An introduction to ITIL (part 4/5) – Service Operation

Hi all ! In this article I’ll continue the résumé I wrote as a preparation for my ITIL Foundation exam.

Catching up

In the previous post I described the service transition stage. The service transition stage key aspects were :

  • the definition of what is change and guidelines pointing out how it should be managed and evaluated
  • the definition of transition plans
  • the definition of guidelines for release and deployment management
  • the definition of guidelines for how  knowledge should be managed

In the  ITIL service lifecycle, the service operation comes immediately after the service transition. Just as a reminder, the ITIL service lifecycle is comprised of the  following stages:

  • Service Strategy
  • Service Design
  • Service Transition
  • Service Operation (you are here!)
  • Continual service improvement

Service Operation

Purpose & Objectives

The service operation stage is where the  processes required to deliver and manage services at agreed levels to business users and customers are carried out. In addition this stage is also responsible for the ongoing management of technology used to deliver and support services.

Scope & value to the business

The service operation encompasses the activities that form part of a service as well as the underlying technology. It also encompasses the process management itself and the   people who drive the demand for the organization services and products.

The service operation stage is where the plans, designs and optimizations from previous stages are executed and measured. From a customer viewpoint, Service Operation is where actual value is seen.

Adopting a consistent approach for service operation has the following key benefits for business:

  • reduces the duration and frequency of service outages
  • provide operational results and data to justify investment in service improvement
  • meets the goals and objectives of the security policy

Key principles

The key principles guiding the service operation stage are balance and communication. The success of this stage depends on a delicate balance between conflicting requirements and on effective communication between teams and departments.

The requirements to be balanced refer to :


An organization that focus only on external business requirements may make promises it cannot meet, whereas an organization that focus only on internal IT may deliver expensive services with little value.


An extreme focus on stability may result in business requirements being ignored, whereas an extreme focus on responsiveness may result in unstable IT services


Too much focus on cost may result in missing agreed service levels, whereas too much focus on quality may lead to overspending.


A reactive organization waits for events before it does anything whereas a proactive organization is always looking for ways to improve.

In what regards the communication aspects, the following topics should be considered:

  • operational communication – to coordinate regular activities of service operation
  • performance reporting communication – to communicate IT service performance levels
  • communication in projects – to manage communication between projects
  • communication related to changes – to communicate information necessary to implement or back-out changes
  • communication related to exceptions – to communicate information that fall outside a certain defined scope
  • communication related to emergencies –  to allow effective management of emergency situations
  • communication with users and customers – communicate effectively with the users and customers about their requirements and concerns


Incident management

The purpose of incident management process is to restore normal service operation as quickly as possible. Normal service operation is a state where services and CIs are performing within the agreed service levels.

Incident management encompasses events communicated by users(either through service desk or through an interface) that can disrupt the service. Please note that not all events are incidents.

The following definitions are key concepts of the incident management process :



Other important aspects of incident management include :

  • timescales – incident response and resolution targets within SLA, OLA and underpinning contracts(UC)
  • incident models – a way of predicting the steps needed to handle a particular type of incident
  • major incidents – the definition of major incident should be agreed upon, but typically a major incident is an incident with a high potential business impact and urgency.
  • incident status, tracking and expanded lifecycle – the expanded incident lifecycle should help to understand all stages and activities involved on an incident as well as their impact on incident resolution. Within the incident management system, status codes may be linked to incidents to help tracking where an incident is in relation to the incident lifecycle.

When identifying and categorizing an incident the following flux of activities should be taken:


To support the incident management process the following 3 roles are needed:

  • Incident manager – responsible for managing the work of incident support staff
  • Service desk staff – first line of customer contact
  • 2nd and 3rd line specialists – responsible for closing incidents and escalate communication as required

To finalize, the inputs and outputs of this process are resumed on the diagram below:


Problem management

The purpose of problem management is to manage problems through their lifecycle. This process includes the activities required to diagnose the root cause of incidents and to determine the cause and resolution of the underlying problems.

The following definitions are key concepts of the problem management process :



Also key to the problem management process are the distinctions between proactive and reactive management processes.

