Why IT Needs a Blueprint: The Case for a Unified Service Model

Posted by: Helge Scheil in Best Practices

Blueprint (blōō • prĭnt) – noun: (1) something intended as a guide for making something else; “a blueprint for a house”; (2) photographic print of plans or technical drawings.

When building or making changes to a house, construction professionals rely on the architect’s blueprint - the tool that translates the needs of the homeowner into instructions for the builders, carpenters, electricians and plumbers. General contractors pull together the various blueprint elements, electrical plans, plumbing plans, floor plans and cost schedules, to build or modify the house according to building codes, to build it on schedule and on budget,. They also communicate with the owner on a regular basis, reporting on progress and making necessary adjustments along the way, always staying aligned with the home owner’s needs.

IT professionals also need a blueprint to translate the needs of the business into practical instructions. In this way, developers, systems administrators, and network managers can convert hardware, systems, applications and their multiple connection points into an enterprise computing environment that provides a company with clear economic value and sustainable competitive advantage.
The idea of an “IT blueprint” has become increasingly compelling as the complexity of IT has continued to increase. Business Service Managers, an increasingly common new role in IT organizations, are the General Contractors of IT and are being called on to translate business requirements into the guidance other IT professionals need to create services and to ensure that those services perform reliably over time. An IT blueprint shows how the various infrastructure components inter-relate to each service and provides the insight necessary to ensure more business-critical services get priority treatment. With this guidance, the IT organizations can make informed prioritization decisions that effectively meet the needs of the business -- whether those decisions have to do with requests for new IT services, support for existing ones, or the disciplined management of change.
Consider, for example, a large retailer with a highly redundant, secure IT infrastructure supporting its online storefront. The firm decides to offer a special promotion during the holidays and expects order volume to spike. Business managers want to ensure that the promotion goes smoothly and generates additional revenue. IT professionals must determine how to do this without disrupting the other services being delivered over the existing infrastructure.
An enterprise “IT blueprint” enables an IT organization to have a complete view into the services provided to the business. For example, an IT organization can determine whether additional database storage is needed---and whether it may be necessary to increase network capacity between the firm’s datacenter and key access points across the U.S. IT can translate the requirements of the business into a specific set of actions, such as an instruction to the network team to increase the bandwidth.
Leading IT organizations consider the use of an “IT blueprint”– often referred to as a Unified Service Model – to be a best practice for ensuring the delivery of high-quality, high-value services on a consistent basis. With this holistic view of IT services, IT professionals have a practical set of guidelines for how to best work with the applications, networks, systems and databases to fulfill their individual responsibilities and best meet the needs of the business.
The blueprint of a business service is not a static “snapshot”. It is a dynamic model that any IT professional can use to determine the ideal course of action when adding or changing some aspect of that environment. Since change requests are a constant fact of life in IT, a Unified Service Model t is something IT professionals need on an almost daily basis.
A Unified Service Model provides insight into the service definition—that is, the assets, people and processes that support each service--and key information about each service such as costs, service levels, problems, incidents, events and projects related to the service. A Unified Service Model is typically implemented via a CMDB with significant integration to other management tools that provide deeper insight into service attributes.
As an example, an insurance company may discover that for competitive reasons it must reduce by 50 percent the time it takes to provide quotes. With a Unified Service Model, the company’s IT organization can take a 360-degree view into how quotes are delivered, which IT assets support them, what changes are needed to achieve the faster processing times, and how those changes may impact other services. IT can thereby respond to this request with a dollar figure and an impact assessment, so that an informed decision can be made about whether to pursue a full 50 percent reduction in processing time – or whether a smaller improvement is more financially prudent.

The concept of an “IT blueprint” has been a long-time coming, but its time appears to have finally arrived. Business users and IT professionals alike recognize the central role that technology plays in driving the business. By implementing a Unified Service Model, these two groups can reap the benefits of having a common language for keeping technology spending tightly aligned with the real needs of the business.