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Author  Alfredo De Ninno

Service architect at NTT Ltd

July 11, 2023 |

 8 min read

  • Blog
  • Service Management
  • Service management
  • ITIL

When it comes to service design, one size doesn’t fit all. This is where the Service Architect comes in.

A skilled tailor can quickly measure up their customer and produce a suit that fits like a second skin. Likewise, the Service Architect can deliver bespoke solutions to meet their customers’ requirements. But how do they do this?

The role and responsibilities of the Service Architect

The Service Architect is often brought in at the pre-sales stage, as well as working with the customer during the delivery phase. They get to know the client, gathering and documenting all their requirements and developing an understanding of their needs. We do this in several ways: checking what solutions and software they have purchased, examining statements of work, BOM (billing of material) and speaking to our sales teams.

We use conversations and workshops to identify the customer's specific project requirements, as well as single points of failure and constraints. The architect will also identify the critical business functions involved in the project and any third-party providers, using this information along with the requirements to map out a RACI matrix.

Then, in the service design phase, we adapt the service value chain to fit the customer’s needs. The architect will also consider and document any risks and their mitigations, develop the operational support model and define the acceptance criteria for the service.

Why do we need a Service Architect?

Service Architects are not required for every project, for example where solutions are purchased “out of the box” and implemented in a standard way. Architects come into their own where the customer’s requirements are complex, with many different interfaces between systems.

Architects add value by tailoring services to the specific requirements of each customer and deliver business benefits. We don’t only ask what the customer needs, but also why they need it. What are the desired business outcomes and what value is being created? This may require a change to how the customer is used to doing something.

The importance of business engagement

It’s necessary to gain a clear understanding of customer requirements though, sometimes, customers want to replicate a pre-existing service which may not be the best way to achieve their goals.

Instead, business representatives should be willing to work with the Service Architect to share business needs, not just IT requirements, to co-create value. So, a good architect will work with the business to define and clarify the desired outcomes, developing and refining using an Agile feedback approach.

Feedback from the business serves as the engine of continual service improvement.

The skills of a great Service Architect

Succeeding in the role of Service Architect requires a blend of deep experience and specialist knowledge. They must be skilled in:

• A wide range of tools, which together will enable the service

• Service configuration/CMDB (configuration management database)

• Project management – adopting a project mindset when working with clients

• Integrating services comprising different tools, providers, processes, teams and time zones.

Finally, architects need to show customer empathy, to better understand what they want to achieve, why and to act on their feedback.

How ITIL 4 supports the work of the Service Architect

ITIL 4 promotes a holistic view of service design, which encourages the architect to take in the “big picture” and consider all elements and dependencies within a service. Individual service components should never be considered in isolation, but rather as part of the whole.

Particularly useful is the ITIL guiding principle of “focus on value”. The service value stream concept in ITIL 4 is another critical aspect that helps guarantee a flexible and effective result for the customer. In addition, ITIL 4 provides guidance for designing and constantly improving the customer journey and experience when accessing services.

For service management practitioners looking to move into a Service Architect role, ITIL 4 Foundation provides a good starting point, but is not enough on its own. I recommend upskilling further by taking the ITIL Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value certification. This will provide a deeper dive into the subject and a solid understanding of how to work with customers to co-create value and design services that meet their needs.