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The Eight Essential Elements of an IT Service Lifecycle

You have to define services if you want to run IT as a business for the business, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Eric Feldman of CA.
Jul 30, 2007

Eric Feldman

Many companies are attempting to run their IT organizations like a business. They are viewing internal business units as “customers” who require maximum value from their IT investments, rapid response to their needs, consistent service levels, and full visibility into technology costs. In particular, senior executives are demanding this cost visibility to exercise appropriate financial controls and more accurately benchmark service costs.

To adopt this strategy, organizations must understand the business—including visibility into the defined or documented service offerings and business processes the IT organization delivers to the organization.

It is here the IT service lifecycle (ITSL) can help. It can serve as a framework to help define, publish, and improve service offerings by redefining an IT service in the context of a dynamic business environment. The ITSL includes eight essential elements:

1. Definition- Service definition is the most important element of the ITSL. The definition of a service begins by documenting the intended business goals, policies, and procedures. These include the desired functional requirements, such as the need to produce a service report or generate an invoice. Non-functional requirements such as service availability, performance, accuracy, and security, also must also be considered.

Services need to be described in a meaningful way to the user. For example, “300 Gb Ultra SCSI hard drive in RAID 5 array,” could easily be described as “secure data storage” to non-technical staff.

2. Publication- Once defined, the definition is published in a service catalog. The goal of the service catalog is to create a vehicle that enables users to proactively select the IT services that best suit their needs.

Many companies publish several service catalogs created by various internal groups. This can be confusing to users who need to be aware of multiple locations to make requests. The trend is to create and publish a single common user interface containing a central repository of all IT service offerings, regardless of the internal or external service provider.

3. Request Model - A service provider interacts with end users or business units through the end-user request model or the subscription model.

The end-user request model enables the user to select services from a published catalog. The goal is to automate those human steps necessary to deliver the service to the end user, including required and often time-consuming “hand offs” such as multi-departmental reviews and approvals.

The subscription model automatically delivers a standard set of services according to a pre-arranged service level agreement (SLA). For example, when creating an email account for a new employee, a specific request is made to subscribe to this service on behalf of the employee.

These two interaction mechanisms can be employed separately or together. For example, a user-facing catalog may contain a service called “add new hire", which in turn enables the delivery of a continuous email subscription.

4. Provisioning - IT service provisioning enables the automated delivery of services selected from a catalog, such as setting up an email account, software installation, or providing access to a specific application.

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