ITIL® , the best practice framework for IT Service management-  by the time it has evolved into its third version or as it is called now into the 2007 edition –  came up with a comprehensive definition of “Service” (the same is retained in its 2011 edition as well):

“Means of delivering value to the customer by facilitating the outcomes customer want to achieve, without the ownership of specific costs and risks”

However, it seems to be still unclear (or missing the opportunity) in defining ‘IT service’ and  ‘IT Service Provider’ clearly.  As per the 2011 edition, the definitions are:

“IT service:  Services delivered by an IT Service Provider”

 “IT Service Provider: A service provider providing IT Services to internal or external customers”

Talk about Circular references!

 Can’t we have some better definition or at least better insights into understanding what an ‘IT Service’ is?

No, I don’t have a well thought out definition of ‘IT Service’ on offer here; not yet. However here are some thoughts that might lead us to defining ‘IT service’ better:

What is Information Technology (IT)?

Technology used to:  Process information, Store Information, Transfer information, or Present (visualize, for example) business information.

So the ‘outcome’ expected by customer or business from “IT” (as a provider of service) can be described through:

  • Process, Store, Transfer or Present business information as required by the business
  • While ensuring key aspects like Reliability, Security and Cost-effectiveness

Any systems/technology and/or activity which facilitate the above outcome described above,

  • Without the need of  business/customer to own, manage or worry about the specific risks and  costs of the underlying technology, assets, activities etc.

can be an “IT Service”.

With this context , one possible perspective of looking at IT Service can be as below:

When considering the 3-types of IT Services that ITIL talks about (I have discussed that in an earlier post) – this definition will fittingly apply to the following two types of Service defined by ITIL:

  • External Customer facing Services
  • Internal customer facing Services

An IT Service Provider like Internal IT Department will have a definition of Service similar to the one explained above.

In the third scenario – Supporting Services, the above definition might not fit in as the focus “outcome” changes there to underlying IT activities and systems and not (directly)on Business information. There activities become more specific to IT internally, like:

  • Monitoring of servers, network etc
  • Administration of Server, Network device
  • Maintenance of Hardware
  • Execution of an IT process or activity etc.

But an outsourcing provider (like an Infrastructure management provider, support service provider etc) will align with the latter.

We had an extensive discussion on the same on the ITSkeptic blog on whether the ‘Supporting Services’ should be called IT Services or not. I supported the view of ‘Supporting services’ be included in ‘IT Services’. But trying to define the ‘IT Service’ gives me further thoughts such as:

Won’t it be a better idea to have the services provided by an IT Provider into two broad categories?

  • IT Services
  • IT Management or IT Support Services

IT Services will include:

A. External Customer facing Services

B. Internal Customer facing Services

IT Management Services will be:

C. Supporting Services

So the Providers also become:

–  IT Service Provider  or

–  IT Management Provider or IT Support Service Provider.

Rest of the Service Management concepts of the framework will be equally applicable in both the cases.

Other perspective on this is :

Since even these supporting services are also (indirectly) supporting the business outcome related to Business information, even those can be included in the ‘IT Service’ category itself.

Any further or different thoughts on the same?