Government and Commerce, the United Kingdom agency who serves as the official publisher of this methodology.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

People, Process, Technology - Process Frameworks

In an earlier post, I made a point that people, process, and technology are all pre-requisites for achieving success in enterprise application projects. I am going to focus today's post on processes, specifically process frameworks around application lifecycle management.

Application Lifecycle Management is not a new thing, as there exists not just one, but many process frameworks that address its various aspects. Examples include:

- Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
- Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT)
- Oracle Unified Method (OUM)
- Oracle Application Implementation Method (AIM)
- Siebel Results Roadmap
- PeopleSoft Compass
- Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)
- Rational Unified Process

You probably notice that Oracle alone has several methodologies, so there is no shortage of process to follow. By the way, in case you are wondering, the various Oracle methodologies eventually are supposed to get merged into the Oracle Unified Method. That can be a subject of a whole different discussion.

I am not sure if there is such a thing as the perfect methodology. Some of these methodologies are more development focused, while others are more operations focused, but I think there is increasing realization that an application project's complete lifecycle starts from the moment when the project is kicked off and ends when the application is retired, so a comprehensive application lifecycle management process framework needs to address both development as well as operational needs.

Take ITIL as an example. In ITIL v2, much of the focus was on operational management. The two core books of Service Delivery and Service Support addressed the processes of:

- Service Level Management
- Capacity Management
- Availability Management
- Continuity Management
- Financial Management
- Change Management
- Configuration Management
- Release Management
- Incident Management
- Problem Management

Infrastructure Management, Security Management, Asset Management and Application Management were in separate books. Except for the Application Management book, which depicted an application management lifecycle, ITIL v2 did not point out explicitly that many of the Service Management processes really need to start before the application goes into production.

In fact, in the Application Management book, it separated the pre-production activities in the first three phases as Application Development activities, while the activities in last three phases were classified as Service Management activities. That to me was a bit weird as it implied that the work to come up with a service level agreement do not take place until the application is ready to go into production. In reality, many of the considerations for defining service level goals should be done as part of overall planning in an application project.

In ITIL v3, which was released in May 2007, the lifecycle aspect of application projects took center stage. All the existing ITIL functional processes were re-oriented into five lifecycle phases, which include:

- Service Strategy
- Service Design
- Service Transition
- Service Operation
- Continual Service Improvement

These five phases cover everything from initial planning to on-going postmortem analysis needed to drive continual improvements. To me, this makes a lot more sense. If someone needs to manage capacity, or ensure availability of the application, which traditionally are seen as more of operational activities, the planning aspects of these really need to be carried out by the operations team up front as the functionalities of the application are getting implemented in parallel by the developers. Even something as “operations centric” as monitoring has a pre-production component – one needs to plan what needs to be monitored and instrument the application accordingly.

As the ITIL v3 evolution illustrates, a comprehensive framework that provides holistic recommendation to application lifecycle management best practices needs to cover all phases of the lifecycle and addresses both development and operational activities. As an added bonus, ITIL also provides a common vendor-neutral language to talk about various issues. Many terminologies are so overloaded, especially with vendors (Oracle included) all using them to suit their needs, that it can be difficult to talk about many issues without re-defining the terminologies at the beginning of the discussions first. ITIL pretty much eliminates this confusion. Therefore, I am going to make reference to it in my future blog posts.