Service systems and services


IT service management is not easy and there are no magic shortcuts to success. I have been lately annoyed by the empty jargon from people who clearly do not understand much about the subject. I have seen it in blogs, consultant reports and presentations. Setting up a SMO, ’implementing’ SIAM are described as simple solutions with no understanding of the difficulty of the task.

ITSM can provide services which fulfill all SLA requirements but do not satisfy customer needs. The business decision makers have tried to solve this problem in many ways. IT has been centralized, decentralized, outsourced etc. IT people have tried implementing processes, metrics, frameworks, standards etc. Usually all these approaches have had mixed results.

The best solution is to have good management and governance of IT, which requires good understanding and cooperation by the business and IT management. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Business management has other issues and if IT people had really deep understanding of the business issues, they would most likely be working within business. In real life, people do not understand both deep IT and deep business at the same time.

ITSM is really about managing service systems, not services. It is a popular misconception that the ITSM processes can manage services. Service systems are important element in service business but they are not the whole picture.

A service is many things; it is a promise or proposal, it contains often many systems and it may result in acts. A complex service requires many service systems to provide the acts that fulfill the service promise.

Simple services can be separate from the customer’s core systems. For example, physical security, cleaning, plumbing, cafeteria etc. are services which are a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.

Here is a simple test of understanding ITSM. Does the definition above apply to IT services? The correct answer is NO.

IT services in general are different. IT service systems are integrated in the business service systems and it is not possible for the business to avoid the ownership of the specific risks and costs of the IT service systems. Business needs IT but it cannot outsource it as easily as it can outsource many other services.

From the business perspective, IT service systems are expensive and carry high risks. They are hard to manage as the business decision makers do not understand the systems and the specialists understand only their own technological area. Very few people have sufficient understanding of both the business and the technology.

In many cases the economies of scale drive to outsourcing and most systems can be bought from various vendors. Usually no single vendor can provide the optimal solution. The only solution for most businesses is to use many service providers. 

Generally, the service providers can only offer the management of their own service systems. The IT service systems are embedded in the business services which are outside the control of IT. IT provides service systems which are critical components of business. There are no Service Lifecycles, IT does not design services, it designs service systems and service acts. There is a deep misunderstanding in the ITSM field about this.

An amusement park is an analogy for IT services. The service proposal is enjoyment and excitement. The rides are a key element of the amusement park and there needs to be effective and efficient technical management for the equipment. Incidents in the rides may hurt business. ITSM processes might well be useful for improving reliability and availability of the rides. At the same time, it is clear that the technical management does not run the amusement park. It cannot create sensible service strategy as that is a business decision. The Park management may decide to remove a popular and profitable ride because it needs a new magnet to fight the competition. The lifecycle of the rides is generally not a technical decision.

The technical management must understand that it manages the service systems, not the park services. If the technical management does not understand this, the Park management may well decide to outsource the technical management of the rides.

Understanding this helps a little but it does not solve the dilemma of not fulfilling customer needs by managing service systems and processes. There must be a higher level of managing, which covers all IT service systems and their interactions. It is called Service Integration and Management SIAM.

The need for new management models like DevOps and SIAM comes from the lack of integration in current ITSM thinking. The ITSM processes have no mechanism for inter-process coordination. The ITSM frameworks are very activity and process oriented, value is not really understood, which can be easily seen when one looks at a list of recommended metrics for ITSM.

DevOps tries to bring better cooperation between development and production. Current ITSM models can be seen as an obstacle course designed to prevent any development. If you doubt this, calculate how many processes there are between a customer requirement and its implementation. DevOps can be very useful if the business requires agile development of business systems.

SIAM should not be seen as a new framework or an extension of any current frameworks. It is not a component of ITSM, which is about managing the service systems. SIAM can provide the missing element of management of the whole system, including internal, outsourced and business components. This can be internal management or it can be also outsourced. Some Indian outsourcing companies have driven this model very successfully, but it is likely that there are also many internal success stories, where IT and Business management have found a working governance model. SIAM is a management capability which ITSM often lacks.

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