MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap White Paper

Published: February 14, 2006


The goal of this paper is to define continuous improvement in the context of the Microsoft platform and to explain how the Microsoft® Operations Framework (MOF) Continuous Improvement Roadmap can play a role in helping organizations continuously improve the quality of their IT services.

What Is Continuous Improvement?

As business continues to become more competitive, organizations are finding that they are more dependent than ever on information technology (IT), not less. At the same time, organizations are taking harder looks at their investments in the very technology they have become so dependent on and asking increasingly difficult questions about the costs of this technology.

This is not a new phenomenon. There have been questions about the value of technology almost since the onset of the high-tech era. But a series of events—including the cost of Y2K compliance, the dot com bust, and the recession brought on by the 9/11 terrorist attacks—has lent a new urgency to those questions.

So, what is the answer?

Getting “the best bang for every IT buck spent,” according to Robert McDowell, a Microsoft vice president, and co-author of In Search of Business Value: Ensuring a Return on Your Technology Investment.

Getting the best bang for every IT buck spent means that organizations need their IT service providers to deliver standardized, predictable, quality services that support the business and enhance its responsiveness.

The only way IT service providers can meet these demands is to get better at what they do, and then keep on getting better.

This is continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is as much a mindset as anything else. It is the acceptance of the idea that improving the delivery of an IT service or services is not something that is performed once and is then forgotten, but is instead an ongoing process.

For IT service providers, continuous improvement is a journey directed toward sustained quality of IT services. It is delivering IT services to meet business needs and requirements. Achieving this end requires not only an understanding of external market competitive issues, but also an appreciation of the potential gap between what businesses need in order to meet compliance requirements and the ability of their internal IT departments to deliver a portfolio of services that meets those needs.

Continuous improvement, then, is the ongoing process of taking advantage of successes, actively building on them, and adding necessary service and business-impacting improvements.

What Drives the Need to Improve?

In responding to a growing dependency on their services and the expectation that they should do more with less, many successful IT departments have, over the past several years, shifted from simply operating the IT infrastructure toward providing solutions and services that more directly link to providing business value.

In short, they have moved toward a business-needs–focused service management orientation. An essential component of a service management orientation is the concept of a managed services portfolio, which, in its simplest form, is the recognition that IT service providers are responsible for providing a catalog of IT services. Some of these business-supporting services are delivered using service level agreements (SLAs), while others are component services that support the business service itself.

The benefits of organizing around services rather than technology include:

  • Cost efficiency
  • Quality assurance
  • Compliance enablement

Given the pace of change in IT and business, consistently achieving these benefits requires an approach that is clearly not a one-time effort, but rather something that is ongoing—in other words, continuous improvement.

To be successful, continuous improvement requires a cultural change: a change in mindset that leads to changes in how day-to-day work is done. It requires an environment that encourages proactive improvement of a managed service portfolio and the IT customer experience, one that is framed in business value and business benefit, and which considers the requirements of market regularity and the business needs regarding compliance and governance. Success at continuous improvement requires consideration of not just the technology, but also the people and processes that make up IT services.

Business Value of IT

Much analysis and many models have been devoted to the question of what business value is; but in the end, all of these analyses and models focus on three critical factors—managing quality, cost, and compliance, where:

  • Quality addresses how well a product or service satisfies stated and implied needs. In other words, IT service quality is a measure of whether the IT service in question meets the needs specifically required of it by the business or fulfills the expectations that its customers have for it.Delivering quality requires the supplier to continuously assess how well the service is currently being delivered, as well as to identify what the customer for the service expects in the future. This ongoing process is typically defined in an SLA that helps manage business expectations for such things as the reliability, availability, and performance of a service.
  • Cost is what the customer is willing to pay for a service, framed in terms of its quality and its ability to meet compliance requirements. If the quality of the service is what was promised—through an SLA—and the cost is what was agreed to for that level of service, then the cost will be perceived as reasonable.
  • Compliance addresses the ability of IT to report on the service dynamics with key performance indicators (KPIs) that support corporate governance and compliance requirements, as well as market regulatory requirements.

Competitive advantage can be obtained from IT in many ways, but the ability to deliver IT services cheaper and faster—with higher quality while supporting industry regulatory and governance compliance requirements—ensures that corporations achieve higher profits and better competitive positions in the marketplace.

