The Three Pillars of IT Delivery

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Whatever your organization's existing portfolio of information technology-enabled products and services, your customers view these like a utility. Their expectation is that products and services are always available, stable, reliable, and, of course, affordable. Once established, these products and services become part of the fabric of enterprise operations and only merit notice when they fail or when they cease to meet the user's needs. Thus, IT team delivery revolves around fixing, enhancing, and adding to services, with the existing state of information technology products and services taken as a given. Of course, the IT organization knows better. Keeping current services up and running on a 24/7 basis is no mean task. On the other hand, the perceived value and contribution of an IT team rests largely on the team's ability to address the notion of IT as a utility, even as it struggles to improve, expand, and enhance services. Though seen differently from a technical and management point of view, all of this effort falls under the rubric of IT team delivery.

In the simplest of terms, most information technology organizations provide services in any one of three logical categories: problem resolution, service requests, and projects. First, IT solves customer problems in support of existing products and services. This type of service usually involves a help desk or call center, hardware and software support personnel, and training and documentation services. Problem resolution aims to address the specific IT product and service issues on behalf of the end user as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Second, IT responds to service requests that call either for the extension of existing products and services to a new employee or for the modest expansion and enhancement of an established product or service to existing employees. Here, too, a help desk or call center is often the intake mechanism for service request work, typically complemented by dedicated support and maintenance teams.

Neither problem resolution nor service request efforts individually entail large capital outlays, major changes in platform technologies, or, in most instances, serious commitments of IT personnel. They either fix or build upon what is already there. The customer's expectation is that delivery will be immediate or nearly so. Together, problem resolution and service request delivery, along with ongoing operational costs, constitute the majority of nondiscretionary IT spending. Because this may amount to anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent of the total IT budget, and because it is typically the first and primary way enterprise and external customers are touched by the IT organization, these services remain job one for most IT shops.

The third category of IT team activity — projects — encompasses the significant expansion of existing products and services or the introduction of new ones. Unlike the aforementioned categories, project work typically requires major capital outlays, a project management infrastructure, the involvement of external technology partner providers, and a long (as opposed to a short or immediate) delivery timeframe. Projects tend to push IT organizations onto the bleeding edge of technology adaptation, but these may be viewed by the team as the most satisfying assignments from a purely technical perspective. Unfortunately, projects also typically encompass both high (but unarticulated) business and technical risks and unbridled expectations among the corporate sponsors of these undertakings. Thus, these discretionary expenditures offer their own set of challenges to IT management and therefore demand a parallel, but somewhat different, approach to disciplined delivery.

As a mental exercise, the reader may wish to consider the unique characteristics of IT problem resolution, service request, and project delivery management as these pertain to the reader's shop and business setting. For example, how does the unique context of your own internal IT economy impact your ability to delivery in these three areas of service? Exhibit 2 shows a matrix that may assist in this effort.

Exhibit 2: IT Services Delivery Matrix

start example

Work Category


Typical IT Roles

Problem resolution

IT issues impacting existing products and services

Need for quick fixes

Need for user training and support

Day-to-day overhead costs covered by existing service contracts with vendors and partner providers

Just-in-time training

Documentation "cheat sheets"

Help desk or call center

Access and security control services

Desktop support

Network support

Production services

Systems support

End-user training and documentation services

Service requests

Installation of new workstations or network connections

Installation of patches and upgrades to existing systems

Implementation of desktop software

Minor software enhancements

Day-to-day overhead costs covered by existing service contracts and IT organization operating budgets

Just-in-time training

Documentation "cheat sheets" and more extensive documentation revisions

Help desk or call center

Desktop installation team

Network services installation team

Production services

Systems development and maintenance teams

Database administrators

End-user training and documentation services


Major hardware upgrades

Major software upgrades

Installation of new hardware and software platforms

Rollout of major new desktop functionality

Implementation of new application systems

Enabling major process changes within the enterprise

Enterprisewide user training and associated documentation

Business and IT executives

Project directors and managers

Technology architects

Business analysts

Network and server services

Systems development teams

End-user training and documentation services

External information technology partners

end example

This matrix makes clear that the so-called three-pillars of IT service delivery call upon different types of team skills and resources. In fact, these three pillars often should be treated within IT as three distinct lines of business, procedurally and perhaps organizationally. More often than not, problem resolution services cover familiar territory, involving face-to-face interactions among those who use and those who maintain standard, established IT services. Typically, the problems in question impact the enterprise's ability to service external customers or to execute internal business processes. Solutions will be documented through the help desk and will be familiar to those in IT answering the calls. At times, a problem may escalate into the need to change a major system or infrastructure component, as when the hacking of a server triggers a review of enterprise network security procedures. But more often than not, a quick fix, accompanied by some end-user education, meets the need.

By contrast, a service request may range widely, from adding a new end user to the network to upgrading or patching a major enterprise software application. To address a service request IT personnel may require detailed knowledge of an application suite or a hardware or software environment. In smaller IT shops, the same group may address problem resolutions and service requests, where tier one tasks are the domain of the call center and help desk and where tier two tasks are assigned to system teams who do maintenance, support, and development on the applications in question.

Project work stands out from the other two pillars of IT service because these assignments call for sizeable resource investments, hold longer time horizons until delivery, and require business process discovery and possibly reengineering efforts. In effect, IT projects aim either to replace one technology with another or to introduce IT to a hitherto manual process. To that end, IT must work closely with the project's business sponsors to expose and analyze the business process and its associated information management needs to bring technology appropriately to bear. This work calls upon different skills, including project management, resource estimating, business analysis, process and data modeling, system prototyping and development, risk management, and so on. Typically, IT organizations structure themselves around the appropriate competencies and technical expertise to deliver on their project commitments. The aforementioned matrix summarizes these attributes and roles. How does this model compare with the realities within the reader's IT organization? What can we learn from this? To assist in drawing these distinctions and relating them to the reader's present situation, let us take our exploration of IT delivery management to the next level of detail.

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The Hands-On Project Office(c) Guaranteeing ROI and On-Time Delivery
E-Commerce Security: Advice from Experts (IT Solutions series)
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 132 © 2008-2017.
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