What are “Services?”

strictly-business-londonWhen you work in an organization providing technology to an enterprise, you tend to encounter many perspectives on the word “services.”

To some people, “services” are the individual technological tools they maintain and support. Maybe it’s a virtualization server or a series of network switches. Perhaps it’s the content management software (CMS) system for the organization’s website. Maybe it’s the individual application packages delivered to computers in the organization. These are typically specific technologies or platforms, often built by individuals that have experience or training with a particular vendor or methodology.

To others, “services” are the things the technology provider offers that add value to the organization. It’s not merely the virtualization server itself, but rather what others in the organization can do with the virtual machines hosted on that server. It’s not merely the series of network switches, but rather the complex series of interconnections of those switches that form an enterprise-wide data network. It’s not merely the CMS system for the website, but rather how it empowers non-developers to still maintain a website with ease.

Certainly ITIL believes the latter is the correct definition, but it’s worth understanding why this is so. It’s really a question of understanding the needs of customers. Technology providers have a unique opportunity to shape those needs by providing technological solutions that fit. But the risk to technology providers is the language barrier between technology tools and business needs. ITIL suggests that services provide “value” to the customer. Does the virtualization server or do the network switches themselves provide “value?” It’s more likely their application in solving business challenges create the value?

More often than not, customers come to the negotiating table with needs ideas but lack the ability to carry them out. Their needs are driven by business decisions, regulatory requirements, changes to the organization’s industry and external environment, and so forth. These things require adaptation of technology, either existing systems or new tools. Ultimately, customers want the ability to carry out their own jobs successfully and smoothly. Technology providers add value when their services add value directly and align with business needs.

In coming posts, we will explore how this service management concept is implemented from scratch in a real-world situation.