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.

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.