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|The Importance of Early Life Support|
The Importance of Early Life Support
When organisations begin to implement Service Management they typically concentrate on Incident, Problem and Change. Support teams and management often grow weary before getting to other processes after seeing the initial quick wins with the first three. Service Transition allows an organization to be proactive with regard to what is to be supported and what support costs might be; ultimately reducing the risk of high priority incidents when projects go live. A key component of Service Transition is the introduction into operational service through Early Life Support (ELS).
The tendency in project work is to save money and time on project deployments by eliminating or modifying requirements for critical elements for transition to operations. ELS is often overlooked in the rush to operations despite being critical to lowering risk. Typically, ELS is the accountability of the Project team to provide the right level of technical expertise and documentation for an effective management of change. Understanding and addressing operational costs and risk up front can save companies double or triple the cost of the project as operational costs can live on as the applications are many times in production for years. Having a build to operate approach can create a culture of reduced costs rather than continuous service improvement reviews for operational cost cutting.
The ELS period should be a targeted period of time within the lifecycle of the project and should only be exited once the business stakeholders, project team and the operational service owner have agreed that all the criteria have been met and the system is stable. This should provide ample time to verify the deployment of the approved and tested service (pre- production) that is now in production since go live. This period should also allow time to validate and verify the service meets the business needs and is sustainable as completed in this period.
Entering into Early Life Support
Before an application enters into production for the start of ELS it is important to determine the criterion by which it will enter and exit. Entering into ELS should happen only when the application has been fully on-boarded into the Service Management tool so proper metrics can be recorded. Checks should be conducted to determine if business functionality has been delivered along with any engagement, or build to operate requirements. Testing, which includes interfaces with other internal and external systems should be signed off as completed.
The exit criterion contains the specific metrics and criteria for ELS and the documentation required for knowledge transfer and handover. This criterion should be agreed upon by stakeholders prior to the project commencing, when discussions around business requirements and service needs are decided. It is important to include any standard production requirements for underlying infrastructure and vendor contractual agreements which might impact handover.
All incidents and service requests should be recorded in the standard Incident Management tool to ensure accurate reporting. Therefore applications or infrastructure should be appropriately on boarded in the tool before ELS begins.
This will ensure that:
Early Life Support in review
ELS gives operations and the project the opportunity to respond to elements of the applications that could increase support costs and complete thorough knowledge transfer to ensure operations is well prepared to deliver the agreed services.
During ELS, the project team resolves problems that help to stabilize the service. The project resources will gradually back out from providing the additional support as the users and operational teams become familiar with the changes and the incidents and risks reduce.
Potential metrics for the target deployment group are; measure of service performance, performance of the Service Management processes, operations processes, the number of incidents and problems by type. The deployment team’s aim is to stabilize the service for the target deployment group or environment as quickly and effectively as possible. Keep in mind a variation in performance between different deployment groups and service units should be analysed and lessons learned from one deployment should be documented and used to improve subsequent deployments.
During ELS, the project team should ensure that the documentation and knowledge base are updated with additional diagnostics, known errors, workarounds and frequently asked questions. The team should also resolve any knowledge transfer or support training gaps within the production support teams receiving the service. At agreed milestones during ELS, it is important to assess the issues and risks, particularly those that impact the handover schedule and costs.
Handover considerations may include:
Early Life Support Framework:
Early Life Support responsibilities
It is often believed that ELS starts when the service has actually been transitioned into operational use. This is not the case. Early Life Support should be considered as an integral role within the release and deployment phase of the project in execution. Those involved in ELS support should have the following key responsibilities and should be the accountability of the project team:
Reviewing and entering into Production Support
Before an application enters production it is essential that testing is complete and both the project team and the support team agree the application is ready to enter into a pre- production type support environment. Testing criterion should be based on operational as well as user specified requirements. It is also essential that the application and infrastructure have been properly on boarded to the Service Management tool so metrics can be captured and operational workflows can be followed during ELS. When reviewing a deployment for production the following activities should be included:
Knowledge transfer from the project team to the support team should include a list of knowledge items that have been agreed by both teams and should be part of a Knowledge Transfer Plan which includes supporting documentation for the application and knowledge articles customized for each transition. Documents should be delivered 3 to 4 weeks ahead of handover to support, depending on the size of the project.
The phases of Knowledge transfer are described below:
Project Primary Support – ‘Project Team Member resolves, Support Team watches’
During this phase the project team will resolve support tickets raised in the incident management tool.
Parallel Support – ‘Support Team resolves, Project Team watches’
During this phase the support team will act as secondary support during this phase.
Production Primary Support – ‘Support Team resolves, Project Team catches if
During this phase the support team will act as the primary support.
Typical Timeline flow diagram
Exiting from Early Life Support
Criterion for exiting ELS should be based upon business functional requirements as defined by the project team at the beginning of the project as well as IT operational requirements for support. All criteria for exiting ELS and entering into Operations should be included in closing documentation for the project. This allows for reflection during lessons learned meetings and as historical documentation as to what was agreed if there are challenges after operational support begins.
Final closing and exit from ELS:
In order to exit ELS and enter into operational production support, the following components should be considered;
In today’s cost cutting culture there may be pressure to close projects without properly testing the real time support environment. Early Life Support allows the project, operations and the business to know and understand what will be required to support the application in question in perpetuity, reflecting true total cost of ownership. Early Life Support documentation allows organizations to learn from the past and improve both project deployments and operations for future endeavours.