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Creating Conditions for Collaboration

A view of the conditions for collaboration

From the ‘whistle’ to an ‘Orchestra’ – Conditions of Collaboration for building Service Integration and Management ecosystems

Our latest guest blog comes from SIAM author Biju Pillai. In this blog, Biju shares his experiences creating an effective system for collaboration in a SIAM ecosystem. You will find Biju’s contact information at the end of the post, and we’d like to thank Biju for sharing this valuable content.

Introduction

“When was ever honey made with one bee in a hive?” – Thomas Hood

A very apt statement for multi-supplier scenarios in an age where keeping up to speed with technology and market change calls for extensive partnerships.

Service integration is an art that involves bringing together service components and Service Providers for seamless service delivery and experience.

However, to avoid fragmented Service Integration and Management (SIAM), the heart of the SIAM ecosystem will require a collaborative effort from everyone to mobilize and fine tune, be it service providers, service integrator or client. Hence it is imperative for service providers to understand what is expected from them to join the SIAM ecosystem and how the model will work. In a complex sourcing environment; reaching the level of maturity in which all parties understand their role and responsibilities, are empowered to deliver, and are held accountable for their outcomes is not a natural progression unless careful planning, the right contract models and setting expectations are taken care of. Every SIAM model will consist of a variety of service providers; some of them are newly appointed and some are retained. The service integrator must be recognized as the customer’s agent, and this needs to reflect in both service integrator and service provider contracts. Using ‘right to manage’ clauses and language in sourcing contracts may give the service integrator the legal basis for their activities. However, to reach this stage, the potential players in a SIAM ecosystem first must know what will be their ‘Conditions of Collaboration’.

This article tries to dissect the concept of Conditions of Collaboration and how it will be useful for aligning expectations with service providers early in the game. In a way, Conditions of Collaboration can also be termed as a ‘curtain raiser’ for service providers on what can be expected when they are formally inducted to the SIAM ecosystem.

The relevance of Conditions of Collaboration

SIAM can span every facet of the IT operating model across the IT service supply chain. To ensure SIAM will have the ‘teeth’ to cut across the IT service supply chain, the concept of Conditions of Collaboration can be used. If used effectively, Conditions of Collaboration will act as the means of soliciting cooperation from service providers in order to operationalize SIAM and can drastically reduce the lead time and complexities involved in signing SIAM Collaboration Agreements. The Conditions of Collaboration are architected to drive a consistent way of managing IT services across the client’s service providers.

There are four main demarcation points to construct Conditions of Collaboration. Conditions of Collaboration is not a standalone element but consists of multiple artefacts and a progressive development approach. The components complement each other. Conditions of Collaboration act as the primary means to communicate the vision, objectives, working model and service providers’ responsibilities at a high-level.

  1. Contractual – SLA, OLA, Collaboration Agreement and SoW. These documents facilitate the contractual requirements between the service provider, client and service integrator.
  2. Governance – The SIAM governance boards form a large part of the interactions among stakeholders. The SIAM operational procedures document clearly both the activities and the roles required to establish the governance layer.
  3. Platform Systems – This comprises the various systems that are implemented as a result of the toolset deployment. This covers details about the standard ticket categories, priorities, impact vs urgency matrix, automated escalations, SLA clock stop- start conditions, and Service Maps with configuration item (CI) dependencies.
  4. Roles – These are the assigned roles and responsibilities that follow both the governance responsibilities, as well as the individual process responsibilities.

A view of the conditions for collaboration

The major triggers for developing and communicating Conditions of Collaboration to the potential service providers are below:

Conditions of Collaboration – A launch pad for sourcing discussions

It is a recommended to discuss the Conditions of Collaboration with potential service providers during the initial contracting phase and then formalize them while onboarding the service provider to the SIAM ecosystem. As the ecosystem partnership model matures and as the ‘rules of the club’ are honoured, the ecosystem is mobilized to craft solutions for new initiatives. It also governs selected renewals or enhancements to contribute to the IT strategy. The ecosystem is therefore a key contributor to continual service improvement initiatives. Conditions of Collaboration act as the guardrails to define a service provider’s interactions with client, service integrator and other service providers within the ecosystem. Service provider on-boarding is the process of introducing a service provider to the SIAM ecosystem. With proper Conditions of Collaboration, SIAM along with the set of processes and procedures, encourages a distinctive set of behaviours in this community.

The following are the major activities that happen as part of service provider on-boarding:

Conditions of Collaboration – A Conceptual Representation
Conditions of Collaboration – A Conceptual Representation

In the following sections, let’s examine each elements of Conditions of Collaboration in detail:

Contractual

The contractual element of Conditions of Collaboration is to stipulate in the service provider contracts that they will be required to define and operationalize Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) with other service providers (s) at no cost to the client. The service provider understands and considers the SIAM governance model within which the service provider will participate accordingly for meetings and reporting. Contracts should also warrant that service providers understand the roles required in their organizations in order to engage with the SIAM ecosystem and stakeholders. Most importantly, the contractual element will ensure that service providers will sign up to and participate in the definition and operationalization of end-to-end service levels. The contract will also stipulate that the service integrator is an agent of the client.

