An introduction to the MOF Operations SMF

Our previous blog articles in this series explain the role of the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), service management functions (SMF’s) and introduce ITIL IQ® which is the first step in implementing MOF within your business. Before you use this SMF, you may want to read the following ITIL IQ® guidance to learn more about the MOF IT service lifecycle and the Operate Phase:

Blog Article 1: What’s your ITIL IQ®? Meet MOF

Blog Article 2: The MOF Plan Phase

Blog Article 7: The MOF Deliver Phase

Blog Article 13: The MOF Operate Phase

The MOF IT service lifecycle encompasses all the activities and processes involved in managing an IT service: its conception, development, operation, maintenance, and ultimately its retirement. MOF organises these activities and processes into Service Management Functions (SMFs), which are grouped together in phases that mirror the IT service lifecycle. Each SMF is anchored within a lifecycle phase and contains a unique set of goals and outcomes supporting the objectives of that phase. An IT service’s readiness to move from one phase to the next is confirmed by management reviews, which ensure that goals are being achieved in an appropriate fashion and that IT’s goals are aligned with the goals of the organisation.

Each SMF is anchored within a lifecycle phase and contains a unique set of goals and outcomes supporting the objectives of that phase. The SMFs can be used as standalone sets of processes, but it is when SMFs are used together that they are most effective in ensuring service delivery at the desired quality and risk levels.

The Operations SMF belongs to the Operate Phase of the MOF IT service lifecycle. The following figure shows the place of the Operations SMF within the Operate Phase, as well as the location of the Operate Phase within the IT service lifecycle.

MOF Operations Phase SMF

Figure 1. Position of the Operations SMF within the IT service lifecycle

Why Use the Operations SMF?

This SMF should be useful to anyone who is tasked with ensuring effective day to day operations, including ensuring that required work is identified, reactive time spent is reduced, disruptions are minimised, and recurring tasks are executed well.

This SMF specifically addresses how to:

  • Define operational work requirements.
  • Build operational work instructions.
  • Plan operational work.
  • Execute operational work.
  • Maintain operational work instructions.
  • Manage operational work.
Operations Overview

The Operations Service Management Function (SMF) addresses what it takes to ensure effective and efficient day to day operations of an IT service after it has been conceived, built, and deployed into the production environment. This SMF focuses on how to determine what the daily, weekly, monthly, and as needed tasks for maintaining an IT service are, and then on how to ensure that they are understood and followed by those responsible for that maintenance.

The SMF does not, for the most part, say what those tasks are. Other than in the form of examples, because such tasks vary depending on the service being maintained. Instead, this SMF addresses how an organisation can determine for itself what those tasks should be.

That determination is crucial, because it is at the heart of how to create and keep a well maintained production environment. Successful operations pay off, resulting in:

  • IT managers knowing what is required to maintain and administer an IT service.
  • An IT Operations Manager who manages the workload in accordance with an operations plan.
  • Operations staff members who know what to do and how to execute their work efficiently.

In order to ensure that IT services are designed for effective operations, some of the process for planning operations work actually starts in the Deliver Phase of the IT service lifecycle, during the release planning stage of planning for a new IT service. At that point, the Technology Area Manager and the release team work together to determine operations work requirements for the new service.

Later, when the project team is building the new IT service, the Technology Area Manager should develop operational work instructions. And then, after the new service has passed the release readiness review and has been released into production, the team can complete the planning of operational work.

Operations SMF Role Types

The primary team accountability that applies to the Build SMF is the Operations Accountability. The role types within that accountability and their primary activities within this SMF are displayed in the following table.

Table 1. Operations Accountability and Its Attendant Role Types

Role Type Responsibilities Role in This SMF
Operator Executes tasks with predictable results based on instructions Conducts planned operations tasks
Administrator Executes tasks that are not well defined, requiring a deeper level of knowledge Conducts unplanned or undefined operations tasks
Technology Area Manager

Owns short term performance of components in a technology area

Owns the work instructions

Ensures operational requirements are met for the technology area

Ensures work instructions are carried out as intended
Monitoring Manager

Responsible for Service Monitoring and Control SMF tasks

Ensures that the right systems are monitored

Facilitates effective monitoring mechanisms

Is the expert on how to monitor, not what to monitor

Ensures needed monitoring information is generated
Scheduling Manager

Plans schedule of individual activities within operations

Owns timing decisions

Plans operational work, including maintenance

Schedules operational work
Operations Manager Accountable for Operations and Service Monitoring and Control SMFs Management oversight
 Goals of Operations

The goals of Operations include the following:

  • Ensure that the work required to successfully operate IT services has been identified and described.
  • Reduce time spent by Operations staff on reactive work.
  • Minimise service disruptions and downtime.
  • Execute recurring and on demand IT operations tasks effectively and efficiently.

