IT service delivery

What is IT service delivery?

IT service delivery is the way a corporation provides users access to IT services, such as applications, data storage and other business resources. IT service delivery covers design, development, deployment, operation and retirement. Many IT professionals play a role in the various stages of service delivery. Quality of IT service delivery is gauged by metrics included in a service-level agreement (SLA).

An IT service management (ITSM) framework, such as IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), dictates the processes, people and products involved in IT service delivery. The IT team enforces both preferred and prohibited approaches in accordance with established regulations, compliance and governance requirements or best industry practices.

A formalized system for IT service delivery benefits an organization with large or complex software and hardware deployments, diverse system requirements, dynamic IT configuration changes, high uptime requirements, and demanding user expectations. Business units have options outside of the dedicated IT team, including public cloud hosting and software-as-a-service products.

However, part of IT service delivery is ensuring a given product or service meets the data and security control standards of the business. Shadow IT -- when services are procured outside of sanctioned means -- exposes the business to regulatory and compliance vulnerability.

IT service delivery vs. IT service management

From a practical perspective, IT service delivery is defined almost identically to ITSM. Delivery references a particular focus on service quality to establish and ensure the terms of an SLA. Does the IT service provider deliver what the user -- referred to as the IT service customer -- expects?

By comparison, ITSM is the preferred term for how IT service providers operate and continuously improve upon all the services offered. ITSM aims for increased efficiency and benefits of the service delivery to the business and its users. In common usage, this subtle distinction is blurred.

The IT service delivery platform

The products and resources involved in a service's lifecycle are referred to as the IT service delivery platform.

IT service delivery tools -- interchangeably referred to as ITSM tools -- generally cover diverse functional areas, such as the following:

  • The overlapping categories of help desk and service desk.
  • A service catalog, which is a collection of services offered to users, sometimes based on role or permissions.
  • Knowledge and issue management.
  • A configuration management database.
  • Workflow management to follow queries and requests from development to delivery.
  • Performance and log monitoring to track the behavior and availability of each application and service.

IT operations and data center personnel also can improve IT service delivery via technologies that provision IT resources faster, such as containers, virtualization and cloud.

Examples of help desk and service desk tools with diverse IT service delivery capabilities include ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, Cherwell Service Management and Datto Autotask PSA.

IT service delivery and SLAs

IT services generally carry a measurable cost for the business to offer, which encourages the use of a guarantee or promise of a service's performance, availability and uptime. An SLA is the primary method to codify the expectations for a given IT service and detail the relationship between its provider and the customer. For example, a business that requires IT to deliver a service with 99.5% availability permits up to 3.65 hours of downtime per month. Availability goals are generally set to a minimum of 99.5%, but often go in excess of 99.9%.

The IT service delivery process consists of identifying goals, developing applications, designing infrastructure, and then monitoring and maintaining the created services.

SLAs exist between external, third-party providers and business users. They are also commonplace internally between the IT organization responsible for the service and constituent business units. Businesses and users rely on reporting to verify adherence to the SLA's terms, or to prove a breach. SLAs can stipulate terms for remediation of a breach of contract, such as payment credits.

An organization can also track the return on investment in an IT service, such as whether the service drives business growth or reduces risk, and if it does so at an acceptable total cost of ownership.

IT service delivery roles

In some organizations, an IT service delivery manager oversees and improves the ITSM framework and delivery platform, but this task also falls to more expansive titles, such as IT manager and director. IT service delivery is often tied to user satisfaction, business reputation and revenue generation, so IT service delivery is a high priority for the chief information officer, as well as the IT organization. IT operations, first- and second-level support staff and diverse other roles are involved in service delivery. Developers can also play a part to create or customize services.

In addition to technological advances to improve IT service delivery, a corporation can invest in revamping business processes and operations teams to respond proactively to issues and changes throughout an application's lifecycle. For example, if service performance declines due to increased use, the IT service delivery team can identify the issue and work with business leaders to budget and provision additional resources to prevent capacity constraints from becoming detrimental to the business.

This was last updated in February 2023

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