To understand the importance of continuous improvement of IT services, one has to start with the premise that IT services exist only to meet the needs of the business and that improving the quality of those services is important because doing so helps increase their business value. If an IT service does not provide value to the business, then the money spent on it isn’t being spent effectively.

Organizations are continually faced with the need for optimizing their managed services portfolio, with doing more with less, and with improving quality, all while reducing costs and meeting regulatory demands. Many organizations have a year-over-year requirement to reduce overall budgets while maintaining their managed service portfolios and adding new and compelling services.

Many organizations are looking to IT service management as a way to organize around services and continuously improve the quality of those services. IT service management is concerned with delivering and supporting IT services that are implemented in direct response to the organization’s business requirements. While it is essential that an organization’s IT services support core business activities, it is also increasingly important that these same IT services facilitate change as businesses evolve and compete in a global marketplace. IT must become a primary stakeholder in the business decision-making process.

Businesses also need their IT service providers to support corporate governance and compliance requirements by providing business-focused balanced scorecards detailing IT service management metrics.

Providing those services and scorecards requires IT organizations to have a clear understanding of where they are in relation to where they want to be, how they are going to get where they want to be, and how they will know when they’ve arrived. Iteratively posing, answering, and acting on the answers to these questions makes up the fundamental processes of continuous improvement.

The systems management business is currently at $140 billion and is projected to reach $200 billion by 2008, but only about 6 percent of those costs can be attributed to the purchase of such management software as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) or Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). Most goes to such things as services, consultants, and outsourcing.

Why? Because IT is complex and difficult to manage and represents a cost that businesses naturally want to get under control and reduce.

Evidence of just how complex managing IT can be is found in this startling statistic: 70 percent or more of IT resources are typically spent just maintaining existing systems, leaving only 30 percent for new investments and value-added activity.

Many organizations say they are looking for ways to reduce maintenance costs (often non-discretionary spending) and divert more funds to new business (discretionary costs). If businesses can reduce the cost of maintaining their IT systems and free up resources, this offers them a massive opportunity to derive more value from their IT investments.

Managing an IT Service Portfolio

In order to help their businesses understand the IT services they are getting and determine the business value of these services, IT service providers need to define the services they provide. This is typically done through a menu of services called a service catalog—a comprehensive list of IT services, including priorities of the business and corresponding SLAs. Creating such a catalog sounds fairly straightforward; but in reality, creating a definitive list of IT services for an organization can be a daunting task.

A helpful place to start is with developing a working definition of a service. The IT Service Management Forum (itSMF), in the book IT Service Management, an Introduction, describes an IT service in this way: “The provision of IT services refers to the full management—maintenance and operation—of the IT infrastructure.”

Implementing Service and Support Management Processes: A Practical Guide offers this definition: A service is “...a business function delivered by one or more IT service components (hardware, software, and facility) for business use.”

In short, an IT service consists of people, processes, and technology that, when combined, satisfy a business requirement. Examples include messaging, payroll, electronic commerce, Web-based marketing, customer-relationship–management systems, Web-based customer service, and financial packages.

An organization’s service portfolio, then, is a collection of those services that form the basis for the relationship between the business and IT. It describes the services the business consumes in terms of functional and operational capabilities. It also defines how this is measured in terms of performance capabilities that in turn make up the SLAs and IT scorecard.

Why Is Continuous Improvement Important?

Continuous changes in business demands and continuous changes in the elements that constitute the IT service provider itself require continuous improvement in IT services—just to keep pace with demands and changes, let alone to outpace them.

Businesses frequently ask their IT organizations for quality, agile services to improve or enhance customer experiences and increase their profitability. The challenge facing service management is for IT organizations to be able to adequately provide all existing services and still be agile and responsive to business needs.

Businesses are often motivated to want to improve as the result of some specific event or catalyst, such as a catastrophic failure; a new requirement, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, or other regulatory governance requirement; or as the result of a service management assessment, either through a consultant-led formal assessment or a more informal self-assessment. Triggers that motivate the business need for IT service improvement include:

  • IT service issues that are affecting or may affect business performance, such as outages, loss of data, unavailable services, and security breaches.
  • Issues with gaps between customer expectations and perceptions of IT services and between service specifications and actual service delivery, and issues with communication about IT services.
  • Inability to consistently meet agreed-to levels of service to the business.
  • Performance issues with outsourced service providers.
  • Customer satisfaction issues.
  • The need to increase staff productivity.
  • The need to reduce unplanned work, such as the amount of time spent “firefighting” and addressing chronic problems.
  • Cost-reduction requests so that organizations can stay competitive.

