The word “service” is used everywhere in business and technology. As with a number of words like it, everybody uses it but nobody knows exactly what it means. In the context of service delivery of IT, it is very important to consider exactly what is meant by “service”.
Here is a set of criteria that you can apply to determine whether or not something is comprehensively delivered as a service. We refer to the criteria as the CAPASAM model. Individually, these criteria are not new, but here we consider them as an ensemble.
The well-established Service Level Agreement (SLA)-type qualities of availability, scalability and so on yield the requirement for an IT resource to provide a consistent service. Many believe (actively or passively) that if a function is delivered according to an SLA, it is therefore complete. However, as we shall see, it is only one part of the story.
A service delivery mechanisms should be adaptable, that is, dynamically able to react to change. Technology should be able to understand its own capabilities, and deliver on service as automatically as possible to ensure its efficient use. In other words, it should be able to maximise its own cost effectiveness, for example by allocating expensive processing resources to the most profitable business transactions.
This is the ability to switch a service on and off. For a service to be provided, the provider needs to have certain operational facilities available, such as the ability to allocate specific functions to specific people, roles or customers. While these facilities can be controlled and managed manually, it is far better if the service itself has been defined as “provisionable”.
The allocation of the costs of a service to the most appropriate cost centre, requires first that a cost centre has accepted responsibility for the service and its costs. This incorporates billing, but in corporate service environments it is important to demonstrate and allocate costs to specific cost centres even when no billing takes place. An accountable service is one that is forced to demonstrate its own value.
That a service should be provided securely, should need no explanation or justification. However, it is not always the case that security is delivered out of the box. Services should be securable, but they do not necessarily have to contain a comprehensive set of secure facilities. It is enough to ensure that a service can work correctly in a secure environment, incorporating physical and process security aspects.
Whatever is the service, it needs to be rendered accessible to the service customer. At lower levels of technology, this equates to open standards, which should equate to “standards agreed by a majority”; for human-facing services, it equates to usability, mobility and what can be termed “instant value” = instant benefits minus instant costs. It should also incorporate accessibility factors for people with disabilities.
No service can be fully automated, and some human intervention will always be required to ensure its smooth running, failover and continuity. Suitable interfaces are required to ensure the successful ongoing monitoring, operation and control of the service; mechanisms should exist for the collation and reporting of service metrics, to ensure that it meets the criteria set out for it.
The CAPASAM model should be used as a starting point to ensure all aspects of service delivery are covered in any IT deployment. It is equally valid for delivering storage as a service, say, as delivering communications as a service or software as a service. Indeed, for IT to be delivered as a service, the whole, integrated stack needs to be delivered as a service: it’s services all the way down, and metrics all the way up, to demonstrate and measure how well that service is being provided.
The criteria also apply should a service be provided in-house, or if it should be outsourced or delivered by (say) an online service provider. Not every service, or every service provider needs every criterion, but the implementor needs to be sure that all seven have been taken into account.