ITIL – Service Validation and Testing

IT technicians’ and engineers’ love for “instant deployment” mechanisms has already been the topic of a previous article: ITIL Release and Deployment Management Part I – General principles and service testing, but instead of yet another elaborate rant based on negative examples in order to make the point, I’ll tell you a story about the synergy between common sense and ITIL best practices.

Trends change as service expectations grow

Lately, I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend where service providers, in order to stay competitive, simply deploy semi-finished products, and operate in an endless develop-change-publish cycle. This trend can be observed mostly in Cloud-based services, or in the Cloud services themselves. If you’re even a little bit interested in gaming, you’ve noticed a swarm of “early access betas” available on the market. As a feature-geek I can understand the drive behind this practice, but as a service manager I can’t say I like it at all.

Whether we discuss online games or business services, in my honest opinion, only fully featured and quality tested products should ever reach end users (customers). And, while the entertainment industry can be excused for diverging from good practices, enterprise-oriented service providers (e.g., Cloud) should not follow that path.

Service validation and testing purpose

Figure 1 – Validation and testing (1 – Plan & design tests, 2 – Verify test plan, 3 – Prepare environment, 4 – Perform tests, 5 – Evaluate exit criteria and report, 6 – Test cleanup and closure)

The purpose of the service validation and testing phase is to:

  • Plan and implement a structured validation and test process that will generate evidence that the service will support the customer’s business within agreed service levels.
  • Provide quality assurance for a release and its components and service capability.
  • Identify risks, issues, and errors and eliminate them throughout Service Transition.

How to manage service validation and testing is the topic of Validations and test management as shown in Figure 1: planning and managing/controlling and then reporting on the activities that have taken place during all phases to ensure they are fit for purpose/use.

Service validation and testing activities

There are many activities within this process, all logically structured and designed with repeatability in mind:

  • Validation and Test Management  (mentioned earlier)
  • Planning and Design – (Figure 1, #1) Test planning and design activities take place in the early stages of the Service Lifecycle.  These correlate with resources, supporting services, scheduling milestones for delivery, and acceptance.
  • Verification of Test Plan and Design – (Figure 1, #2) Test plans and designs are validated to ensure all activities are complete (this also includes test scripts). Test models are also verified to minimize the risks to the service.
  • Preparation of the Test Environment – (Figure 1, #3) Prepare and make a baseline of the test environment.
  • Testing – (Figure 1, #4) Tests are carried out using manual or automated testing techniques and procedures.  All results are registered.
  • Evaluate Exit Criteria and Report – (Figure 1, #5) Actual results are compared with projected results.
  • Cleanup and Closure – (Figure 1, #6) Ensure the test environment is cleaned.  Learn from previous experiences and identify areas for improvement.

Deliver services, as you’re the one who’s going to use them

If there is anything I’ve learned as a service provider, it’s that even seemingly simple services (e.g., e-mail) are composed of many individual components: people, hardware, software, environment, licenses, etc. Many of them are just end-products of even smaller individual parts, and putting them together and instantly deploying into production should not be practiced by any service provider. Service validation and testing is an important part of the service value chain (learn more by reading the following article: ITIL strategy – Framing the value of services (part I)) – it’s the part where a service is tested for both utility and warranty before release to the customer, ensuring that the service will perform within agreed targets, and most importantly: ensuring that the service will support business processes within the current environment.

IT Service Management practices (such as ITIL) are built around common sense with one goal: delivering the best possible service for the lowest possible cost. If you eliminate parts of such practices (e.g., service testing), you may shave off some costs, but in the long run – who’s going to pay for services with poor performance?

You can also check out the free preview of  Service Validation and Testing (SVT) Process template to become familiar with the process, its activities, roles, and responsibilities.