tisdag 25 mars 2014

How categorization can help you decipher your IT services

The term IT service is commonly used in different IT contexts. It is frequently associated with IT delivery in an attempt to illustrate some form of packaging of benefit and value to the customer. What I often miss is the breakdown and categorization of the term IT service. To be able to apply it one need to be very clear with what it means due to the broad application of it. I simply call it navigation. The reason I think one needs to break it down is that the surrounding of an IT service is affected by what we mean when using term. Surrounding in this case is how we realize it, deliver it, measure it, describe it, what content to put in an SLA etc. All these things is affected by what we actually mean when using the term IT service. 

Category Transaction vs Subscription.
Lets start with the first categorization. Is the IT service used to illustrate something I actually use as part of my work or is it describing something I might need to order or request due to that I need it. Lets make an example. I need a printer available from my work computer due to high demand of printouts in my line of work. Lets assume that at the company I work, there is a request portal to place this kind of requests. I complete a request of a printer from the list of available printers I see fit for me and I receive a e-mail confirmation of what printer I have ordered. A few days later it gets delivered and installed, ready for my use. The IT departments commitment this far has a focus on delivering a working printer to me according to circumstances and prerequisites that the IT department have defined. Costs associated with this request is probably the purchase price of printer, paper and consumables like ink etc. for the printer.  

If we stop here I would categorize the above example as a Transaction IT service. The commitment from the IT department would basically be over and done. The request is measured in various ways, used in follow-up, is described, managed etc. as a IT service to achieve what described in the example above. From this point onward I have the possibility to make printouts from my work computer. If for some reason I need, I can call the IT department Helpdesk to get assistance if any problems might occur while using the printer. 

Now we get to the counterpart to transaction service. It is the Subscription service. If the IT service would have been described as a subscription IT service it would have to be structured differently. In a subscription I would probably not choose a printer from a list of available printers. I would probably choose what capacity of printout I need and how critical the printouts are at the time I print them (availability). We are potentially still talking about the same actual printer but there is a significant difference in the commitment from the IT department associated with the subscription IT service. Now the commitment is not only to deliver a printer, but the ability to print which includes the monitoring and planning of activities like change of ink cartridges, paper, plan service intervals, cleaning etc. The more printouts I do, the more the IT department need to act. Of course I still have the possibility to call helpdesk whenever I am in trouble with my printouts. Costs associated with this request should based on my printouts. e.g. I pay for each printout and this way I can change my behavior and that way influence my costs associated with my printouts.  

In the subscription example there is still a initial part that is corresponding to the transaction IT service. It is the actual delivery and installation of the printer. This needs to be measured and be managed as a transaction IT service but the significant part here is that the IT service is described as the ongoing commitment of printout ability from the IT department that is based on my printout needs. 

Category Generic vs. Specific
The reason to categorize if a IT service is generic or specific is due to that it often affects how the IT service is described and offered. Generic in this case is to offer the IT service to a broad base of customers with high level of flexibility. Preferably every available customer. If this is the case the IT service usually needs to be offered with different levels and scope. It can be levels based on volume, availability, response time, scalability etc. 

A specific IT service usually address a specific customers needs. The levels (options) that was characteristic for a generic IT service tends to define the actual service in much higher grade in a specific IT service. The specific service should cover a specific customer need and hence, there is less need of options and configurability. A specific service tend to need a high frequency of review and follow-up much closer to the customers goals and the value of the IT service. 

Category Process Oriented vs. Bundled
The third categorization is whether the IT service is process oriented or bundled. A process oriented IT service has a very strong connection to the customers business goals and output the customer is striving for. There is also a different foundation to show the IT service contribution to those business goals and outputs. The IT service content (service functions) is very closely related to the customers actual business flow and any activities and sequences that the business flow might consists of. The success of a process oriented IT service is completely dependent of the IT department ability to understand how the customers business process works, looks like and purpose. Any change in the customer business process might get a consequence in how the IT service is described or delivered and must be managed thereafter. 

A bundled IT service is more based on commonly occurring request behaviors, patterns or other practical reasons. An example could be a packaging of a mobile phone. If a user should have the possibility to request a mobile phone in the company request portal it would be rather inconvenient if the requestor received just a phone. It would probably lead to that every requestor would be forced to enter the portal again to request a working SIM card, and a phone cover, and cables, the changer and finally the correct rights for content synchronization. This would not be very efficient nor very practical for anybody. probably very frustrating. Here a bundled IT service would be very suitable. Put all parts in a bundle to be carried out in one request and let the requestor decide what is relevant in that particular case so that no further requests are necessary at a later stage. 

Category Customer Facing vs. Supporting
The last categorization is whether the IT service is used directly by a customer or is a supporting service to enable the former. Examples of customer facing IT services is all occasions when a user does not only order or change the delivery of a IT service but actually uses functionality provided by the IT service. It could be a "order management" IT service. The customer actually uses the functionality delivered by the IT service to perform the work concerning order management. 

A supporting IT service could be the operations of a database that the order management IT service is dependent on. It would be a hosting service that the IT department can purchase of a external hosting supplier or perform themselves internally. In the case of external hosting company there is parallel customer and supplier relationship. The hosting service have a supplier, a customer, is measured, managed etc. but the hosting service is still used as a supporting service to the order management IT service. 

Focus of transaction category
If your services are transaction services, focus on simplifying the request interface (portal) and standardize the fulfillment flow so it has high repeatability. Measure it to understand lead-times etc. and if you have a portal, be very clear with what the commitment covers e.g. the fulfillment of the request. 

Focus of subscription category
If the IT services are subscription services, focus on identify, define and describe the ongoing commitment that will be in place after that the request is completed. The commitment needs continually to be measured and verified by the customer.

Focus of generic category
If the services are generic services, focus on defining levels and scope that is actually used. There is no meaning of defining Gold, silver and bronze if nobody ever is going to by the Gold. Try to se it from the customers point of view instead of just copying something you seem fit. High flexibility and configurability is key, otherwise you will get a service with flavors that is to static to perfectly fit any customer

Focus of specific category
If the services are specific services, focus on the case the customer want supported. Understand the constraints the customer is dealing with and make sure your actually make life easier for the customer. 

Focus of process oriented category
If the services are process oriented services, focus on understanding the customer and their business process and the output the customer is trying to achieve. Make sure the service and the service content is named and described in business language according to the business process the service is supporting. There is major incentive to actively work with IT service Portfolio and IT service Catalog concepts. 

Focus of bundle category
If the services are bundled services, focus on making sure the bundle decreases the number of request the user needs to do to achieve their output. Bundled service commitments also needs to be described but tend more to be influenced by request patterns and other practical packaging. 

Focus of customer facing category
If the services are customer facing services, focus on defining relevance of services from customers point of view. When the customer enters the request portal the content shown should have high relevance for the customer. It should be obvious to the customer what the purpose of the content is and navigation should come naturally. The service should also be of high importance for operating the service with an accurate customer value defined to enable prioritization in the ongoing service delivery.  

Focus of supporting category
If the services are supporting services, focus on defining a delivery structure where the supporting services are put in relation to the services they are supporting. It is important to understand the impact and risks when planing changes or handling disturbances.