What is IT Operations?
IT operations refers to the set of processes and services that are administered by an IT department within a larger organization or business. IT operations is one of the four defined functions in the ITIL best practices framework for IT service management, along with technical management, application management and the service desk. As a discretely identified function of the IT organization, IT Operations often function as a distinct working group within the IT department. An IT Operations team consists of a group of IT operators led by an IT operations manager.
What Does an IT Operations Manager Do?
Each business or IT organization is entitled to establish its own sets of roles and responsibilities for IT operations manager. In terms of the ITIL framework, the role of an IT Operations manager is to assume control and overall responsibility for all Service Operation activities that are under the purview of IT operations.
IT Operations managers are the process owners for the IT Operations Control process, the goal of which is to exercise and maintain control over IT services and the connected, underlying infrastructure. This includes overseeing the associated daily and routine tasks, such as workload scheduling, creating data back-ups, restoring systems after outages and other regular maintenance activities.
IT operations managers may also take on responsibility for Facility Management activities, which include the oversight and maintenance of the physical environment that houses the IT infrastructure and hardware. This key responsibility includes making sure that server rooms and data centers are adequately ventilated and air conditioned to prevent overheating, and ensuring that back-up systems are in place to maintain service availability if a power outages occurs.
The collective responsibility for Facility Management and IT Ops Control gives IT Operations managers end-to-end, deterministic control, oversight and accountability with respect to the availability of IT services.
IT Operations vs Application Management
IT operations control is one of the core functions of IT service management, along with application management, technical management and the service desk. We can compare and contrast these functions to deepen our understanding of how IT operations fits into the overall framework of IT functions.
Application management deals with the technical aspect of managing applications that are necessary for supporting IT services within the organization. Application management teams play an important role in designing, testing, deploying, operating and optimizing applications. They also possess specific programming knowledge that is required for controlling and monitoring applications at the level of code.
Technical management provides high-level technical expertise that can be strategically applied to the design, management and support of IT infrastructure. An IT organization may assign a technical lead or technical analyst for each key technology area, whose purpose is to contribute technical knowledge to service life cycle decision-making.
Service desk is the best-known function within the IT organization for most businesses. The service desk acts as a single point of contact between the business and the IT department where users can submit incident reports or requests for IT services.
IT operations plays a unique role compared to these other functions, although there may be some overlap in areas of responsibility and specialties. The goal of IT operations control is to monitor and control IT services as well as the underlying configuration items required to deliver those services. Some organizations may even divide their service desk functionality into a separate IT operations help desk and IT applications help desk.
While the technical management function exists to provide high-level technical guidance, IT operations focuses on routine and day-to-day operational tasks and maintenance. While application management teams focus on the technical aspects of application management, IT operations focuses specifically on services and infrastructure (although there is some overlap, as both may be involved in application monitoring). IT operations delivers value to the organization by controlling and managing the specific tasks needed to maintain the performance and reliability of the IT infrastructure in delivering services to the business.
What Does IT Operations Do?
An IT operations team can consist of IT operators managed by an IT operations manager, or a cross-functional team of network and systems engineers, network security professionals and other job titles that work together to manage and maintain the IT infrastructure. The Disciplined Agile framework identifies 6 classifications for IT operations tasks, along with the connected activities that correspond to each strategic objective.
Run Solutions - Running solutions is the main reason that IT operations exists. IT operators are responsible for performing data back-ups, restoring system after a service outage or update, configuring and tuning servers and other configuration items to optimize their performance and allocating IT resources where they are needed to promote effective service delivery.
Manage Infrastructure - Oversight of IT infrastructure is a key responsibility for IT operations managers. The IT infrastructure is comprised of computing and networking hardware, along with software applications that run on them. Infrastructure management includes oversight of hybrid cloud environments, applications deployed in the cloud, network security management, facilities management and hardware IT infrastructure components.
Manage Configurations - IT operations must document hardware configurations and solution dependencies, as well as implement new configurations to promote optimal performance of the IT infrastructure and services.
Evolve Infrastructure - IT operations plays a dominant role in day-to-day maintenance, but IT operators can and must act as innovators who work to evolve the infrastructure in a way that meets the demands of the business. This includes activities such as identifying impacts of change, applying software patches and introducing new hardware and software applications to drive service performance.
Mitigate Disasters - IT operations teams are typically in charge of a business organization's disaster recovery plan. IT operations teams plan, simulate and practice disaster recovery situations to protect the business from experiencing significant downtime and lost revenue if an unexpected problem or disaster causes a major service outage.
Govern IT Operations - IT Operations monitors and measures the performance of the IT infrastructure, including the IT organization's security posture. It may also develop operational metrics to help evaluate the performance of key processes and services, manage software license compliance and conduct infrastructure audits to verify that security and performance targets are being met.
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