ITIL: Service Strategy

tinerstake-apple-feat-1015Last month, I wrote about the ITIL guidelines and the powerful changes implementing them can drive. As I wrote, ITIL is divided into five lifecycles. As one begins to look into the learning and certification process, it can be a bit confusing. How do you know which lifecycle you should look into? What about certain roles within your organization, what lifecycle should you point them towards? This month’s article focuses on the Service Strategy lifecycle.

I am particularly interested in this life cycle because it is where everything we do, whether in IT or AV begins. I often see or hear questions that are asked late in the process because no one ever considered strategy. By the time questions such as, “what is a reasonable response time?” get asked, it is usually too late. Often, it is being asked because someone has complained about service and the service provider is in the hot seat. While it may seem tedious and unnecessary, had the provider and the customer worked through the strategy lifecycle, they would not be asking this question. It would be clear what the reasonable time is, and whether that time was met.

Going forward I will refer to the provider and the customer. Depending on your view these could be different. If you are an integrator, you are the provider and person you deal with is your customer. If you are internal to an organization (say a tech manager at a college) then you are the provider and your users are your customers. The initial concept of the strategy lifecycle is that the provider must be able to create value for their customer. Sounds pretty simple right? In many ways this is the relationship we all have with people we buy something from, yet how often do we really question the value? What is the actual value of having a document camera in every classroom? What is the value of having a five-minute response time? As a provider, you must be able to understand what your customer values and how to make sure you give them that value. What the customer values should be revealed during the strategy lifecycle. A good model to use during this phase is the service triangle (price, functionality, performance) and understand from the customer where they are willing to spend and where they are willing to sacrifice.

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Too much of the value of a typical AV system is considered to be the equipment itself. ITIL will advise you that while the equipment and costs are important, they provide no value themselves. It is what the customers do with that equipment that provides value. Therefore, the most significant parts of the value conversation are about what the customer wants to do. How they expect the equipment to perform when they complete their tasks, and finally, how reliable is the equipment? In ITIL terms, this is referred as to whether services are fit for utility, and fit for warranty. In other words, don’t talk about equipment with customers, talk about needs and expectations. Additionally, make sure you understand the difference between what is a core service that you need to provide and what is an enhancing service. A beautifully designed touchpanel does no good if there is not an input for a laptop, and that is what the customer needed.

The service strategy lifecyle is probably the most important lifecycle, yet, to be frank, it is also likely the most boring if you would prefer to be out fixing things. If that is you, then perhaps you should show this column to your boss and have her look into this lifecycle. Without taking the time to work through the strategy of WHY you are doing a specific service, it will be very difficult to improve on, or eliminate the service. Each subsequent lifecycle builds upon the strategy lifecycle so having clear documented strategies makes the rest of the work possible.

Scott Tiner

About Scott Tiner

A trained educator, graduating from the Boston University School of Education, Scott is interested in the integration of technology and education. He works at Bates College managing the Client Services portions of Information Technology. Scott directs the Service Desk, which is responsible for the support of all classrooms and computers on campus. He also oversees the campus training programs and specifies and purchases computing equipment for the campus. He stays very active in the AV and IT fields, having presented at both regional, national and international conferences. Scott writes columns and blogs regularly for rAVe [Publications]. In order to continue to develop and strengthen his leadership and management skills Scott has attended the Management Institute and the Leading Change Institute, sponsored by EduCause. He earned his MBA form the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, at the University of New Hampshire. During his time in graduate school Scott developed an interest and expertise in leadership and team building. As an experienced speaker and writer, Scott is always looking for new experiences to share, learn and grow. Scott can be contacted via LinkedIn, on Twitter at or via email at

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  • Greg Wadlinger

    Hi Scott, I agree with you when you write, “What the customer values should be revealed during the strategy lifecycle.” One key reason you get questions late in the process is that it’s the first time people have had those questions pop up in their minds. I think the only way those questions will come out is when you expose customers to the concrete workings of the system. When you build a house and lay out the walls it’s the first time some things occur to you. You want a bigger closet or a bigger bathroom, or a slightly larger breakfast nook. You couldn’t really tell this even from the drawings. It wasn’t until you stepped on site that the thought occurred. Our customers, the professors, get paid to think. They are so very forthcoming once things are built,when we give them realistic iterations to observe. On the other hand, strategy meetings based on mere verbiage don’t have the evocative effect that seeing the real thing does.