12/06/2019 |

Improving Enterprise-Wide Service Operations

Have you ever thought about using ITIL to structure
other areas of your business than IT?

white library

Service operations exist in every organization that’s part of your business. As a simple definition, offering a service means doing work for someone else. So, those in:

  • HR provide service to employees as they facilitate recruiting and performance reviews.
  • Finance provide service to customers as they oversee billing and to internal teams as they manage budgets.
  • Marketing offer service as they create collateral for the sales team or share updates with customers on the website.

Operations is about how you do a task. Together, “service operations” is a phrase used to talk about how services are delivered in the best way possible.

Every department in an organization is responsible for improving service operations because each is doing work for someone else and aims to get that work done optimally.

Service Operations and Information Technology

Often though, when we envision service operations, we first think of the information technology (IT) team. Internally, they most visibly deliver services. For instance, you might send an email about obtaining equipment for a new hire, and someone will order and configure it for you. Or, perhaps you’re holding a meeting and need help getting attendees connected to the projector: you call the IT team for help. In both cases, the IT team is providing you with a service.

For many years now, we have understood that the IT organization delivers service to the business – and not simply through help desk activities like the above. This was the thinking as far back as the 1980s when the British government believed that the quality of service operations delivered by IT could be improved. The government’s interest kick-started work on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL™), which has become the leading framework for IT service management (ITSM).

Having gone through multiple iterations to keep pace with changing technology and consumer demands, ITIL is now in its fourth version. It was in ITIL v3 that Service Operation (SO) became an officially-used term. In fact, the texts outlined a set of service operation processes that gave structure to how service could be delivered well.

Now, ITIL encourages companies to consider all of the resources within an organization that go into making service operations work.

Service Operations – a Process or a Practice?

With the latest release of ITIL back in February the terminology changed a bit so that these processes are now known as Service Management Practices.
This change was about more than using new words to describe an old idea. Before, ITIL simply outlined the steps that one must go through to take an input (like a request for equipment) and get an output (like delivery of a laptop). Now, ITIL encourages companies to consider all of the resources within an organization that go into making service operations work.

Service operations still follow certain steps to achieve an outcome. But, under the umbrella of practices, when an organization strives to create value, it must also consider the impact of the change on the people, organizations, technology, information, partners, suppliers, value streams and processes involved. Practices ensure that service operations are viewed more holistically.

Service Operations In Other Areas of Business

ITIL v4 and its related concepts have always been meant for use in technology. That said, there is no reason why other areas of business couldn’t benefit from the ideas within the framework. The latest release offers an agile structure for service management that is based on the concept of a Service Value Stream (SVS). The Service Value Stream includes five components that work together to help service teams improve the value they offer. And, as noted above, every organization provides some type of service.

So, how might ITIL be applied to a department such as HR?

Guiding Principles

The Service Value Stream includes seven guiding principles. These are concepts like keeping change slow and methodical, looking for opportunities to automate and focusing on value. In HR, for instance, applying these might mean stepping back and rethinking the way jobs are posted, resumes received and tracked, and candidates corresponded with. It would mean visualizing ways in which the whole recruiting service could be optimized.


The SVS calls for an oversight body or team that will help keep services aligned with overall principles and objectives of the business. In HR, as with most departments, Board Members or the management team might assume this role.

There are six activities to be considered when developing or changing service operations.

Service Value Chain Activities

This is a general approach to looking at customer demand and figuring out what must happen to meet that need via a service offering. There are six activities to be considered when developing or changing service operations. When used in the HR recruiting example, these might look something like:

  1. Plan – Co-create a vision of the ideal recruiting service by talking to customers. In this case, that might be the hiring managers and candidates.
  2. Improve – Ask what’s working about the current recruiting process. Consider if simply changing existing structures would help reach the vision.
  3. Engage – Talk with other stakeholders, like recruiting agencies or job posting vendors, about their needs and involvement.
  4. Design and transition – Start putting together an actionable plan that will define who will do what to help reach the vision, keeping an eye on cost, quality and your timeline.
  5. Obtain/build – Begin taking steps to reach the vision. Perhaps this means signing contacts with an agency or purchasing new service management software for applicant tracking.
  6. Deliver and support – Deploy your new service and continue discussions with customers and stakeholders to make sure it meets the vision. Are hiring managers getting qualified applicants? Did new hires feel like the process was smooth? Did you save time in reviewing resumes?


As noted above, practices include all of the resources needed to get work done. Practices related to the recruitment service might include resume tracking, interviewing or making an offer. Within each, there will be processes (the steps for what to do), people who are involved, systems that need to be accessed and many other considerations defined that will make the practice effective in improving recruitment service operations.

Continual Improvement

As you may expect, it is recommended that you routinely review your services, talking with your customers about their needs and looking for ways to improve. ITIL goes into detail about how this can be done, but the overall concept is that services can always get better and change. It’s important to be aware of this and to keep revisiting the services provided so that they suit your business into the future.

And, that’s it…well, sort of. There are a lot more details and intricacies to the ITIL framework, but the goal is to simply get you thinking about how its overall concepts and structure could guide any organization through improving service operations. So, if you’re in HR, marketing, operations, project management, facilities management or any other department, consider learning more about ITIL to increase the value added by your team.

If you’re looking for service management solutions that include tools and expertise to support ITIL adoption and optimize service operations within your business, contact the OTRS team today.

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