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ITIL® - Service and Service Management
What is a Service?
Let's now understand Service and the way a Service is looked at, both from a customer perspective as well as from that of a Service Provider.
All human activity is directed towards achieving desirable results, so as to finally create or add value to various aspects of life or Business. These results are achieved by performing some tasks and are subject to constraints.
Broadly speaking, services facilitate outcomes by enhancing the performance of the tasks and by managing constraints. The result is an increase in the possibility of desired outcomes.
For example, we all want to have a healthy body and mind which is the desired results. This outcome is dependent on a lot of activities one has to do, e.g., eat healthy, exercise, take proper rest etc and this is subject to a lot of constraints, e.g. Availability of healthy food, etc.
This desired outcome can be facilitated by other parties for example, doctors. The doctors will evaluate your current condition and recommend change in activities. For example, the doctor can advise you to eat less butter, use refined oil etc or help one manage the constraints. Conducting a bypass surgery if required, is an example of managing constraint.
Other common examples of services are postal services so that you don't have to travel or worry about travelling across seven seas to deliver a letter.
Coming back to a Business example:
Let's say an online bookstore is looking for a place to store all the data related to its online book selling business for example books details, customer details, etc., or what in IT is known as database or storage solutions.
Now linking it to our description of Services, the desired outcome is online selling of books; one of the activities facilitating the outcome is storage of data. Now the bookstore is not specialized in managing storage as an IT service and therefore does not want to manage the associated costs and risks which could come from Infrastructure, staff, facilities Etc.
However there are organizations in the market that are willing to do that for a cost, commonly called Service Providers, say for example Oracle Corporation, who have specialized knowledge and experience in large scale database systems, and the confidence to control the associated costs and risks. The bookstore agrees to pay for the database service provided by the service provider under specific terms and conditions.
So to get back to the definition, the service provider, ie Oracle Corporation, provides value to the customer, ie the online bookstore, by facilitating, in other words, managing book selling company's database and its associated costs and risks, the business outcomes of which is selling books online.
Just to clarify it further, in this case, Online Book Selling Company is the customer and Oracle Corporation is the Service Provider. Oracle Corporation is providing "database storage" "service" to the online book selling company.
So I hope by now you understand what is a service, let's now understand the concept called service management.
What is a Service Management?
Let me begin by a quote from Peter Drucker, a renowned American management guru.
'Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.'
Some time back, we defined Service Management as an effective, efficient and process driven management of transforming IT resources into valuable IT services.
Let me explain this further by means of a diagram
As you can see in this diagram, it emphasizes the link that has to be preserved between the desired business outcomes and the services that Service Management is responsible for.
So what do we mean by Capabilities, resources and other terms used in the graphic?
- Capabilities are the functions and processes used to manage services. Capabilities are intangible assets of an organization and cannot be purchased but have to be developed and matured over time.
- Resources is a generic term that includes IT infrastructure, people, money or anything else that might help to deliver an IT service. Resources are the tangible assets of the organization.
Resources and capability put together constitute the Service Assets. For example, Email as a Service.
The organization, say Google, providing this service needs to have some hardware: servers, routers, switches, etc. to relay emails and Software like GMail to let users read their emails. These are example of assets.
They also need a capable team to manage these assets and the money required to procure these assets.
But if Google's customers don't know how to get this email service, all of these assets are wasted. So how to get an email account, how to maintain it, Where to go for support if any issues occur are some of the critical underlying elements of delivering email service. These methods are called processes. We will touch them in a little while.
But before that, let me explain two more terms, Performance and Value.
- Performance is a measure of what is achieved or delivered by a system, person, team, process, or IT service.
From our email as a service example, effective use by all users, Number of mails delivered to the intended recipients, etc are some of performance measure of email service.
- Value is a measure of the Return on Investments or benefits to the business.
So going back to our example of Email as a Service. In older days, messaging used to happen through paper memos. If somebody had to convey a message, they would get it typewritten on a piece of paper and then a courier service would deliver it to the recipient. At some point in time, organizations realized the constraints this method of message delivery had on the organisational capability to deliver to its customers. Luckily for them somebody realized the constraints and invented email, which has since then revolutionized the messaging capabilities of the organizations'.
The results of using this service allowed businesses and organizations to spread across geographies. It has contributed to faster decision making and execution due to speedier flow of information. And ultimately contributes to greater revenues and profits for the business or the organisation. Or in other words it has enhanced the Business outcomes.