Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ITIL: H2I - Chapter the Third - Where some things are revealed and others have to wait a wee bit longer

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to ITIL (H2I) – EXAM Preparation Guide

Welcome back! I'm glad you've decided to follow more of my silly articles. In this article I'll be introducing ALICE. Yeah, I can hear some of you out there already: Alice, who is Alice? Alice is your buddy (Artificial Life-form Intelligent Cyberspace Entity) who introduces you with many small case studies and also has the nasty habit of asking questions, typically at the most inconvenient and inappropriate times.

As the author, I’m pretty sure ALICE wears a blue and white dress, is constantly chased by a fluffy, but extremely vicious rabbit (also referred to as CO-rabBIT), who for some unclear reason also lost its white gloves somewhere in this publication – maybe you can find it back! Poor rabbit!

Okay, enough now! Let’s start to look at ITIL v3 in more detail.

Service Management as a practice

Definition of Service Management: Service Management is a set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.

A traffic control officer actually provides a great service. Why? Well, first of all he/she has the knowledge, training, and understanding of traffic laws and traffic control. The value he/she provides is in a mostly intangible form, which is guiding you where to go and preventing you from ending up in accidents. That’s quite a positive outcome. So the traffic controller actually adds value to your existence.

In other words Service Management is all about having the ability to do (activities) something and being able to provide something (outputs) to someone (your customers/clients). Of course that something should add some value to that someone, otherwise it’s pretty much a waste of time and resources. Putting a traffic control officer in the middle of a dessert without any traffic seems pointless – the service will be short-lived.

Services have a number of special characteristics that typical products don’t seem to have:

  • Intangible nature of the output and intermediate products. You can't really pickup a service and drop it on someone's foot. Cinema theaters are providing a great service, but you don't walk out with a movie now do you? No, you walk out with an experience and hopefully this experience is perceived by you as valuable, because -hey- you did pay $15 for your ticket into the cinema.

  • Demand is tightly-coupled with customer’s assets. If you buy a new DVD-player and for some reason it doesn't play your favorite DVD ('Spirited Away'), then surely you would like to go back to the shop and get it exchanged or 'serviced'. You wouldn't ask for a DVD player to be serviced if you don't have one! So, services and assets often go hand-in-hand, or at least have a very tight relationship with each other.

  • High-level of contact for producers and consumers of services. If I work in an organization, and my PC breaks down, then guess what, I call the Service Desk. I'll need to explain and communicate my error to the Service Desk, because otherwise they won't be able to support me properly. They may not be able to fix it immediately and calls may go to-and-fro for some time, before a workaround or solution is provided, hence there's heaps of contact between me the consumer (PC-user) and them the producer (the IT organization).

  • Perishable nature of service output and service capacity. If the Service Desk is able to fix my PC's error, then surely that exact same call will never ever repeat itself. Even if my PC breaks down tomorrow with the same issue, then the support I may get from the new Service Desk Analyst will not be the same, even the same Analyst may be in a slightly different mood and the service won't be the same. In other words, the outputs don't last very long and are often created real-time, and "in-the-moment".

[ALICE:] Think of at least three services where you can find examples of all the service characteristics as explained above.

Concept of Good Practice

How do you become a millionaire? Well, some say that looking at someone who is successful and building up an understanding of how they became so successful is a giant step in the right direction. Learning from their success and avoiding their mistakes may well save you from being embarrassed down the track. Why reinvent wheels, if a full bullet-proof and well maintained design is there and available to everyone’s use?

That’s ITIL for you!

Periodically OGC (The Office of Government Commerce) captures good and world’s best practices, and documents these practices in a library of books, hence Information Technology Infrastructure Library. Why not adopt these good and best practices that are already widely in use, rather than investing and using your own resources, energy and capital developing them from scratch? Use ITIL or, for that matter, any other public framework, available standard, or your own organization's proprietary knowledge (IP: Intellectual Property) and leverage of the knowledge and skills already available. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

[ALICE:] Why do people use maps to get from A to B?

