Taking IT4IT on the ITSM journey White Paper
- White Paper
- IT Services
- Service management
January 24, 2018 |
19 min read
- White Paper
- IT Services
- Service management
The IT world is constantly evolving, and so is the role of IT in any business. Trends like digital transformation, value chain integration, multisource landscapes and service integration enforce the need for a holistic, consistent and commonly accepted architecture for IT management. The IT4IT standard, developed by The Open Group, is currently recognized as the most comprehensive solution to address this challenge. If adopted widely by enterprise architects, service providers and tool vendors, IT4IT will help organizations to develop and maintain end-to-end IT management systems. These will ensure compatibility and consistency within organizations and in their relationships with third parties (suppliers, partners, integrators and customers). It will allow for focus on the true role of IT: to deliver value through services, thus making the company more competitive and innovative.
IT service managers can use IT4IT instantly for the benefit of their business and their customers. There is no need to wait until the standard is widely adopted by all parties involved. IT4IT provides a set of concepts and solutions that can be valuable for ITSM development initiatives in any organization today, regardless of the maturity and scope of their IT service management system. Used together, ITIL® and IT4IT will help organizations to get the most out of available information technologies in a constantly changing, complex IT and business context.
We are sure that the only way to achieve effective and efficient management of IT in this rapidly evolving business and technology environment is to combine available management standards, frameworks and practices, adapting and adopting them for the benefits of all stakeholders. We believe that there is no single overarching source of universal knowledge and that all frameworks available should be treated by practitioners as complementary rather than competing.
In this paper, we show how IT4IT can help IT service managers at each stage of the service lifecycle. The paper is addressed to ITSM professionals who are familiar with the ITIL structure, scope and content and have an awareness of the IT4IT standard.
More than operations
For years, many IT managers have been considering ITSM as a framework for IT operations only. Some still do. This has become one of the reasons for fragmented implementations of service management practices: although support and operations processes are relatively well-developed and well-performed, there are virtually no established practices in areas such as service design, service strategy and service improvement. Leading service providers successfully adopt practices such as service level management, availability and capacity management, business relationship management, etc., however the majority of organizations focus their IT service management initiatives on operations and support of the IT services. But the various significant shifts of IT’s role in business and related changes in the perception of IT services have made many organizations rethink their approach to IT management in general and the scope of ITSM particularly.
Since the concept of integrated service lifecycle management was described in ITIL 10 years ago, it has progressed from the denial of such ideas to acceptance. It has become obvious and natural to many organizations that the value of IT services cannot be realized solely by applications, infrastructure or operations and should be managed along the whole lifecycle industry, from service concept to actual day-to-day delivery and operations.
Principles such as “Focus on value” and “Work holistically” expressed in the ITIL® Practitioner Guidance further emphasize the need for the integration of the service lifecycle phases and for a common service strategy1.
When moving from operation-centric to service-centric service management, organizations face various problems: resistance from teams and managers, lack of common architecture, fragmented and insufficient functionality of ITSM tools in use, etc. Some of these challenges can be addressed through management of change, but the technology part of ITSM transformation should not be ignored or underestimated. IT people are more likely to rely on well-automated processes, and many organizations build their IT management processes around the ITSM tool they are using. At the same time, ITSM tools offered by different vendors often do not have consistent sets of functionality, cover different process parts and seem to have different integration points. This is where sound IT management architecture and effective tools integration become increasingly important.
More than one organization
Another important trend of the last decade is the practice of complex sourcing models. It has become almost impossible to find a fully internal IT function. Every organization is connected to the internet, uses externally developed software, and virtually everyone uses third-party support. Furthermore, many shared service providers undertake parts of service management while outsourcing others to third parties. Moreover, some larger organizations are experimenting with service integration and management models of service management.
