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Using MOF to resolve common Windows service desk challenges

What matters to users is whether they can use their IT services or not. When an interruption or a reduction in IT service quality occurs, the IT service provider must ensure that proper procedures and resources are in place to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

As the single point of contact for users, the service desk faces many challenges. The greatest challenge is probably that the incident management process is not as efficient or effective as it could be because interactions with the IT service provider are not optimized.

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 But all is not lost. Windows IT managers can use the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) 4.0 -- an IT service management prescriptive -- to help streamline the process.

Let's take a look at five common service desk issues and ways administrators can use MOF to address them.

1. The service desk staff is unaware of new information systems or updated applications that were released into the production environment, leaving them unable to provide support.

Windows managers can use MOF to help overcome this challenge because each MOF phase contains management reviews. These reviews bring information and people together to determine the status of IT services and to establish readiness to move forward in the lifecycle. During the delivery phase, there are two management reviews --"project plan approved" review and the" release readiness" review. The "project plan approved" review alerts the service desk about any new IT service and related support issues, while the "release readiness review" provides a definitive release date so the service desk staff can prepare for the release.

2. There is no contract for incident management and other processes to ensure that a consistent level of service is provided.

MOF's "operate" phase relies on operational-level agreements (OLAs) and service-level agreements (SLAs) to define the indicators used to measure performance. OLAs are internal agreements within IT that support the requirements set forth in the SLAs. If resources are required to respond to an incident, OLAs ensure that all parties understand how to respond and what protocol should be used.

3. The service desk personnel and next-level support staff roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined.

Each MOF phase describes the team that is needed for proper execution of that service management function. Each role is clearly defined so employees understand their responsibilities as well as their levels of authority.

Operations Accountability Support Accountability
Operator Customer Service Representative
Administrator Incident Resolver
Technology Area Manager Incident Coordinator
Monitoring Manager Problem Analyst
Scheduling Manager Problem Manager
Operations Manager Customer Service Manager

4. The service desk doesn't have the necessary tracking tools to follow up on the status and recovery of an incident throughout its lifecycle.

The documentation is not specific about tools, but Microsoft sources have stated that they hope MOF helps sell new tools, specifically System Center Service Manager, code-named Service Desk. The beta was released in June 2007, and Service Pack 1 is now available.

5. Management or staff commitment is lacking. Management decides to implement the incident management process based on best practices and then circumvents the process.

Management or staff commitment can be difficult to obtain. MOF prescribes the use of management reviews that are conducted throughout an IT service lifecycle. Management reviews aim to bring information and people together to determine the status of IT services and to move forward in the lifecycle. One of the key benefits is management oversight and guidance. The reviews determine the governance, risk and compliance associated with each IT service.

Of course, there are many other challenges that service desks face. This checklist simply highlights some of the more common problems. Microsoft has done a great deal of work to extend its operations framework with the holistic lifecycle model based on service management best practices. Windows managers can use this framework to improve their incident management process.

Stuart D. Galup is an associate professor of computer information systems at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Certified Computing Professional, ITIL Expert, ISO/IEC 20K Consultant/Manager, and CGEIT. He has held a number of senior information technology positions and holds a U.S. patent. Galup has written more than 45 academic publications and two books.


This was first published in October 2008

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