Conceptualizing IT Service Management

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A kick-start guide to implement and administer IT Service Management processes with ServiceDesk Plus with this book and ebook

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by Ankush Agarwal | August 2013 | Enterprise Articles

In this article by Ankush Agarwal, the author of this book ServiceDesk Plus 8.x Essentials, we intend to focus on certain ITIL concepts while clarifying the differences between some of the frequently misinterpreted terms.

Before imparting on the journey to understand how ServiceDesk Plus helps in managing IT services, let's have a common understanding of some terminologies which are commonly used but often misinterpreted. Terms such as Problem Management, Release Management, SLA, IT Process, and so, have now moved from the geek dictionary to common IT lingo. While this outspread has helped Service Management gain more focus and acceptance, it has also established the need for having a clear definition of such terms.

ITIL® has successfully provided a platform for this. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of practices for IT Service Management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business. It is a practical approach for planning and delivering IT services to the business and also provides a common ground for various IT service-related terms. ITIL, being the most widely adopted approach, also provides the framework for many of the IT Service Management software and tools. ServiceDesk Plus is a popular example of such software, which helps to comprehensively manage IT assets and services.

However, to make the best use of this book, which elaborates the services of the ServiceDesk Plus software, it is imperative to first understand some of the IT service concepts.

Please note that all terms used in this book are as defined in the official ITIL publications.

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Understanding IT Service Management (ITSM)

The success of ITSM lies in putting the customer first. ITSM suggests designing all processes to provide value to customers by facilitating the outcomes they want, without the ownership of specific costs and risks. This quality service is provided through a set of the organization's own resources and capabilities.

The capabilities of an IT service organization generally lie with its people, process, or technology. While people and technology could be found in the market, the organizational processes need to be defined, developed, and often customized within the organization. The processes mature with the organization, and hence need to be given extra focus. Release Management, Incident Management, and so on, are some of the commonly heard ITSM processes.

It's easy to confuse these with functions, which as per ITIL, has a different meaning associated with it. Many of us do not associate different meanings for many similar terms. Here are some examples:

  • Incident Management versus Problem Management

  • Change Management versus Release Management

  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) versus Operational Level Agreement (OLA)

  • Service Portfolio versus Service Catalog

This book will strive to bring out the fine differences between such terms, as and when we formally introduce them. This should make the concepts clear while avoiding any confusion.

So, let us first see the difference between a process and a function.

Differentiating between process and function

A process is simply a structured set of activity designed to accomplish a specific objective. It takes one or more defined inputs and turns them into defined outputs.

Characteristics

A process is measurable, aimed at specific results, delivers primary results to a customer, and responds to specific triggers. Whereas, a function is a team or a group of people and the tools they use to carry out the processes.

Hence, while Release Management, Incident Management, and so on are processes. The IT Service Desk is a function, which might be responsible for carrying out these processes. Luckily, ServiceDesk Plus provides features for managing both processes and functions.

Differentiating between Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Operational Level Agreement (OLA)

Service Level Agreement, or SLA, is a widely used term and often has some misconceptions attached to it. Contrary to popular belief, SLA is not necessarily a legal contract, but should be written in simple language, which can be understood by all parties without any ambiguity. An SLA is simply an agreement between a service provider and the customer(s) and documents the service targets and responsibilities of all parties. There are three types of SLAs defined in ITIL:

  • Service Based SLA: All customers get the same deal for a specific service

  • Customer Based SLA: A customer gets the same deal for all services

  • Multilevel SLA: This involves a combination of corporate level, service level, and customer level SLAs.

An Operational Level Agreement, or OLA, on the other hand, is the agreement between the service provider and another part of the same organization. An OLA is generally a prerequisite to help meet the SLA. There might be legal contracts between the service provider and some external suppliers as well, to help meet the SLA(s). These third-party legal contracts are called Underpinning Contracts.

As must be evident, management and monitoring of these agreements is of utmost importance for the service organization. Here is how to create SLA records easily and track them in ServiceDesk Plus:

  1. Agree SLA with the customers.

  2. Go to Admin tab.

  3. Click on Service Level Agreements in the Helpdesk block.

  4. All SLA-based mail escalations are enabled by default. These can be disabled by clicking on the Disable Escalation button.

  5. Four SLAs are set by default—High SLA, Medium SLA, Normal SLA, and Low SLA. More could be added, if needed.

  6. Click on any SLA Name to view/edit its details.

  7. SLAs for sites, if any, can be configured by the site admin from the Service Level Agreement for combo box.

  8. SLA Rules block, below SLA details, is used for setting the rules and criteria for the SLA.

Once agreed with the customers, configuring SLAs in the tool is pretty easy and straightforward. Escalations are taken care of automatically, as per the defined rules. To monitor the SLAs for a continuous focus on customer satisfaction, several Flash Reports are available under the Reports tab, for use on the fly.

Differentiating between Service Portfolio and Service Catalog

This is another example of terms often used interchangeably. However, ITIL clarifies that the Service Catalog lists only live IT services but Service Portfolio is a bigger set including services in the pipeline and retired services as well. Service Catalog contains information about two types of IT services:

  • Customer-facing services (referred to as Business Service Category ) and

  • Supporting services, with the complexities hidden from the business (referred to as IT Service Category)

ServiceDesk Plus plays a vital role in managing the ways in which these services are exposed to users. The software provides a simple and effective interface to browse through the services and monitor their status. Users can also request for availing these services from within the module.

The Service Catalog can also be accessed from the Admin tab, by clicking on Service Catalog under the Helpdesk block. The page lists the configured service categories and can be used to Add Service Category , Manage the service items, and Add Service under each category.

Deleting a Service Category

Deletion of an existing Service Category should be done with care. Here are the steps:

  1. Select Service Categories from Manage dropdown.

  2. A window with Service Categories List will open.

  3. Select the check box next to the Service Category to be deleted and then press the Delete button on the interface.

  4. A confirmation box will appear and on confirmation, the Service Category will be processed for deletion.

If the concerned Service Category is in use by a module, then it will be grayed out and the category will be unavailable for further usage.To bring it back into usage,click on the edit iconnext to the category name and uncheck the box for Service not for further usage in the new window.

The following two options under the Manage dropdown provide additional features for the customization of service request forms:

  • Additional Fields: This can be used to capture additional details about the service apart from the predefined fields

  • Service Level Agreements : This can be used to configure Service Based SLAs

Summary

We now understand the ITSM concepts, the fine differences between some of the terms, and also why software like ServiceDesk Plus is modeled after ITIL framework. We've also seen how SLAs and Service Catalog could be configured and tracked using ServiceDesk Plus.

Resources for Article :


Further resources on this subject:


ServiceDesk Plus 8.x Essentials A kick-start guide to implement and administer IT Service Management processes with ServiceDesk Plus with this book and ebook
Published: September 2013
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About the Author :


Ankush Agarwal

Ankush Agarwal has been working in the IT Service Management domain, as well as conducting internal organization training, for more than eight years. He likes writing about service technologies and processes and has also won blogging awards in this space. He has been involved in setting up and managing various service desk teams and is currently associated with a top-tier Investment Bank.

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