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October 19, 2011

The Three Aspects of the Service Portfolio

Different people conjure up different images when they think about the Service Portfolio, causing a good deal of confusion in the industry about what a Service Portfolio really is:
  • For some, the Service Portfolio is basically a "shopping cart" for service requisition. It is an online application that contains a list of the services IT offers, allows users to request these services, has some features for approval and delegation of requests, and reports on the status of each request. This is the Service Request / Fulfillment point of view, and is perhaps the most common interpretation of a Service Portfolio.
  • For others, the Service Portfolio is a way to catalog information about service performance and service levels. It is a repository of SLAs and service level targets for each service, it keeps track of service performance against SLAs, it measures the business impact of noncompliance, and so on. This is the Service Level Management (SLM) point of view.
  • For still others, the Service Portfolio is a way to keep track of IT finances. It contains a detailed cost model for each service, keeps track of service consumption by customers, has some demand planning features, provides financial reporting, etc. This is the IT Financial Management (ITFM) point of view.
Notice that all of these interpretations fit into our Service Portfolio definition -- it's a compilation of services that IT offers to its customers -- yet all three are very different in terms of presentation, and in terms of what service attributes are included. So who is right?

Well, it turns out that all three points of view are correct, but incomplete. The service attributes we defined in the Service Design chapter as the ideal attributes that each service should possess include components of all three of these. From the running IT like a business point of view, as well as from the ITIL v3 point of view, a complete Service Portfolio should include all three of these aspects -- Request Management, SLM, and ITFM.
These differences in perception stem from the fact that different groups of people interact with the Service Portfolio very differently, and that mode of interaction is what determines how they think about the Service Portfolio. It is important to understand this, and the graphic above illustrates this point. There are three main groups of people that are interested in the Service Portfolio -- Service Managers, Business Customers, and End Users.
  • The End Users take the Request Management point of view. They don't really care about the technical details. They just want to know what services IT offers and to have the ability to request these services and keep track of those requests. So to them, a service catalog is essentially an online store, where you can pick and choose the services you want. Each service in this kind of catalog will include a brief description, a set of options (with prices where applicable), a well-defined approval workflow, and a set of contacts.
  • The Service Managers and other technical IT staff take the SLM point of view. They want to know how the service is performing relative to various metrics and targets. To them, a Service Portfolio contains detailed technical specifications and SLAs of each service, and various charts, graphs, and reports detailing how each service is performing. This kind of catalog will include SLAs, performance metrics, service level targets, and a list of components for all services.
  • The Business Customers, as well as IT Finance, take the ITFM point of view. They want to know the bottom line -- how much do these services cost, do they fit into the budget, how much demand there is for each service, and how service costs respond to fluctuations in demand. For them a Service Portfolio must contain detailed cost models, price methodologies, and demand history for each service.
It is important to understand this phenomenon -- the Service Portfolio is used by many different groups of people, with each group using the portfolio for a different purpose. A complete Service Portfolio must support all of these uses and meet the needs of all of these groups. It does so via the multiple aspects described above. The multiple aspects are essential for communicating service details to the appropriate parties, and for managing services throughout their lifecycle. They are the Service Portfolio presentation layer.


Posted on October 19, 2011 | Permalink


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