Designing an Effective IT Service: The ITIL® 4 Approach

The benefits of applying IT Service Management practices vary depending on the organization’s needs, size, complexity, scale etc, and these benefits can be realized upon successful completion of ITIL 4 training. ITIL details the best practices for delivering IT services, and the ITIL latest version 2018 is mandatory for effect IT service design.

A few important benefits are:

• Improved quality service provision
• Cost-justifiable service quality
• Services that meet business, customer and user demands
• Integrated centralized processes
• Everyone knowing their role and their responsibilities in service provision
• Learning from previous experience and
• Demonstrable performance indicators
• Creating better IT service design templates

The planning, protection, and optimization processes under ITIL are used to provide IT services. These processes are present in two service lifecycle phases - the service strategy and IT service design. While both of these phases have their own objectives and responsibilities, together they provide a coordinated approach to the high-level planning, protection, and optimization of the architectures, systems, and components required to deliver IT services according to business need.

But what role do these lifecycle phases play? 

The service strategy lifecycle phase focuses on developing and refining the high-level objectives, policies, and plans that document how the IT organization can/will provide value and support to the business and associated customers. 

The IT service design lifecycle phase focuses on transforming these objectives and plans into actual services by designing the architectures, technology, processes, and operational support capabilities that are required.

The processes of planning, protection, and optimization (PPO) are highly interdependent, playing specific roles that contribute to the successful design of quality IT services and IT service management processes. Capacity management and Demand Management work closely to identify current and future business requirements to be able to design enough capacity to support these needs.

• Demand management is responsible for predicting, identifying, and analyzing patterns of business activity and demand for IT services, which requires communication to be engaged through service level management with the relevant customers and business units.

• Availability management proactively works on infrastructure and system designs that are resilient enough to be available at a sustainable level. To do this availability management needs to work closely with problem management, capacity Management as lack of capacity might result in availability issues.

• IT service continuity management and availability management work as a team, mainly because availability management designs the infrastructure for normal day-to-day operations that needs to be restored after an IT disaster. In this environment, the boundary between availability and IT service continuity management may be blurred due to triple redundancy and automated failover systems, but the focus of each process is different and therefore requires separate management and controls.

Information security management is a policy setting process that receives its input from demand management and service level management on business requirements for security and integrity of data. It works with availability management to implement security measures and baselines for availability and unavailability requirements due to security constraints. It also needs to work closely together with access management in the service operations lifecycle phase as this is the operational execution of identification and access management activities.

However, the level at which the PPO processes are required to be implemented will depend on many factors, including:

• The complexity and culture of the organization
• The relative size, complexity and maturity of the IT infrastructure
• The type of business and associated customers being served by IT
• The number of services, customers and end users involved
• The number of team members with ITIL 4 certification
• Regulations and compliance factors affecting the business or IT and
• The use of outsourcing and external suppliers for small or large portions of the overall IT
 

Service Delivery Based on these influencing factors, the actual PPO team may be a single person in a small IT department or it may be a worldwide network of business and customer oriented groups in an international organization. Regardless of the size, it is important to always ensure:

• Clear definition of roles and responsibilities (using a RACI model) of the people, groups and stakeholders involved
• Clear definition of the scope, objectives, critical success factors (CSFs) and associated key performance indicators (KPIs) for all processes involved and
• Training and awareness is developed for all stakeholders including IT staff, customers and end-users so that the processes operate successfully and deliver upon their required objectives.

The Continual Service Improvement Model

The CSI Model provides the basis for the improvements to be made to planning, protection and optimization processes. They are basically questions that need to be asked to ensure all the required elements are identified to achieve the desired improvements. 

The CSI Model summarizes the constant cycle for improvement. While there may be a focus on service operation, the questions require close interactions with all the other ITIL processes in order to achieve CSI.

Steps to be taken to improve Planning, Protection, and Optimization:

• What is the vision? Define what needs to be achieved by improving Service Operation. Is the focus on service quality, compliance, security, costs or customer satisfaction? What is the broad approach that we should take?

• Where are we now? Baselines taken by performing maturity assessments and by identifying what practices are currently being used (including informal and ad-hoc processes). What information can be provided by the service portfolio regarding strengths, weaknesses, risks, and priorities of the service provider?

• Where do we want to be? Defining key goals and objectives that wish to be achieved by the formalization of Service Operation processes, including both short term and long-term targets.

• How do we get there? Perform a gap analysis between the current practices and defined targets to begin developing plans to overcome these gaps. Typically the process owners and Service Operation manager will oversee the design/improvement of the processes, making sure they are fit for purpose and interface as needed with other Service Management processes.

Checklist elements for PPO

The following section provides common items that should be satisfied as when implementing the practices involved for Service Offerings & Agreements.

• Is Service Management clearly defined?
• Do we know what our services are?
• Have we decided upon a strategy to serve our customers?
• Do we know what services we should offer to whom?
• Do we know how to differentiate ourselves from competing alternatives?
• Do we know how we truly create value for our customers?
• Do we know how we capture value for our stakeholders?
• Do we know how we can make a case for strategic investments?
• Have we defined service quality?
• Do we know how to choose between different paths for improving service quality?
• Do we know how to efficiently allocate resources across a portfolio of services?
• Do we know how to resolve conflicting demands for shared resources?

About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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