Other triggers for service improvement are business-driven requests, such as:

  • The need to reduce costs and to reduce or reallocate headcount.
  • The opportunity to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness of IT services.
  • The requirement to utilize existing investments in technology.
  • The need to do more with less.
  • New service architecture. Businesses may engage in the assessment process to evaluate current operational capabilities when defining new service definition requirements. This allows the business to identify any potential differences in operational capabilities for the new service prior to significant development.
  • Compliance help requests.Regulatory requirements and quality management initiatives and requirements are forcing IT organizations to report on performance and be more transparent while continuing to deliver high value to their customers.Businesses also need help in meeting and enhancing their compliance with such regulatory measures as Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPPA and in mitigating risks to the business posed by compliance issues with mission- and business-critical IT services.

In short, there are a number of good reasons for seeking service management improvement.

IT customers will either achieve their improvement goals on their own through their internal efforts or they may engage a partner to execute a formal assessment and service improvement program. Historically an ITIL/MOF assessment has focused entirely on the context of operational best practices. Generally, there is little mention of business benefit or prioritization and few references to services. Customers have been left with many recommendations but with no clear action plan for remediation or service improvement. Customers diligent enough to prioritize the recommendations and move forward with a service improvement program have struggled with knowing when they have arrived. In many cases, with the business value and impact of the investment in improvement not realized, the IT customer goes back to the “old” way of getting the job done.

The MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap

The MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap is a vehicle for helping to break the cycle of unrealized improvement goals by making continuous improvement of IT services more actionable and achievable. The primary goal of the Roadmap is helping customers be successful with the Microsoft platform while providing linkages to existing and established service management best practices and investments.

The Roadmap is intended to build on IT organizations’ current capabilities and successes by:

  • Offering actionable and achievable improvement, framed in business value and benefit, that addresses capability, positioning, or improvement of quality, cost, and compliance in the context of a managed services portfolio.
  • Offering organizations a way to think of improvement as a continuum that starts with where they are and helping them get to where they want to go.
  • Providing businesses with a picture of the critical success factors required for getting to their goals as well as the key performance indicators needed to measure whether they have met them.
  • Providing businesses with the basis to develop IT dashboards and IT scorecards for measuring continuous improvement, as well as the day-to-day service provisioning activities to help demonstrate the value of an investment in continuous improvement to IT management and the business customer.
  • Demonstrating the desired business value and benefits of the IT investment to IT management and the business customer.

    Figure 1. The MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap

    Figure 1. The MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap

    See full-sized image

The MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap is based on the best practice guidance contained in MOF version 3 and is positioned for compatibility with future releases of MOF and ITIL. It has three distinct components:

  • MOF service management guidance.
  • MOF Service Management Assessment (SMA).
  • MOF Service Improvement Program (SIP).

An important benefit of the Roadmap is its impact on the timeliness of improvements. Long-term service improvement projects frequently fail, often because business values or perceived benefits of the improvements change during the period of improvement, thereby reducing or eliminating the value of the envisioned improvements. The MOF Roadmap recommends shorter cycles, focused on a mix of quick wins and longer-term goals and a commitment to implementing only those proposed improvements that have business impact. This approach increases the likelihood that the improvements will provide significant value to the business.

The MOF Roadmap is best understood as an iterative cycle supported by a culture of continuous improvement aimed at improving the performance of people (through readiness and training), process (through automation and optimization), and technology (through architecture consolidation and virtualization) while working to reduce costs, increase quality, and meet compliance requirements.

By implementing the MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap, customers will be able to evaluate their current business situation, define future business goals, and plan to achieve those goals accordingly. The MOF Continuous Improvement Life Cycle allows businesses to answer the following questions:

  • Where do I want to be? Answering this question requires businesses to establish a desired end state by taking into account the current market and regulatory requirements affecting the business.
  • Where am I now? Answering this question requires businesses to evaluate the current state of service management capabilities mapped within the context of business priorities and impacts.
  • How do I get there? Answering this question requires IT organizations to deliver a detailed roadmap of prioritized projects focused on improving the people, processes, tools for automation, and service delivery technologies.
  • How will I know I have arrived? Answering this question provides an IT scorecard framed within the context of business value that details the key performance indicators and metrics necessary to measure and manage the Service Improvement Program.

