SIAM – Managing complexity from a single source of truth
Delivering successful business outcomes with real integration of IT services.
Whitepaper by Barclay Rae and Steve Morgan.
1. What is SIAM and why do it?
2. What are the challenges with SIAM?
3. Key tips and take-aways
About ITSMF UK and the SIAM SIG
About Axios Systems
Most pieces of work that we undertake require coordination and management of disparate resources. This can be anything from planning a wedding, or producing a theatrical production or television program, to managing different elements in building a holiday tour – like flights, insurance, hotels, taxis, meals, activities etc. All of these require someone (you!) to manage and pull together the individual elements and suppliers in order that the result is a seamless experience. Maintaining your home involves numerous suppliers – utilities, tech suppliers, retailers, contractors, financial services, delivery companies, local government – all of which have to be managed. If you live in a shared housing environment, such as an apartment, there may be a management company to perform this task, but somebody needs to own and manage the suppliers. At an individual and domestic level it is of course possible to do this without too much planning, although there are always times when supplier coordination becomes more complex. Building an extension will need planning permission from the local authority, design and delivery work, plus delivery of materials in a ‘joined up’ manner to avoid waste and extra cost. There’s no point paying for builders if the plans aren’t agreed and the bricks and mortar aren’t bought and on-site. All parties involved need to play their part in the ‘supply chain’ to achieve the desired results. There is also no value if just one or two of the suppliers do a great job, and if the ‘end-to-end’ process doesn’t provide the expected outcome. Suppliers will also do their best to achieve the goals set to them – it’s important that these are the right ones and are integrated with the ‘bigger picture’. At an organisational level, the need to manage and coordinate suppliers is essential for efficiency and quality of delivery. Despite this, IT / technology departments have focussed on individual technical elements and services, rather than fully managing the whole collaborative process. Imagine you are a CIO in an insurance company. You may have 200 IT staff, an extensive in-house data centre and network infrastructure, plus external networking, applications and additional databases and technical services provided by a variety of suppliers. Your operations, applications and network managers all have supplier relationships with varying SLAs and commercial constraints – all of which may be delivering as required. Yet from your customer base there is disquiet and dismay that these various elements do not provide the level of service quality and ‘seamless delivery’ that is expected. There is a clear need to manage the whole supply chain of IT services as an end-to-end process rather than individual ‘siloes’. This is what service management has always been aiming to achieve – with processes supporting ‘services’ that cross-departmental and technical boundaries. Whilst this approach may have had some levels of success within organisations, there has been little emphasis on making this work in the wider multi-sourced IT environment. IT buyers have bought the services from familiar suppliers within the bounds of their own siloes, rather than the group taking a holistic approach. As a result, many contracts have been put in place which meet some specified targets for point solutions (like incident turnaround times, or levels of system availability), but which do not ‘join-up’ in terms of whole service expectations and business outcomes.
Service Integration and Management (SIAM) has emerged as an approach for IT organisations to manage the multi-supplier environment. This has
particularly taken hold over recent years, where the IT landscape and proliferation of technology and suppliers have become ever-more complex. It is no longer possible to simply rely on hope and luck for successful delivery
across complex environments. Components will fail – usually at the weakest points in the process (see Theory of Constraints) – and it is vital to take ownership and control of the supply chain to minimise risk and maximise quality. SIAM is the wedding planner, executive producer and building works project manager for IT, taking a helicopter view of the required outcomes and ensuring that the appropriate processes, agreements, tools and governance are in place to manage successful delivery. The focus is on the need for real integration of services, i.e. not just service management in the ITSM/ITIL® sense. This requires an integrated approach and a single source of truth (system) as much as is possible, to provide an integrated view of stakeholders, outcomes, processes, services and workflow, and to deliver the required services as well as managing risk, governance and compliance. This paper sets out the key elements and challenges of SIAM – the why and wherefore – and is of value to practitioners and stakeholders in a variety of multi-supplier situations. It examines the issues that need to be considered in managing complexity to provide seamless customer outcomes and experience.
The paper discusses the need for a coordinated approach to SIAM, the importance of a single system and source of truth with respect to services (catalogue), assets (CMDB) and processes and performance (workflow). A RACI Matrix is also essential in order to provide clarity and control the relevant breakdown of ownership across the supply chain.
What is SIAM and why do it?
SIAM is a management method that applies when organisations source their IT services from multiple service providers.
It refers to the need for over-arching service management and coordination
activities to ensure that disparate services come together to deliver a consistent service to the customer. SIAM is at heart a simple concept applied to complex outsourced services – i.e. where the End-to-End (E2E) ownership and coordination of various third-party suppliers are managed by a
single entity. A single service approach is the goal of SIAM and there is a need for ‘supply chain’ integration to do this.
