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Should Enterprise Architecture Handle Service Portfolio Management?

I was approached recently about working with a group that's re-evaluating their service catalogue. In their transformation to incorporate the best practices of public and private cloud services, they have realized that their current portfolio of thousands of applications needs to be vetted and that the urgency and best-practice necessity of creating a service catalogue is now a priority activity. An interesting question arose: Who in the organization should be responsible for doing this?  


Let me provide a little background. The Service Catalogue, aka Service Portfolio, aka Services is the definitive list of IT services that a mature enterprise will offer its business entities and users. Service Catalogue Management is well defined in the ITIL framework, but similar portfolio practices are defined in The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), Val IT, and other IT frameworks.


Many enterprises have evolved their own portfolio management style and may be using it to categorize their sprawl of applications, middleware, infrastructure and projects. Consolidation for simplification and cost reduction is a typical goal. When the cloud opportunities come along, service definition and management become a key initiative. If the organization hasn’t yet given service definition any attention, it will. These services are the “something-as-a-service” we all see and can embrace for the cloud. A CRM app, for example, may be a service, web server deployment, database services, linux server, virtual desktop, etc. Although this service definition is a best practice for all enterprises, the offering of cloud services as a private cloud (offered by the enterprise to users), or as a public cloud, is what makes the service catalogue and portfolio management more urgent.


Restated, with the cloud promise of agility, cost savings and automated provisioning, the portfolio management activity is now given priority to move toward a structured service management, and specifically a service portfolio definition for the cloud services. Maybe more accurately, service management is easily visualized as an exercise of what should be deployed on cloud-based technologies like HP CloudSystem, and what should remain deployed through traditional IT practices. The resulting service catalogue is a key definition of those operational services.


So, the question on the table is, “Who does this portfolio management?” This is traditionally done by the infrastructure- and operations-focused staff, who usually categorize their offerings to align with Service Level Agreements (SLA), Operational Level Agreements (OLA), availability and business continuity. The services in the catalogue, in this age of the cloud, are driven appropriately by offerings aligned to strategy. The services must be designed or redesigned to accommodate the cloud deployment in some cases. That fits the typical role of the enterprise architect.


Interestingly enough, Forrester registered in on this topic early this year with an article by Henry Peyret (read an executive summary of Peyret’s article, titled Integrate EA With ITIL Service Portfolio Management).This author maintains that EA tends to be focused on IT Strategy and IT Design, two ITIL-defined process domains. The traditional ITIL focus has been on the IT Service Operations, Transitions, and Continuous Service Improvement, leaving the Strategy and Design to the architecture community and the enterprise architects who should be involved or lead the effort.


I believe that this is an accurate representation of many enterprise situations, and I support this recommendation that the enterprise architecture practice should lead, or at least heavily contribute to the definition and evolution of the service catalogue and portfolio management in general.


Leveraging the benefits of EA is one of the improvement mechanisms available to the enterprise, whether for cloud, traditional or hybrid services. HP Strategic IT Advisory Services (SITAS) is prepared to assist you with enterprise architecture planning and design to improve your leverage of IT to support the business. IT Service Strategy is a key part of this strategy, whether it is led through your operations management team or enterprise architecture practice.

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About the Author
Ken Larson has over 30 years of experience in Information Technology aligning business to technology. As an Enterprise Architect, he has del...

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