One of ITIL’s chief contributions was/is to frame IT not as application, servers, firewalls, load balancers, switches, etc. but as an end-to-end service that provides a value to a business or consumer. A service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating the outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks. For instance, companies want to sell their wares online, but do not *necessarily* want a web server, an app server, a database server, a T-3 connection and Tier III data center. As IT managers, we build these services and then manage them, aka “service management”. Service management, then, is a set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.
Since IT organizations are organized by these technical components, it is difficult for most to think in this fashion. However, it is exactly how CIOs and IT relationship managers have to think and behave to succeed at their jobs serving business customers. In her book Service Intelligence, ITIL v3 chief architect Sharon Taylor gives a service these characteristics.
- Purpose: What the service exists for and the business processes it enables. This will be driven by the outcome statements you’ve created, which state what you need a service to do for you.
- Functions: The things the service does for you that achieve its purpose. This is the service utility, or what we refer to as fit for purpose.
- Performance: How well the service functions work to meet the purpose. This is the service warranty. This is measured in a variety of ways, which include availability, capacity, responsiveness, reliability and so on.
- Quality: The overall perception of how valuable a service is to its users. Our sense of how well a service is designed and operating for our needs stems from how it is managed. This, of course, is an integral part of service management. Failure to properly manage a service will impact one or all of these ingredients. So, to complete the picture, we have to add the service management ingredients that ensure the service is designed and managed to suit our needs. These are factors that affect overall business operation and ultimately the bottom line, so understanding the basics of service management can maximize how well this is accomplished.
Taylor states that there are basic service expectations for service management, and specific characteristics within a service that define why it is perceived as good quality for investment, such as…
- The service does what you expect it to.
- The service operates reliably and is dependable over its life span.
- The service does not require many unplanned changes to keep its operations stable.
- Changes the business does require are preplanned and do not require extensive redesign.
- The service is cost-efficient to operate and support.
- The service delivers the intended business outcomes.
- During periods of heavy use, the service continues to perform optimally.
- The service will scale to the evolving needs of the business.
When any of these expectations fails, we perceive the service to be of poor quality. In fact, there are mainly only two reasons why a service is perceived as having poor quality:
- The service’s design does not meet the business’s needs.
- The way the service is managed does not meet the business’s needs.