Translated from an original article written by Thomas Bez, TEDESCA Consulting, www.tedesca.com
A service management project – whether it be the restructuring of a service unit, the development of SLA and the set-up of a Service Level Management, or a service outsourcing – rarely follows a textbook format. However, the usage of a methodology or reference model (also called framework or blueprint) is absolutely essential. Reference models are usually developed in a particular industry, and, if they are successful at all, further mature over time with the addition of new releases. Many of you might still remember the now extinct “FCAPS” reference model from the telecommunications industry, a fairly simple process model from the ITU-T M.3400 standard with its five functional areas: Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security Management.
It is not unusual for these reference models to become more widely used during the course of their development, or at least to give the appearance that their concepts are applicable beyond their industry of origin. We are particularly familiar with two of these frameworks:
- ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), a collection of “best practices” or, as recently more modestly described, “good practices” in IT service management – today indispensable in the IT service area.
- eTOM (enhanced Telecommunications Operations Map) from the TeleManagement Forum (TMF), which is more and more becoming the de facto standard for the design of business processes in the telecommunications industry.
In this article, we want to show how ITIL is becoming universally applicable for service management purposes beyond the IT industry, and in particular in the telecom sector where it can be used in parallel with the standards of the TeleManagement Forum.
Applicability of the ITIL Lifecycle
Let us look at the five phases of a service lifecycle – service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continuous service improvement, as shown below – and assess how IT specific each individual process is. We can differentiate between the ITIL methodologies on one hand (for example process management, roles, RACI matrix) and the objects used by ITIL on the other hand (for example KPI, asset type, resources, skills). The objects are by nature more or less ITIL specific. As ITIL itself does not try to standardise these objects, but remains a framework of Good Practices, the applicability of the ITIL methodology remains wide. However, when the processes strongly depend on the objects upon which they act, the processes can be regarded as “more IT specific”. Some obvious examples are capacity management or access management.
Looking at the ITIL process template, split between process control, the actual process and process enablers, one can conclude that the field of enablers are mostly generic and industry specific (in particular resources and skills = capabilities).
KPI are not necessarily IT or industry specific. Depending on their position in the overall KPI system, and in particularly when they are aggregated KPIs, what is often the case, KPI schemes can be ‚copied’ from other industries – as you would expect from a “Good Practice” framework. For example, a percentage reduction in recovery time (Mean Time to Restore Service MTRS) during the reporting period, a KPI example from the availability management process, can be determined for almost any service.
A few years ago, while working on a „Mobile Virtual Network Enabler“ MVNE project, we have applied the ITIL methodology in a non-IT environment (using V2 at the time) and we were pleased with the results. The project required coordination with multiple internal and external service providers (type 2 and 3 according to the ITIL terminology). This affected in particular the following processes:
- Event / Incident / Problem Management,
- Change Management / Request Fulfilment,
- Service Level Management.
The use of ITIL has facilitated the development of a common understanding and common definition of the operations processes and procedures, as well as the set-up of an SLA- and OLA-Management and service desk.
Improvements with ITIL Version 3
The goals of ITIL V3 are to better align IT with the business processes that it supports, and more generally to strengthen the link between IT and the corporate objectives. As a result, the areas of Service Strategy, Continuous Service Improvement – both life-cycle elements are completely new – as well as Service Operation, are the most noticeable additions in ITIL Version 3. Service Strategy and Continuous Service Improvement are described in the ITIL books in a way that makes their generalization for other categories of services possible. In our view, the novelty of ITIL V3 has been to articulate the relationship between IT and the company´s core business, and reinforce the role of IT as business enabler. This approach can also be adopted for other type of (non-IT) services.
Unsurprisingly, Service Operation, which can be regarded as the original core of ITIL, has been strongly expanded with ITIL Version 3, with the following processes:
- Event Management
- Request Fulfilment
- Access Management
These were precisely the processes that we had missed most in ITIL Version 2. In the MVNE project mentioned above, we had assigned the Event Management process to Incident Management, and Request Fulfilment to Change Management – where the two processes did not fit in so well. For someone working in the telecommunications industry, the ITIL framework was simply incomplete without the extensions made under Service Operations.
In the picture above, we have categorised the Event Management process as generic and not IT specific. Although the events and the tools (e.g. monitoring systems) are industry specific, the Event Management process itself is relatively simple and universally applicable. The same applied to Request Fulfilment. It is interesting to note that ITIL Version 3 has been particularly expanded in the areas where processes are the most generic. This seems to confirm our previous statement that reference models acquire an increasing degree of applicability as they evolve over time.
The ITIL book on Service Operation does not address Request Fulfilment in much detail. Since the Request Fulfilment process includes standard changes, it may be of significantly greater importance in other industries. This is particularly true in telecoms when you look at the Level 2 and 3 definitions of the eTOM fulfilment process. In the ITIL terminology, almost all of the sub-processes that extend into logistics and field provisioning (think of the provisioning of a DSL connection), fall under Request Fulfilment. That ITIL does not put more emphasis on Request Fulfilment comes from the fact that ITIL still sees the service desk as the central point of the command for the execution of service requests.
The service desk, though not a process but a function, is included in the picture above. As single point of contact for customer, a service desk is in principle always needed. However, its representation in ITIL cannot be easily generalised. A special role is also assigned to the Common Service Operation Activities, sometimes called “Daily Operations”. As an unstructured collection of tasks, they seem to be neglected by ITIL. A possible explanation is that these activities (such as making regular backups) are not driven by explicit service requests but are usually provided from a single source in the IT department, without additional process or provider interface. In any case, the Common Service Operation Activities, as described in ITIL, cannot be easily generalized. For example, think of complex processes such as preventive maintenance in telecoms, which fall under this category.
Concerning Continuous Service Improvement, in particular the area of governance, it is important to note that a number of partially competing standards already exist and can be used to evaluate current processes in terms of compliance and maturity. In addition to the ITIL Process Maturity Model (PMM), which is based on Capability Maturity Model CMM, these include COBIT, and the still very new, “CMMI for Services”. Furthermore, there are separate standards for IT Security Management (ISO 27001) and for Business Continuity Management (BS 25999).
Notwithstanding the limitations highlighted above, we believe that the ITIL methodology is applicable for other non-IT services. The previous figure illustrates which type of services might be suitable, as shown by the arrow “Possible use of ITIL”.