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How to Measure ITIL Service Utility and Warranty

By understanding the ITIL concepts of utility and warranty in ITIL v3 you discover competitive advantage, cost controls, customer satisfaction, and business IT alignment, writes ITSMWatch columnist Hank Marquis of Global Knowledge.
Feb 8, 2010
By

Hank Marquis





The ITIL v3 definition of quality is "the ability of a product, service, or process to provide the intended value." The ITIL Service Strategy book describes utility and warranty as forming the basis of value for IT service consumers. Simply put, according to ITIL, get utility and warranty right, and you are providing the intended value, which means you have a high quality service with satisfied customers.

We can see that from an ITIL perspective, service quality consists of two components: utility (fitness for purpose) and warranty (fitness for use.) But how, exactly, do you measure fitness for use or purpose? Is it even possible to develop a score, a value, for a service based on utility and warranty?

What Your Customers Say

The short answer is yes, you can measure utility and warranty; and yes, you can create a number that represents the combined quality (utility + warranty) "score" of a service.

First, the ITIL definitions and explanations of both are a matter of record. ITIL states, "Utility is perceived by the customer from the attributes of the service that have a positive effect on the performance of tasks associated with desired outcomes." The ITIL glossary adds that utility is "[f]unctionality offered by a product or service to meet a particular need. Utility is often summarized as 'what it does'."

ITIL describes warranty as "[a] promise or guarantee that a product or service will meet its agreed requirements" and as "derived from the positive effect of being available when needed, in sufficient capacity, and dependably in terms of continuity and security."

Second, note how the explanation of utility refers to "attributes" and, in the case of warranty, to availability, capacity, continuity and security. Also, note how the explanation of warranty mentions effects. Utility and warranty seem to be placeholders for one or more other concepts related to service delivery. In other words, there is no test per-se for utility or warranty. Instead, it appears that satisfying multiple factors across several dimensions is the key achieving service quality from an ITIL utility and warranty perspective.

Third, the revelation in understanding how to measure utility and warranty reside in the discussion of utility―"Utility is perceived by the customer from the attributes of the service." We already discussed "attributes", but do note the words "perceived by the customer." It seems then that the definition of a quality service can only arise from the perceptions of its customers, and further, the customer makes this determination based on examining multiple attributes of service delivery. This means that to measure service quality (utility and warranty) one must exit the data center, and discover consumer perception―actually solicit customer expectations and perceptions. Service quality is what your customers say it is. So, it seems that you cannot measure IT service quality from inside the data center, at least not according to ITIL v3.

Inside the Data Center

This point is lost however, since so few actually know how to measure consumer perceptions. Luckily, measuring customer perception of satisfaction across multiple dimensions to determine quality is not a new idea. Albeit not well know to IT managers, the de facto continual service quality improvement methodology SERVQUAL is over 20 years old. Its less diagnostic cousin SERVPERF is approaching it's 15th birthday. Even the ITIL v3 Continual Service Improvement (CSI) book includes a model derived from the more mature SERVQUAL. These models all revolve around the primary concepts of customer perception and expectation. These methodologies provide precisely the guidance we need to do measure and take action on ITIL v3 utility and warranty.

SERVQUAL and SERVPERF both operate on the idea that any service has just five (5) dimensions, some of which the definition of utility calls just "attributes of the service" and others called out by name. SERVQUAL is not an IT specific domain and did not arise from an e-services point of view. SERVQUAL is a comprehensive quality measurement and improvement system. Its five dimensions have titles, and each title has detailed explanations, examples, causes, symptoms and solutions. These five dimensions are Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, Empathy and Tangibles. These terms probably need some explanation:

  • Reliability is the "Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately." In other words, what it does or fitness for purpose―from an ITIL perspective: its utility. A reliable service as measured by SERVQUAL is one that provides the required functionality.
  • Responsiveness is the "Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service." Providing prompt service pertains to the concepts of capacity, performance and latency making the dimension of Responsiveness an attribute of warranty.
  • Assurance is the "Knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence." Inspiring trust and confidence during interactions with consumers spans continuity and security, and thus, is part of warranty.
  • Empathy is the "Caring, individualized attention the firm provides its customers." It includes listening in a caring fashion, making an effort to understand, and making consumer needs their top priority. Empathy can arise from offering convenient business hours or being available for support or service when needed, and so on―another component of warranty.
  •  Tangibles describe the "Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials"―think the usability of documentation, interfaces, handsets, keyboards, monitors, etc. All of which fit neatly under the "how its delivered" concepts of warranty.

The SERVQUAL Reliability dimension appears to equate very well to ITIL utility and answers the "does it do what it needs to do" question that encapsulates utility. The other four SERVQUAL dimensions (Responsiveness, Tangibles, Assurance and Empathy) pertain mostly to warranty – "how it does it." Therefore, using SERVQUAL (or it's cousin SERVPERF) you can measure the five dimensions of a service, and discover the services' utility and warranty.

Given that ITIL CSI very clearly references SERVQUAL, and the importance of the concepts of utility and warranty to service strategy, it only makes sense for service managers to extend the concepts of service quality outside of the data center and adopt customer perception and expectation as valid IT metrics of service quality. From one point of view, anything less is not only failing to measure service quality, but also more predictive than actual, and certainly not diagnostic and actionable.

Tags:
ITSM, Marquis, ITIL v3, SERVQUAL, SERVPERF

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