Why are IT Services So Hard to Define? (Part 1)

A Service Catalog is one of the first assets that an organization should build when initiating their Service Management program.  After all, how can you manage services if you do not have a clear understanding what services your IT organization provides?

Unfortunately, many organizations struggle with obtaining agreement on the scope and definition of end-to-end, business enabling services.  If left unchecked, these struggles can turn political and widen the divide between IT and the business as well as cause conflict between internal IT units. 

To avoid some of the potential challenges in service definition exercises, here are some helpful suggestions:
  • Set the stage by providing IT staff with a chart of business processes and begin integrating business vocabulary into service parameters ("Order Processing" not "Ecommerce").   Have business stakeholders conduct "lunch and learn" presentations that educate IT on how each unit uses IT Services.  Start your service definitions with a business outcome and work the technology backwards  ("Claims" instead of "XYZ application")
  • Stop equating applications with services - one service is likely going to be built upon multiple applications.  This is a big culture change and requires constant reinforcement.
  • Watch for political minefields that imply that an application, individual or team is less important if not designated an official "service".  Just because the network may not independently qualify as a business service, it is still critical to the delivery of other services.
  • Avoid making definitions too technical or so business centric that business and/or IT staff can't relate to or envision the service.
  • Speak in terms of value to the business ("What value does this service provide?  What business process does it enable?  How does it affect the bottom line?").  Avoid discussing the underlying technical infrastructure with customers.
These are all good first steps to creating a common understanding of outcome-based service.


Piotr Chec said…
I agree with you. In reality though, I have seen many more IT organizations focusing on incident and change management and never going beyond that.

I think it is safe to assume, that having a service desk is pretty much given in most larger companies. The difference between IT of the past and IT of the future is strong orientation on business processes and the services enabling them. All of us, ITSM professionals, have a role to play in driving this change.

Piotr Chec
ITSM Perfection Blog
Joseph said…
Have business stakeholders conduct "lunch and learn" presentations that educate IT on how each unit uses IT Services.


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