Table 2. Outcomes and Measures of the Operations SMF Goals

Outcomes Measures
Improve efficiency of IT staff Number of Operations staff, number of work hours used outside operations plan
Increase IT service availability Service availability, service level agreement (SLA) targets missed
Improved operations of new/changed IT services Number of incidents the first month
Reduction of reactive work Reduction in number of incidents
Key Terms

The following table contains definitions of key terms found in this guide.

Table 3. Key Terms

Term Definition
Work instruction Prescriptive guidance that precisely describes how a specific work activity should be completed.
Operations guide An operations plan containing prescriptive work instructions.
Service window Span of time during which maintenance of an IT service can be completed without affecting the availability specified in the SLA.
Operations log Records listing when operational work has been completed and by whom.
Operations Flow

Figure 2 illustrates the flow of the Operations SMF and shows its connection to other closely related SMFs.

The processes for operations are:

  • Define operational requirements.
  • Build operational work instructions.
  • Plan operational work.
  • Execute operational work.
  • Maintain operational work instructions.
  • Manage operational work.

MOF Operations Management Flow

Figure 2. Operations flow

Process 1: Define Operational Work Requirements

Figure 3. Define operational work requirements

Activities: Define Operational Work Requirements

The objective of this process is to identify and document the work activities that ensure optimal IT operation.

With the help of the Technology Area Manager, the release team:

  • Identifies the operational requirements imposed by SLAs and operating level agreements (OLAs).
  • Categorises typical operational activities and tasks.
  • Builds an operations plan that details those items, as well as their requirements and dependencies.

The following table describes these activities in greater detail.

Table 4. Activities and Considerations for Defining Operational Work Requirements

Activities Considerations
Identify operational requirements

Key questions:

What time of day is each service operational?

What are each service’s requirements with respect to availability? Performance? Reliability? Security?

What are the reporting requirements of each service, and to whom are reports directed?

Are there any other expectations or requirements for each service that influence how the IT service must be operated?




Functional specifications

Requirements documents

Information from service owner


A list of operational requirements for the IT service

Best practice:

If an SLA/OLA does not exist for the service, the Technology Area Manager should interview the service owner (the person or business unit that requested the service) using the key questions above to understand his or her expectations. When these results have been documented and signed off on by the service owner, they become the operational requirements for the service—in other words, a basic SLA.

Identify required operational work

Key questions:

What repetitive tasks/activities are required to perform maintenance on the service (for example, defragmentation of databases)?

What administrative tasks/activities need to be performed (for example, account administration)?

How is the service backed up?

How is the service restored?

In the event of a disaster, what tasks and activities are required to recover the service?

What tasks/activities are required to maintain the security of the service?

What should be monitored to ensure the service is healthy?

How will the service be monitored for performance? Capacity? Availability?

What kinds of reports are necessary to confirm that service levels are being met, and to whom should they be directed?

What other reports must be delivered, and to whom?

What operational tasks/activities are recommended by the vendor of the service?

Which of the service’s operational tasks must be performed manually and which can be automated?

Does the service require any specific operational tools?


Operational guidance from vendor, if applicable

Existing operational guidance/documentation within the IT department

Design and configuration documentation for each IT service in scope


List of operational work required to operate the service successfully

Build operations plan

Key questions:

What operational tasks must be developed to meet operational requirements?

Are there any dependencies between the tasks that require specific sequencing of the work?

Have all operational requirements in the SLA/OLA been addressed?

Has the list of operational work categories been verified with peers?


List of operational tasks required to operate the service successfully


Operations plan listing:

·        Operational requirements.

·        Operational tasks with description and requirements.

·        Monitoring requirements.

·        Reporting requirements.

Best practice:

Determine the delivery method of the operational tasks. If the tasks are created and executed from a tool or portal, determine whether the operational tasks can be imported into the tool automatically. If they can, make sure the operations plan reflects that.