The underlying goal of the MOF Continuous Improvement Life Cycle is to help organizations reduce costs, improve quality, and meet governance requirements. Whether it is ISO 20000, BS15000, BS17799, Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, or other regulatory governance, compliance exerts a significant pressure within IT. The role of the MOF Continuous Improvement Life Cycle is to bring together the processes that achieve compliance. It is designed to enable IT organizations to meet the businesses requirement for standardized and predictable quality. It helps provide service delivery enhanced with business responsiveness, and visibility with business-focused balanced scorecards detailing service management metrics that support industry governance and compliance requirements.

MOF Service Management Guidance

MOF provides service management guidance that enables organizations to achieve mission-critical system reliability, availability, supportability, and manageability of Microsoft products and technologies. With MOF guidance, businesses can assess their current IT service management maturity, prioritize those processes that are of greatest concern, and apply proven principles and best practices to optimize their management of the Microsoft Windows Server™ platform.

MOF adopts the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) from the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in the United Kingdom. ITIL provides for a common terminology and adapts it to broaden the focus in terms of breadth (through continuous improvement) and depth (through extra considerations such as user roles, supporting functions such as administration, and monitoring functions). This last provides an important connection to the capabilities provided by the Microsoft management products and technologies.

The MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap includes the following service management guidance:

  • MOF Team Model
  • MOF Process Model
    • Quadrants
    • Service management functions (SMFs)
    • Operations management reviews (OMRs)
  • MOF Risk Management Discipline for Operations

MOF Team Model

The MOF Team Model is one of the two core MOF models. It provides best practices that combine MOF with the experience of Microsoft IT groups, customers, and partners. It provides guidance on how to structure IT operations teams to achieve greater efficiency and synergy.

The Team Model consists of:

  • Guiding principles that help operate and maintain distributed computing environments using the Microsoft platform.
  • Best practice role clusters for structuring operations teams.
  • The key activities and competencies of each role cluster.
  • Guidance for scaling the teams for different sizes and types of organizations.
  • The roles that can be combined effectively.
  • How the MOF Team Model relates to the Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) Team Model.

MOF Process Model

The MOF Process Model is the second of the two core MOF models. It simplifies process definition into a high-level framework that is easy to understand and whose principles and practices are easy to incorporate and apply selectively or comprehensively. It is designed to enable the operations staff of a business of any size, regardless of maturity level, to realize tangible benefits to the existing, or proposed, operations environment. The components of the Process Model and their relationships are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. MOF Process Model

Figure 2. MOF Process Model

See full-sized image

The MOF Process Model consists of the following three elements:

  • Quadrants
  • Service management functions
  • Operations management reviews

Process Model Quadrants

Where ITIL groups core operational processes into two sets: service support (processes associated with the end-users of IT services) and service delivery (those processes associated with the paying customers of IT services), MOF organizes these core ITIL processes, plus additional MOF processes, into four quadrants of the Process Model:

  • Changing
  • Operating
  • Supporting
  • Optimizing

Each of the quadrants has a unique mission of service that is accomplished through the implementation and execution of underlying operational processes and activities contained in the SMFs.

Service Management Functions

Service management functions (SMFs) provide operational guidance for Microsoft technologies employed in computing environments for information technology applications. SMFs are a core part of MOF, which provides guidance through courses, services, guides, and other media that enable organizations to achieve mission-critical system reliability, availability, supportability, and manageability of IT solutions.

Operations Management Reviews

The operations management reviews (OMRs) are a unique feature of MOF. Where ITIL points out that reviews of operations activity for efficiency and effectiveness should be conducted and describes these reviews at a high level, MOF makes these reviews an explicit part of the Process Model and provides detailed guidance on how to conduct them. Although there are many reviews and process checks that take place in any IT environment, these OMRs are specifically labeled on the Process Model diagram (Figure 2) because they warrant senior management attention and can be used as a regularly reported "health check" on the state of the operations organization. The operations management reviews are:

  • Release Readiness Review
  • Operations Review
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) Review
  • Change Initiation Review

MOF Risk Management Discipline

The MOF Risk Management Discipline applies proven risk-management techniques to the challenges that operations staff members face every day. There are many models, frameworks, and processes for managing risks—all of which discuss planning for an uncertain future. However, the MOF Risk Management Discipline offers greater value than many others through its key principles, consistent terminology, structured and repeatable six-step process, and a recognition that the MOF Risk Management Discipline needs to be an integral part of the overall operations framework.