Keeping ITSM integrated in a heterogeneous organizational landscape is a topical and complex task for IT governing and managing bodies, and to solve this, we need a common vision for strategy, operational model and ITSM architecture. Again, it cannot be a solution on its own, but it would help build an end-to-end service management system across all service lifecycle phases as well as all parties involved.
A reference architecture
In 2014 The Open Group started to create a reference architecture to help organizations overcome integration challenges. The architecture incorporates ITSM best practices from ITIL, the architecture development method from TOGAF® and the architecture modelling language of Archimate2. The key concept of an IT value chain was introduced, based on the work of Michael Porter3. Many sources of knowledge and good practice, such as ITIL, COBIT® and SAFe®, were taken into consideration. The resulting product (The Open Group IT4IT Reference Architecture standard, current v2.1) comprises a reference architecture and a value chain-based operating model for managing the business of IT. The value chain-based model presents IT management as a system of four value streams and five support activities, which according to IT4IT do not directly generate value for the business although they are required to facilitate value generation. Similar to Porter’s original value chain for production companies, this model illustrates how IT organizations provide value to their stakeholders.
There are four value streams in the model: strategy to portfolio (i.e. plan); requirement to deploy (i.e. build); request to fulfill (i.e. deliver) and detect to correct (i.e. run). It is an approach that resembles the four phases of the ITIL service lifecycle which are service strategy, design, transition and operation (although there is no direct one-to-one mapping). Five support areas described in IT4IT are governance, risk and compliance; resource and project; intelligence and reporting; sourcing and vendor; finance and assets.
The IT4IT reference architecture is an information model for the whole value chain, and as stated in The Open Group IT4IT Reference Architecture document, it has the objective to convey, in a prescriptive fashion, the key data objects, relationships, and components that are foundational for all IT organizations.
Essentially, it is a high-level information model which defines the functional components and key data objects of an integrated IT management toolset. It also describes how they are integrated and operated within the toolset. The information model is focused exclusively on the data objects that are mandatory for ensuring end-to-end financial and/or operational traceability of the service.
It is important to note that IT4IT in its current version does not provide a business process architecture. Instead, it defines the highest level of value chain model using a combination of IT management capabilities from various sources (primarily from ITIL and COBIT). It does provide an information architecture, but only at the higher levels of abstraction, leaving the lower levels to the tool vendors and integrators. This approach has its advantages and disadvantages for users:
- On the one hand, it is widely applicable and provides an important layer of overall IT management system design for various organizations, processes and tools.
- On the other hand, it is not as prescriptive as one could expect since a detailed model is currently provided only on the higher levels of abstraction. Lower levels are either under development or left to the discretion of specific vendors and solutions. However, although it is prescriptive, IT4IT requires significant work to adopt and adapt work on many levels.
Another note on the scope of the reference architecture: as it only includes functional components and data objects to ensure effective management of services along their lifecycle, the current version of IT4IT does not cover functional components and data objects required for the support activities (governance, finance, project etc.).
With these constraints in mind, ITSM practitioners can still use the IT4IT reference architecture in their work for a range of purposes, from strategy generation to tool selection and integration. In the following chapters, we will provide some examples of how IT4IT can help at every phase of the service lifecycle.
IT4IT for service strategy
5.1 Service strategy management
Strategy management for IT services is a key process of the service strategy lifecycle phase, as described in ITIL. It defines the 4Ps of strategy management:
- Perspective (where do we see ourselves now and in the target future state)
- Position (what is our place and how do we compare to other market players)
- Plans (what are we going to do to progress from current to target state)
- Patterns (how do we operate; what are the rules and structures to realize the plans).
The ITIL service lifecycle model and ITSM processes described in the core ITIL publications provide a high-level answer to the questions relating to pattern, such as:
- How do we define and develop our service portfolio?
- How do we manage services along their lifecycle?
- How do we manage service quality and ensure continual value delivery?
- How do we ensure continual improvements of processes, services and technologies?
- How do we control our services and assets?
- How do we evaluate and manage changes?
