Shaping IT Service Management at The Hartree Centre: Service Operation

The second in a series of blog posts from Dave Cable, Head of Service Operations here at The Hartree Centre gives us an introduction to Service Operation, the primary interface for service delivery with customers.

In the first post of this series, I gave a brief description of IT Service Management and the specific implementation we have adopted, known as ITIL.  In this post, I describe how we have implemented one function and three key processes from the ITIL area of Service Operation.

What is Service Operation?

Service Operation is the collection of processes and functions that describe how to deliver services to customers at agreed levels.

Why is it important?

Service Operation represents the primary interface for service delivery with customers.  As such, it can win or lose business.  It also helps the service provider, by providing clear mechanisms for prioritising customer requests for assistance, and tools to identify deep-rooted issues that require additional effort to resolve.

Which aspects of Service Operation have we adopted?

For now, we have adopted the “Service Desk” function, and the processes of “Incident Management”, “Request Fulfilment”, and “Problem Management”.

What is the Service Desk?

The Service Desk delivers a single point of contact to customers.  Our service desk is staffed during the hours of 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.  It processes incidents and requests, prioritising them appropriately.  The service desk also handles general enquiries, routing them to the relevant member of staff.  Service desk staff are empowered to follow-up on existing incidents or requests, ensuring that they are resolved within agreed service levels.

The service desk team also manage the Hartree Centre user guide.

What is Incident Management?

An incident is described as a temporary loss of functionality in a service.  From a user perspective, this means something is broken or inaccessible.  The purpose of incident management is to restore normal service levels as soon as possible, in order to minimise adverse effects on both the customer and the service provider.  For example: a compiler, which was working yesterday, throws a licence error today.  A customer could (and should) report this as an incident to the Service Desk.

Incidents are assigned priorities by the service desk according to metrics for impact and urgency.  Where possible, the service desk will resolve incidents – this is level 1 (L1) support.  If necessary, the service desk will escalate incidents to L2 support, which is provided at the Hartree Centre by the Platforms and Infrastructure Group.  In extreme cases, we will seek L3 support from hardware/software vendors.

What is Problem Management?

A problem is where there is a repeated or continuous interruption to a service.  A problem may be detected by our internal monitoring tools, or it may be reported by users, in which case there may be multiple incidents.  A problem record can link multiple incidents together.  In some cases, there may be a documented workaround, which can be used to resolve the incidents.  Problems are managed differently to incidents, in that they can take significantly longer to investigate (root cause analysis) and resolve with a permanent solution.

What is Request Management?

There may be occasions when the standard service offer does not provide exactly what a customer requires.  For example, there may be a requirement to install an additional piece of software, or a need for an advance reservation.  In these cases, customers may submit a “request”, chosen from a range of standard request types in a catalogue.  The service desk will shepherd new requests through an approval process and into delivery.  Typically, SLA commitments for requests are more relaxed than for incidents, as they do not represent a break in service.

In summary, incidents and problems describe issues with the service provided, and are tackled through a process of troubleshooting and resolution.  Requests are a means to track customer requirements for additional services, and are delivered if approved.  The service desk manages incidents, problems and requests in accordance with agreed service levels.  In the next post, I’ll describe Service Design and Service Transition.

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