Process 2: Build Operational Work Instructions

Build operational work instructions

Figure 4. Build operational work instructions

Activities: Build Operational Work Instructions

The objective of this process is to develop guidance and specific, tested instructions for the operational work identified in the operations plan. This includes:

  • Identifying resources.
  • Identifying operational guidance.
  • Developing operational work instructions.
  • Testing operational work instructions.

The following table describes these activities in greater detail.

 Table 5. Activities and Considerations for Building Operational Work Instructions

Activities Considerations
Identify resources

Key questions:

·        What technologies make up the service?

·        Who in the organisation is knowledgeable about these technologies?

·        Who knows the infrastructure in which the service will be deployed?

·        Who understands the architecture and design of the service being released?

·        Who is responsible for operating the technologies that make up the service?


·        Operations plan

·        Information from Operations Manager

·        Information from Release Manager


·        A list of administrators and engineers responsible for developing work instructions

Best practices:

·        If IT operations staff is involved, ensure that their schedules allow enough time for fulfilling their proactive IT operations responsibilities.

·        If a service map has been created, use that to identify the technologies composing the service. For more information on service maps, see the Business/IT Alignment SMF.

Identify operational guidance

Key questions:

·        How can vendor information contribute to the development of the work instructions?

·        Is existing operations documentation available?

·        What other relevant operational documentation exists in the IT organisation?

·        Do any tasks or guidelines lack documentation? Who is responsible for them?


·        Operations plan

·        Existing operational documentation

·        Best practices and white papers

·        Architecture and design documentation

·        Configuration documentation

·        IT Operations staff

·        Existing guidance from currently used operations management tools


·        Information that can serve as input for the work instructions document

Best practice:

·        Make sure that time is not spent reinventing something that already exists.

Develop operational work instructions

Key questions:

·        What is the user’s knowledge level? How detailed will the work instructions need to be?

·        What delivery method (document, portal, other) would be most efficient and easiest for the user?

·        What type of information should accompany the work instruction (trigger, duration, tools required, credentials required, user role)?

·        What is the appropriate language (English, Danish, other?) for the work instructions?

·        How can the work instructions meet the requirements stated in the operations plan?


·        Operations plan

·        Operational guidance gathered previously

·        Information and guidance from subject matter experts (SMEs)


·        A clear, easily deliverable guide containing instructions for the work described in the operations plan

Best practices:

·        Agree on a common template and format for the work instructions.

·        Present the work instructions in a way that is easily consumable by the users (for example, by arranging them according to user role).

Test operational work instructions

Key questions:

·        What are the test criteria?

·        Do users understand each work instruction?

·        Does each work instruction produce the expected result?

·        Does testing of work instructions result in compliance with operational requirements?


·        Instructions for the operational work described in the operations plan


·        Determination about whether the tests fulfill the test criteria

·        Feedback for writer of work instructions

Best practice:

·        Test the instructions in a setting that replicates as closely as possible the actual production environment.

Process 3: Plan Operational Work

Plan Operational Work

Figure 5. Plan operational work

Activities: Plan Operational Work

This process includes:

  • Categorising operational work.
  • Assigning resources.
  • Estimating duration.
  • Identifying dependencies.
  • Building the operations schedule.

The following table describes these activities in greater detail.

Table 6. Activities and Considerations for Planning Operational Work

Activities Considerations
Categorise operational work

Key questions:

·        Which of the activities must be executed according to a predetermined schedule (daily, weekly, monthly)?

·        What work is triggered by a request to the Service Desk – that is, not executed according to a predetermined schedule? Examples are account management or provisioning of a new desktop computer.

·        What work is support related (for example, predefined responses or solutions to known problems)?


·        Operations guide


·        List of operational activities sorted by responsible roles

Best practices:

·        Make sure the Customer Service desk addresses work that requires a rapid response.

·        Assign work that is difficult to document to administrators or Technology Area Managers.

Assign resources

Key questions:

·        Does the Operations team’s current workload allow members to execute this work while fulfilling their existing responsibilities? What is the current workload of the people with the appropriate skills?

·        Would it be more cost effective to outsource some of the work?

·        Who has the skills required to execute the operational work? Are there people on the Operations team who are not fully utilised and who can be trained to do this work?

·        Can the workload of the existing resources be balanced differently?


·        Operations guide

·        Service request


·        List of operational activities sorted by responsible roles with resources assigned

Best practices:

·        Assign the Customer Service desk all work requiring rapid response, this will free the Operations team to complete all proactive work.

