Don't skip ITIL Service Design: Questions, checklists to get started

ITIL Service Design sits between strategy and implementation -- and is often skipped by midmarket companies. Learn which questions and checklists can keep Service Design simple.

Designing a winning IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) implementation requires lots of planning -- planning that many midmarket companies often skip because they don't know where to begin. But focusing on ITIL Service Design can help you verify if your plans will meet customer expectations -- a crucial step that can be kicked off by asking yourself a set of straightforward questions.

Service Design is the ITIL v3 book covering how to blueprint the service architecture, processes, policies and documentation required to meet your strategy. If you don't capture your strategy and translate it into an effective design, the service will probably fail to meet expectations, requiring significant reworking that will often lead to delays, cost overruns and some feature loss.

To turn your Service Strategy into a solid, working plan, you need to first perform a Service Design gap analysis. Asking yourself some important questions can help you evaluate your previous service rollouts, updates, upgrades and releases, and pinpoint areas where your design plans fell short. Acknowledging these gaps can prevent future failures.

With your team, consider the following six questions:

  • Were there any issues that the front-line staff could not support or handle?
  • Did you have to tackle any last-minute adjustments or fixes to workflow or process?
  • Have customers said the service wasn't quite what they were expecting?
  • Post-implementation, were you flooded with feature or enhancement requests?
  • Did you have to retroactively resolve any vendor issues?
  • Was your IT staff asking for training to better understand and support the newly released services?

Each question above represents a failure. If you answered yes to one or all of the questions, you are not taking into account the four P's of ITIL Service Design -- people, processes, products and partners.

How to create a successful ITIL Service Design

Service Design failure can be easily prevented by creating a Service Design package document. This document can help ensure that you are covering your bases during the design phase when it comes to the people, processes, products and partners.

To get started, consider tracking your designs in Excel. For each new or changed service you plan to implement, check that the needs of the "four P's" are being met across each of these aspects:

  1. Service Management systems and tools.
  2. Technology architectures and management systems.
  3. Measurement methods and metrics.
  4. Processes, roles and capabilities.

To use this as a checklist, arrange the "four P's" as a column, and the four aspects in a row across the top, checking off each cell as it's considered.

The following can also be included in your ITIL Service Design:

  • Set, communicate and reinforce customer-oriented standards for all work units.

  • Identify the training and skills needed to deliver the defined quality of service.

  • Clarify which job tasks have the biggest impact and should receive the highest priority.

  • Establish clear service goals that are challenging, realistic and explicitly designed to meet customer expectations.

  • Make it a priority to document and communicate the setting of organizational goals related to service.

  • Ensure that employees understand and accept service goals and priorities.

  • Establish a rewards program for managers and employees who meet stated goals.

  • Determine how to measure service and staff performance and provide regular feedback.

  • Translate standards into specific job tasks that can be benchmarked.

  • Identify and standardize repetitive service tasks.

  • Treat customers as service co-producers -- clarify their roles in service delivery and train and motivate them to perform well in them.

Failing to blueprint service standards will usually lead to dissatisfied or unhappy customers -- neither of which reflects positively on you, your IT team or your organization.

As you work on your ITIL Service Design, focus on clarity, understanding and communication, strive for as much automation and standardization of tasks as possible, keep in mind the needs of the people, processes, products and partners that keep your organization humming and take the time to create a quick Service Design checklist. You will soon see real improvements in customer satisfaction arising from increased service stability and utility. This stability will also help you free up some resources that can be used to work on delivering even better services in the future -- a win-win for business and IT.

Hank Marquis is a Chartered IT Professional, certified IT Services manager and Fellow of the British Computer Society. Marquis leads the business service management practice area at Global Knowledge Training LLC, where he is responsible for developing and delivering business-aligned IT service management solutions for clients. Write to him at [email protected] or [email protected].

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