To ensure service provider contributions are visible in the ecosystem; performance transparency is critical. The contractual element of Conditions of Collaboration can set expectations that each service provider will be obliged to provide data to bring performance transparency and willing to walk along with the client and service integrator in the long journey of tackling the maturity curve. The stages of this maturity curve can be broadly summarised as below.

Service provider onboarded:

Three months after the onboarding:

Six months and beyond after the onboarding

Governance

The proposed governance model for service providers is a 3-tier model that is supported by a structure of governance boards and forums which have clear attendees, objectives, accountabilities and frequency. The governance structure is aligned to the SIAM model. The construction of each tier includes one or more boards or forums designed to provide the means for communication, collaboration, escalation, issue management and continual improvement.

The 7 key elements of Governance are critical for the success of SIAM. These are:

  1. Cross-ecosystem collaboration: Create an environment of trust amongst the service providers by maintaining transparency in decision making and resolving disputes backed by strong data points
  2. Service process assurance: To ensure that defined processes and policies are implemented and complied with across the service providers
  3. Service provider performance management: Monitor and report on the performance of service providers as against the contractual requirements
  4. Process knowledge management: Create awareness of standard SIAM processes, policies and tools across supplies and impart knowledge about SIAM related principles, guidelines, agreements etc.
  5. SLA compliance: Ensure existing service levels as agreed in the contracts are met for all the service providers and provide a seamless mechanism to monitor and report the SLA compliance across service providers
  6. Service control: Enhance the governance framework to oversee and control the service delivery in a multi service provider environment
  7. Continual service improvement: Continually align IT services to the changing business needs by identifying and implementing and focus on increasing the efficiency and maximizing effectiveness

Platform Systems

This section of the Conditions of Collaboration sets the expectation that there will be a ‘single source of truth’. Service provider cooperation is expected including either using the Client’s ITSM Platform Systems directly or providing required level of technical integrations to Client’s ITSM Platform Systems. The conditions can be either one of the below.

  1. Service provider will use Client’s ITSM Platform System
  2. Service provider will integrate their ITSM Platform System to Client’s Platform System

The Conditions of Collaboration can also cover statements about how to maintain CMDB integrity in a multi-supplier scenario. The possible conditions are outline below:

  1. Third Party plugins (like SCCM) integrated to Client’s ITSM Platform System
  2. Webservice Integration using ITSM Platform APIs – for example service providers will invoke predefined API methods to insert/upload data to Client’s ITSM Platform System
  3. Flat File integration – service providers will provide flat files of CIs to be uploaded into Client’s ITSM Platform System

Roles

SIAM operational governance is a management activity that centres around key operating decisions by managers, IT staff and IT service providers. The major elements of this include:

This operational governance is the missing link that can help client organizations in their efforts to convert IT delivery into value-based business aligned service. For building mutually beneficial IT sourcing and operational models, human elements need to be aligned to build a successful service provider – client relationship. A well-defined responsibility matrix (RACI) will ensure that the transition and transformation of the SIAM ecosystem will be sustainable to ensure seamless service delivery. This should focus on aligning operational governance with a robust RACI model supported with service level agreements. It is imperative to maintain an atmosphere of mutual benefit and collaboration between all parties to overlay an efficient RACI.

The role of Conditions of Collaboration in the Business Perspective

SIAM can uplift user experience and connect IT to the business perspective. However, this can happen only with a well-orchestrated effort as part of transformational initiatives by soliciting service provider partnerships to tackle through this quantum change. The major building blocks of the business perspective are:

Organisational Change Management is the ‘behind-the-curtain’ element to bring a paradigm shift in the way IT is being perceived.  Service providers have a pivotal role in the success of this. Below can be some of the very specific expectations from service providers that can be discussed as part of Conditions of Collaboration:

A few of the expectations from service providers in Cross Tower Knowledge Management:

In Conclusion

The author believes that spending adequate effort developing the Conditions of Collaboration during the initial stages of SIAM planning will help both the client and service integrator to develop improved insights into what they really required from service providers. In that sense, Conditions of Collaboration can act as a strong foundational tool and guiderails for the larger SIAM implementation to significantly reduce complexities in contracting and onboarding service providers to the SIAM model.

As a Chinese saying goes ‘a river without a source is like a tree without roots’ hence it is beneficial for everyone to plan and prepare the foundations properly to guarantee that money, vision, dreams and ambitions invested in a service integration model will only blossom further.

Author Profile

Biju Pillai has more than 20 years of experience in Information Technology Consulting and was a contributing author and reviewer of SIAM Professional BoK. He is based out of Melbourne, Australia and associated with Capgemini’s SIAM practice. He can be contacted on bijupillai2008@yahoo.com or +61 426063540