This does not just mean ‘process’ integration, but integration of:
- suppliers and relevant contracts
- stakeholders involved – integration of people and teams and their ways of working
- tools, data and processes
- reporting and metrics
…ultimately, integration of culture and approach.
Standard benefits of a SIAM implementation include:
- Starting (procurement and transition) from a holistic and outcome-based position, not a technically focussed one
- Managing cost and efficiency of IT services from a single viewpoint
- Enabling coordinated selection of multiple suppliers – so avoiding (high-risk) dependency on one single supplier
- Allowing large organisations to engage with small suppliers where desirable
- The ability to treat vendors as commodity suppliers with shorter contracts – i.e. so it’s easier to change/swap out individual suppliers to get the best value
- Devolving IT to external experts, so internal staff can focus on core business
The keyword to focus on is integration. SIAM recognises the multi-supplier nature of the IT delivery landscape. As such, there is a need to ensure that separate entities can work together as seamlessly and transparently as possible. So, integration means ways that people, plans, tools, databases, workflows, swim lanes, outputs and metrics are co-ordinated and in synergy with each other. Tooling is a key element here, and the fewer tools and systems in use the better, in order to reduce the administrative overhead and to improve clarity of performance. A wedding planner or executive producer would use one calendar and project plan, to avoid confusion, duplication, or oversight. Similarly, the drive must be where possible to achieve a ‘single source of truth’ with a central repository of service data to manage governance, risk, and control. The fundamental question that needs to be answered before applying any new SIAM model is simply ‘what problem is this trying to solve?’ – i.e. what are we trying to achieve? Clarity of purpose and good planning are essential if SIAM is going to succeed as the best option for your organisation. SIAM may not be the best option and doesn’t work for everyone – e.g. small
organisations, or those with a small number of suppliers, might not benefit as much as other suppliers.
As the layer of management and control that is applied over a multiple number of suppliers, SIAM can be delivered through a number of different models. The basic SIAM concept remains the same (i.e. that the IT delivery and value chains are managed by a single entity, regardless of the number of suppliers). The positioning of the SIAM owner and team can be either within the host organisation, or with suppliers, regardless of their delivery role. The key point is that this is clearly and transparently defined for all stakeholders.
There are four main models and variants which can be used:
- Retained client as SIAM. Where the retained organisation manages all suppliers and coordinates the ‘SIAM’ function itself.
- Single supplier. Where the Managed Service Provider (MSP) provides all the service and the ‘SIAM’ layer of management.
- Service guardian. Where an MSP provides the SIAM layer and one or more delivery functions, as well as managing other suppliers.
- Separate service integrator. Where an MSP provides the SIAM layer (no delivery function) and manages all the other suppliers.
Each organisation must consider the best model for their approach and transition to a more coordinated service/supplier landscape. The real challenge is to identify this and then actually work towards it with clarity and focus, both internally and with suppliers.
SIAM and ITSM:
SIAM is not a replacement, direct competitor or alternative to ITSM or ITIL. It uses key ITIL and other processes (e.g. Prince2) and can be viewed as a progression or mature approach to using ITSM. SIAM is driven by business and commercial goals and the imperative to provide a seamless service, even in a complex environment. The spread of methodologies and frameworks has also compounded this with ‘process silos’ emerging as well as ‘technical silos’. For example, there is little functional collaboration across ITSM, ITAM, COBIT and TOGAF based teams within the same organisations. SIAM provides a far more compelling customer-based mandate to unite and build a unified approach to service, regardless of what any individual organisation might do internally with ITSM/ITIL – the imperative is to make this work across several organisations and agendas. ‘Culture’ is therefore a key element with SIAM. This means moving from the ‘silo’ to the ‘integrated’ culture, embracing other organisations.
