By Edward Carbutt

Service design is a stage of the information technology service management (ITSM) lifecycle that is rarely given the attention and thought that it warrants, to the potential detriment of the company. It’s a critical part of implementing any new service or major service change and, if handled incorrectly or by the wrong people, it can lead to the service not delivering the full value that it was intended to.

Service design is where a service that has been defined in the Service Strategy stage is now planned and designed, taking into account the resources, people, skills, infrastructure, communication methods and timeline needs of the service. All the kinks are ironed out and plans are put in to place to maximise the benefits of this service.

There are five aspects of effective service design, according to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework:

  1. Design the service solution;
  2. Design the supporting management information systems;
  3. Design the technology architectures such as the services provisioned, the application thereof, data and information infrastructure and the environmental architecture;
  4. The design of the processes required to effectively provide, manage and support the service;
  5. Designing of the metrics and measurement tools in order to establish whether the service is successful and delivers the expended value.

The aim of service design is to end up with a service that does what it was planned to do, without minimal alterations or adjustments required in future. It addresses all four parts of the service warranty, namely the availability, capacity, continuity and security of a service. Other processes covered include design coordination, service catalogue management, service level management and supplier management.

Design co-ordination is essentially the process responsible for ensuring that all the activities contained within the service design stage are properly executed and that they follow a structured approach using suitable frameworks.

While many companies think that IT service design is the sole responsibility of network planners and architects, or IT managers, this is not the case. In order to ensure that the service meets the demands of the customer (users within an organisation, or other organisations) and that it will satisfy business needs too, many contributors are involved. These contributors comprise a team of experts from the technical management, applications management, IT operations and service desk functions, or organisational units.

The service catalogue is the only part of the service portfolio that is published to customers, and it is used as a communication tool to support the sale and delivery of the IT service(s). It includes information about deliverables, prices, contact points, ordering and request processes, and defines what the dependencies are to enhance, enable and support the service(s).

The service level management process covers the design and documentation of service level agreements (SLAs), operational level agreements (OLAs) and underpinning contracts (UCs) to ensure that the warranty of the service is maintained based on their customer’s needs. These documents need to be agreed upon by all parties to be feasible and realistic, and designed to match deliverables to the requirements so that expectations are set and met accordingly.

The supplier management process of service design ensures that all suppliers are managed, including outsourcing partners and internal contributors. It oversees the contracts so that the business gets the expected value from them and that the suppliers do not under deliver. The level at which contracts are negotiated with suppliers usually depends upon the value and business impact of the contract and its deliverables.

The higher the value, the higher the level of negotiations will be. For example, a contract for printer paper can be negotiated at usual supply chain level, but a contract for high cost machinery plays a big role in budget decisions and often needs high level involvement, usually at an executive level.

Not following proper service design can leave a number of important components unattended and could result in unhappy customers thanks to ineffectual service delivery. Not having all the proper measures and processes in place can lead to complete service failure and unforeseen expenses as the service is repaired and adjusted time and again to meet its anticipated expectation.

The benefits, on the other hand, are innumerable. Effective service design ensures the warranty is maintained throughout the provisioning of the service. It minimises the risk on deployment, ensuring that a proper plan is in place and all aspects are covered. Where service delivery is smooth and requires no tweaks or post-deployment changes, there are fewer – if any – unexpected costs. Total cost of ownership (TCO) of the service is thus reduced as there are less likely to be comebacks, redesigns and required improvements, hence increased business value.

Proper service design aids service integration. Having a proper service design in place provides for more robust service oriented architectures and makes it easier to use and integrate alongside existing services. Designing services properly from the outset, from provision to support, means that they can be effectively provided and their value demonstrated, allowing for the business to be less inclined to resist using the service, and more inclined to embrace it.

Edward Carbutt is executive director at Marval Africa

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