- How do we minimize service disruptions?
The ITIL® Practitioner Guidance complements the core guidance with more patterns for service management given in the form of nine guiding principles:
- Focus on value
- Design for experience
- Start where you are
- Work holistically
- Progress iteratively
- Observe directly
- Be transparent
- Keep it simple.
These and many other recommendations on “how to manage IT services” provided by ITIL, will help a service provider to design, develop and continually improve a service management system aligned with overall business and IT management systems of the enterprise8. However, some pattern questions that inevitably arise when an organization plans its service management capabilities are discussed in less detail in the core ITIL publications and require practitioners to consult other sources of knowledge and good practice. Some answers can be obtained from complementary ITIL publications (e.g. ITIL Guide to Software Asset Management4), some are provided by other Best Management Practice portfolio products, such as PRINCE2® or RESILIA™, and some can be found in other frameworks, standards and methods available in the industry.
IT4IT integrates various industry frameworks into a common reference architecture, which can help in connecting the concepts and practices of different frameworks together. IT4IT can be used to plan the informational and technological architecture of a service management system that takes the service all the way from a conceptual idea to an actual service in production. The reference model describes data objects, their relationships, linkage to the service backbone, as well as functional components that are needed along the way. The high-level value chain model, which is to some extent aligned to the ITIL service lifecycle, can serve as a bridge from ITIL processes and functions to the functional components of the reference model. The IT4IT architecture can help to answer the following service strategy questions:
- How do we keep records of service management activities and ensure integrity of the service information?
- How do we manage service documents and records from concept to design to release and actual operational services?
In addition to the big picture of functional components and data objects of a service management system which can be used in the strategy generation step, there are several specific elements of the IT4IT model that can support the design and automation of some ITSM processes. For each functional component, IT4IT provides a description of the related data objects with attributes and relationships; a list of the main functions, and a model visualizing the integration of the component into the overall architecture. This information can be helpful for both high-level and detailed design of service management processes, especially when aiming for process automation and integration.
5.2 Service portfolio management
The purpose of service portfolio management is to ensure that the service provider has the right level of information to balance the investment in IT with the ability to meet business outcomes. The IT4IT reference architecture supports this process by defining the functional components of service portfolio, portfolio demand and proposal with related data objects. It also defines a service data object of conceptual service based on portfolio backlog items and related scope agreements. Additionally, IT4IT’s strategy to portfolio value stream includes the functional components of enterprise architecture and policy, which provide context and guidance for the new service to be developed. The outcome of the first value stream of IT4IT is the go or no-go decision about moving to the requirement to deploy value stream, which means the start of building or sourcing of the new service.
IT4IT for service design
Although the publication ITIL Service Design’s main focus is on designing and improving IT services, it also provides recommendations on the design of IT service management systems: processes, supporting technologies and other service assets. If an organization applies service design guidance holistically – to service solutions, management information systems and tools, technology architectures, processes and measurement methods, then the IT4IT reference model can be used for:
- information architecture planning
- integration of process and management systems design
- definition of the functional requirements for ITSM tools
- integration of new or changed elements into the management system.
6.1 Design coordination
The design coordination process can benefit from IT4IT by:
- ensuring that all service models and service solution designs conform to strategic, architectural, governance and other corporate requirements
- managing the quality criteria, requirements and handover points between the service design stage and service strategy and service transition.
To support the achievement of these objectives, the following functional components and their respective data objects can be useful: requirement, project, service design and source control. Their functions are designed to support service design activities from requirement analysis, through project management, to finalization of the service design package (service release blueprint in IT4IT model).
IT4IT is especially valuable for mapping the data objects and functional components mainly familiar from software development methods, to the successive, more delivery and operations-oriented, value streams. Such data objects and functional components of the requirement to deploy value stream include defect, test, build, build package and release. The IT4IT reference architecture can help in realizing objectives related to a DevOps approach by connecting typically isolated tools and processes of development and operations teams, thus providing transparency for both sides. Also, IT4IT highlights the need for iteration between, or even simultaneous work in, design and build phases by combining these into the requirement to deploy value stream.