·        Ensure that the Operations team performs only uninterrupted work, such as preventive maintenance and administrative work that does not require immediate action.

·        If an Operations team member is ever called upon to do reactive work, make sure that it does not interfere with the proactive work – or, if possible, assign someone else to perform the proactive operational work instead.

·        Prioritise and complete proactive work according to the operations guide. Failing to do this will result in more reactive work, which will put the Operations team into “firefighting” mode and will hamper its efforts to work effectively and efficiently.

·        If the Operations team is spending increasing amounts of time doing reactive work, consider hiring outside resources to help remediate the root causes of the reactive work.

Estimate duration of work

Key questions:

·        What is the estimated time needed to complete each work instruction? Should instructions be tested to get a more accurate estimate?

·        Will the resources assigned to the work be able to complete it within the time specified?


·        Operations guide

·        Experience from similar tasks

·        Capability of assigned resources


·        Operations guide with listing of task durations

Best practice:

·        Make sure that the people responsible for completing the work estimate its duration. This ensures that differences in skills between the person who developed the work instruction and the person executing it are taken into consideration. It also encourages buy in from the people executing the work.

Identify dependencies

Key questions:

·        Must any of the operational work be performed in a certain sequence?

·        Does the work have a performance impact on the production system?

·        Does the work affect the availability of the service (for example, does it require a restart or a shift into maintenance mode)?

·        Does the work require specific approvals before execution?


·        Operations guide


·        Operations guide listing dependencies and sequences, if applicable

Build operations schedule

Key questions:

·        Does the service level agreement mention availability and uptime requirements that affect the planning of operational work?

·        What is the required sequence for the operational work?

·        Will the work affect service availability? Has a service window been established?

·        When can the work be completed without affecting the end users?

·        When are the assigned resources available to perform the work?

·        Is a common planning tool available for all affected IT staff to use?


·        Operations guide


·        Operations schedule

Process 4: Execute Operational Work

Execute Operational Work

Figure 6. Execute operational work

Activities: Execute Operational Work

This process helps guarantee that the work specified in the operations guide is executed according to the operations schedule effectively, efficiently, and with predictable results. It is also essential that knowledge gathered while performing the operational work is captured and used to continually improve the quality of service delivery.

This process includes:

  • Executing work instructions.
  • Updating operations log.
  • Supplying input for ORM.

The following table describes these activities in greater detail.

 Table 7. Activities and Considerations for Executing Operational Work

Activities Considerations
Execute work instructions

Key questions:

·        Is the work instruction understandable and easy to follow?

·        Will following the work instruction always produce the same result?

·        How can the operator and administrator provide structured feedback about operational tasks?

·        Can any of the work be partially or fully automated?


·        Operations schedule

·        Operations guide


·        Completed operational work for user noted in the operations log

Update operations log

Key question:

·        Is the operations log easily available and simple to update?


·        Completed operational work


·        Updated operations log

·        Maintenance request

Supply input for Operational Health Management Review

Key questions:

·        Have any abnormalities been experienced during execution? Do they require further investigation?

·        Can any processes be changed to optimise quality or speed?


·        Completed operational work


·        Agenda item or notes for the Operational Health MR

Process 5: Maintain Operational Work Instructions

Maintain Operational Work Instructions

Figure 7. Maintain operational work instructions

Activities: Maintain Operational Work Instructions

The objective of this process is to change or retire existing work instructions. Generally, work instructions change because a better way of completing the work has been identified. Work instructions are retired when the service they address is retired or otherwise becomes obsolete. This process includes:

  • Performing maintenance.
  • Updating the operations guide.

The following table describes these activities in greater detail.

Table 8. Activities and Considerations for Maintaining Operational Work Instructions

Activities Considerations
Perform maintenance on the operational work instructions

Key questions:

·        Does the administrator have the skills required to change the work instruction, or should it be changed by the Technology Area Manager?

·        Will the subject matter expert need to be available for questions about the work instructions?

·        Is the change within the scope of change management, or can it be deployed within the Maintain Operational Work Instructions process?


·        Request for maintenance


·        Change request

·        Modified work instructions

Update operations guide

Key questions:

·        Does the update affect the duration of the work instruction?

·        Does it change any of the dependencies?

·        Does it change resources assigned to execute the work instruction?

·        Does it require any added interaction between operational tools?


