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The Best Way to Define IT Services

SID is the best way to define IT services bar none, writes ITSM Watch columnist Hank Marquis of Enterprise Management Associates.
Jan 16, 2008

Hank Marquis

ITIL portfolio management is the new rage and every CIO wants to define their IT services, create service catalogs and start the process of business/IT alignment. Unfortunately ITIL doesn’t offer much guidance on exactly how to do these things, and about 30% of IT organizations stall at this most fundamental of ITSM points.

One of the main reasons so many organizations stall at the IT service definition phase is precisely the lack of guidance on how to perform IT service definition. ITIL is insufficient in defining services and does not help much to develop a sound IT service definition model. But ITIL does reference dozens of related frameworks and practices. In keeping with this tradition I went out and looked around for the best IT service definition framework or practice I could find.

As I started thinking about it, and asked myself, “Self, who has been thinking about how to offer standard IT service offerings based on shared support and delivery models and who has been doing it (and that means refining it) longer than anyone else?” Well, I think I have uncovered the most elegant, easy to understand, logical and powerful IT service definition model in the world. With this model you can quickly define your IT services, create a service portfolio hierarchy and generally speaking get off the dime and define your IT services starting as soon as you finish this article!

Say Hello to SID

SID is the Telemanagement Forum (TMF) New Generation Operations Systems and Software (NGOSS) Shared Information Data model (whew!) TMF is the international working group of the world’s telecommunications carriers and service providers. They have spent a long time trying to understand how to market and sell IT services as products. SID is the result of over 100 years of this research and is the de facto standard for IT service definition.

SID is your ticket off the dime and onto the IT service definition fast track. SID concepts include products, services and resources. We can combine SID with ITIL to make it easier to talk about and develop service definitions, and SID combines very nicely with ITIL to offer a layered construct for IT service provisioning, and unambiguous service definitions.

SID defines a product as what the enterprise sells or delivers; services as those things that create, deliver or support a product; and resources as what comprises a service. So far so good—a tie in with the business and a simple three layer initial model. I like simple and nothing in SID goes against anything in ITIL. Just the opposite is true. In fact, SID makes ITIL easier to understand.

Consider the terms “customer” and “user”. ITIL causes great confusion with its definitions of customer and user, where customer is the business unit manager that acquires IT services on behalf of his or her direct reports called users. SID refines this by declaring the term “end-user” and “end-customer” as those that are outside of the service provider organization. Combining ITIL and SID definitions makes it clear which is which. Customers and users sell and support products sold to end-customers or end-users.

SID then expands upon the definition of a service to include just two types of services. A “customer-facing service” (CFS) is an abstraction that defines the characteristics and behavior of a particular service as seen by the customer. This means that a customer acquires, purchases and/or is directly aware of the type of service.

CFSs comprise enterprise products, and your customers acquire CFS from IT (you). You know it’s a CFS when the customer is aware of and uses the service directly; and can purchase or acquire the service individually. A CFS is “back to back” and in direct contrast with a resource-facing service (RFS) that supports CFSs but are not seen or purchased directly by the customer. RFSs are used only inside of IT to build CFSs. You know it’s a RFS when the customer is unaware of the service; and is not able to directly acquire the service.

So, for example, special applications and systems used within IT exclusively (e.g., “backup”) are thus RFS, and may be used to deliver a CFS (e.g., “DHCP” is required for “Email”). This is brilliant! We can now simply divide any service into one or just two camps: customer- or resource-facing. No arguing, no bickering! But wait, there’s more! A couple of very easy rules make understanding and using SID in a group setting effortless:

Easy Rule #1: Perception During Use

  • If a Customer cannot perceive the difference between two related services, then probably the two services are components of the same CFS. That is they are RFS. If not, they are CFS.
  • Easy Rule #2: Ability to Acquire If a customer can acquire and use the service independently it’s a CFS, otherwise it’s a RFS.

  • If a customer can acquire and use the service independently it’s a CFS, otherwise it’s a RFS.

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