Defining any high-level process model requires a compromise that balances simplicity and understanding with scientific accuracy. The world of IT operations is complex; it contains a multitude of operational environments and process dynamics that are difficult to capture and define with consistent accuracy. With so many processes, procedures, and communications happening simultaneously across a diverse set of systems, applications, and platforms, it is virtually impossible to model any particular environment exactly. In practice, a fully detailed and prescriptive model is generally inappropriate and cost prohibitive for most businesses to even attempt.

In contrast, the MOF approach is to simplify process definition into a high-level framework that is easy to understand and whose principles and practices are easy to incorporate and apply selectively or comprehensively. The power of this simplified approach will enable the operations staff of a business of any size, regardless of maturity level, to realize tangible benefits to the existing, or proposed, operations environment. The intent of the MOF Process Model is to provide a simple representation of the complex components and their relationships within the model.

Process Model Principles

The MOF Process Model assists the delivery and support of IT services by addressing the following four principles:

  • Structured architecture - The Process Model is built upon an architecture that provides a higher-level order for all the operational activities that must be addressed in mission-critical computing. This architecture provides the structure for process integration, life cycle management, mapping of roles and responsibilities, and overall management command and control. It also provides the underlying foundation for process automation and technology-specific operations.
  • Rapid life cycle, iterative improvement - The rate of change for IT operations continues to accelerate. This demand for change is in direct response to the needs of business to adapt and innovate to stay competitive. As a result, MOF promotes the concept of a rapid life cycle that supports both the ability to incorporate change quickly and to continuously assess and iteratively improve the overall operations environment. Recognizing that operations does not follow a sequential set of phases as in the typical IT development project, the MOF Process Model categorizes key operational activities into quadrants that make up a spiral life cycle, with the activities occurring in parallel, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Review-driven managementc - Within an IT operations organization, several methods and techniques are used to assist management in the control and oversight of the environment. MOF recommends and describes many of these methods in the details of its service management functions (SMFs). However, these methods and techniques alone are insufficient in obtaining the most from the IT investment. MOF inserts higher-level operations management reviews (OMRs) at key points within the life cycle. These reviews can be used to evaluate performance for release-based activities as well as steady state, or daily, operational activities. The operations management reviews add significant value to MOF. Where the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) points out that reviews of operations activity for efficiency and effectiveness should be conducted and describes these reviews at a high level, MOF makes these reviews an explicit part of the Process Model and provides detailed guidance on how to conduct them.
  • Embedded risk management - Where ITIL includes a discussion of handling risks in each IT operations process description (especially in availability, IT service continuity, and problem management), MOF elevates the management of risk to its own discipline and discusses risk in the context of each SMF and Team Model role cluster. Detailed guidance for operations risk management is provided in MOF Risk Management Discipline for Operations.

The MOF Definition of "Release"

An additional definition that will assist in understanding this document is the MOF definition of the term "release," which has a specific meaning within the MOF context. A release is considered to be any change, or group of changes, that must be incorporated into a managed IT environment. These changes are not handled separately, but rather as a packaged release that can be tracked, installed, tested, verified, and/or uninstalled as a single, logical release. Under this definition, a release is any of the following:

  • A new or updated line-of-business (LOB) system.
  • A new or updated Web site including content propagation.
  • New hardware (for example, server, network, client).
  • New or updated operations processes or procedures.
  • Changes in communication processes and/or team structures.
  • New infrastructure software.
  • Physical change in the building or environment.

This broad definition of release supports the fundamental principle of managing changes in people, process, and technology in the provision of service solutions. (Note that this definition of a release is broader than the ITIL definition of a release.)