The Best of Service Design, Part 3

The Importance of Availability Management
Originally Published on July 5, 2011

The Availability Management process ensures that the availability of systems and services matches the evolving agreed needs of the business. The role of IT is now integral to the success of the business. The availability and reliability of IT services can directly influence customer satisfaction and the reputation of the business. The proactive activities of Availability Management involve the proactive planning, design and improvement of availability. These activities are principally involved within design and planning roles.
The proactive activities consist of producing recommendations, plans and documents on design guidelines and criteria for new and changed services, and the continual improvement of service and the reduction of risk in existing services wherever it can be cost-justified. There are several guiding principles that should underpin the Availability Management process and its focus:
  • Service availability is at the core of customer satisfaction and business success: there is a direct connection between the service availability and customer and user satisfaction, where poor service performance is defined as being unavailable.  
  • Recognizing that when services fail, it is still possible to achieve business, customer and user satisfaction and how quickly a service can be restored to normal operation can have a profound effect on user perception and expectation.
  • Improving availability can only begin after understanding how the IT services support the operation of the business and defining which services support those Vital Business Functions (VBF).
  • Service availability is only as good as the weakest link in the chain: it can be greatly increased by the elimination of Single Points of Failure (SPoFs) or an unreliable or weak component. Availability Management using historical incident and problem data can identify and then remove these fragile Configuration items (CI). 
  • It is cheaper to design the right level of service availability into a service from the start rather than try to ‘bolt it on’ subsequently. Adding resilience into a service or component is invariably more expensive than designing it in from the start.
Underpinning these key principles are the following proactive activities of availability management:
  • Determining the availability requirements from the business for a new or enhanced IT service and formulating the availability and recovery design criteria for the supporting IT components. 
  • Determining the VBFs, in conjunction with the business and ITSCM.
  • Determining the impact arising from IT service and component failure in conjunction with ITSCM and, where appropriate, reviewing the availability design criteria to provide additional resilience to prevent or minimize impact to the business.
  • Defining the targets for availability, reliability and maintainability for the IT infrastructure components that underpin the IT service to enable these to be documented and agreed within SLAs, OLAs and contracts.
  • Establishing measures and reporting of availability, reliability and maintainability that reflect the business, user and IT support organization perspectives.
  • Monitoring and trend analysis of the availability, reliability and maintainability of IT components. 
  • Reviewing IT service and component availability and identifying unacceptable levels.
  • Investigating the underlying reasons for unacceptable availability.
  • Producing and maintaining an Availability Plan that prioritizes and plans IT availability improvements.

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