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Juggling a Slippery Slew of SLAs

Juggling a Slippery Slew of SLAs

Who are you going to call when things go wrong or when maintenance needs to affect one element of the stack without hosing the rest? How do you manage and broker at the service level agreement, or multiple SLA, level? More than ever, finger pointing on who is accountable or responsible amid a diverse and fast-moving software environment cannot be allowed, not in an instant-on enterprise.

By Dana Gardner E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
03/21/11 5:00 AM PT

Welcome to a sponsored podcast discussion on how new models for IT support services are required to provide a single point of accountability when multiple and increasingly complex software implementations are involved.

Nowadays, the focal point for IT operational success lies not so much in just choosing the software and services mixture, but also in the management and support of these systems and implementations and the SLAs as an ecosystem -- and that ecosystem must be managed comprehensively with flexibility and for the long-term.

Long before cloud and hybrid computing models become a concern, the challenge before IT is how to straddle complexity and how to corral and manage -- as a lifecycle -- the vast software implementations already on-premises.

Of course, more of these workloads are supported these days by virtualized containers and often by a service-level commitment. IT needs to get a handle on supporting multiparty software and virtualized instances, along with the complex integrations and custom extensions across and between the applications.

Who are you going to call when things go wrong or when maintenance needs to affect one element of the stack without hosing the rest? How do you manage and broker at the service level agreement (SLA), or multiple SLA, level?

More than ever, finger pointing on who is accountable or responsible amid a diverse and fast-moving software environment cannot be allowed, not in an instant-on enterprise.

Not only does IT need a one-hand-to-shake value on comprehensive support more than ever, but IT departments may need to increasingly opt to outsource more of the routine operational tasks and software support to free up their IT knowledge resources and experts for transformation, security initiatives, and new business growth projects.

To learn how this can be better managed, we've tapped an executive from HP Software to examine an expanding set of new HP Premier Services designed to combine custom software support and consulting expertise to better deliver managed support outcomes across entire software implementations.

Anand Eswaran, vice president, global professional Services at HP Software, is interviewed by BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.


Listen to the podcast (29:15 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Anand Eswaran: We're offering HP Premier Services across the entire portfolio for all solutions we put in front of customers. People may ask what's different. "Why are you able to do this today? The customer problem you are talking about sounds pretty native. Why haven't you done this forever?"

If you look at a software organization, the segmentation between support and services is very discrete, whether inside the company or whether it is support working with services organization outside the company, and that's the heart of the problem.

What we're doing here is a pretty big step. You hear about "services convergence" an awful lot in the industry. People think that's the way to go. What they mean by "services convergence" is that all the services you need across the customer lifecycle merges to become one, and that's what we are doing here.

We're merging what was customer support, which is a call center, and that's why they can't take accountability for a solution. They are good at diagnostics, but they're not good at full-fledged solutions. They're merging that organization.

What that organization brings in is scale, infrastructure, and absolute global data center coverage. We're merging that with the Professional Services (PS) organization. When the rubber hits the road, PS is the organization, or the people, who deploy these solutions.

By merging those two, you get the best of both worlds, because you get scale, coverage, infrastructure, capability. And by virtue of a very, very extensive PS team within HP Software, we operate in 80 or 90 countries. We have coverage worldwide. That's how we're able to provide the service where we take accountability for this whole solution.

What we're announcing and launching and what we're talking about is enhancing and elevating that support from just being a product to actually being the entire project and the solution for the customer. This is where, when we deploy a solution for a customer, which involves our technology, our software, for the most part, a service element to actually make it a reality, we will support the full solution.

That's the principal thing now that will allow us to not just talk about business outcomes when we go through the selling lifecycle, but it will also allow us to make those business outcomes a reality by taking full accountability for it. That is at the heart of what we are announcing -- extending customer support from a product to the project, and from a product to the full solution.

If I walk through what HP Premier Services is, that probably will shed more light on it. As I explain HP Premier Services, there are two dimensions to it.

The first dimension is the three choice points, and the first of those is what has classically been customer support. We just call it "Foundation," where customer support supports the product. You have a phone line you can call. That doesn't change. That's always been there.

The second menu item in the first dimension is what we term as "Premier Response," and this menu item is where we actually take that support for the product and extend it to the full project and the full solution. This is new and this is the first level of the extension we are going to offer to the customer.

The third menu item takes it even further. We call it "Premier Advisory." In addition to just supporting the product, which has always been there, or just extending it to support a solution and the project -- both of those things are reactive -- we can engage with the customer to be proactive about support.

That's proactive as in not just reacting to an issue, but preempting problems and preempting issues, based on our knowledge of all the customers and how they have deployed the solution. We can advise the customer, whether it's patches, whether it's upgrades, whether it's other issues we see, or whether it's a best practice they need to implement. We can get proactive, so we preempt issues. Those are the three choice points on the first dimension.