6.2 Service level management and service catalogue management
The ITIL service level management and service catalogue management processes are supported with the catalogue composition, offer management and service level functional components and the following data objects: service catalogue entry, offer, subscription, and service contract. These elements can be used for process design and automation, but also for better integration of the service design processes with other service lifecycle phases. This integration is supported by positioning the functional components in request to fulfil and detect to correct streams; they are closely related with actual delivery and support activities.
The key idea of the requirement to deploy value stream in IT4IT is that it should produce a service that is published to service catalogue, ready to be ordered and delivered, but also designed and built for manageability.
IT4IT for service transition
7.1 Transition planning and support
Like design coordination, the transition planning and support process can use the reference architecture to ensure an integrated approach to all transitions and good integration with service design and service operation phases in terms of a consistent flow of information, common data objects and transparent communications.
7.2 Change management and release and deployment management
It seems obvious that the change control component of the reference architecture and request for change (RFC) data object are meant to support the change management process. It is however important to note that the change control functional component description is focused only on the changes in live environment which are triggered by incidents, problems, events and requests. It is therefore useful for design and automation of some change models, whereas a reference for build and test components will be relevant for others.
Changes aimed at introducing new or changed services into live and related release and deployment management process are supported with release composition, build, build package, and test components of the reference architecture and data objects such as test case, build, build package, and service release.
7.3 Service asset and configuration management
The service asset and configuration management (SACM) process designers and managers can get some useful advice from the description of configuration management functional component. Note that asset management functionality is not included in the component description. There is an asset management support function in the model, which will connect consumption and financial consequences.
Another important concept introduced by IT4IT is the service backbone. It goes far beyond configuration management and links several data objects, which are created along the service lifecycle to maintain the continuity of service-related information from conceptual service to actual service (comprised by actual service configuration items [CIs] within the configuration management system [CMS]). This concept supports and strengthens the notion of service lifecycle and its importance for IT management overall. It can be adopted to provide traceability of architectural principles and requirements throughout service lifecycle towards actual service.
IT4IT for service operation
8.1 Event management
Designing and managing this process can be supported with service monitoring and event functional components of the reference model and their data objects. In addition to relationships with other detect to correct components, these components are described as integrated with elements such as usage and offer consumption to support monitoring of actual consumption of the services and to provide input to service offer optimization and charging for services, where applicable. This integration provides input to the continual improvement of monitoring and event management activities and a deeper integration of tools across the service lifecycle.
8.2 Incident management and problem management
The incident management process is supported by the functional components of incident and diagnostic and remediation, the latter being supported with the run book data object. Note that although there is a knowledge and collaboration component in the model, it has no direct relationship with incident management, and these components are connected via problem management only. Problem management also has its own functional component and data object, plus a direct connection with the defect management component. The latter is formally a part of the requirement to deploy stream, providing input to new builds and releases. Another possible output from problem management (in addition to defects and RFCs) is a portfolio backlog item feeding into the portfolio demand component of the strategy to portfolio stream.
8.3 Request fulfilment
The components and data objects supporting request fulfilment are concentrated in the request to fulfil stream of the IT4IT model. This capability is described in great detail, including request rationalization and fulfilment execution components that are closely linked to catalogue composition and offer management. The architecture is designed to support the provisioning of a single integrated service offer portal, based on multiple service catalogues from numerous providers. This functionality is described as the engagement experience portal and can be useful for those organizations who adopt multi-sourcing operating models and/or expand request fulfilment practices outside IT.
Within request to fulfil (i.e. deliver) value stream, IT4IT also embeds on-demand deployment and delivery of cloud-based services as well as classic on-premise services. These features are based on emerging technology trends, and can be helpful for those who apply ITSM in these kinds of environments.
