Just finished a great training session on Service Strategy over the weekend – great in terms of some insightful discussions with some senior IT folks who attended the training. Some of the discussions were essentially clarifying some very basic concepts, at the same time called for in-depth debates taking scenarios to establish a concrete understanding of those. Thought of blogging the essence of some of those discussions.

One of the area that called for lengthy discussions were on the ‘Service Assets’ and ‘Customer Assets’:

To set the context for Starters: ITIL® (especially the Service Strategy) views a ‘Service’ in terms of Business outcomes facilitated. Basically, these Business outcomes are delivered by the Customer Assets (Customer’s  Resources and Capabilities – people, processes, information, business services etc etc).

What does the IT Service do? They enhance the performance of those Customer Assets to deliver better, or increased business outcomes (and hence delivers business value).

How does the IT service provider deliver these Services? It is by effective use of Service assets (Their resources and capabilities).

So in this context:

  • Service Assets are the Resources and Capabilities of the Service Provider (Service Provider’s Assets) that are utilized to deliver the IT Services to the Business/Customer.
  • Customer Assets are the Resources and Capabilities of the Customer (Customer’s Assets) that are utilized to deliver business outcomes. These assets make use of the IT Services to enhance their performance or to remove some constraints.
  • The Service Provider has to define a Service always in connection to the specific Customer Assets to which the Utility of the service is delivered to (ITIL describes this as the Service Archetype-Customer Asset combination).

So every Service has been defined, planned, designed and delivered with specific Customer Assets in mind. So far so good.

One of the discussion started with some very basic question:

  • Are ‘Users’ and ‘Customer assets’ the same? Or in other words, are Users always the Customer Assets that we talk about in IT Service Definition?
  • If not, how do we differentiate users from the Customer Assets that we are talking about?

The question arised from the basic understanding that ITSM and ITIL used to establish so far: Services are used by Users (and paid for by the customer).

Some of the salient points that were derived from the discussion were:

  • Customer Assets are NOT just people – it can be their systems, Information, business process etc – which is enhanced using IT Services for better business outcomes. People also can be, and very often are, the customer assets for a IT Service.
  • Users – a term that we always associate with people can be the Customer Assets in connection with the specific IT service, but not necessarily always.
  • If the ‘user’ is the end-user (external) for the ‘Customer Organization’ – can we call them as ‘Customer Asset’? Not really – because that ‘user’ in this case is not a resource or capability of the ‘Customer’ or ‘Business’. Hence the ‘User’ of the IT Service need not be a ‘Customer Asset’ in all cases.

A couple of interesting scenarios that came up during the discussion were such as these:

When more than one Customer Assets are involved in the delivery of a particular Service, there can be confusion regarding ‘THE’ customer asset that should be connected to the definition of that specific Service – and often lead to wrong selection of Customer Asset, further leading to lack of, or inadequate value realization from those services. A couple of examples might illustrate this point:

  • Take a scenario of the Service : Internet Access provided to business users on their personal computer or Mobile device. Here, it is the Business User who is delivering the business outcome and hence ‘the’ Customer Asset in the definition of the IT Service. This is also one example where the ‘User’ and ‘Customer Asset’ happens to merge into one. However Client device can be easily mistook as ‘the’ Customer Asset in question for the service.
  • Now, let us look at ‘Secure Storage’ as an IT service. Here, there are users are involved, but the Customer Asset that is enhanced by the service is not users (at least not directly) – it is the business information/data. Here is an example were the ‘User’ and ‘Customer Asset’ is not the same – in consideration to that specific IT Service (though both are Customer Assets, in general sense).

There were few other interesting points that came up during the session – will write about them as soon as I am able to complile them.

Though this happened to be a deep-dive on something very basic, I have to say that I have enjoyed the debate to a great extent and helped to clarify those concepts to a great extent too.