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Service Design in ITIL

Sahil Lavingia: “Design is shrinking the gap between what a product does and why it exists.”

Service Design is the fifth and final lifecycle stage we will discuss in general terms. It logically happens after the Strategy phase and before Transition.

During the Design phase we will create new services aligned with strategic objectives and prepare them for implementation into Operation.


Why Design?

Why bother? Why don’t we let the operation people introduce new services into the Operation stage, as surely they know best what the customer needs? They are there in the trenches all the time, after all. Well, this was done many, many times in the early days of IT Service Management. And it has been recognized as a bad practice. ITIL and ISO/IEC20000 are about good and best practices.

A quick example: a part of a customer’s organization declares a need for a, say, project management system. Their number of projects has risen and they want to manage them more effectively. Operations offers them our in-house solution, which covers our basic needs. It is implemented quickly and after some initial adoption problems it seems to work OK for some time.  Later, it starts to show some flaws. The customer needs new functionalities to keep it alive, our development team is cluttered with other projects and can’t help, the database is under-capacitated, GUI is unacceptably slow (remember Utility and Warranty from Service Strategy?), and everyone is disappointed. Parallel to this, our other department was negotiating with a vendor of a similar product which is much more aligned with the customer’s business needs, and is integrated with the existing customer infrastructure. Tough luck.

This is why we need an organized set of skills, knowledge and processes that will help us create efficient, effective services aligned with the big picture.

To be able to do that, Service Design must have in mind the effective and efficient use of the four Ps:

  • People – human resources involved
  • Processes – what and how
  • Products – services, technology and tools
  • Partners – suppliers, manufacturers and vendors


As a curiosity, it was People, Process and Technology in ITIL V2. It is now enriched with the Products bubble, and in the meantime the need to address suppliers, manufacturers and vendors is recognized.

Principles of Service Design

To form a quick picture about Design, let us walk briefly through its five key aspects:

Designing service solutions – we need a formal iterative approach to create services with the right balance of functionality and cost, on time. Services must be aligned with often-changing business needs. In order to accomplish this, we have to analyze business requirements properly and create a set of Service Acceptance Criteria (SAC)  to define and analyze budgets, costs and deadlines. Also, we need to align services with our strategic goals, policies, infrastructure and changing business requirements.

Designing management information systems and tools – ITIL defines quite a few management systems; let me mention the most important: service portfolio, configuration management system (CMS), capacity management information system (CMIS), availability management system (AMS) and security management information system (SMIS). Using and maintaining these systems is the most effective way of managing services. From a Service Design standpoint, the most critical system here is service portfolio, since it supports all processes.

Designing technology and management architectures – This is all about technology architectures and management architectures, the two seemingly opposed approaches that complement each other well. Technology architectures bring in technological competencies, which are bottom-up powered by their nature, and take care of designs, plans and processes – but also their relations to IT policies, strategies and architectures. It is about their relations and interactions. Management architectures introduce a top-down approach, avoiding a technology-driven paradigm and thinking more of business alignment.

Designing processes – The processes model is the one of the most elaborated paradigms in the ITIL world. Processes have their inputs, activities and outputs. Every process has its owner, who is responsible for it. The two words people hear the most and understand the least are effectiveness and efficiency. Effective process produces output according to specifications, and if the result is optimal concerning usage of resources, it is efficient. Simple as that.

Designing measurement methods and metrics – This is a very important area that can be very dependent upon the scope, size goals and objectives of a service. An often-omitted aspect of the metric is the behavioral change of the employees. Quick example: if the main metric in Incident Management is number of open incidents by employee, then people are driven to keep as many of their incidents as possible in some kind of pending status, looking busy. If you change the main metric to the number of resolved incidents, they will tend to grab simpler incidents in order to resolve them quickly. Selecting the simple and obvious metrics will often lead to behavioral changes that are poorly aligned to the strategic and tactical goals of the organization. Process metrics should be aligned with organizational goals, and drilled down to each individual role as in balanced scorecard metrics.

Design processes

Design is a serious business; it defines eight processes, more than any other stage. Key design processes rely on their additional definition from the Strategy stage. Let us mention them only briefly, since most of them will be described in separate posts:

  • Design Coordination is a new process in ITIL 2011; it acts as the central point of communication and control for all processes in the Design stage. It is in charge of all design activities, and it ensures consistent design of services aligned with Strategy and their proper preparation for Transition.
  • Service Catalogue Management – management of information about all live services. These are mature operational services, services which are being introduced into operation through Transition, and old services which are in the process of retirement. Provides accurate info to business about services, how and where they are used and which business processes they support.
  • Service Level Management (SLM) – this is a key Design process. It ensures that all services are delivered according to agreement with the business. It is aligned with other processes emerged from the Service Delivery group, especially Availability and Capacity. The main mission of SLM is to improve communication and understanding of Service Provider and Business.
  • Availability Management – one of the oldest ITIL service delivery processes. Ensures that the availability of delivered services is in alignment with the agreed levels, in a cost-effective, timely manner.
  • Capacity Management – another mature process; ensures that IT infrastructure and services meet the agreed requirements in a cost-effective and timely manner. Capacity management spans through all ITIL lifecycles.
  • IT Service Continuity Management – the IT Service Continuity Management (ITSCM) process is responsible for the alignment of IT services to Business Continuity Management.
  • Information Security Management (ISM) – ensures that information security policy is aligned with business security. ISM maintains and enforces the security policy.
  • Supplier Management – ensures getting value for money from suppliers. Activities included are: negotiation, agreements, supplier performance management, seamless integration of underpinning contracts and delivered services.

From the above brief example it is obvious that if we let services grow organically, they will respond to particular obvious short-term customer needs, without taking into account strategic business needs. In that way, a service organization will waste resources and services will be expensive to run and maintain.

Designing services according to the five design principles, while respecting the rules of the eight mentioned processes will enable the organization to create business-/customer-oriented, efficient and cost-effective services. Such services will be able to absorb frequent changes in demand, and they will be responsive, with availability and capacity aligned to business needs. What’s not to like?

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