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IT Service Management

Author: Neven Zitek

IT Service Management is a practice that focuses on delivering IT services, and those services must be aligned with business needs. It’s a major shift from management of individual IT technologies and components. When we talk about IT Service Management, be aware that many organizations out there still haven’t come to the realization that the IT department is an IT service provider. Therefore, in order to understand IT Service Management, we first need to understand what service is.

By its simplest definition, IT service is the action, or set of actions required to perform, in order to deliver only the desired outcome to the customer. The method of performing that action, or risks involved while performing the action, aren’t exposed to or within the interest of the customer; only the outcome is. Let’s take e-mail as an example; what the customer and business are interested in when talking about e-mail is quite simple: when they send an e-mail, they expect it will be delivered to the recipient within a reasonable time frame (and vice versa). And in case an e-mail gets deleted, there should be some form of recovery possible. Maybe they have some secondary requirements too, regarding spam or encryption, but in general, requirements and expectations are clear and simple.

Now it’s up to the people within a responsible IT department to figure out, according to IT Service Management principles, the way e-mail will be set up, delivered, and operated; which technology from which vendor is to be used, and by how many end users; how to deal with spam; how and when to perform backup; is it a business critical service that requires some form of redundancy and so on… It’s Service Management which ensures services really do facilitate the outcomes required and expected by a customer. What the customer receives is e-mail service delivered right to the end-users without any technology background, risks and its associated costs exposed.

ITIL IT Service Management

ITIL is the most widely adopted best practice for IT Service Management worldwide. ITIL® IT Service Management gives you a clear overview of the service lifecycle within five key components (or stages): Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. The framework itself covers deployment of new services as well as improvement on existing ones. Check out this article for all ITIL Processes and Functions within the service lifecycle.

So within our simple e-mail example, we’d start by creating our Service Strategy and answering key questions: What are our capabilities and options for delivery of service? (Shall we do it in-house or use an existing service on the market – such as Gmail?) How does this service fit into business services (business dependencies)? What will demand on the service be (e.g. how many users)? How will we manage our budget and accounting?

Decisions regarding the technology used, Service Level Agreements, risks involved, comparing capacity given against demand, information and security management are all parts of the ITIL Service Design process. And once completed, we can plan our Service Transition. IT Service Managers, now it’s all about the change. How will our e-mail implementation affect the existing environment (Change Evaluation), has the integrity of the live environment been protected from the change (Release and Deployment Management), what are the new assets used and their relationships (Service Asset and Configuration Management) and how do we keep knowledge gained / required for this service (Knowledge Management)?

There is article available on this wiki, if you want to know more on How to implement ITIL.

Service is deployed, Second Half of its Lifecycle

Once deployed, our e-mail has entered the most visible phase of them all: if our customers and end users start to have issues with our e-mail service, how will we handle incidents and problems and fulfill requests? Do we have some sort of monitoring implemented that will give us information about the status of the technology involved in service delivery? Can we anticipate and predict incidents before they happen? Is our equipment placed in adequate facilities? Service Operation, as the part of IT Service Management, is the one responsible to address all of those questions.

In our example, we now have new e-mail service in operation, we’re effectively handling all incidents and customer requests, our equipment is adequately stored and monitored, but as time goes by – a new question arises: Can it be improved? This last stage in the ITIL IT Service Management lifecycle is called Continual Service Improvement. So, with a simple e-mail example we’ve successfully covered all stages of the service lifecycle, and now you probably have a better understanding of IT Service Management.

IT Service Management and ISO 20000

While ITIL itself is a best practice framework, it doesn’t force implementation of those practices, so there are no guarantees that those practices have been implemented to the letter. This is where ISO 20000 shines, as it’s a well-defined and clear standard – its requirements are verified by external audit, key processes must be in place, service requirements set by the business must be met (e.g. our e-mail service is capable of e-mail sending/receiving and deleted e-mail recovery is possible), and the service itself must be managed according to best practices. It’s worth mentioning that the ISO 20000 certificate is awarded to organizations for service (or services) provided, which for a customer is a clear indication that services are managed by efficient and reliable IT Service Management.

For further information, please read  ISO 20000 and ITIL – How are they related?, and this blog post:  ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000 History: Parallel Worlds.

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