SIAM ‘integration’ means:
- Integrated catalogue – a single definition of the end-to-end supply chain of processes, people, components, owners, SLAs, tools and outcomes
- Integrated tooling – ideally a ‘single source of truth’, i.e. one system for shared processes, as a data repository (CMDB), real-time management system and reporting data source
- Integrated process – a single process model that defines ownership and governance across functions – e.g. using swim lanes and RACI. For example, this should embrace integration of key ITSM processes like incident, problem and change, as well as wider HR areas like joiners, movers, and leavers
- Integrated outcomes – clarity and transparency to all parties on the desired overall outcomes for the ‘customer’ or ‘buying organisation’
- Integrated culture – ultimately all parties should actively seek to understand each other’s people, expectations and ways of working
SIAM is an opportunity to realise improvements in efficiency and quality,
as well as offering practical options on the coordination of complex IT supply
chains and interlinked systems. Simply replacing what an organisation already does or has is not the answer and will not achieve success or tangible
improvement. Processes need to be adapted to current working cultures and enhanced over time. This means accepting that different providers may apply
the same process differently, so the need to set tangible Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and use Service Level Management (SLM) remains – SIAM does not replace the need for SLM. Service delivery still needs to be managed against service levels and those service levels need to remain relevant to the service received by the users. SIAM is a framework enabling the facilitation of services from an array of providers. SLAs are required, although these have at best been challenging to achieve when several providers were involved – due to varying hours of service, commercial models, service levels and penalty/credit systems. SIAM’s role is to consider complex and multi-level scenarios and consider impacts prior to defining service levels. This should include using financial incentives across all providers to share success and penalise service outcome failure as appropriate – not just specific SLAs. SIAM aims to resolve some of the ‘silo-based’ challenges that exist across internal and external facing IT organisations and which have provided a dysfunctional and uncoordinated approach for IT users and customers.
What are the challenges with SIAM?
Before commencing a SIAM program there needs to be an understanding of the current state of the operation. This will include reviewing which processes exist and what their respective levels of maturity are, identifying key stakeholders, looking at existing contracts and their status (e.g.
length of term, exit clauses, exit costs, etc.). A key element will be the need to
identify the skills and resources needed to transition to a SIAM model. Most
organisations do not already have this expertise in abundance (it is a relatively
new area of specialism) and this requires careful resourcing, (re)training of existing staff and a comprehensive program of organisational change
management (OCM). Contracts already in place will have to be reviewed and revised (or even terminated early). As already mentioned, it is vital to carry out an initial feasibility study that identifies issues and lays out options and solutions – i.e. how SIAM could be the answer to current and future problems.
The feasibility study should act as a baseline for action and improvement
– whatever course of action is taken must identify clearly measurable
improvements in terms of cost, quality, control, reduced risk, etc. If you are the CIO of the IT insurance organisation, SIAM is going to be a big change in the way your department works – and hopefully delivers. This is a big undertaking that shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of impact and the scale of change – challenges lie ahead and you need to be ready to meet them. One particular aspect of the review must include (organisational) selfawareness
– are we ready for this? Is it really the solution to our problems? How can we make this work when other smaller initiatives have failed? Transparency and honesty around how these questions are answered will provide valuable insight and help to build realistic plans for success. SIAM is not a panacea and should not be adopted or even considered without clear objectives and a solid business case. Early discussions are advised (if not always possible) with all relevant parties. Visibility and understanding by all parties will be vital to maintaining a good working relationship during the transition phase.
Early challenges and investigations should consider:
1. Objectives and measurable goals – what is the business case for this?
- End-user experience – what are we trying to achieve? What is the mandate or requirement? ‘Use cases’ are a good way to define the whole end-to-end experience from the start – as opposed to taking a process-centric view
- Costs and efficiencies – how will a SIAM project approach deliver business value – reduced costs, increased time to market/time to value, improved service quality? What measures and metrics will be needed to identify if this value is being realised?
- Integration of organisations and ways of working – who will manage this (in transition and operations). How will they be accountable? What will be the contingency if one or more suppliers do not deliver as required?
2. Tools – how can tools help to provide efficiency, transparency and control? If there are multiple toolsets with different data and reporting criteria in use, it will be difficult to manage the overall service supply chain effectively.
- Orchestration – does the ITSM toolset provide real-time visibility of E2E
processes across the supply chain? How can the tooling approach deliver real value and fast access to information around overall service performance (not just component-based availability, for example)?
- Single source of truth – i.e. the ideal is to have one single approach for asset and configuration data, service data and transactional data (if possible). How can this be achieved? Does the organisation and its suppliers have a single tool in place or does one need to be sourced that can deliver the required functionality?
- Asset tracking – there is a risk of confusion and lack of visibility around components/ CIs as the vendor landscape grows. It is vital to have direct
access to information on status, ownership, lifecycle and availability of these, with quick easy access and views
- Monitoring and reporting – does the tooling approach provide the relevant information required to evaluate the supply chain and take relevant action with suppliers if not? How can the value and outcomes expected be represented and reported with accuracy and consistency?
3. People – what skills are needed? SIAM requires a wide variety of business skills that are not generally part of the IT department’s portfolio. Does the
organisation have these skills in-house? If not, where can they be sourced from? What will be the impact of change on jobs, roles, and headcount?
