From the Briefing Room: A Look Into Enterprise Service Management

Enterprise Service Management (ESM) has increasingly become a pillar in which AHEAD has developed a reputation as a trusted advisor. AHEAD was just recognized with both ServiceNow Gold Services and Gold Sales partner status—the highest level partner designation for the ESM platform. The designation was based on AHEAD’s experience, expertise, competencies, and specializations below:

As AHEAD’s ESM practice matures, one way to learn more about our ESM subject matter expertise is to visit one of our offices—usually our Chicago headquarters—for an in-depth briefing. The AHEAD Lab and Briefing Center offers customized agendas around your digital transformation goals and provides a unique opportunity for in-depth exchanges with our team of technology experts spanning ESM, cloud, data center, security, and DevOps.

Every client has unique concerns or issues, which is why as AHEAD’s ESM Services Director, I love being a part of the program: Every day is different and challenging. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a rockstar team to ensure each client walks away with a valuable, holistic perspective on strategy and initiatives to move their business forward.

As I mentioned, every briefing is different, but the client pain points I see in the ESM space are same. At the heart of it, our clients want to run IT like a business, which means improving speed—and quality—of service delivered with rigor, governance, and measurement. In a “do-more-with-less world,” they don’t want to focus on just “keeping the lights on,” but productivity and innovation, which means cutting the number of approvals and manual steps required to deliver service. Many have also inherited a complex, legacy IT environment with silos of data and technology, so it’s important to have complete transparency into what—and how—IT is doing as a service provider, both internally and externally.

The AHEAD ESM Briefing Experience

To give you the full briefing experience, let’s take a look at an ESM technical briefing we recently conducted with a mid-sized biopharmaceutical company. Our goal was to educate this client on new and emerging enterprise IT technology capabilities in the disciplines of cloud computing, data center operations, and infrastructure. ESM touches nearly every area of IT and through our Enterprise Cloud Delivery Framework and team of experts, we’re able to “stitch” those technologies to ensure clients are maximizing the value of platforms like ServiceNow:

With their IT Operations Manager, Data Center Architect, and Technical Consultant in tow, the client needed answers to several questions, but here are the top three:

  • For the types of applications we’re running and our compliance frameworks, should we migrate to Azure or should we build a private cloud? How can we reduce our data center footprint?
  • How we can utilize, optimize, and manage our existing instance of ServiceNow? How can our existing technologies like UCS Director and vRealize Automation integrate with ServiceNow?
  • At the end of the day, how do we manage all of this data within our CMDB?

Armed with that information, our team of technical and solutions architects, client directors, and our VP of Engineering developed a briefing to answer those questions and more. Here’s a snapshot of the agenda, along with a few talking points for each session to give you a better idea of what to expect in your own customized briefing:

On the Agenda

Lunch, Welcome & Introductions

Did I mention there’s food? You can’t innovate on an empty stomach and this was a great time to educate the client on AHEAD’s briefing program, get to know their team (and vice versa), and set the tone for the half-day session AHEAD of us (See what I did there…).

Voice of the Customer: Current and Desired Future State, Goals, Use Cases, and Initiatives

While I mentioned a few pain points and objectives above, this is where we really took a deep dive into the client’s existing environment. Because, after all, if we don’t understand a client’s problems, we can’t help to solve them. The client’s IT Operations Manager gave us a detailed explanation of their current technology stack and department projects. It’s tough to summarize such a robust environment in a few sentences, but here are a few snapshots of their goals:

  • The client needed a strategy and decision tree to make the case for a private cloud versus Azure. They indicated there may be a time when, regardless of our ultimate recommendation, they would need to move workloads to Azure for short-term use, fast and easy spin-off, as well as OPEX reasons. In the end, the AHEAD team would need to build this into the strategy and as an endpoint in the design.
  • The client indicated they currently had UCS-D v 6.5 deployed and some basic integrations for Windows and Linux built out with AD and Infoblox (IPAM and DNS). As a part of the build process, they would need the AHEAD team to engage and develop the needed workflows within UCS-D to open a ServiceNow change request, update a change request, and close a change request.
  • In work stream two, the client also needed assistance in developing a ServiceNow service that calls a UCS-D workflow and allows a user to provision on

Ultimately, the client gave us the analogy that they wanted us to “build the on-ramp, not the highway.” Our team needed to help them develop a strategy and roadmap to leverage ServiceNow, execute tasks like building chargeback models and the service catalog, and ultimately, help them become faster and more agile with their product launches (to name a few).

