With the rise of service specialization, sourcing services from multiple service providers has become the normal way of doing business. This approach has allowed service providers to deliver higher quality services and enhanced support capabilities while more affectively utilizing a greater constrained set of resources. In order for this cost savings and ability to spread risk to be realized an organization must be able to maintain a strong relationship with each service provider.
In order to support the development of strong relationships in a multi-vendor environment, guidelines and reference points (technological, procedural and organizational) between the organization and the multitude of vendors being engaged must be established. These validated reference points are known as service provider interfaces (SPI).
A service provider interface is a formally defined reference point which identifies some interaction between a service provider and user, customer, process or one or more suppliers. SPIs are commonly used to ensure that multiple parties in a relationship have the same points of reference for defining, delivering and reporting on services.
SPIs help to coordinate the end to end management of services that are being used to underpin the delivery of business outcomes. The service portfolio is used to define service specifications. Since service levels and responsibilities are negotiated at the same time that these relationships are being established, they should include:
- Identification of integration points between various management processes of the organization and the various service providers
- Identification of specific roles and responsibilities for managing the ongoing systems management relationship with all parties
- Identification of relevant systems management information that needs to be communicated to all parties on an ongoing basis
SPIs are defined, maintained and owned by process owners. However others such as business representatives and service provider process coordinators may be included in creating these definitions.