What is IT Service Delivery? Definition and Examples

The goal of IT service delivery is to allow organizations to weigh the benefits of IT services against their costs. Businesses generally require a provider to guarantee that it will perform those services to standards specified in service-level agreements (SLAs), whether that provider is the company’s own IT department or an external provider.

Providers that fail to meet SLAs usually face penalties such as fines and loss of reputation. This guide discusses the evolution of IT service delivery, its challenges, and how organizations implement it, including examples.

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What is IT service delivery?

IT service delivery is a process by which organizations provide their members with IT services, such as data storage and applications. It covers all phases of IT, including design, development, deployment, maintenance, and retirement.

Many roles are involved in the delivery of IT services, which use a variety of metrics to measure the quality of service as described in the SLA.

IT service delivery relies on an IT service management (ITSM) framework to determine the people, processes and products involved in this process, which generally includes the use of an IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

ITIL version 2 consisted of two core sections, ITIL service delivery and ITIL service support, both of which were managed by ITSM. The current version is ITIL version 4, which has the creation, delivery and support of service value chains as its core tenet.

The specific processes of IT service delivery include identifying its goals, designing infrastructure and developing applications. IT team members must also monitor and maintain the services they provide. In addition, an IT team enforces the desired practices of IT service delivery based on sources like company policy, industry standards and legal requirements.

The primary benefit of IT service delivery is to provide services that meet an organization’s data and security control standards.

A formal process for delivering IT services is particularly beneficial for organizations with large or complex IT infrastructure, high uptime requirements, dynamic configuration changes and other demanding system requirements. It also helps prevent the development of shadow IT, in which members of an organization procure IT services outside sanctioned processes.

IT service delivery vs. IT service management

IT service providers often use the terms IT service delivery and ITSM interchangeably, although there are distinctions between these two disciplines. ITSM is the means by which an organization delivers and manages IT services, making it a discipline with many facets, including request fulfillment and service desk operations. ITSM also deals with IT staff productivity and user satisfaction.

On the other hand, IT service delivery is largely a customer-facing process that focuses on the quality of delivered services, making it more quantitative than ITSM. IT service delivery also involves monitoring KPIs to ensure those services meet SLA requirements.

IT service delivery components

An effective strategy for delivering IT services should include the following five types of management:

  1. Service level management
  2. Financial management
  3. Capacity management
  4. Availability management
  5. Continuity management

Service level management

Service level management (SLM) is generally the largest set of processes in the ITIL framework, as it includes any process that defines the roles and responsibilities of IT within an organization.

SLM is crucial for establishing the goals of IT service delivery, allowing users to measure and report on its success. It also ensures an organization receives services at an acceptable quality and cost.

Specific SLM processes include the definition of service and the levels of those services needed to meet an organization’s predefined requirements. They also include the development of those requirements in the form of SLAs and operational level agreements (OLAs).

SLM teams establish an organization’s current service levels by analyzing the store cool data on performance. This data helps businesses insure their IT services are cost-effective and efficient while still meeting their needs.

These teams may develop their own strategy for performing SLM, but they may also use software to optimize IT services.

Such software also determines the additional IT resources that SLM requires in addition to its costs. Additional capabilities of these tools include monitoring and reporting service performance, providing team members with information on adverse trends and potential problems.

Financial management

Financial management determines the costs of the services that SLM defines and manages. It also includes accounting processes to ensure expenditures are within the budget and being used effectively.

The specific role of financial management over IT service delivery depends on the organization’s view of IT. In particular, the best practices for this discipline are based on whether the organization considers IT to be an expense center, profit center or cost recovery center.

The processes of applying IT services to the business unit that uses them are commonly known as charge-back processes, which are critical in financial management.

However, harvesting historical data on server processes can be challenging without the proper software tools. This data collection software gathers data from disparate platforms and converts it into a common format, allowing billing programs to import and analyze data.

Capacity management

Capacity management (CM) ensures that an organization’s IT resources can meet business needs. It also ensures that the organization effectively uses its available assets. Implementing CM is crucial for proactive IT service, instead of responding only after a need has already manifested.

Effective CM also identifies potential bottlenecks in applications and the infrastructure itself. Taking corrective action before problems affect users is essential for remaining competitive in today’s business environment; CM grants businesses that foresight.

The most widely used effective CM methods are building infrastructure growth plans and optimizing application lifecycles. CM software helps users develop detailed capacity plans, thus reducing the risk of slowdowns or failures in the future.

Features to look for when selecting this type of software include data collection, reporting, and simulation, all of which are necessary for predictive modeling, whether the end goal is predicting future requirements or testing new equipment.

Optimizing application lifecycles includes predicting the costs of supporting new applications and existing software upgrades. This use of CM also involves accessing historical data to analyze application performance and identify opportunities for improving performance. CM can thus play a key role in extending the lifespan of existing assets and delaying the purchase of expensive upgrades.

Availability management

Availability management (AM) ensures that IT resources are available for use, which is particularly important for ensuring they meet the conditions of SLAs. It is also an important part of service outage analysis (SOA) and component failure impact analysis (CFIA). Implementing cost-effective contingency plans is another vital use of AM, including tests of those plans.

