Service Management


I finally managed (delay due to my work and other pressures) to go through the ‘Standard+Case’ (S+C) approach that Rob England (The ITSkeptic) has come up through the Basic Service management site as well as the recently released book of his (Haven’t got to the book myself yet, will get soon!).

The concept and approach is definitely pretty interesting and useful in an ITSM (and of course generic Service management) context – more specifically in service support world of incidents, Service requests and problems.

ITIL® has been dividing the support requests (or tickets in a more popular terminology) into Incidents, Service Requests, Problems, Change requests, Access requests etc  – to be handled by respective, best-practice driven, processes.  The process–driven approach of ITIL® (which the framework has been trying to shrug-off not-so-successfully through the Lifecycle approach of V3 and 2011 editions) has been often criticized to create process-silo in organizations.

The S+C approach kind of cuts the support domain in a different plane. Irrespective of the request to IT  is incident, Service request, Problem , change or any other , the approach to the response can be broadly classified into two:

  • Standard: Predefined because they deal with a known situation, known solution, well defined actions etc.
  • Case: An unknown or unfamiliar situation that rely on the knowledge, skills and professionalism of the person dealing with them

ITIL® has references to concepts to practices such as Incident models, Request models etc which in a way relate to the Standard cases. However, it is not as distinctly and prominently established as would be, if someone adopts an approach like the S+C model.

The key points that I like about the model and approach are:

  • It is complementary to ITIL®or any other models. It doesn’t try to say ITIL® is wrong and hence here is the alternate way of doing ITSM. I have a strong belief in the basic structure and principles of ITIL®, and anything that complements or enhances or fine-tunes the existing principles are the ones I personally, would want to adopt.
  • It is very simple(as opposite to ‘complicated’ and not to ‘difficult’) yet powerful– small organizations and those organizations who are not familiar with and/or established the concepts of Incident, Problems, Service requests etc. can still adopt the approach onto their existing practices.
  • Easier way of communicating to business or non-IT and agreeing on timelines, SLAs etc. As Rob has mentioned in the introduction to the model, it is a terminology/approach already in use in many other service scenarios such as hospitals, law and order, etc.
  • The approach of ‘adaptive case management’ and not trying to put Cases into a defined process – this has been a concerning factor for me in ITIL® problem management,  to some extent in Incident/Major Incident handling and in some instances of business requests for new/changed services.

However, the following points are also worthwhile to be noted: (more…)

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When the 2011 edition of the global standard ISO/IEC 20000 came into effect, there was a visible interpretation in (at least some portions of) the industry that  the standard has now made itself applicable to ‘generic Service management’ and not just IT.

But in those areas as well, there has been a split in opinion:

A set of practitioners, consultants, auditors etc who believed that ISO/IEC 20000 has really moved beyond an ITSM standard into a standard for ‘Service management in general‘. In other words, this standard can be used to benchmark and certify non-IT Service management as well.

Another set of people (including me) who were not very sure if that was really the case…

Why the interpretation came into the industry?

  • Most of the text in clauses and terminologies of the standard mentioned just ‘Service management’ and nothing specific about IT.
  • The Application Section of the standard stated:  ‘All requirements in this part of ISO/IEC 20000 are generic and are intended to be applicable to all service providers, regardless of type, size and the nature of the services delivered.’

 Then why the doubt or confusion still existed? Here are some reasons:

  • The  title of the standard still read:  ‘Information technology — Service management’
  • The Forward section of the 2011 edition talks about the summary of differences with the earlier (2005) edition of the standard such as:  closer alignment to ISO 9001; closer alignment to ISO/IEC 27001; change of terminology to reflect international usage and so on – but nothing on this significant scope change of this standard.

And more importantly, if you look closer, even the 2005 edition of the standard never mentioned anything specific to IT in most of its text, except in the title! (This in some form, justifies the point about the Forward Section mentioned in second bullet above.)

So is this a change in the standard with the 2011 edition?  Or Is ISO/IEC 20000 intended from a standard for generic service management from day 1?

If so why the title specifically says ‘Information Technology’(more…)

I make my living from Service management or ITSM in general and ITIL® in specific in majority of cases. My association with ITIL and ITSM is not a forced one, just because it is helping me to earn a living – where as I am extremely passionate about Service management or specifically ITSM as a domain and ITIL® as a framework applicable to that domain.

At the same time, I do criticize inconsistencies and errors in ITIL® documentation (and even more on some of the decisions/practices from the governing bodies of ITIL®) through this blog, which may even give an impression that I am against it and I don’t support adoption of the framework – which just the opposite of truth:

I can see many of the consultants/experts/practitioners out there who criticize ITIL® are in fact passionate about the domain and supportive of the framework, just like me.

The criticisms in this case are more aimed at:

  • Removing/correcting those flaws and making the framework more consistent and strong OR
  •  At least makes the practitioners around aware about the errors/issues/pitfalls/risks.

What is the context here?

