Operate Phase Overview

Published: April 25, 2008


Introduction to MOF

The guidance in the Microsoft® Operations Framework encompasses all of the activities and processes involved in managing an IT service: its conception, development, operation, maintenance, and—ultimately—its retirement. MOF organizes 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 organization.

Overview of the Operate Phase

The Operate Phase of the IT service lifecycle represents the culmination of the two phases that precede it. While the Plan Phase focuses on how to determine the business’s needs for IT services, and the Deliver Phase focuses on how to design, plan, build, and deploy those services, the Operate Phase focuses on what to do after the services are in place.

It is, in effect, the steady state for the environment in which IT services exist.

Think of what it takes to effectively operate and maintain an automobile. There are proper ways to start the car, to drive it forward, to reverse it, and to stop it. There are devices that monitor the health of the car’s engine and its supporting systems—a heat gauge, an oil pressure gauge, a fuel gauge, a tachometer, a speedometer, and an odometer. There are proactive procedures, such as oil changes, that help maintain the vehicle’s health. And finally, there are garages, with mechanics and body workers, to repair the vehicle when something is wrong with it.

In much the same way, the key activities of the Operate Phase help operate and maintain IT services. The Operate Phase contains the following service management functions (SMFs): Operations, Service Monitoring and Control, Customer Service, and Problem Management. For more information on these SMFs, see “Service Management Functions Within the Operate Phase” in this guide.

The best practices described in these SMFs help IT professionals:

  • Manage each service proactively and effectively.
  • Monitor the health of each service proactively and continuously.
  • Restore a service to health when things go wrong with it.

This phase is characterized mostly by dedicated teams, which are teams that exists for ongoing work, with no specific end time in mind. The role types on those teams fall into two accountabilities: the Operations Accountability and the Support Accountability. The accountable role type for the Operations Accountability is the Operations Manager. The accountable role type for the Support Accountability is the Customer Service Manager.

More information about the two accountabilities and all of their role types can be found in the “Team SMF Focuses” section. More information about the team role types is also contained in each of the SMF documents for the phase, as well as in the Team SMF, which is part of the foundational Manage Layer of the IT service lifecycle.

The Operate Phase begins after a new service has been deployed in the Deliver Phase. The end of that phase is tied to the Release Readiness Management Review (MR), which occurs between Stabilize and Deploy. This review, and the post-implementation review that occurs after deployment is complete, acts as a bridge between the Deliver Phase and the Operate Phase, ensuring the readiness of the release for deployment, including the operability and supportability of the release and the readiness of the target production environment to support and operate the deployed release.

In turn, the Operate Phase is supported by a management review, the Operational Health Review (OHR), which includes a review of service level agreements (SLAs) and operating level agreements (OLAs). The Operational Health Review should be scheduled on a regular basis to ensure that operations in the production environment are continuously monitored and measured against previously set indicators. This review evaluates performance-related metrics, as well as other business and operational indicators that help measure the overall health of the production computing environment.

These activities—the four SMFs and the Operational Health Review—form the core of the Operate Phase. Figure 1 illustrates the position of this phase within the lifecycle.

Figure 1. The Operate Phase within the IT service lifecycle

Goals of the Operate Phase

The primary goals of the Operate Phase are to ensure that deployed services are operated, monitored, and supported in line with the agreed-to SLA targets.

Specifically, that means:

  • Ensuring that IT services are available by improving IT staff use and better managing workload. 
  • Ensuring that IT services are monitored to provide real-time observation of health conditions and by ensuring that team members are trained to handle any problems efficiently and quickly.
  • Ensuring that IT services are restored quickly and effectively.

Meeting these goals requires:

  • Alignment with the service management functions (SMFs) for this phase.
  • Using periodic management reviews (MRs) to evaluate the effectiveness of the phase.

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