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I'm trying to help better organize the activities of our group. We're largely a service organization (working with faculty and students at an academic institution), but we're a tech group and we do software development and integration as well.

We had previously tried a "tools-first" approach to project and task tracking, and that wasn't terribly successful — the tools became a burden rather than an aid. So I'm trying to think things out from first principles. I don't really have a background or training here, so I'm struggling a bit with the naming of things, and hope you can help.

Here's my conceptualization of the different types of activities we do in a generic sense. There's a lot of ways to divide up activities, but this one is prompted by thinking about the differences in needs for organizing and tracking. Event response needs a ticketing system; that same ticketing system might not be the best for project tracking, or for the "blue" category as explained below.

activities pie. mmm, pie

Event response is activity prompted by something external: an e-mail for help or walk-in request, or, a system disk failure or security breech. Either way, these are hard to plan for except as estimates; they tend to be short lived, and require immediate response of some kind. (Making sure time and people are budgeted for these things is important, though, since they really do serve our group mission and mustn't feel like distractions or interruptions.)

Unavailable is something the higher-ups thought looked badly on the chart, but basically is an acknowledgment that people have sick days and vacation and other interruptions. It helps me to keep that in mind, even if it ultimately doesn't go into presentations of what our group does.

Exploration/Learning is training and individual exploration of new technologies and ideas. We need to be up on these things as a group so this is important.

Project development is where we work to enable new services or improve existing ones. We also do some consulting-style work which seems best managed as small projects. We have work to do in areas around process here, but I've got a lot of good ideas on how to move forward.

So, Daily operations are where I keep running into a language problem. I mean "the stuff one does as part of keeping our services running", but not just in a technical sense. Some of this is reading logs, checking server status, and so on, but I also mean for it to encompass teaching a seminar, meetings with our users. And I don't mean it to include many of the things that are generally included under "operations" in the IT sense. Racking a server, for example, is probably part of a project to deploy some new or upgraded service; changing a failed disk is event response. A general characteristic of things in this category is that they are continuously ongoing, but are not externally prompted. We can usually ignore or avoid working on these things for a time, at a cost of accrued technical or social debt — we can avoid reading logs, but may need to suddenly pay when there's an incident later which we weren't aware of. We can avoid scheduling meetings with faculty with no immediate consequences (but probably serious longer-term ones).

So, what's a good thing to call this last category of activity? I really want to avoid "operations", but can't think of anything better.

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You could use "Ongoing Services" or "Daily Services".

Whatever word(s) you choose to use, make sure you educate your audience on what they mean.

Small point: I find that a bar chart sorted by activity type would be more effective than a pie at it would show more clearly where your group spend most of its time.

  • I like "ongoing" — thanks. The pie chart is appropriate because the point is to convey that a finite resource (our time) is divided. The precise comparison isn't really important. – mattdm Sep 21 '11 at 11:15
  • I like "services." I do think admin time, both productive and unproductive, would be useful to decompose out of services, though. I like your suggestion of the bar chart, too, sorted Pareto, but do understand mattdm's desire to show a finite utilization availability. – David Espina Sep 21 '11 at 13:05
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I have seen "daily operations" referred in several executive summaries as Operations (single word). Sometimes as Business Processes or Administration.

The word Operations is highly used in my organization representing all the activities that must be undertaken, measured and controlled to ensure the continuity of the business. As you mentioned above, we do not use this term to refer to IT Operations but to all the tasks that need to executed on regular basis (daily, fortnightly, and so forth).

  • I think part of the terminology problem is that in the sense of you give in italics, the entire chart is Operations. (Which is a good insight into why it's a bad term for one wedge.) – mattdm Sep 21 '11 at 16:16
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I would remove "unavailable." Your pie should be representative of available utilization, with it being known that it represents the net after you remove normal work absences. I would label operations as productive administration and unproductive administration, with productive being time spent on admin duties directly related to the function of your business and unproductive being admin duties related to the organization, like company-wide training or all hands meeting, etc.

  • The reason for keeping unavailable is that the unavailable wedge varies from month to month. Putting it there keeps comparisons of the rest of the pie meaningful. – mattdm Sep 20 '11 at 16:49
  • As for labeling company-wide training or all-hands meetings "unproductive"... I see where you're going there, but that's very loaded. Can you suggest more neutral language? – mattdm Sep 20 '11 at 16:51
  • Can you average the unavailable so that it stays constant? Use "direct" and "indirect" versus productive and unproductive? Direct admin...indirect admin. Sounds neutral. – David Espina Sep 20 '11 at 17:27
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    @DavidEspina: I agree with David that Unavailable should be removed. I wouldn't use the word "Administration" for "Daily Operations" though because this is the biggest activity, and no "higher-up" likes to see that most of their resources' time is spent on Admin... – Angeline Sep 21 '11 at 9:15
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Your daily operations is similar to the IT Service Management in ITIL. I would call that category as "service delivery" for you are delivering and providing the daily needs of your services.

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Personally I would substitute "daily operations" with "Business as usual". I would also ensure ensure that your "higher ups" understand that this activity indicates "normal execution of operations" within your business.

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  • Overhead
  • Keeping the lights on
  • Daily Activities
  • Continued Activities
  • Continuous Activities
  • Baseline Activities
  • Baseline Services
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In the Windows Live division at Microsoft they call this "Service Excellence" (although perhaps "Service Engineering" would be less pretentious), and in each feature team instead of a pm/dev/test triad, they have a pm/dev/test/SE quad driving the feature.

  • That's really interesting. I'm not going to use that name, but the idea for a dedicated role is very valuable. (That same person could make sure event response tickets aren't falling through the cracks.) – mattdm Sep 24 '11 at 12:33
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I would recommend System and User Support

  • Any explanation as to why you'd recommend this, or can you share your experience of using this name? As it stands this answer doesn't seem helpful and is likely to be deleted. – Lunivore Oct 7 '12 at 15:58
  • No - nothing to add. Since the question was pretty wide open, I just get a very short simple response. What could I possibly add? And why would you bother to delete it? – SBWorks Oct 9 '12 at 1:00
  • No reason, particularly, but it's auto-flagged as "low quality" for length and content. You can't explain why you'd recommend this name? – Lunivore Oct 9 '12 at 6:05
  • "System and user support" would also include the "event response" wedge, so that doesn't work. – mattdm Nov 28 '17 at 18:26

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