An essential aspect of successful IT operations involves managing the risks inherent in running the IT infrastructure. Within the MOF Risk Management Discipline, risk management is the process of identifying, analyzing, and addressing risks proactively. The goal of risk management is to clear the way for the positive impacts (opportunities) of an operations activity while minimizing the negative impacts (losses) associated with that risk. Effective processes for understanding and managing risks will ensure that effective trade-offs are made between risk and opportunity.

MOF Service Management Assessment

The MOF SMA provides a multidimensional analysis of a service framed in business value and a series of diagnostics that are applied to a service or set of services contained in a managed services portfolio.

SMA Goals

The MOF Service Management Assessment (SMA) is designed to provide high-level business value and benefit, but be completed in a shorter time frame than typical assessments. The MOF SMA goes well beyond a typical ITIL/MOF Assessment by focusing on people, process, and technology in the context of a managed service portfolio. It answers the “so what?” question often expressed by customers who engage in an operations assessment.

The MOF SMA takes advantage of both existing and developing Microsoft collateral from many Microsoft teams, including Microsoft Learning, World Wide Services, and Microsoft partners.

The MOF SMA is also based on, or accommodates, most of the current IT standards for security, compliance, and governance, including ITIL, MOF, COBIT, Six Sigma, TQM, and ISO 15504. When properly applied, the MOF SMA provides customers with an initial baseline that is a foundation from which to enable continuous improvement, building on the customer’s current success, as well as providing a checkpoint mechanism that measures continued success and assists in determining next steps within the context of changing business requirements.

SMA Phases

The MOF SMA is organized by the five distinct phases of the MOF SMA, which include:

  1. Preparation Phase. Kicks off the assessment and includes reaching an agreement on the initial problem or opportunity statements, arranging logistics, communicating to participants, administering diagnostics to gather data to begin qualifying the initial problem or opportunity statements, and reporting the results of the phase, such as candidate-rephrased problem or opportunity statements accompanied by relevant data.
  2. Problem Qualification Phase. Finalizes the qualification of the problem or opportunity statements through a Problem Qualification Workshop.
  3. Proposal Qualification Phase. Creates and qualifies proposed solutions for each qualified problem or opportunity through a Proposal Qualification Workshop.
  4. Roadmap Commitment Phase. Prioritizes projects based on business impact and degree of difficulty criteria, establishes commitments for the allocation of resources, disbursement of funds, and the completion of deliverables on an agreed schedule. Also includes status review meetings for commitment tracking.
  5. Roadmap Execution Phase. Executes the Roadmap, including status review meetings at 30, 60, and 90 days, and then quarterly up to a year after the completion of the Roadmap Commitment Phase.

Preparation Phase

During the Preparation Phase, the assessor seeks agreement on the initial problem or opportunity statements that will be addressed, conducts the assessment kickoff meeting, works with the client project manager to arrange and communicate logistics and determine diagnostic and workshop participants, administers diagnostics to selected participants to gather data to begin qualifying the initial problem or opportunity statements, and reports the results of the preparation phase.

Seven Diagnostics

A major function of the Preparation Phase is the administration of diagnostics to selected participants. The goal of the diagnostic process is to locate where problems or opportunities exist and who is affected, in what way, by how much, and what evidence exists to support that this is the case by examining the stakeholders’s perspective, the customer's view of service, the provider’s view of service, platform and life cycle phases, process governance mechanisms, process practices or artifacts that are missing or inadequate, and process maturity levels.

It is important that participants remain focused on identifying the specifics of the problem while working with the diagnostics. The goal is to only spend enough time to begin qualifying the problem, not to compile encyclopedic knowledge or begin developing solutions for each problem or opportunity.

The participants examine the problem or opportunity statements assigned to them within the context of the assigned diagnostic and record their responses and relevant data in the Diagnostic Participant Response Template.

