Recently a couple of discussions raised in social media were regarding the clarity between a Service Request and Change. For those who has the right understanding of these two terms, this discussion might look too basic – but my experience shows that many practitioners are carrying some level of confusion on these terms.

Here are the typical confusions/queries that I have seen regarding these in my training/consulting engagements as well as forum interactions:

  • How to differentiate a Service request from a Change request?

Service Requests are those requests coming from a user to the Service Desk (or in some cases, self-help channels) and fulfilled through Request fulfillment. Change requests are requests for modifications required in any part of the Services, Service management systems or underlying systems and components.

Service Requests can include requests for some changes that a user ‘is entitled to ask for’ – often defined as those forming part of ‘standard’ requests from users. To fulfill those Service requests (only those involving changes – not all), applicable change management process (or change model) need to be followed. In fact, In the fulfillment of such Service requests, two (or more) processes might work together – along with request fulfillment there could be processes such as change management, release management (where applicable), access management etc. This is very much like:  for resolving an Incident (or Problem) – you might need a change and hence has to follow change management process.

However, it is also important to note that the changes that can be requested by users will be those minor, operational changes (installation of desktop software/hardware, user id/password changes etc) – and hence will typically fall under Standard Change model (in other words, pre-authorized). So, for fulfilling of those requests, there is no change approval and such detailed change management process is not usually required. (more…)

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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…)

In 2003-04, I have led a team of consultants in a Middle East based Bank for adoption of ITIL (at that time V2) practices into their IT organization. One of the deliverables was definition of a suitable Service Catalog framework for the IT Services. We found the guidance in ITIL documentation for Service Catalog to be not adequate enough to satisfy the needs of the Bank.

Through a series of brainstorming sessions and with significant inputs and involvement from the Bank’s IT management, we have zeroed in on a high-level categorization of IT Services into 3 groups:

  • Business Banking services – IT Services that are built into the Bank’s business services – like Core banking applications, Internet banking etc; for which the users are end-customers of the bank.
  • Business Support Services – IT Services that are supporting the bank’s business processes such as email, HR applications etc; for which the users are the Bank’s employees involved in Bank operations
  • IT Internal Services – Supporting services within IT such as System allocations, IP address management etc; for which the users were within IT.

We found the framework to be immensely useful for the Bank’s IT to manage the IT Services in an effective manner.  I have expected to see such guidelines for proper definition and categorization of services to be available in ITIL V3 – but was a bit disappointed (or, I could not find it, if it was defined in some corner of the vast documentation). I always thought that is a significant aspect in IT Service management framework which can have a direct impact on how other aspects/practices in ITSM are defined and governed.

Now, I am happy to see such a Service categorization has been documented in ITIL 2011.  The new revision of the ITIL gives details of Services to be categorized into:

  • External customer-facing services
  • Internal Customer facing Services
  • Support Services – for the interdependencies within IT

Especially the third category – Support Services, clarifies a long-pending confusion for IT outsourcing companies:

IT Outsourcing companies such as those into infrastructure Outsourcing provide services such as network administration/management, Service administration/management, Monitoring etc for which the customers are usually IT personnel in the customer organization. These services were often deemed confusing in the whole discussion of Business-IT Alignment and Integration context.

Now, with this categorization, the services provided by the outsourcing service providers can predominantly fit into the Category 3: Support Services.

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.