A lot of discussions on the internet forums these days tend to go around in such a way that gives an impression, there are only two options:

  • “Full-ITIL” or “No-ITIL”

The arguments tend to polarize into:

  • ITIL® is “THE” framework for ITSM or
  • ITIL® is useless and should be dumped – look at XYZ (or ABC or what ever) as an alternative!

Why is it so? Why can’t it be:

Option A:

  • ITIL is a (more than)useful framework that can be adopted for ITSM in the context of this organization
  • You might also need XYZ (or ABC) framework/standard to complement the practices of ITIL to gain maximum benefit.
  • (More importantly) While adopting, be aware of these inconsistencies, gaps, missing links to be taken care of!

Option B:

  • XYZ is the most suited framework for the context of this organization
  • You can also complement the practices by adopting some selected practices from ITIL

There are enough discussions out there which give great insights into why ITIL® is not a Perfect framework that can be adopted as is. In either case, it was never intended to be!

But there are also enough case scenarios and examples out there to prove that ITIL contains a (much more than) useful set of practices for ITSM.

(more…)

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: (more…)

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: (more…)

Some of the definitions of terms in ISO/IEC 20000 fall short of expectations from an international standard, to say the least.

Of course, Improvements are visible such as this:

ISO/IEC 20000: 2005 defined “Service Provider” as: “the organization aiming to achieve lSO/lEC 20000”!.

ISO/IEC 20000: 2011 has a better definition: “organization or part of an organization that manages and delivers a service or services to the customer”.

However, more concerning are definitions which can create conflict or misinterpretation such as that of Incident are still existing:

The ISO20k:2011 defines Incident as:  “Unplanned interruption to a service, a reduction in the quality of a service or an event that has not yet impacted the service to the customer Though there is no official acknowledgement, it is very clear that this is adopted from ITIL® V3. But in that case, it is a case of incorrect or incomplete adoption. Here is why:

The latter part of the definition, which I underlined above says “or an event that has not yet impacted the service to the customer” – Now this dangerously equates ALL events to Incidents! An event is something that affects the service (mostly exception events causing interruption or reduction in quality) or that doesn’t affect a service (warnings and regular operation events). With this loose definition,
all three types of events can now fall under the bracket of Incidents.

It may not be a major issue of compliance from ISO/IEC 20000 context – where there is no separate Event management process. However the following questions needs clarity:

  • Does ISO/IEC 20000 view entire event management process as a subset of Incident management? In such a case, the controls specified under Incident management don’t seem to be enough to take care of the requirements of an event management process.
  • So will every event trigger Incident management process? I hope this is not what is implied by the standard.
  • What is the meaning of the word event that is used by the standard in multiple places? Unfortunately there is no definition of the same.

Here are some other definitions in ISO/IEC 20000 that may create misinterpretations and confusions:

(more…)

While IT evolved through cycles of improved capabilities, complexities and business dependency, IT Service providers started realizing and embracing the concept of IT Service Management.

 The approach of extending IT Services (in terms of facilitated business outcomes) to the business/customer, and relieving them from the complexities of the technology and operations behind it, has definitely put IT in a right track of Business-IT alignment and Integration. Various frameworks and standards like ITIL®, ISO/IEC 20000, COBIT etc has played a very crucial role in bringing the Service perspective into IT.

IT was “Infrastructure” management or “Application management” or “Operations” management. The concept of IT Service Management has shifted the mainstream focus from those underlying responsibilities and components to ‘Services’ (facilitating of business outcomes). The approach enabled the business and Customers to focus on “What” they receive in terms of outcomes from IT; rather than on “How” they were delivered.

Then the Cloud burst happened. I mean then the concept of ‘Cloud’ evolved!

The IT industry – probably deprived of using favourite technology discussions by all these “Service” talks in mainstream – grabbed it by both
hands; some even behaving as if this is one of the biggest invention after fire! Debates are all around – will frameworks like ‘ITIL’ survive such a cloud burst?

Many didn’t realize – or tend to ignore the fact that all these mainstream focus on Cloud in business circles is moving the whole Business-IT relationship a step back – to the era of “Infrastructure” management.

Cloud in ITSM
Change in ITSM with Cloud

Let us not forget the expected output of IT to business is still in the same lines as the “pre-cloud times” (!) – A facility to send emails, a business application functionality, a workflow capability, an automated information processing and so on. The “What” remains the same. Of course, the “How” is changed by Cloud – for the better, in terms of efficiency, scalability and cost-effectiveness; or at least supposed to be so.

On a lighter note, we can say – ‘CLOUD are not really beneficial to mankind and the world – but the RAIN is’!

 Having said this – the concept of Cloud is a significant development in IT. It can bring in huge advantages that can get converted into business value of IT. The complexities and challenges associated with Cloud need to be assessed and addressed. The benefits of this new way of managing IT need to be highlighted.

All these are essential; but not at the cost of shifting focus from the all-important business outcomes of IT. Hence the whole Cloud adoption will gain huge benefits by adopting ITSM best practices and standards into the complexities and capabilities of Cloud, rather than resisting or writing them off.

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