More than a reference model
IT4IT is a developing body of knowledge. Besides the reference architecture, there are numerous publications aiming to provide guidance on the practical application of various aspects of the core content. These include IT4IT Agile Scenario5, IT4IT Service-Level Management (SLM) Scenario6 and Defining “IT Service” for the IT4IT Reference Architecture7. These White Papers provide recommendations on how to adapt the IT4IT reference architecture to specific environments, as well as rationales for the key concepts of the standard. ITSM practitioners can use these publications to improve their practices of service management, primarily in the areas of service strategy and service design.
The IT4IT body of knowledge, and in particular the IT4IT reference architecture, is becoming a useful tool in the ITSM practitioner’s toolset because the IT4IT high-level operating model is well aligned with the ITIL service lifecycle, the reference model can in turn be relatively easily aligned with an ITIL-based business process architecture and therefore support it at the level of information management. Although IT4IT does not provide systematic process guidance, it can help to adopt and adapt some service management practices for various service environments, including on-demand and cloud-based.
The IT4IT standard and Reference Architecture are most beneficial for service strategy and service design, although various individual process improvements can also be inspired and supported by IT4IT.
The reference architecture provides a prescriptive model for the functional design of an integrated ITSM toolset, which can be very useful for organizations defining their tool requirements, integrating several tools into one management system, seeking better integration with third parties or otherwise improving their ITSM automation. Supporting service providers who are willing to improve their integration with their primary providers’ management systems and tools would benefit from IT4IT as a common standard for information exchange, assuming the primary providers are using IT4IT too.
ITSM tools developers are not all aligned and aware of the IT4IT standard, yet their potential benefits from using the standard cannot be overestimated as long as the service providers for whom the tools are intended accept the reference architecture as an information model supporting their processes.
So, from the perspective of IT process standards and bodies of knowledge portfolio, IT4IT makes an extremely useful contribution to this portfolio in the form of a common information architecture model; specification of functional components for ITSM tool development and integration; and a developing set of White Papers supporting adoption and adaption of the core content.
1 Very similar principles form a foundation for the emerging DevOps movement, as discussed in the Getting started with DevOps paper.
3 Porter, Michael E. (1985). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. New York.: Simon and Schuster.
8 The TOGAF definition of ‘enterprise’ is “the highest level (typically) of description of an organization and typically covers all missions and functions. An enterprise will often span multiple organizations.” http://pubs.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf9- doc/arch/chap03.html [accessed 11 December 2017]
About the Authors
Anton Lykov is Elite Solution Architect at Micro Focus working mainly in the IT Service Management (ITSM), and more broadly, in IT management area providing business consulting services for large and medium sized companies. He is passionate about helping IT organizations to streamline their operations, build clear and efficient IT management systems and enable IT managers to make justified decisions. During his 10 years at Micro Focus (formerly Hewlett Packard Enterprise), Anton has a track record of projects for very large IT organizations with thousands of IT engineers, spread across large territories and working with multiple external IT service providers. When delivering complex IT management projects, Anton successfully used IT4IT Reference Architecture to build proper solution architectures. Anton holds a master’s degree in Information Computer Science and is based in Moscow, Russia.
Roman Jouravlev, ITSM product development manager at AXELOS, is responsible for the continual development of the ITIL best management practice guidance. With over 15 years’ experience in the ITSM field, he has a wealth of expertise in the IT management bodies of knowledge, frameworks and standards. The AXELOS product development team is keen to provide ITSM practitioners with relevant and up-to-date guidance based on the industry best practice as well as emerging frameworks and practices. This paper is one of a series of publications aiming to help practitioners in integrating various sources of knowledge into a useful ITSM toolset.
The authors thank the reviewers of this paper for their invaluable contribution: Akshay Anand (AXELOS), Rik Burgering (Fruition Partners), Kaimar Karu (independent) and Juha Kujala (Sofigate).