Service integration and management lets an organisation manage the service providers in a consistent and efficient way, making sure that performance across a portfolio of multi-sourced goods and services meets user needs.
Service integration today
Service integration models have been around for some time, but are now evolving from the challenges of managing a small number of large suppliers (typically systems integrators) to a model of managing a greater number of smaller suppliers, often providing commodity services.
For the model to be effective the component services need to be well defined and understood. It’s important to avoid any ambiguity about the boundaries of both responsibilities and accountabilities. Key features of an effective model are:
- being able to define different service requirements for critical and non-critical services (for example, some commodity public cloud services may require online service support or service desk only, whereas mission critical IT systems will require a more integrated service model)
- a performance regime that ensures organisations don’t pay for services they can’t or don’t use
- explicit service integration arrangements that focus on service performance, usability and availability from a user perspective, not just from a supplier’s commercial perspective
- skills and capabilities that support transitioning to, and managing services in a new commodity-based environment
- a focus on open standards and interoperability to support workflow, performance management and service management, billing and payment
The level of service integration will differ depending on the complexity of the business services and/or customers that are being supported, and the complexity of the services that are being delivered to those businesses. As the services and businesses become more critical or complex, the level of service integration becomes deeper.
What service integration looks like
The design of the service integration function will differ by department. It may be completely operated in-house. Or it might consist of a thin in-house capability ultimately responsible for the integrated end to end operation and management of quality IT services, underpinned by outsourced integration services for specific elements – for example performance monitoring, service desk, or service level reporting. The G-Cloud framework offers a number of services to support service integration.
Particularly for smaller departments and simple services, care needs to be taken not to over-engineer the service integration approach – effective use of commodity standards-based IT should mean that integration and support requirements are much less onerous than managing a locked-down bespoke system.
Involve everyone in a clear process
As part of service integration, you should maintain an accurate service catalogue including a service dependency map, so that you can effectively manage changes that are high risk, high impact, or that can affect multiple suppliers.
When buying in services you should retain the contractual authority to ensure suppliers follow your service integration processes – so that you can ensure the integrity and availability of a department’s user services. This could include an end-to-end service performance incentive model so all suppliers collectively share in the benefits and penalties of a joint performance management regime.