[ALICE:] What would happen if all plugs worldwide would not be manufactured according to set standards?

[ALICE:] How can I play croquet without a set of clear rules? You know how bad tempered the queen of hearts can be!

Concept of a Service

A service is quite a strange thing! You can buy the same car from two different car dealers, but the service can be quite different. You can book the same holiday from two different travel agencies, and again the personal experience is most likely not quite the same. One offers you a nice cup of coffee while you’re waiting; the other seems to ignore you completely. Some schools and hospitals have a better “name” than others, whilst the products they are providing are still pretty much the same. It’s the services and their attitude towards delivering services that give some organizations a good, and others a bad reputation. As the author I even believe, no better I'm convinced, that a set of good services can make or break your organization!

Definition: A service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.

Nowadays, services can make or break many organizations, and the importance of delivering high quality, consistent, repeatable, and measurable services hasn’t seen the light at the end of the tunnel as yet. Many organizations have finally come to the conclusion that delivering good, if not excellent, services is vital to their very existence and survival.

[ALICE:] Do you remember the worst and best service ever delivered to you? What organization pops up in your mind right now? One theory (coming from psychology) tells you that you’re most likely to remember your worst service and your last service, but not necessarily your best service! Think of the consequences this theory may have on your own organization!

A service has the following four characteristics:

  • Intangible nature of the output and intermediate products.

  • Demand is tightly-coupled with customer’s assets.

  • High-level of contact for producers and consumers of services.

  • Perishable nature of service output and service capacity.

Yeah, we've seen those already, and they are key to your understanding of what constitutes a service. Make sure you know these for your exam okay?

Concept of Service Management

So, what is Service Management, and why do I, the author, think that IT Service Management is 100% interchangeable with ITIL. Well, it’s already in the words, or isn’t it? Service Management is all about managing services, from cradle to grave, from inception to disposal, from idea to capability to deliver. The capabilities to deliver a service take the form of functions, processes and roles for managing the service over a well designed life-cycle: The Service Life-cycle!

So, basically IT Service Management is about creating the right mix of processes, functions and roles, supported by the right set of infrastructure to deliver quality (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timely) services to customers.

Service Management is also a:

  • Professional practice supported by an extensive body of knowledge, experience and skills (also see

  • Global community of individuals and organizations in the public and private, profit and not-for-profit sectors.

  • Career path with a plethora of training and worldwide recognized certifications available.

Definition: Service Management is a set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.

Traditionally Service Management has its roots in business environments like airlines, banks, hotels, and phone companies. As we have become, and are still becoming, more and more dependent on IT, it is exactly this industry “Information Technology (IT)” that is now adopting Service Management practices with an ever increasing speed and enthusiasm.

So, ITIL helps you to better understand, plan and manage your services, and that’s what Service Management is all about, just like the Microsoft Operational Framework (MOF), Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (CobiT), and all these other Service Management frameworks and methodologies. Remember that ITIL is not a methodology, but a flexible framework that should always be approached with an "IT DEPENDS" mindset and attitude.


As the author I use the terminology ITIL and Service Management (no, I don’t even refer to IT Service Management anymore) interchangeably, as I’m convinced we’re actually talking about the same thing. This book and its accompanying ‘mind boggling and fantastic’ interactive distance education subjects is not exclusively about ITIL, it’s about managing services, it's about Service Management, and in the end, it's all a form of applying common sense Total Quality Management (TQM) principles.

[ALICE:] Please use your favorite search engine and look for TQM and see if you can find the core principles on which TQM's philosophy is built.

Functions, Roles and Processes


Definition: Functions are units of organizations specialized to perform certain type work and responsible for specific outcomes.

The definition of a function is a bit of a strange one really. I guess what the authors were really trying to say is: “A function is a bunch of people roughly performing the same tasks, so why not put them together in a room somewhere!”
Functions build up their own skills and knowledge (and attitude as well). Functions also provide structure and stability to organizations. We people like to be labeled, and we also like to know what to do, and where to do it.