The reactive problem management process focus on solving incidents as they appear identifying workarounds when necessary, whereas the proactive problem management process is triggered by the improvement of service activities that try to prevent problems from happening.

The key activities for problem management can be described by the following flux:


To support the problem management process the following 3 roles are needed:

  • the problem manager – single point of coordination and owner of the problem management process
  • the problem solving group staff – the actual solving of problems by one or more technical groups

To finalize, the inputs and outputs of this process are resumed on the diagram below:


Event management

The purpose of this process is to manage events throughout their lifecycle. Event management is therefore the basis for operational monitoring and control. These activities include monitoring: CIs; environmental conditions; software licences; security.

The following definitions are key concepts of the event management process :



There are 3 main types of events:

  • informational – an event meant only to provide information
  • warning – an event generated when a threshold has been reached
  • exception – an event that indicates that a service or device is functioning abnormally and action is required

To support the event management process the following 3 roles are needed:

  • Service desk – responsible for initial support, communication and escalation
  • Application manager – responsible for the definition and management of events
  • Operations manager – responsible for initial support and event monitoring

To finalize, the inputs and outputs of this process are resumed on the diagram below:


Request fulfillment management

The purpose of request fulfillment management is to provide a quick response to standard service requests from users. This stage aims to maintain users and customers satisfaction through efficient handling of service requests.

The following definitions are key concepts of the request fulfillment management process :



To support the request management process the following  roles are needed:

  • Service desk staff  & staff in other functions – to provide initial response and handling of the request fulfillment request

To finalize, the inputs and outputs of this process are resumed on the diagram below:


Access management

Access management is the process that enables users to use the services that are documented on the service catalog.

The following definitions are key concepts of the access management process :



To support the access management process the following 3 roles are needed:

  • security managers – to define and maintain policies
  • service desk staff – to handle the request
  • technical and application management – to handle the execution of the request

To finalize, the inputs and outputs of this process are resumed on the diagram below:


Organizing for Service Operation(roles)

Service desk

The purpose of the service desk is to serve as first point of contact and to coordinate the activities between the end user and the IT service provision teams. The service desk is the first point of contact with the end user thus playing a vital role in achieving customer satisfactions.

There are 3 types services desks :

  • local
  • central
  • virtual

A local service desk is good for a single location and for concentrating on specialist technical skills whereas a central service desk is good for improved resource usage and consistency of service. A virtual service desk  is good for organizations with multiple locations.

The following picture resumes the typical service desks activities:


Technical management

Technical management ensures that knowledge required to design,test, manage and improve IT services is identified, managed and refined.  It also ensures that resources are effectively trained and deployed.

The generic technical management activities include:

  • identifying skills requirements for technical staff , initiating training programs  recruiting or contracting resources
  • design and delivery of user training
  • contributing to service design, service transition or CSI projects
  • assistance with the service management process and with the management of suppliers, contracts and vendors

IT operations management

The role of IT operations management is to execute the ongoing activities and procedures required to maintain the IT infrastructure.

The roles associated with IT operations management are:

  • IT operations control –  operators who carry out routine operational tasks like console management, backups and restores, job scheduling etc..
  • Facilities management – management of data centers, computer rooms and recovery sites.

The three main objectives of IT operations management are : to achieve stability of the organization daily processes ; continual improvements of service processes ; rapid diagnosis and resolution of IT failures.

Application management

Application management covers the entire lifecycle of an application including : requirements, design, build, deploy , operate and optimize.

The typical roles associated with application management are :

  • technical knowledge overview – supervision of technical knowledge implementation
  • resource management – ensures that resources are trained and deployed to deliver and support IT services

The two main objectives of application management are : to identify functional and manageable requirements for application software ; to assist in the design and deployment of applications.

Technology Considerations

Each process and function requires technology to work effectively. There are generic and specific considerations to be taken into account. From a generic point of view we need integrated CMS, a workflow engine and remote control and diagnostic utilities.In what concerns specific technology requirements an integrated ITSM toolset is the recommend option.

Final thoughts

The service operation stage plays a crucial role in the service lifecycle,  by identifying the roles and the roles functions and activities needed to get things going. Hope you enjoyed the reading!


[1] ITIL Home; The Official ITIL Website ;