The second dimension is a different way to look at how we're extending Premier Services for the benefit of the customer. Again, the first choice point in the second dimension is called "Premier Business." We have a named account manager who will work with the customer across the entire lifecycle. This is already there right now.

The second part of the second dimension is very new, and large enterprise customers will derive a lot of value from it. It's called "Premier TeamExtend." Not only we will be do the first three choice points of foundation, support for the whole solution, and proactive support, we will extend and take control for the customer of the entire operation of that solution.

At that point, you almost mimic a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, but if there are reasons a customer wouldn't want to do SaaS and wouldn't want to do managed services, but want to host it on-site and have the full solution hosted in the customer premises, we will still deploy the solution, have them realize the full benefit of it, and run their solution and operate their solution.

We're not just giving them one thing, which they're pretty much forced to take, but if it's a very mature customer, with extensive capability on all the products and IT strategies that they're putting into place, they don't need to go to TeamExtend. They can just maybe take a Foundation with just the first bit of HP Premier Services, which is Premier Response. That's all they need to take.

Choice is a very big deal for us, so that customers can actually make the decision and we can recommend to them what they should be doing.

If there is an enterprise that is so focused on competitive differentiation in the marketplace and they don't want to worry about maintaining the solutions, then they could absolutely go to Premier TeamExtend, which offers them the best of all worlds.

By virtue of that, we make anything and everything to do with the back end -- infrastructure, upgrades, and all of that -- transparent to the customer. All they care about is the business outcome. If it's a solution we have deployed to cut outages by 3 percent and get service levels up-time up to 99.99 percent, that's what they get.

How we do it, the solutions involved, the service involved, and how we're managing it is completely transparent. The fundamental headline there is that it allows the customer to go back to 70 percent innovation and 30 percent maintenance, and completely flip the current ratio.

The reality is that cloud is still nebulous. Different companies have different interpretations of cloud. Customers are still a little nervous about going into the cloud, because we're still not completely sure about quality, security, and all of those things. So, this is the first or second step you take before you get comfortable to get to the cloud.

What we're able to do here is take complete control of that complexity and make it transparent to the customer -- and in a way -- to quasi-deliver the same outcomes which a cloud can deliver. Cloud is a trend, and we're making sure that we actually address it before we get there.

A lot of these services are also things we're providing to the cloud service providers. So, in a way, we're making sure that people who offer that cloud service are able to leverage our services to make sure that they can offer the same outcomes back to the customer. So, it's a full lifecycle.

In my view, and in HP Software's view, this is a fairly groundbreaking solution. If I were to characterize everything we talked about in three words, the first would be simplify. The second would be proactive -- how can we be proactive, versus reacting to issues. And, how can we, still under the construct of the first two, offer the customers choice.

We've been in limited launch mode since June of last year. We wanted to make sure that we engage with a limited set of customers, make sure this really works, work out all the logistics, before we actually do a full public general availability launch. So it is effective immediately.

We can also offer the same service to all the outsourcing providers or cloud service providers we work with. If you feel you're bouncing around between different organizations, as you try to get control of your IT infrastructure, whether if you work with an external SI and you do not feel that there is enough in sync happening between support and an external SI and you feel frustrated about it, this falls right in the sweet spot.

If you feel that you need to start moving away from just projects to business outcome based solutions you need to deploy in your IT organization, this falls right in the sweet spot for it.

If you feel that you want to spend less of your time maintaining solutions and more of your time thinking about the core business your company is in and making sure that your innovation is able to capture a bigger market share and bigger business benefits for the company you work for, and you want some organization to take accountability for the operations and maintenance of the stack you have, this falls right in the sweet spot for it.

The last thing, interestingly enough, is that we see uptake from even smaller and medium-sized companies, where they do not have enough people, and they do not want to worry about maintenance of the stack based on the capability or the experience of the people they have on these different solutions -- whether it's operations, whether it's applications, whether it is security across the entire HP software stack. So, if you're on any of those four or five different use cases, this falls right in the sweet spot for all of them.

So, in summary, at the heart of it what we're trying to do is simplify the complexity of how a customer or an IT organization deals with the complexity of their stack.

The second thing is that an IT organization is always striving to flip the ratio of innovation and operations. As you look today, it is 70 percent operations and 30 percent innovation. If you get that single point of accountability, they can focus more on innovation and supporting the business needs, so that their company can take advantage of greater market share, versus operations and maintaining the stack they already have.

IT complexity is increasing by the day. Having multiple vendors accountable for different parts of the IT strategy and IT implementation is a huge problem. Because of the complexity of the solution and because multiple organizations are accountable for different discrete parts of the solution, the customer is left holding the bag on to figure out how to navigate the complexity of the software organization. How do you pinpoint exactly where the problem is and then engage the right party?

We actually start to engage with them in solving a business problem for them. We paint the ROI that we could get.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: HP sponsored this podcast.


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