AHEAD Enterprise Cloud Delivery Framework (ECDF) Overview

As you saw above in the ECDF graphic, this is where—after listening to the client’s needs and objectives—we give an overview of how the AHEAD services organization “stitches” together technologies across every solution area. We pride ourselves on having next-gen, cutting-edge technology in the AHEAD Lab and in this overview, we discussed AHEAD’s new solutions and services offerings, along with AHEAD’s deliverables and engagement structure.

ServiceNow Cloud Management Platform

While the client already had a ServiceNow instance, it wasn’t built out properly and they wanted to realize the full potential of the platform and hear key differentiators. As a former ServiceNow product manager, I’m more than familiar with its capabilities and features that set it apart from other CMPs. We educated the client on how it provides a self-service portal for end users to self-provision cloud resources and to perform “Day Two” operations like stop, start, and terminate. ServiceNow also provides the capability to define self-service catalog requests that are cloud-agnostic blueprints built from reusable building blocks (like compute, network, and storage). The ability to assign quotas to users and groups to limit how many cloud resources can be provisioned also resonated well with the client. Lastly, it was well-suited for them since they’re an existing ServiceNow ITSM customer and they were looking for cloud automation services with Azure. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Automation & Orchestration Discussion

It was key to provide the client with the state of the cloud market, automation, orchestration, and configuration management tools, along with vendor comparisons and landscape. Ultimately, we want what’s best for the client’s needs and are vendor agnostic, so it was critical to give them a 360-degree view of what’s out there—and what works for their current environment. We also gave the client an overview of AHEAD’s proprietary methodology for building a cloud and walked through recent success stories from other enterprise IT clients.

Cloud Management Platform Discussion and What’s Next? (ServiceNow/UCS-D)

It’s important to understand how to execute on your cloud initiative, which is why we showcased the capabilities of their current cloud management platforms—and how those will develop over time. We also demonstrated the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) reference architecture that AHEAD utilizes to ensure successful cloud deployments while leveraging existing and future tool-sets.

Public Cloud Discussion (ServiceNow & Azure)

Developing a decision tree for private versus public cloud was a critical objective for this client. That’s why we conducted a session to review Azure common services and design principles, as well as goals and success factors for a successful cloud deployment. We also discussed AHEAD’s Well-Architected Framework, which is designed to provide the client with high-level guidance and best practices—not an audit. This framework would enable the client to build and maintain secure, reliable, performant, cost optimized, and operationally-excellent applications in the cloud.

Wrap-Up & Next Steps

In my opinion, what makes our briefings valuable is that we don’t painfully roll through slides and drone on about use cases and capabilities. The most effective briefings are where we’re truly able to have productive and meaningful conversations with our client, and work together to solve complex current and future state problems. This briefing was just that—lots of challenging questions and some damn good whiteboarding. A lot of companies can help you implement ServiceNow, but in most cases, that’s all they know. We provided this client with not only how ServiceNow works, but how it would integrate into the future of their other systems. AHEAD’s “secret sauce” is in the stitching and throughout the briefing, our solutions teams were already formulating the client’s strategy and roadmap to help them extend the reach and impact of their ServiceNow platform.

Briefing Feedback Survey

The AHEAD Lab and Briefing Center wouldn’t be what it is today without continued, honest feedback. At the end of every briefing, we want to know what the most—and least—effective sessions were so we can continue to improve our program and ensure topics are resonating with the right audiences. The survey only takes a few minutes and we’re always looking for constructive criticism and feedback, so let us know how we did (Don’t worry—we’ve got thick skin!).

The above briefing was just a snapshot of the ESM topics we offer, so take a look at additional topics below or check out our AHEAD Lab and Briefing Center Catalog on this page for even more sessions spanning cloud management, DevOps, security, and infrastructure.

ESM Briefing Topics

Innovation Starts Here

Want to learn more? Check out this video and get in touch to set up a briefing to leverage AHEAD’s industry experts and next-gen solutions to accelerate your evaluation process and emerge with a comprehensive strategy.