The following list describes the seven steps in the diagnostic process. This information is also found in the Diagnostics Instructions Set document. Guidance on selecting participants for completing diagnostics is found in the Participant Planning Template.

  • Diagnostic 1: Services – Stakeholder. Used to examine typical key stakeholder constituencies, their concerns and interests, and the impact of the problem on those people.
  • Diagnostic 2: Services – Customer View. Examines the seven gaps between perceived and expected service from the provider, customer, and user perspectives. Many service management assessments focus exclusively on ”the process door,” that is, assessing service management processes and their component parts, such as practices and work artifacts. These assessments are defined as introspective, focused on the internal workings of processes. However, the goal of service management is making the quality of service as perceived by the customer and user the primary driving and aligning force in the organization. The MOF SMA focuses on the customer and user perception of services. This diagnostic is adapted from the SERVQUAL gap analysis instrument created by Parasuraman, Zeithamel, and Berry, which specifies five possible gaps between the reality of the service and customer perception:
    • Customer’s expectation of service quality versus the provider’s perception of the customer’s expectation of service quality.
    • Provider’s perception of customer’s expectations versus service quality specifications.
    • Service quality specifications versus actual service delivery.
    • Actual service delivery versus external communication to customers.
    • Customer’s perception of service quality versus customer’s expectation of service quality.
    The MOF SMA adds two additional gaps between the reality of the service and user perception:
    • User’s perception of service quality versus user’s expectation of service quality.
    • User’s expectation of service quality versus the provider’s perception of the user’s expectation of service quality.Note The MOF SMA diagnostic distinguishes between the customer who is responsible for the service and the user who uses the services.
  • Diagnostic 3: Services – Provider View. Examines the impact on overall business by examining the internal factors and components directly affecting services from the perspective of the IT service provider. Whereas the Services – Customer View diagnostic helps locate issues associated with services from the customer and user viewpoint, the Services – Provider View diagnostic helps locate “under the hood” issues, that is, from the provider’s point of view.
  • Diagnostic 4: Services – Platform and Life Cycle. Used to locate problems and opportunities within specific platforms, platform components, or life cycle phases.
  • Diagnostic 5: Services – Governance. Examines how governance is affected in terms of process governance mechanisms, including process-critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs should be set and measured against each of the processes to ensure that the CSFs are met. It should be noted that the characteristics of CSFs and KPIs are such that that they cascade from department to individual levels. Together, CSFs and KPIs establish the baseline and mechanisms for tracking performance. It is recommended that each IT organization focus on a small sub-set of CSFs and KPIs at any one time. The required CSFs and KPIs should be set at the beginning of the Continuous Service Improvement Program (CSIP).
  • Diagnostic 6: Process – Performance. Identifies the best practices and artifacts of process from the level of performed actions and also identifies issues due to missing or inadequate practices and artifacts. .
  • Diagnostic 7: Process – Capability. Used to locate problems associated with process capabilities. It examines capability maturity within the context of the CMM, ISO 15504, COBIT, and Gartner models.

Problem Qualification Phase

After finishing the Preparation Phase, a significant amount of information and data will have been collected through the use of the diagnostics and interviews with diagnostic participants. The intent of the Problem Qualification Phase is to analyze the raw data and modify the original problem statements from the vision/scope document with evidence regarding the problem, who it affects, how it affects them and to what extent.

Proposal Qualification Phase

The output of the Problem Qualification Phase is a set of fully qualified problem or opportunity statements and a candidate list of proposed solutions. The purpose of the Proposal Qualification Phase is to fully qualify the proposed solutions for each qualified problem or opportunity statement. The process of validation is similar to what was done in the previous phase; however, the focus is directed toward the proposed solutions: Who will benefit? How will they benefit? To what extent will they benefit? What evidence is required to support this? The objective of the Proposal Qualification Phase is to produce a set of matched problem or opportunity statements and proposals.

Roadmap Commitment Phase

During the Roadmap Commitment Phase, the assessor works with the client to prioritize projects based on business impact and degree of difficulty. The assessor also facilitates the setting of commitments for the allocation of resources, disbursement of funds, and the completion of deliverables on an agreed schedule, including status review meetings for commitment tracking.

Roadmap Execution Phase

During the Roadmap Execution phase, the assessor helps the client execute their roadmap, by facilitating status review meetings at thirty, sixty, and ninety days, and then at each quarter up to a year from the completion of the Roadmap Commitment Phase.

