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How Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0 enhances IT service management

The push to combine Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0 with a set of integrated tools that adhere to the IT service management lifecycle is just what the doctor ordered.

IT service management took a major step forward in April with the release of Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) version 4.0. This newest version of the framework offers practical guidance for everyday IT practices and activities so that IT managers can establish and implement reliable, cost-effective IT services.

This is good news for Windows shops that have spent money on ITIL v3 training. Because MOF 4.0 is aligned with ITIL v3, there's no need to retrain staff on the fundamentals -- which could translate to cost savings. Also, IT shops can now focus on more advanced MOF concepts.

MOF 4.0 defines the entire IT lifecycle. It consists of four phases that include 16 service management functions. Here's how Microsoft describes the four phases and their goals:

  • Plan -- Plan and optimize an IT service strategy to support business goals and objectives.
  • Deliver -- Ensure IT services are developed effectively, deployed successfully and ready for operations.
  • Operate -- Ensure IT services are operated, maintained and supported in a way that meets business needs and expectations.
  • Manage layer -- This is the foundation of the IT service lifecycle: Provide operating principles and best practices to ensure that the investment in IT delivers expected business value at an acceptable level of risk. This phase focuses on IT governance, risk, compliance, roles and responsibilities, change management and configuration. Processes in this stage occur during all phases of the lifecycle.

Within each phase, there are service management functions that define the processes, people and activities required to align IT services. For example, the Operate

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 phase contains four functions -- operations, service monitoring and control and customer service and problem management.

At the help desk, MOF drills down to customer service management functions. Microsoft defines the Operate phase deliverable as "effective user service." So how can help desk managers achieve effective user service? By providing a positive experience for users and addressing their complaints or issues in a timely manner.

If your Windows shop uses MOF 3.0, don't worry -- Microsoft's MOF Web page has details about how MOF 3.0 maps to MOF 4.0. It's also important to note that MOF 4.0's lifecycle approach includes the processes defined in MOF 3.0. Again, because MOF 4.0 is aligned with ITIL v3 and includes MOF 3.0 processes, previous training does not go to waste.

There are two companion products to MOF 4.0. The first is Microsoft's upcoming System Center Service Manager, code-named Service Desk. There is also cross-platform extension beta software that extends the monitoring and management capabilities of System Center Operations Manager 2007 to non-Microsoft platforms, including HP-UX, Sun Solaris, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server environments.

The second product is Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager 2007, which is the next version of Systems Management Server 2003. Configuration Manager 2007 provides functionality with its secure and scalable operating system and application deployment. It supports configuration management, enhancing system security and comprehensive asset management of servers, desktops and mobile devices.

The combination of MOF 4.0, System Center Service Manager and System Center Configuration Manager can help enhance or kick-start and IT service management initiative.

Begin with MOF 4.0, but keep in mind that half the battle of implementing MOF is getting started, and IT organizations don't usually follow this approach. They usually select a tool and then look to it to help define how the process is going to work and spend a lot of time making the tools and processes work together. This translates into a lot of wasted time and cost to the business.

Keep in mind that each IT organization should develop its own processes before it introduces tools into its environment. And if you're among those waiting for Microsoft's new tools -- expected to be available in 2010 -- the early indications are they will be worth the wait.

Stuart D. Galup is an associate professor of computer information systems at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Certified Computing Professional and ITIL Service Manager. 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.

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