Design of an Information Infrastructure for Service Delivery

Project Report: Geert de Haan

Origin/Technical Infrastructure Services/Distributed Systems (1997-1998)

TIS and DS

TIS is a department of Origin that provides Technical Infrastructure Services; that is: system management of hardware, software and networking (operating systems, system databases, ERP applications) but excluding application management. Distributed Systems (DS) or Midrange Systems provides system management services for, among others, UNIX, VMS and Windows NT servers. Apart from system management, DS Eindhoven is also involved in the global development of new services, and the development, implementation and adaptation of system management tools.

The organisation of DS

DS is currently being reorganised, but in the past year DS consisted of the following units: System Management (general UNIX, AIX en VMS), System Software (specialists and tooling), AS/400, Database Management Systems, SAP, Desktop Systems. The management team of DS consists of all unit managers, a financial expert and the general manager of DS. Not belonging to one of the units or the management team (a shame), my position within the organisation was relatively isolated. I reported directly to the general DS manager until he left for Philips IT in October/November and thereafter to his successor (ad interim).

The Project

I was contracted in June 1997 to play a role within the development of Smart (Origin's implementation of the ITIL framework/method for system management). Since this project was twice postponed with six months because of financial reasons, it became my task to improve the internal information provision of the Service Delivery process (within Origin there are four service processes: Customer Acquisition, Portfolio Management, Contract Implementation and finally Service Delivery) which is DS's main process. During Service Delivery the actual system management activities take place. Improving the information support aimed at bringing in-place any missing subprocesses, increasing the effectiveness by means of further automation, and to start projects to move the units towards a more uniform way of working as regards information management.

Doing the Project

The project "Design of an Information Infrastructure for Service Delivery" consisted of the following steps:

Orientation
Informal conversations and formal unstructured interviews to develop a view on the way of working within TIS and DS, to identify main problems and issues, "war-stories", politics, etc.

Analysis of the actual situation
An empirical requirements analysis as a series of formal, semi-structured interviews with, from each unit, the manager and a system manager to identify how the unit had implemented the Service Delivery process, the nature of the information used (what information is used when, by whom, for what purpose and in which way), and the generalised task-structure of system managers.

Analysis of formal processes
An formal requirements analysis of the ISO9000 documentation: process descriptions, procedures and work instructions to the formal way of working, resources, roles and responsibilities.

Evaluation of the actual situation
This step is twofold: First, a mapping between the actual and the formal work situations to determine man-machine assignments, role assignments, software usage and any deviations between the should-be and as-is work situations, resulting in a requirements specification in the form of a number of task- en process diagrams. Secondly, a global usability analysis of the software used for information management (e.g. Information Manager, Lotus Notes, etc.), resulting in a short document with recommendations about their use in the future.

Creating a policy for information support
The main issues in creating an information infrastructure are the result of the diversity of the software used for information support, the diversity in the way that information is dealt with, and the resistance to share information and set up shared information systems. The policy offers a solution based on using the corporate intranet as a medium to share documents and local databases, as a uniform shell to hide the differences between (e.g. legacy) applications, and as the place to share and maintain information about projects, processes, and decisions. In addition to the policy a document was created describing the possibilities and limitations of using internet technologies.

Working out subprojects
Four parts of the policy have been worked on:
  • a plan for a technical infrastructure in the form of setting-up an interactive web server and creating a connection between this server and the departmental file server,
  • the DS website project meant to create an organisation to complete and maintain the information that is kept for third parties on the DS site of Origin's intranet,
  • a project management project to share information about ongoing projects which also functioned as a demo of the interactive capabilities of intranets,
  • a document management project for storing, maintaining and sharing work documents, also meant as a temporary solution until the introduction of a company wide document management application.
  • Apart from these projects I have investigated the technical requirements and feasibility to use the intranet as a uniform user interface to the different applications. As a result a number of interactive demo applications have been developed.

    Conclusions and evaluation

    In April '98 the DS management meeting finally decided not to proceed with a further implementation of an information infrastructure for Service Delivery, because it does not belong to the core activities of the department. If the project is continued in one way or another, it will be assigned to a specialised department of Origin. In the mean time DS will wait for further developments concerning company-wide introduction of solutions (e.g. project management, document management, etc.). As a result, my function would not be continued, and because DS has no other functions for user interface or information specialists, the temporary contract I have will not be continued.

    Starting off at Origin TIS/DS I had formulated three personal targets: to learn from first-hand about the way of working of a commercial company, to be able to test and apply my academic knowledge, and to experience what it is and have an impact on real-world settings.
    I have only been able change the work situation in a limited way. In my opinion, due to the relatively isolated position that I had within the organisation of DS and because of changing priorities after the departure of the general manager of DS who initially hired my. On the other hand, however, I most certainly succeeded in attaining the other two goals: to learn about commercial organisations and to apply theoretical knowledge.