Best practices for supporting hybrid Microsoft integration environment



January 21, 2022

In this third in a series of three blog posts on the people, the process and tools needed to successfully manage hybrid integration environments, we're taking a closer look at the process.

The best way to handle issues and prevent downtime

Handling issues and preventing downtime can be a complicated and knowledge-intensive operation. Therefore, a support process to handle issues efficiently is mandatory – a process that identifies how issues need to be dealt with, and by which support team member.

This support process, for instance, can be captured in a so-called “support model”. A support model is an overview of a process that defines how the BizTalk environment is supported with regards to issues and day-to-day to operations. The model depicts which roles are involved in supporting the BizTalk environment. Moreover, this model can be part of various related models like a health model, a supportability matrix, and a skill matrix as part of the overall support process. These models will be described in the following paragraphs. 

The support model

A support model aids in defining the support process and in providing the right service in case of necessary assistance resolving an issue. Most enterprises offer different channels to deliver assistance, which can be over the telephone, online by email or a website. The technical support is often subdivided into tiers, or levels, to better serve a business or customer base. Furthermore, the number of levels a company uses to organize their technical support group is dependent on a business’ need, want, or desire as it revolves around their ability to serve their customers or users sufficiently.

The reason for providing a multi-tiered support system instead of one general support group is to provide the best possible service in the most efficient possible manner. A typical support structure revolves around a three-tiered technical support system:

support_model 

The health model

A health model defines precisely how and what you want to monitor, diagnose, and recover in any application, device, or service. The setup of your environment drives the model through the configuration defined by non-functional requirements. In short, your BizTalk environments need to adhere to an agreed Service Level Agreement (SLA). A health model, supported by system-checks using a set of specialized tools and planned to run periodically, can be valuable to meet the SLA(s).

The supportability matrix

A supportability matrix is a follow-up of the health and support model. Once the process of who handles what issue, this matrix defines the roles involved and their responsibilities. 

Role

Responsibilities

BizTalk Administrator

Deploy applications, monitor UAT, and production, troubleshoot issues

First Tier Support Technicians

Identify issue, route issue to the appropriate support group

Second Tier Support Technicians

Troubleshoot (advanced) issues, technical skill set of BizTalk, .NET, Network, SQL Server, Windows Infrastructure, and Microsoft Azure

Third Tier Support Technicians

Troubleshoot advanced issues, deep technical skill set of BizTalk, .NET, Network, SQL Server, Windows Infrastructure, and Microsoft Azure

Functional Technician, Business Analyst

Knowledge of functional domain and processes, identify functional issues


Usually, you can find the BizTalk- and the SQL Server administrator and the infrastructure specialist in the second or third tier and the functional or business analyst in the second. What actual skills each technician should have can be found in the next paragraph.


The Skill Matrix

Skills management is the practice of understanding, developing and deploying people and their skills. Well-implemented skills management should identify the skills that job roles require, the capabilities of individual employees, and any gap between the two.

Managing skills inside an organization is a complicated process, and a skill matrix can be helpful. This matrix consists of a list of skills, and a grading system, with a definition of what it means to be at a particular level for a given ability.

Role

Skills

BizTalk Administrator

SQL Server, PowerShell, BizTalk Server (Certified), MCSA Certified, XML, Json

First Tier Support Technicians

BizTalk Server (Certified), Basic domain knowledge, an overview of business processes, XML, Json

Second Tier Support Technicians

BizTalk Server (Certified), .NET, Visual Studio, XML, Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA) or Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), Azure certificates

Third Tier Support Technicians

BizTalk Server (Certified), .NET, Visual Studio, XML, Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA) or Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), Azure certificates, Troubleshooting tools, XML, Json

Functional Technician, Business Analyst

Process and domain knowledge, XML, Json, data formats

 

Guide to managing hybrid integrations

As we've shown, robust work processes are necessary to manage hybrid integrations, but you also need the right people and tools. Download our Guide to Hybrid Integration Performance Monitoring and learn more.

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Topics from this blog: Blog

Author

Ricardo is a Microsoft integration expert, including BizTalk and Azure. He is a former BizTalk Premier Field Engineer, and is AIMS Head of Customer Success and Technical Evangelist.

Ricardo Torre

Ricardo is a Microsoft integration expert, including BizTalk and Azure. He is a former BizTalk Premier Field Engineer, and is AIMS Head of Customer Success and Technical Evangelist.

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