Service Lifecycle Management

I attended a presentation from Raul Camacho from the SOA Solutions group of Microsoft Consulting Services yesterday. The talk provided some good details on some of the technical challenges associated with lifecycle events associated with services, such as the inevitable changes to the interface, adding new consumers, etc., but I actually thought it was pretty weak on the topic. I thought for sure that I had a blog post on the subject, but I was surprised to find that I didn’t. Some time ago (January of 2007, to be specific) I indicated that I would have a dedicated post, but the only thing I found was my post on product centered development versus project-centered development. While that post has many of the same elements, I thought I’d put together a more focused post.

The first point, and a very important point, is that the service lifecycle is not a project lifecycle or just the SDLC for a service. It is a continuous process that begins when a service is identified and ends when the last version of a service is decommissioned from production. In between, you’ll have many SDLC efforts associated with each version of the service. I presented this in my previous post like this.

Raul’s talk gave a very similar view, again presenting the lifecycle as a circle with an on-ramp of service identification. The activities he mentioned in his talk were:

  • Service Identification
  • Service Development
  • Service Provisioning
  • Service Consumption
  • Service Management

There’s many similarities between these two. We both had the same on-ramp. I broke out the SDLC into a bit more detail with steps of release definition, development, testing, and deployment, while Raul bundled these into two steps of development and provisioning. We both had management steps, although mine labeled it as the triple-M of monitoring, marketing, and management. The one key difference was Raul’s inclusion of a step of service consumption. I didn’t include this in my lifecycle, since, in my opinion, service consumption is associated with the lifecycle of the consumer, not with the lifecycle of the service. That being said, service consumption can not be ignored, and is often the event that will trigger a new release of the service, so I can understand why one may want to include it in the picture.

The thing that Raul did not mention in his talk, which I feel is an important aspect, is the role of the Service Manager. We don’t need Service Lifecycle Management if there isn’t a Service Manager to manage it. Things fall apart when there isn’t clear lines of responsibility for all things about a service. For example, a frequent occurrence is where the first version of a service is built by a team that is responsible for both the initial consumer and the service. If service ownership and management falls to this team, it is at best a secondary interest, because their real focus was on the delivery of the service consumer, not of the service itself. A second approach that many organizations may take is to create a centralized service team. While this ensures that the ownership question will get resolved, it has scalability problems because centralized teams are usually created based upon technical expertise. Service ownership and management has more to do with the business capability being provided by the service than it does with the underlying technologies used to implement it. So, once again, there are risks that a centralized group will lack the business domain knowledge required for effective management. My recommendation is to align service management along functional domains. A service manager will likely manage multiple services, simply because there will be services that change frequently and some that change infrequently, so having one manager per service won’t make for an even distribution of work. The one thing to avoid, however, is to have the same person managing both the service and the consumer of a service. Even where there is very high confidence that a service will only have one consumer for the foreseeable future, I think it’s preferable to set the standard of separation of consumer from provider.

So, beyond managing the releases of each service, what does a service manager do? Well, again, it comes back to the three M’s: Monitor, Market, and Manage. Monitoring is about keeping an eye on how the service is behaving and being used by consumers. It has to be a daily practice, not one that only happens when a red light goes off indicating a problem. Marketing is about seeking out new consumers of the service. Whether it’s for internal or external use, marketing is a critical factor in achieving reuse of the service. If no one knows about it, it’s unlikely to be reused. Finally, the manage component is all about the consumer-provider relationship. It will involve bringing on new consumers found through marketing and communication which may result in a new version, provisioning of additional capacity, or minimally the configuration of the infrastructure to enforce the policies of the service contract. It will also involve discussions with existing consumers based on the trends observed through the monitoring activity. What’s bad is when there is no management. I always like to ask people to think about using an external service provider. Even in cases where the service is a commodity with very predictable performance, such as getting electricity into your house, there still needs to be some communication to keep the relationship healthy.

I hope this gives you an idea of my take on service lifecycle management. If there’s more that you’d like to hear, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment or send me an email.

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