MOF Service Improvement Program

The MOF Service Improvement Program (SIP) guidance is split into two major areas of focus: generic SIP guidance and specific MOF/ITIL process improvement. Generic MOF SIP guidance is provided to facilitate service improvement projects in the larger context of individual or organizational readiness, adoption of IT service-specific enabling technologies, or any other technology-specific remediation identified through a MOF Service Management Assessment. Specific MOF/ITIL process improvement guidance is provided to assist with practical applicable guidance in process improvement initiatives.

Selecting an Entry Point

The MOF SIP has two entry points. If a customer has a specific improvement goal identified and justified, entering directly into a SIP will provide more value. Alternately, if the customer’s improvement goals are not clear or the issues are not identified, a MOF SMA is the most logical starting point to provide the direct handoff to the SIP. If the MOF SIP is entered into without a MOF SMA, the MOF SIP is designed to stand on its own to ensure success. The direct handoff from the MOF SMA in the Continuous Improvement Roadmap is at the roadmap planning phase at the end of the MOF SMA, which will provide the customer with the roadmap and project charters to proceed. The MOF SIP will take the roadmap and project charters from the MOF SMA and develop detailed Project Plans to execute improvement. This guidance is delivered through a tool (SIP toolkit) that assists users in identifying their specific pain points and provides focused guidance for remediation. This guidance is supported by key performance indicators to measure process improvement.

SIP Toolkit

The MOF Service Improvement Program Toolkit offers prescriptive guidance for conducting a service improvement project (SIP) as part of a continuous service improvement program. The focus of version 1 is on service management and the MOF Changing and Supporting quadrants.

The toolkit supports the creation of a customer's specific process, culture, people, and technology requirements for improving services. By following the guidance in the toolkit, a consultant provides the customer with best practices for service improvement.

Additionally, if a consultant or a customer creates requirements for an automated tool to support the SMFs—such as an incident-tracking system or a configuration management database (CMDB)—the toolkit will provide input to the detailed processes that the tool must support.

The toolkit is a stand-alone Web site that can be hosted on a consultant’s computer. By using the hyperlinks throughout the Web site, the consultant has immediate access to guidance and other key elements required at any point in time.

SIP Toolkit Components

The SIP toolkit contains the following elements:

  • Project guidance. Based on MSF, the project guidance defines activities, the MOF Team Model, and requirements for each phase of a SIP.
  • SMF core requirements. The SMF core requirements outline the requirements for improving the MOF Change Management, Configuration Management, Release Management, Incident Management, Problem Management, and Service Desk SMFs. Each of these Web pages has a corresponding Microsoft Word document with instructions for improving a particular SMF. The consultant can modify the Word version to accommodate customer-specific needs. Specifically, a consultant will most likely remove the third column—“Strategies for Success,” which is aligned with a particular process requirement in the first column—and then fill in the customer details.
  • Resources. The resources consist of Microsoft Office documents that provide the core elements of project deliverables. Once again, the consultant can modify the resource by cutting and pasting in customer-specific details. These resources include:
    • Project resources, such as a project risk plan.
    • SMF resources, such as a request for change (RFC) template.

One example of a key resource is the “Customer Functional Specification.” This document is a sample service improvement functional specification, which uses a change management process as a model. The specification includes the elements necessary for successfully carrying out a SIP: a problem statement, vision statement, process requirements, recommended components for a test plan as well as for release and review, a description of team members and skill sets, and a risk plan. A template version of the “Customer Functional Specification” is provided so that a consultant can fill it in with customer-specific information.

Using the SIP Toolkit

When using the toolkit for the first time, the consultant should walk through it in the following prescriptive order. Over time, it is likely a consultant will use various parts of the toolkit in multiple ways. The toolkit is designed so that any element can be used at any time and in any order.