IT service optimization software helps organizations meet their AM needs, especially the collection of historical performance data to analyze causes of service failures and outages. This software can significantly reduce the diagnosis process, thus reducing downtime, improving productivity and preventing customers from being inconvenienced.

Continuity management

IT service continuity management (ITSCM), also known by other names such as disaster continuity plan (DCP), disaster recovery plan (DRP), and disaster recovery (DR), provides the framework needed to support an organization’s continuity plans, along with their timeframes. For example, ITSCM helps prevent the loss or compromise of sensitive business data.

IT risks vary by geographical location, appearing in the form of terrorism or natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Therefore, consider the risks specific to your area when developing ITSCM plans.

Monitoring software can help with ITSCM by balancing cost against risk when developing disaster plans.

IT service delivery framework

An IT service delivery framework (SDF) is a set of guidelines and procedures for helping organizations design, build, and deliver IT services. They usually focus on the service’s value or lifecycle, including its design, transition, and operation. SDFs also include the planning and strategy of the services, especially as they relate to continuous improvement.

The most popular IT SDF is currently ITIL, although other examples include Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COIRT), Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), and Federated IT Service Management (FitSM).

IT service delivery roles

Some organizations delegate the duties of improving IT service deliver and the ITSM framework to a dedicated IT service delivery manager. However, those with more expansive roles like IT manager or director may also perform these tasks.

IT service delivery may also fall under the purview of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), due to the impact of IT service delivery on key business attributes like reputation, revenue and user satisfaction. Additional roles involved in service delivery include IT operations and support staff.

Investing in technological advances is often the most cost-effective method of improving IT service delivery, but organizations may also achieve this goal by improving business processes management. The goal of this approach should be to enable a proactive response to changes in applications throughout their lifecycle.

Assume for this example that a company’s service performance is declining due to increased demand. An IT service delivery team could identify the root cause of the capacity constraint and work with top leaders to provision the additional resources needed to remove it.

Examples of IT service delivery

Most businesses organize and outline the IT services they provides in an IT service catalog. This catalog commonly includes requests for implementing new software or cloud services, repair requests for end-user equipment, and requests for new hardware like a laptop or phone.

Additional examples of IT service delivery include requests for provisioning accounts for new users and resetting credentials like passwords.

The daily tasks involved in maintaining infrastructure also include the maintenance of hardware, software, cloud services and the network. These tasks often don’t appear in the IT service catalog, but they’re still forms of IT service delivery.

IT service delivery best practices

Best practices for IT service delivery include defining key performance indicators (KPIs), developing workflows to improve those KPIs and continuously tracking KPIs.

Define KPIs

Each organization has its own set of KPIs that are relevant to evaluating the performance of its IT service delivery. IT service delivery teams should work with other stakeholders like business management, IT service continuity management and IT to determine the most important KPIs. These often include metrics like help desk ticket resolution time, mean time to repair, page load speed and network uptime.

Develop workflows to improve KPIs

Improving KPIs requires organizations to hold departments and individuals accountable for achieving these results. This process includes brainstorming ideas on increasing KPIs, typically when they aren’t meeting the required standards. Participants often focus on streamlining workflows that produce quantifiable business results and enhancing customer experience.

These improvements include developing procedures for determining the root cause of problems through blameless investigation. In addition, this process should enable access to KPI information on any IT resource at any time, usually via mobile devices.

Track the KPIs continuously

Businesses should develop systems for collecting and monitoring KPIs through a centralized dashboard visible to management and IT, reporting these metrics regularly through scrums (detailed reports to management and broader reports to other stakeholders). Real-time reporting software is essential for providing the latest infrastructure data.

Common IT service delivery challenges

The most common challenges of IT service delivery include a lack of established KPIs and lack of communication between stakeholders.

Lack of established KPIs

Business leadership must know how well a business process is performing in order to optimize it, which requires them to develop the right KPIs. Failure to align those KPIs with desired business outcomes is also a common challenge, as measuring the impact of service outages is a prerequisite for measuring its reliability.

Lack of communication between stakeholders

While most organizations have access to data, they often fail to use it effectively. Improving IT service delivery requires communicating KPIs to stakeholders, ensuring everyone is on the same page for service performance.

IT service delivery tools

Many tools can help improve IT service delivery operations, including those that are also ITSM tools. Commonly used IT service delivery tools include the following:

  • Help desk tools
  • Service catalog tools
  • Knowledge base management tools
  • Log management tools
  • Workflow management tools

Help desk

Help desk tools manage service requests from end users, including daily administration, requests for new equipment, ticket management and ticket escalation. These tools sometimes have KPIs built into them, such as cost per ticket, mean first response time, and time to resolve (MTTR).

Service catalog

Service catalog tools help the IT team manage an organization’s catalog of IT services for end users. They also provide insight into the usage levels of those services.

Knowledge base management

Knowledge base management tools help organize institutional knowledge such as FAQs and other documents. Their goal is to make it easier for users to find answers to their questions without assistance from IT staff.

Log management

Log management tools help organize the large, complex logs generated by many different devices in an enterprise. Analysts use these tools to view their operations across infrastructures fully. The insights log management tools provide make them essential for improving IT service delivery.

Workflow management

The goal of workflow management is generally to streamline business operations. Analysts use these tools to effectively route data through the workflow, whether internal or external. Workflow management tools also ensure workflows follow proper procedures, including required approvals.

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