Putting the Service in IT Service Management

Many people understandably think about ITIL as a process framework. When you describe good practices for 25+ processes and capabilities it seems a no brainer. Yet when you look at the books, their names, and their objectives, it becomes clear that processes are an important means (COBIT calls them one of seven enablers), but that the desired end is delivering services.The entire concept of service in ITIL is embedded in thinking end-to-end; how service teams facilitate outcomes for customers and manage costs and risks on their behalf.

When I teach ITIL courses, I emphasize the idea that services describe not in fact what we do in IT, but what the customer gets. How do our hardware, software, people, processes, etc. produce valuable results for customers and enable them to perform better, faster, or more cost-effectively? The entire construct of information technology is predicated on the CSI model, or how the technology enables the use and processing of information to automate and otherwise facilitate business processes.

If the goal is services (and therefore outcomes for customers), the how-to is the Service Lifecycle. WAAAAAAYYYY too many people consider ITSM consistent with the operational and support process around Incident, Problem, Change, and Configuration Management. In order to set the table for success in those operational processes, we have to be able to manage the service first. Here is a brief summary of how the Service Lifecycle notion really supports the cultural transformation from technology provision to service and outcome enablement.

Service Strategy – there are many things we’d like to do, but simply cannot. Why? Not enough money, time, people, etc. In short, we are always facing some type of constraints. Therefore, given all of the things we could do, what things will we commit to do, and who decides? Service Strategy outlines a transparent way to make strategic decisions in the face of uncertainty and limitations.

 Service Design – how do we understand customer requirements for a service (utility and warrant you), and how do we in turn build/buy/integrate a service to meet the requirements. The Service Design processes enable us to essentially take a piece of paper (a Service Charter, and Approved Change Request, etc.) and transform it into a new or updated service.

Service Transition – my usual flip statement about Service Transition is how to take a new or changed service from development successfully into production without “blowing stuff up.” Sadly, the industry data continues to finger transition practices as a primary reason for production incidents. In the highly dynamic and Agile world we are working in today, change is normal and a fundamental source of competitive advantage in business. Our ability to streamline transition practices and build compelling and highly reliable models is critical to supporting highly iterative business needs.

Service Operation serves essentially as a party host. Deliver services to customers according to our agreed levels and support them as needed. In order to actually be able to operate services, we have to be able to visualize them (typically through a CMS), monitor them, and be able to coordinate support for them across a number of technical/functional teams. The service lifecycle emphasizes early engagement with operations teams during design, transition ( and even strategy) to ensure we don’t get over our skis when establishing service targets that will be incorporated into SLAs.

CSI emphasizes the need for accountable owners and the intentional and ongoing use of metrics and measures to drive ongoing, consistent improvement in the performance of processes and services. CSI supports process and service owners (and managers) in the proactive seeking of improvements in all practices across the lifecycle, and drives the execution of the 7 step improvement process to execute improvement projects and drive iterative improvement in practices.

 While each service lifecycle stage clearly uses processes to carry out many of their activities, the bigger value proposition is how the service lifecycle itself visualizes how we manage constrained resources to optimize service value delivered for customers. In this blog we will explore many processes, but you will see me tend to tie these back to bigger picture questions that hopefully answer the “so what” question for you. If we follow these practices, so what? Stay tuned!