  1. Read and Complete the PrerequisitesThe Prerequisites section provides detailed activities to be completed prior to starting a service improvement project. These activities do not need to be done in order; however, each step should always be completed. The following describes the prerequisite steps:
    • Define the service catalog. Establishing a service catalog prior to any specific MOF SMF process improvement project is vital. Describing each service, knowing its business value, and identifying dependent services will help create quality processes that truly support IT services.
    • Define and prioritize key projects. It is helpful to establish different types of projects, including long-term strategic and quick-win projects.
    • Establish sponsorship. It is important to have a sponsor who can support the project with resources and key decision making.
    • Prepare and read supporting materials. Read the necessary documents and resources. Determine which ones can support the project and how they will be used.
  2. Read and Follow Project Guidance for a SIPThe project guidance provides direction and recommendations to achieve project success based on the phases in the MSF Process Model. It also includes operating requirements for daily service monitoring and control.Each MSF Process Model phase included in the project guidance describes the set of activities required for a successful SIP. Note The Operating Phase (or "Operating a Process") is not one of the standard MSF Process Model phases, but it is included to supplement the project guidance for a SIP.The following list describes the purposes of the various phases within a SIP:
    • Envisioning Phase. To unify the project team behind a common vision and to strive for agreement on the vision, team structure, and initial scope.
    • Planning Phase. To finalize the scope, the solution concept, and the project logistics. To prepare the functional specification, work plans, cost estimates, and schedules for the deliverables.
    • Developing Phase. To build the solution components, test strategy, training materials, and release documentation.
    • Stabilizing Phase. To test that the solution meets user requirements, performance standards, and quality levels.
    • Deploying Phase. To deploy the process, stabilize the deployment, shift the project to operations and support, and obtain final customer approval of the project.
    • Operating Phase (or "Operating a Process"—this is not an actual MSF Process Model phase, but is included for supplemental purposes). To control and measure the process in production and to complete interim improvements and ensure that the process supports the business.
  3. Read and Follow the SMF Core RequirementsPrescriptive guidance is provided to complete SMF core requirements. The guidance supports business alignment with efficient and effective implementation strategies. Details are presented in a table format that includes Service Management Function control requirements, development strategies, and success strategies, along with information about process activities or requirements, core prescriptive guidance on how to implement the requirement, strategies and hints for successful implementation. This includes guidance on process, culture, people, and technology.Each SMF Core Requirements page contains a high-level process flow for the particular SMF. Each phase of the process is hyperlinked to the corresponding section in the page. The intent is to have the consultant walk through the page with the customer and utilize the guidance to create the customer-specific process details. Each SMF Core Requirements page also contains hyperlinks to the requirements for service management control, culture, people, and technology. The information presented is specific to the corresponding SMF. The following describes the detail behind each element:
    • SMF Control Requirements. This section describes the critical success factors (CSFs) and the key performance indicators (KPIs) that support the corresponding SMFs. It also shows the dependencies (inputs and outputs) among the SMFs.
    • Culture. This section provides strategies for integration and adoption of the SMF within organizations.
    • People. This section describes process ownership, training, and accountability.
    • Technology. This section briefly describes important aspects of implementing process-supporting technology.
  4. Use the Provided ResourcesThese resources consist of templates, SMF process maps, and other documents containing core content that supports service management. The resources are broken down into two types:
    • Project resources to support service improvement
    • SMF resources to support specific SMF implementation

Call to Action

For those interested in continuous improvement, there are several possible next steps. Here are some of them:

Those interested in learning more about MOF and ITIL might consider one of the following:

  • Watch the MOF training video included with the MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap toolkit.
  • Watch the video case study included with the MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap toolkit.
  • Arrange to take MOF or ITIL foundations training, through a Microsoft TAM or a Microsoft partner.
  • Download the MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap toolkit and try one of the following:
    • Read through it to understand the components.
    • Try out a pilot test of the content.
    • Run a small SMA and or SIP project.


To be successful, continuous improvement requires:

  • A cultural change. Continuous improvement thrives in an environment that encourages proactive improvement of a managed service portfolio and the IT customer experience. Service management needs to be:
    • Framed in business value and business benefit.
    • Based on the requirements of market regularity and the business needs around compliance and governance.
  • An emphasis on improving the people, processes, and technology that make up IT services.

The MOF Continuous Improvement Roadmap is a vehicle for helping make the continuous improvement of IT services more actionable and achievable. The primary goals of the Roadmap are to:

  • Help customers be successful with the Microsoft platform.
  • Provide linkages to existing and established service management best practices and investments.

The primary components of the MOF Roadmap are:

  • Current MOF guidance.
  • MOF Service Management Assessment toolkit.
  • MOF Service Improvement Program toolkit.