Dec 282011

As we enter the challenging environment of service management, one question arises naturally. We are managing the services but who owns them within the organization? The answer should be obvious but surprisingly it is not that simple for most operators.

In a typical SQM / Service Management project, we have to interface with the service owners. Service owners are the people who are accountable from the service and they know every details of the service. They are accountable from the technical performance of the service as well. Service owners, appear in IT CAB meetings, new product design processes etc. When compared to product managers, they are more technically involved in the service.

Readers who are familiar with the ITIL terminology will recognize the abbreviation, “RACI”. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed and it is used to describe the roles of the stakeholders within an IT organization. RACI is mostly applied to IT processes. However, it can be applied to products and services as well. According to ITIL;

– Responsible is the person who “does” the service. He/she is the person who executes the process/service.
– Accountable is the person who “owns” the service. This person is also called the service owner in different contexts.
– Consulted is the person who “knows” information about the service. The consulted person provides feedback about the service execution, also he is consulted in certain cases by the service responsible or accountable. The communication is bi-directional.
– Informed is the person who is “kept in the loop”. Informed people do not provide feedback to the other parties in the RACI.

Now, lets look at who could take the roles that are defined by the RACI.

Service Performance impacts Product Performance therefore the product managers should not be accountable for it, instead, they seem to be consulted. Product Management should be consulted about the changes that will be applied on the service as it directly impacts the product performance.

The responsible would be the operations, who runs the service. They are the people who fulfill, assure and bill it. As you can see, there are multiple groups that are responsible of the service.

But who is the accountable person for the service? It seems there should be a role which is missing in the chain. There needs to appear some “service managers” who are the real owner of the service in context. The service managers could be a separate functional group or they may carry additional responsibilities. This layer could be seen as a functional group that “overlays” on the top of the current functional organizational structure.

Each service component in the service tree can also be a sub service, either customer facing or resource facing. These services should also have owners and for the technical, resource facing ones, these would typically be individual departments within the operations. But for the customer facing services the “service manager” would again be required as the service authority.

It is important to differentiate the SOC (Service Operation Center) with the service owners. Service Operation Centers are a sub function of the monitoring function and they watch the service performance and orchestrate the necessary actions for service continuation. They watch OLAs and can notify the responsible departments about the violating conditions. (but they don’t push or force their manager’s anyway)

In today’s operator environment, it seems that the assurance departments (NOCs or SOCs) have owned the services naturally. This is not the right place as these departments do not have the authority for cross- organizational decisions. The “Service Manager” role will be more and more important in the process where the operators become more and more customer centric.