·        Modified work instruction


·        Updated operations guide

Process 6: Manage Operational Work

Manage Operational Work

Figure 8. Manage operational work

Activities: Manage Operational Work

During this process, the Operations Manager ensures that the work outlined in the operations guide is being completed cost effectively and is fulfilling the SLAs. Additionally, IT staff members document relevant experiences for future reference, which helps reduce both the number of incidents and the amount of unplanned work.

This process includes:

  • Verifying work completed.
  • Optimising the operations schedule.
  • Optimising operations resources.

The following table describes these activities in greater detail.

Table 9. Activities and Considerations for Executing Operational Work

Activities Considerations
Verify work completed

Key questions:

·        Has the operational work been completed as planned in the operations schedule? If not, why not?

·        Has the completed work produced the desired outcome? If not, why not?

·        Have Operational Health MRs been conducted?

·        Have the OHMRs resulted in actions that improve service delivery or optimise resources?


·        Operations log

·        Operations schedule

·        Operations guide

·        OHMRs


·        Feedback for the operations staff on work performed and not performed

Best practice:

·        Ensure that management follows up to ensure that work has been completed.

Optimise operations schedule

Key questions:

·        Can the schedule be adjusted to improve efficient utilisation of people and resources?

·        Have any improvement areas been identified by the Operations staff?

·        Can any of the work be completed by the Customer Service desk?

·        Can any of the work be fully or partially automated?

·        Which systems or technologies consume most of the team’s time?

·        Could the number of systems and technologies be reduced so that less time is required to complete them?


·        Operations log

·        Operations schedule

·        Information from Scheduling Manager

·        ORMs


·        Updated operations plan

Optimise operations resources

Key questions:

·        Have reactive and proactive responsibilities been separated so that no one is doing both simultaneously?

·        Are the decisions for balance between proactive and reactive operational activities kept even though firefighting support issues show up?

·        Are any operational tools used to handle the use of Operations staff?

·        Does operations management have a balanced workload model to refer to?

·        Are specialist resources performing work that can be delegated to people with less experience?

·        Are any Operations team members underutilised? Could any of the prescriptive operational work be assigned to them?


·        Operations log

·        Operations schedule

·        Scheduling Manager

·        OHMRs


·        Updated operations plan

Best practice:

·        Operational management should ensure that backup assistance is available for operational staff in situations requiring immediate support work.


This SMF addresses how to ensure effective day to day operations, including ensuring that required work is identified, reactive time spent is reduced, disruptions are minimised, and recurring tasks are executed well.

This SMF specifically addresses how to:

  • Define operational work requirements.
  • Build operational work instructions.
  • Plan operational work.
  • Execute operational work.
  • Maintain operational work instructions.
  • Manage operational work.
How can I implement MOF?

Hopefully by now you’ll begin to understand the value that the Microsoft Operations Framework can bring to your business. The goals, outcomes and measures outlined above require many activities and considerations which form part of our day to day activities at First Solution. In fact, we’re experts in MOF and have even developed a unique ITIL IQ® process that benchmarks a business’s current state, identifies their desired state and provides an action plan (called a Service Delivery Plan) that helps organisations of all sizes achieve their desired business outcomes. Most importantly, our unique ITIL IQ® process begins with a Proactive Services Maturity Review (PSMR) which identifies a score (out of 100) that clearly communicates the current state of your businesses IT operational maturity. Armed with your ITIL IQ® score, a non-IT professional such as a finance or procurement professional can concisely present to the IT Executive Officer the businesses current state, desired state, and ITIL IQ® score with an action plan to improve the ITIL IQ® score and thereby ensure that IT’s goals are aligned with the goals of the business and that both are progressing together. Once the IT Executive Officer has bought into the MOF concept we can help to develop an IT service strategy, IT service map, IT service portfolio and Service level agreements.

How can I operate better IT services?

Simply get in touch to arrange a free Proactive Services Maturity Review and one of our MOF experts will conduct an interview with the IT Manager or IT Executive Officer within your business and provide an ITIL IQ® score with which you can measure the performance of your IT function. Once you know your ITIL IQ® score we can provide a Service Delivery Plan to help you improve it each month and measure and report progress back to you during a Monthly Service Review. And there we have it, an ITIL based solution to simply identify and measure the performance of your IT function. So, are you ready to operate better IT services?



The Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0 is provided with permission from Microsoft Corporation. 

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