Today most of discussions regarding organisation performance turn around the concept of service. Companies and company sub-entities are deemed to be more efficient when committed to services delivery. Would it be due to modern economies orientation for which services industry represent 70% ? The successes of the cloud computing, of Software as a service associated with the spread of ITIL outside production departments, are far from the bottom of the drivers list. Even SOA, though a declining fame, contributed to service orientation success.

But, are they, all these, the same services ? Some people says these are different points of view. If true, it means that it exists a unique definition of service which unify all the previous. Then, all would be services ? this is the question of this post.

With the spread of customer relationship management in business, services management become more critical for customer satisfaction monitoring. Especially in industries like Telco, Business Service Management (BSM) which allows to monitor delivery of services in almost real time, gained a wide use. These services are part of the contract between companies and its customers. BSM collects all indicators upon resources needed to fulfill the contract and give a feed back on what happened.

Another services are internal services. As they have not the contractual support, some people wish it would have a kind of it. Going back to economics theory, we know since Arrow and Debreu that if perfect markets lead to a general equilibrium, this is without transaction costs. Their impacts on markets were studied by Coase. Especially, he considered that the main reason to establish a firm is to avoid some of them. Indeed, the costs of negotiating and writing enforceable contracts for each transaction can be large if there is uncertainty.

Then, pairing contract with services is not always desirable and maybe counter productive in some cases, for instance when services extent or costs move frequently.

Another thing regarding services is ITIL approach. As it spreads up, a lot of people forget the real meaning of it : IT infrastructure library. Indeed, ITIL regards IT infrastructures not all Information Systems. This is important because with infrastructure comes the idea  of stability.

ITIL version 3 defines infrastructure as following : “All of the hardware, software, networks, facilities, etc., that are required to Develop, Test, Deliver, Monitor, Control or support IT Services. The term IT Infrastructure includes all of the Information Technology but not the associated people, Processes and documentation”. It extends the ITIL v2 definition which was limited to service delivering :”All of the components (Configuration Items) that are needed to deliver IT Services to customers. The IT Infrastructure consists of more than just hardware and software.”

Some other definitions are not very different except they include people and processes (Datt, Booth, Troutt, Shanker, Kent State) as they wish to be linked more directly with enterprise capabalities.

Then, the really question of ITIL is about IT infrastructures management and quality which is defined relatively to services.

According to Hanno Kaiser the main concepts behind infrastructures are :

  • to be shared
  • to be an intermediate service or good
  • to enable downstream productivity

An asset turns out infrastructure when it really enables downstream productivity.

This is what expects downstream application. Regarding upstream they needs to :

  • grant access on non discriminatory terms
  • better if it is centralised
  • may generate downstream competition to use it

The approach in defining what is infrastucture and what are applications, is key success factor of organisation productivity.

In the old ages of IT, infrastructures were mainframe hardware, systems, SGBD and networks managed by productions. Then, they were the COBOL programs which were applications. Then, came client/server paradigm. Infrastructure extent included then exchange systems which pushed data across distributed databases, but applications remain with programs.

Today, with services oriented architecture, clouds and Saas, there is an opportunity to extend infrastructures to business side. Indeed, customers, products and services, organisation, suppliers, shouldn’t be shared across the whole enterprise ? This give meaning to services architecture development which will produce the operational view expected by downstream.

This requires to change IT organisation, especially the legacy boundary between production and development, but also to break down development in services development for infrastructure and in applications which will be more services usage with mashup, orchestration and scripting.

Setting up this paradigm is a way to boost productivity, reactivity and quality for IT divisions.

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