Raising the bar for legacy systems – the benefits of Service re-Introduction

Operations

The costs associated with service downtime have been well documented. When different business critical systems are unstable and no clear pattern between system breakdowns emerges, it can be difficult to know where to start. Operation stability is not solved just by upgrading old technology. Culture, work methods and willingness to change are often major cornerstones in stable operations. According to the Aberdeen Group, best-in-class organisations have fewer and shorter outages and they save a lot of money on it. In addition to the direct cost of downtime, there is also the costs of broken trust between IT and business and a damaged brand when customer rage goes viral.

Most vulnerable to a company are its legacy systems, which need special attention. The characteristics of legacy systems are high maintenance cost and low degree of documentation. Legacy systems often have many integrations and dependencies, which makes collaboration between different development and maintenance teams extremely important. This makes legacy systems far from optimal for outsourcing, yet this is exactly what many companies have done. In a multi-sourcing environment, the challenge of handling outsourced legacy systems are even higher as collaboration between vendors must be very efficient. If processes are not fully adapted for this situation, or policies and governance are not enforced, the unstable situation is very difficult to address.

Introducing the Service re-Introduction framework

Service re-Introduction is not a quick-fix but a necessary change engine in situations as the one described above, i.e. environments with many service outages in a multi-sourced IT environment that has a high degree of legacy systems. The issues can be many: implementation of outsourcing contracts, organisational issues, governance, process maturity, etc. However, instead of starting individual projects for reviewing contracts, organisational review and process maturity assessment – Service re-Introduction is a bottom-up approach service by service in a series of three workshops.

By focusing on one service at a time, patterns arise and new improvement initiatives can be identified and initiated by IT management. At the same time, Service re-Introduction involves and engages with service managers and vendors. The attention of the Service re-Introduction project gives the staff struggling with the systems on a daily basis a voice. All these things build trust and engagement.

Introducing a new service in IT operations is called Service Introduction. Hence, the name to introduce a legacy system a second time is appropriately named Service re-Introduction. Often the requirements have increased over time. For example, it can be very challenging to get a documented agreement on non-functional requirements for a system. Service re-Introduction is all about getting the fundamentals in place and pinning down the minimum requirements of a service. With a combination of documentation and process compliance, service re-introduction drives change to get the multi-sourcing environment working.

Figure 2 Service re-Introduction reuses the Service Introduction model on the legacy systems. The business critical services are reviewed with the perspective of the Service Acceptance Criteria (SAC).

Figure 2 Service re-Introduction reuses the Service Introduction model on the legacy systems. The business critical services are reviewed with the perspective of the Service Acceptance Criteria (SAC).

One challenge in an unstable environment is to avoid a blame game of who caused the current situation. The stability situation is likely to have many factors and moving forward is much more fruitful. Service re-Introduction supports progress and the objectives can clearly be communicated. Below are ten documented benefits from Service re-Introduction projects performed by 3gamma.

Ten documented benefits from 3gamma’s Service re-Introduction projects

  1. Main engine in operation stability initiatives
    By gathering empirical data, an operation stability program was reshaped from technical focus to include vendor governance and organisational focus.
  2. Establishing a multi-sourcing governance
    Increased vendor collaboration was achieved by establishing active governance boards on all levels from CIO to incident management.
  3. Removal of contractual obstacles
    A contractual text was directly stopping collaboration between vendors and contract change was initiated.
  4. Improvements to processes, documents and checklists
    Efficient handling of the outages was supported by implementing a common major incident management procedure for all vendors.
  5. Organisational improvements including roles and responsibilities
    The service management role was updated and implemented the same way throughout the organisation.
  6. Identification and review of high risk environments and disaster recovery documentation
    Fail-over testing showed that certain solutions did not work as expected.
  7. Addressing SLA and vendor contract mismatches
    A contract renegotiation was initiated to cover new and clarified business requirements.
  8. Process compliance and system documentation
    Prepared documentation and knowledge articles for new outsourcing vendor.
  9. Improvements within reporting, service monitoring and CMDB compliance
    An end-to-end monitoring for availability measurement was implemented to visualize the new stability.
  10. Support of service manager in pressured situation
    Increased service managers morale through support, listening to their problems and heightened management attention by reporting major issues.

A Service re-Introduction creates a foundation for future work as all services get a common minimum level of requirements and a shared standard for processes and documentation. One of the most important benefits involves strengthening the service management team by supporting and listening to their problems. This is often a hard working team that typically receives limited management attention. With a Service re-Introduction initiative, the service managers will receive more management attention and someone that listens to their issues. This can be everything from time reporting problems to vendor disputes, or basically anything that hinders the service managers to perform their job effectively. Addressing these issues can build trust and acceptance for future change initiatives.

The true power of Service re-Introduction emerges from patterns when several services have been re-introduced. At this point the Service re-Introduction becomes the main engine in the operation stability program by gathering empirical data for addressing the real problems (e.g. contractual, governance related or organisational) in a correct way. In short, Service re-Introduction is an action-driven pre-study that builds trust, creates change acceptance for other initiatives and improves process maturity.

About the author

Rolf Svärd is an IT Management Consultant with a passion for change and improvements. His key competence areas include governance, process development and service management. Holds a Licentiate degree within the field of business process development.


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