Operate IT like a pro

Operate IT like a pro

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I have been agonizing over this post for the last week and a half. I do my best in this blog to not post entries designed just to make me look smarter... I hope that you can use these posts to make your life easier, do your job better, and maybe have some more time to spend with the kiddoes.  This particular post is about the release of MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework), one of the best kept secrets at Microsoft. However, most of the announcements about its release that have come out in the last week have been (necessarily) acronym/buzzword-heavy.  From the release announcement on the MOF blog:

The practical guidance in MOF 4.0 features processes; governance, risk, and compliance activities; management reviews; and best practices from Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF). Finally, to ensure industry alignment, MOF 4.0 supports the best practices found in frameworks such as ITIL, CoBIT, and ISO 20000.

Best Practices was used twice in two sentences there, so you know this must be something that piques my interest :)  I will try to ensure that I answer the question "Why do I care?" in the post below.  In short, as you/your company/your network progress in maturity from a few computers in a workgroup to a network with a helpdesk, change management policies, and alignment to the business; wouldn't it be helpful to have a guide with the best practices in establishing these functions?

Enter... MOF.  As you can see in the graphic below, MOF touches on quite a bit.  If you are the CIO/CTO of a company, it is possible that you will have experience with all of the areas below.  If you are Joe IT Pro, it is likely that you only work in one particular area.  Wouldn't it be helpful if there was a guide you could read in 20-30 minutes that would let you know the Roles, Responsibilities, and Deliverables of any particular function within a well-run IT organization?

Whereas the previous version (v.3) of MOF went into an AMAZING amount of detail about people and process, the Service Management Functions (SMFs) of MOF v.4 are designed to be read in a relatively short amount of time, and give you everything you need to start working in that area. You no longer need a PhD in Organization Psychology, or a Master's in Project Management to start working on a project or planning for risk.

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Why do you care?  That entirely depends on your experience, what change initiatives are underway in your company, and where you may fit within those initiatives.  I'll tell you why I care... Recently, I have been working with a number of Junior Project Managers.  While they had worked on "projects" before, they did not have a knowledge of formal project management methodologies, such as those used by the Project Management Institute.  While different project management methodologies name their phases differently, the basic progression is the same.  For reference, the PMI and MOF phases are as below:

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I decided to dive into the "Deliver" phase of MOF to level-set my PM on my expectations for project processes and deliverables.

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Rather than have my new PM start by reading the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) (which could cure the most severe case of insomnia), I had her read through the MOF documents for Envision, Plan, Build, Stabilize, and Deploy.  Each document introduced her to key terms used in a project.  For example:

Term

Definition

Customer

The customer is the person or organization that commissions and funds the project.

Interim milestone

Early progress indicators that segment large work efforts into manageable portions. The Deliver Phase suggests a set of interim milestones, but project teams should define their own interim milestones that make sense for their projects.

Milestone

A project synchronization point. Major milestones mark the transition of a project from one phase to the next phase. They also transfer primary responsibility from one role to another role. The Deliver Phase service management functions (SMFs) correspond to major Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) milestones.

Scope

A view of the project’s vision limited by constraints such as time and resources. Solution scope describes the solution’s features and deliverables. Project scope describes the work to be performed by the team.

Solution

A coordinated delivery of technologies, documentation, training, and support that successfully responds to a customer’s business problem. Solutions typically combine people, processes, and technology to solve problems.

Stakeholder

Stakeholders are individuals or groups who have an interest in the outcome of the project—although their goals and priorities are not always identical to the customer’s. Examples of stakeholders include departmental managers who will be affected by the solution, IT staff members who are responsible for running and supporting the solution, and functional managers who contribute resources to the project team.

Users

The people who interact with the solution to perform their jobs.

Vision

Describes the fundamental goals of the solution.

At this point, we had a common language to discuss the progress of the project.  Next, the document provides useful reference diagrams walking her through the creation and approval of various deliverables.  We now have a good understanding of what documents (Vision/Scope, Functional Specification, Master Schedule, etc) I would expect at which phase of the project, along with who is responsible for each deliverable, and what approvals are needed at each milestone.

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At each step of the way, activities and processes list Best Practices to follow.

Best practices:

· Establish fixed schedules. Internal time limits (time-boxing) keeps the project team focused on prioritizing features and activities.

· Use bottom-up scheduling. Estimates for IT projects should be made by those who will do the work. Bottom-up estimating provides better accuracy, accountability, and team empowerment. The result is a schedule that is fully supported by the entire project team.

· Prioritize by using risk-driven scheduling. Risk assessment by the team identifies which features are riskiest. Problems requiring major changes to the architecture can be handled earlier in the project, thereby minimizing the impact to schedule and budget.

Add buffer time to project schedules to permit the team to accommodate unexpected problems and changes. The amount of buffer to apply depends on the amount of risk. By assessing risks early in the project, the likeliest risks can be evaluated for their impact on the schedule and compensated for by adding buffer time to the project schedule.

Finally, we finish up with a review of the key questions that need to be answered, along with the inputs and outputs.  It does not get any simpler than this.

Activities

Considerations

Sign off the milestone review report for the Project Plans Approved Milestone

Key questions:

·         Have the project team, customers, and stakeholders reviewed the functional specification, master project plan, and master schedule?

·         Do the project team, customers, and stakeholders agree that the project team has met the requirements of the Project Plans Approved Milestone?

·         Do the project team, customers, and stakeholders agree that the master schedule is realistic?

Inputs:

·         Functional specification

·         Master project plan

·         Master project schedule

Outputs:

·         Milestone review report document

·         Request for Change

Best of all, MOF is free.  And Awesome.  You can read it online here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc506049.aspx or download in Word format here: Get the Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0.  The MOF team has also setup an online forum here: http://forums.technet.microsoft.com/en/MOF4/threads/

MOF guidance is contained in 23 documents:

  • The MOF 4.0 Overview describes all of the MOF content and its goals. It is the ideal starting place for someone new to the framework or an executive looking for the big picture.
  • Four MOF phase overviews have been written primarily for IT managers and directors seeking a better grasp of IT service strategy. The overviews provide an introduction for the phase, describe the service management functions contained within, and detail the management reviews performed during the phase.
  • Sixteen SMFs contain specific activities and workflows designed primarily for the IT professionals who will be implementing the activities.
  • A glossary gives definitions of terms used frequently in MOF.
  • A spreadsheet maps earlier versions of MOF to version 4.0.

I have only scratched the surface of what is included in MOF.  If there is any particular aspect of MOF that you would like me to dive into, please post in the comments and I will write a follow-up post. For other perspectives:

Techlog overview of the MOF announcement

System Center blog MOF announcement

To watch the on-demand Day 2 keynote webcast, click here:  mms://wm.microsoft.com/ms/msnse/0804/33036/MMS2008-Day2-Keynote-bradand.wmv

Comments
  • As I mentioned in an earlier post , the recently released Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) v.4 is

  • Download it here . "But Sean" you may ask yourself.... "didn't you just post that version 4 had been

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