Service Operation in ITIL

Service Operation is a service lifecycle stage where everything happens. Operation is a place where all we did in Strategy, Design and Transition finally makes sense. Operation will show if the job we did in previous stages was successful.

If you have all five ITIL books, my bet is that the Operation book is the most worn out of them all, since most of the new IT Service Management professionals are interested in consequences more than causes.

Purpose & objectives of Service Operation

The purpose of the Operation stage is to do all that is necessary to deliver service to a business at agreed levels. To be able to do that, Service Management has to manage the technology used for service delivery and support.

Operation_stageFigure 1: Operation is the stage where the service is delivered

The Godfather: “Someday — and that day may never come — I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”  Well, that day comes in the Operation stage.

The main objectives of Service Operation are to:

  • Minimize the impact of service outages on business activities. Key processes here are Incident and Problem Management.
  • Deliver and support the agreed services effectively and efficiently. All the Operation processes contribute to this objective.
  • Maintain access to services for authorized customers. Access Management process is responsible for this.

Processes & functions

There are five processes defined in the Operation stage:

  • Incident Management  – this is a key process, one of the oldest and best-defined ITIL processes. It is in charge of restoring disrupted service as soon as possible.
  • Event Management – this process was added in ITIL V3 to address emerging use of monitoring tools in Service Management.
  • Request Fulfillment – another new one in V3. It manages customer requests. Examples of requests are: requests for information or advice, for a Standard Change, or for access to an IT Service.
  • Problem Management – another key process in Operation, it looks for underlying causes of incidents and tries to minimize the impact of problems on the business process through the cycle of known error-workaround-permanent fix. Problem Management can be both reactive and proactive.
  • Access Management – Another new one in V3. This process deals with handling customer access rights through creating new users, approvals, identity statuses, logging and tracking, and removal of rights.

Unlike other ITIL lifecycle stages, along with processes, Operation defines FUNCTIONS as organizational entities in IT:

  • Service Desk – in the old days of ITIL V2, Service Desk was the only function. It is the single point of contact (SPOC) and the user’s interface to all communication with service support, all Operation and most of the Transition processes. Service Desk deals mostly with Incident Management, Request Fulfillment and Event Management.
  • Technical Management – takes care of specific technology competencies. It identifies, develops and refines the knowledge needed to design, test, manage and improve services. Also, it manages trainings and resources deployment.
  • IT Operations Management – does daily operational activities needed for management of IT Infrastructure. It consists of:
    • Operations Control (performs routine operational tasks), and
    • Facilities Management (manages physical environment)
  •  Application Management – Application Management was a large separate volume in V2. It manages the specifics of the Applications lifecycle, which differs somewhat from the Service Management lifecycle.

Achieving balance in the Operation environment

Services can be observed in various dimensions and views, with focuses set on different values. The task of a well-implemented Operations phase is to balance the opposing dimensions in order to provide optimum value to the customer. So, balancing of different values is discussed in Operation: internal versus external focus, stability versus responsiveness, quality versus cost and reactive versus proactive focus.

Balance_of_Quality_and_Cost_of_ServiceFigure 2: Balance of Quality of Service (QoS) and Cost of Service

The Operation lifecycle communicates with other stages through different interfaces and values. Let us mention a few:

  • Strategy – provides vision, mission and policies, priorities and strategic risks. In return, from Operation it receives data on operating risks, TCO and performance info.
  • Design – provides the service catalogue info, knowledge, Service Level Agreements data, and Security policies. Receives operational requirements, performance data, history of incidents and problems.
  • Transition – gives info on new, changed or retiring services, standard changes, and change schedule; in return, receives RFCs for operational issues.
  • Continual Service Improvement – provides info about customer satisfaction, reports, key performance indicators (KPIs) and critical success factors (CSFs). In return, it receives measurements of KPIs and CSFs, improvement proposals and operational data.

Where’s the priority?

In strict theory, all lifecycle stages are equally important. Of course, if you are a chief information officer or head of IT, then you naturally will gravitate toward Strategy and Design. If you are a Quality manager or an IT Quality delegate, you will find that CSI is the most interesting stage. But, if you are a hardcore IT Service professional, you will cling to the Operation book like a bible.

By gradually gathering experience and moving up the hierarchy, the focus of an IT pro slowly moves from Operation to Strategy. It’s nature’s way; resistance is futile.

Download free previews of our  Service Operation processes templates to get an overview of activities, roles, and responsibilities.