Understanding Your Engagement Model

People who have worked with me know that I’m somewhat passionate about having a well-defined engagement model. More often than not, I think we’ve created challenges for ourselves due to poorly-defined engagement models. The engagement model normally consists of “Talk to Person A” or “Talk to Team B” which means that you’re going to get a different result every time. It also means that interaction is going to be different, because no one is going to come to Person A or Team B with the same set of information, so the engagement is likely to evolve over time. In some cases, this is fine. If you’re part of your engagement model is to provide mentoring in a particular domain, then you need to recognize that the structure of the engagement will likely be time-based rather than information-based, at least in terms of the cost. Think of it as the difference between a fixed-cost standard offering, and a variable cost (usually based on time) from a consulting firm. I frequently recommend that teams try to express their service offerings in this manner, especially when involved in the project estimation process. Define what services should be fixed cost and define what services are variable cost, and what that variance depends on. This should be part of the process for operationalizing a service, and someone should be reviewing the team’s effort to make sure they’ve thought about these concerns.

When thinking about your services in the ITSM sense, it’s good to create a well-defined interface, just as we do in the web service sense. Think about how other teams will interact with your services. In some cases, it may be an asynchronous interaction via artifacts. An EA team may produce reference models, patterns, etc. for other teams to use in their projects. These artifacts are designed in their own timeline, separate from any project, and projects can access them at will. Requests to update them based on new information go into a queue and are executed according to the priority of the EA manager. On the other hand, an architecture review is executed synchronously, with a project team making a request for a review, provided they have the required inputs (an architectural specification, in most cases), with the output being the recommendations of the reviewer, and possibly a formal approval to proceed forward (or not).

If you’re providing infrastructure services, such as new servers, or configuration of load balancers, etc., in addition to the project-based interactions, you must also think about what your services are at run-time. While most teams include troubleshooting services, sometimes the interface is lacking definition. In addition, run-time services need to go beyond troubleshooting. When the dashboard lights are all green, what services do you provide? Do you provide reports to the customers of your services? There’s a wealth of information to be learned by observing the behavior of the system when things are going well, and that information can lead to service improvements, whether yours or someone else’s. Think about this when you’re defining your service.

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