What are Services?

The concept of IT Services as opposed to IT components is central to understanding the Service Lifecycle and IT Service Management principles in general. It requires not just a learned set of skills, but also a way of thinking that often challenges the traditional instincts of IT workers to focus on the individual components (typically the applications or hardware under their care) that make up the IT infrastructure. The mindset requires instead an alternative outlook to be maintained, incorporating the ‘end-to-end Service’ perspective for what their organization actually provides to its customers.

The official definition of a Service is “a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs or risks”. Well what does this actually mean? To explain some of the key concepts I will use an analogy that most (food lovers) will understand.

While I do enjoy cooking, there are often times where I wish to enjoy quality food without the time and effort required to prepare a meal. If I was to cook, I would need to go to a grocery store, buy the ingredients, take these ingredients home, prepare and cook the meal, set the table and of course clean up the kitchen afterwards. The alternative, I can go to a restaurant that delivers a service that provides me with the same outcome (a nice meal) without the time, effort and general fuss required if I was to cook it myself.

Now consider how I would identify the quality and value of that service being provided. It isn’t just the quality of the food itself that will influence my perceptions, but also:

  • The cleanliness of the restaurant
  • The friendliness and customer service skills of the waiters and other staff
  • The ambience of the restaurant (lighting, music, decorations etc.)
  • The time taken to receive my meal (and was it what I asked for?)
  • Did they offer a choice of beverages?

If any one of these factors don’t meet my expectations, then ultimately the perceived quality and value delivered to me as a customer is negatively impacted. Now, relate this to our role in provisioning an IT Service. If we, as IT staff, focus only on the application or hardware elements provided and forget or ignore the importance of the surrounding elements that make up the end-to-end service, just like in the example of the restaurant, the customer experience and perceived quality and value will be negatively impacted.

But if we take a Service-oriented perspective, we also ensure that:

  • Communication with customers and end users is effectively maintained
  • Appropriate resolution times are maintained for end user and customer enquiries
  • Transparency and visibility of the IT organization and where money is being spent is maintained
  • The IT organization works proactively to identify potential problems that should be rectified or improvement actions that could be made.

Using these principles, every phone call to the Service Desk or email request for a password reset, presents an opportunity to demonstrate service excellence and a commitment to our customers.