4. Skills required include:
- Contractual negotiation
- Supplier management
- Budgeting, profit and loss and financial management
- Business relationship management
- Organisational change management – (for transition)
- Communications and marketing, stakeholder management
- Business analytics – for data analysis
5. Governance, risk and compliance – this is a further area where integration is needed, as well as good skills and experience in all parties.
- The value of integrated knowledge, process, tooling and reporting is paramount, in order to achieve the necessary level of visibility and controls
- Key measures such as SLAs and KPIs are useful, although these need to be set in the wide context of the overall business goals rather than individual technology components
- Organisations considering or embarking on SIAM must set out a clear approach for governance and should also be aware of any regulatory constraints in their industry or even within their own organisation – e.g. as to what they can and cannot outsource or disclose to third parties
6. Service Design Principles – SIAM requires and involves a holistic approach. This, in turn, needs clarity and consistency from the feasibility and design phase of implementation.
A practical approach should include some basic principles and clarity around service design and how this is developed. These principles are ultimately required to ensure that consistency is achieved and maintained through the SIAM ‘eco-system’.
These should include:
- Use of a single toolset (the ideal if not always possible) – essential for clarity and visibility of service performance across vendors. The SIAM eco-system is complex and a single system and ‘source of truth’ is a significant advantage
- A single process model – regardless of how processes are managed by each party, there must be a single agreed workflow and RACI model for
all to work to
- Single definitions of user outcomes – this seems obvious but it’s good to
ensure that this is defined and enshrined in the service design
- Focus on integration – all supplier and SIAM activity must be tackling the question, ‘how do we integrate this?’
The solutions to these challenges are not new concepts – what is new is the need to incorporate all of these disciplines together (technical, organisational and commercial). This is the real challenge of SIAM – understanding and accepting the scale of the task and finding appropriate resources to carry it out.
There is general consensus that the goals of SIAM are desirable – for too
long the challenge in IT organisations has been that the work required seems
to make the task impossible. A practical SIAM approach is a realistic way to
break that down into manageable chunks and achieve tangible business success.
- Above all else be clear on the objective goals of SIAM – what are the business outcomes expected?
- There is a need from day one for a single design architecture and process model – start with single design principles and ensure that integration is the watchword
- There is a need to ensure that key metrics and measures (SLAs etc.) can actually be measured consistently – this requires a comprehensive toolset that can map and manage the complex environment
- The ideal is a single tool to underpin delivery and to meet all stakeholder requirements – a ‘single source of truth’ approach – for knowledge, stakeholders, process/model, CIs/assets, services
- SIAM is not a silver bullet – it requires significant organisational change management, underpinned by clear business objectives and strong delivery skills
- A successful SIAM implementation requires a collaborative approach – services are supply chains that cross several internal reporting lines. All stakeholders – customers/users, suppliers, buyers, deliverers, management and staff – need to be consulted and involved.
- Many providers offer their own SIAM model and method of working for each ITIL process. This can save a lot of time if the buying organisation is immature, but will bring with it many challenges if the organisation does not adapt its own way of working. Buying organisations need to be clear on their requirements first
- A picture tells a thousand words – buy-in is vital, so get smart with communications that will be noticed and understood. Simple visual representations are useful – a picture or online graphic can be vastly more descriptive than a 20-page document
About ITSMF UK and the SIAM SIG
ITSMF UK is the UK’s leading association for those involved in IT service management. Our members include over 600 organisations, ranging from large multi-national suppliers to independent consultants, employing between them more than 6,000 service management professionals. Our new Professional Service Management Framework (PSMF) is a competency model which defines a professional identity for the service management industry. Whether you’re an individual practitioner or an enterprise organisation, PSMF is a way to recognise the full value of your contribution. Find out more at www.itsmf.co.uk/psmf
Our SIAM Special Interest Group (SIG) offers ground-breaking research, guidance and networking in all areas of service integration, and offers a burgeoning range of publications and events. Further information at www.itsmf.co.uk/SIAMSIG
About Axios Systems
For more than 25 years, Axios Systems has been committed to innovation by providing rapid deployment of Service Management software. With an exclusive focus on Service Management, Axios is recognized as a world leader, by the leading analysts and their global client base.
Axios’s enterprise software, assyst, is purpose-built, designed to transform IT departments from technology-focused cost centers into profitable business-focused customer service teams. assyst adds tangible value to each client’s organization by building on the ITIL® framework to help solve their business challenges.
Axios is headquartered in the UK, with offices across Europe, the Americas, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Find out more about Axios Systems.