Examples of typical business functions:

  • Human Resources

  • Public Relations

  • Finance

  • Administration

  • Marketing

  • Sales

  • Manufacturing

  • Management

  • Legal

  • Shipping

  • Processing

  • Orders

  • Research and development

  • Logistics

Examples of typical IT functions:

  • Service Desk

  • Network support

  • Application support

  • Midrange

  • Desktop team

  • ERP

  • A pair of white gloves

  • CRM

  • Telecommunication

  • IT Operations

  • Facilities

  • Messaging

  • wIntel team

  • Blackberry team

  • Mainframe

[ALICE:] See if you can think of 7 more generic business functions, and 7 more specialised IT functions.


A role is roughly a description of tasks to be performed by a person, team or group. It’s the stuff that needs to be done by someone. Anyone with the right skills, knowledge and attitude that fits the role description should be able to step into the role.

Definition: A role refers to a set of connected behaviors or actions that are performed by a person, team or group in a specific context.

[ALICE:] Could you think of the various tasks performed by a nurse? Would you be able to step into the role of a nurse with your current skills, and knowledge? Would you also have the right attitude to perform the job (=role) of a nurse?

So the trick is to match the right individuals to the right roles, and that’s exactly what human resources is all about, and what job agencies do for a living.


The definition that’s provided in the ITIL v3 books is a lot of waffle! It’s not incorrect, but very academic, and too heavy for its purpose. The old definition as provided in ITIL v2 was actually more useful: “A process is a set of interrelated activities and/or sub-processes to achieve a common goal.” In other words it’s the stuff you do (or sometimes machines and/or computers do) to achieve, create or deliver something!

Definition: A process is an example of a closed-loop system because it provides change and transformation towards a goal and utilizes feedback for self-reinforcing and self-corrective action.

[ALICE:] Say you’re a large car and motorbike manufacturer, like Honda. What is transformed into what? What do you think are Honda’s goals? What type of feedback will Honda receive from its customers? What type of self-corrective actions do you think exist in Honda’s car and motorbike manufacturing plants?

The Process Model

The process model is an extremely useful and powerful, but highly underestimated and underutilized model. Many organizations make a huge and often very expensive mistake and start at the wrong level of the process model. They either start to perform many uncoordinated activities (level 2), or buy a fancy new tool (level 3) and make the wrong assumption that the new tool is going to resolve all their issues. When you automate non-existing and non-documented processes without clear ownership, objectives, roles and responsibilities, you get automated chaos! Please realize that a fool with a tool is still a fool.

The process model has three main levels. The first level is process control (level 1), and this is the level that should be looked at first. It’s at this level that a process owner will be assigned, and objectives agreed. This is also the level where process documentation (like process work-flow diagrams) is created and improved when and where applicable. The second level covers the inputs, the key process activities and sub-processes, and the outputs (level 2). It’s at this level that roles are assigned, and metrics are captured. The process enablers are located at the third and final level (level 3). This is where we find the resources and capabilities. That’s the stuff we need to perform our process, like tools, technology, budget, time, and people.

[ALICE:] Can you fill in all the balloons of the process model for our Honda car and motorbike manufacturer? What about filling in the balloons for a medium sized hotel? This exercise looks easier than it is in reality. How many process owners should you assign per process? What will happen if two process owners are both accountable for the same process, and the process fails?

Process Characteristics

Processes have the following four characteristics:

  • Measurable; we need to be able to measure the performance of the processes.

  • Specific results; the process results should be uniquely identifiable and countable.

  • Customers; processes deliver results to customers, either internal or external.

  • Trigger; Responds to a specific event; processes should be traceable to a specific trigger.

[ALICE:] When do we call something a function, and when do we call something a process? What factors will influence and determine this decision? Ultimately whether we call something a process or function, what’s even more important?

More chapters of H2I will be added shortly, but then again, I always seem to be saying that. The guide is roughly 400 pages, so I guess if you stay with me for a bit longer, you get all the benefits and it won't cost you a penny.

Live long and prosper

Nanoo... Nanoo...


ITIL ® is a Registered Trade Mark, and a Registered Community Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce, and is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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