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ITIL Tattle

ITIL Tattle

Blog posts on ITIL and ITSM news and best practice from the ISG ITIL Team

Great Scott! Going back to the future of Service Management roles




This week I’m getting the ITIL deLorean out and taking us back to 2015, when Gavin McLachlan our CIO first set out his plans for Service Management in Information Services (ISG) at the University of Edinburgh.

It was Gavin who first introduced the idea of Service Management roles, focussing on 3 specific roles

  • Service Owner (SO)
  • Service Operations Manager (SOM)
  • Business Service Owner (BSO)

In a presentation to Information Services Gavin described these roles and their importance to the overall Service Delivery Strategy. He explained how these 3 roles should work together to improve Service Delivery and encouraged all services to assign these roles to key stakeholders .

Some of our services have people assigned to these roles, or a combination of them and have found that the key responsibilities of these stakeholders can really bring value by clarifying accountability.

We know though, that some people haven’t taken this approach, and while we’re unclear as to the reasons for this, we want to ensure we let everyone know the benefits of these stakeholders working together.

One of the ITIL Team’s key objectives is to ensure that every service in our Business Service Catalogue will have a Service Owner, a Service Operations Manager and a Business Service owner and that we will provide advice and guidance to ensure these people meet regularly to review and improve services collaboratively.

We’ll also review Gavin’s original role definitions to make sure they fit the 2020 ISG and University of Edinburgh vision with our users at the heart.

So, with this in mind I’m going to give an introduction to these roles and explain why they add value to our services.

Service Owner

The Service Owner (SO) is the senior ISG owner of the business or technical service. They are the public face of the service. They represent the service to the customers and within Information Services (ISG). They are ultimately accountable for ensuring that the service meets the current and future needs and expectations. They are accountable for the successful operation of the service through the Service Operations Manager (SOM) 

Some tasks that the Service owner is accountable or responsible for:

  • Owner of the overall service in ISG and ultimate escalation point within ISG for major questions, ideas or comments or issues and risks regarding the Service. 
  • Agree the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Business Service Owner and regularly reviewing its continued suitability. 
  • Chair regular service review meetings with the Business Service Owner and Service Operations Manager.
  • Chair other meetings with the Service Team and other governance groups such as user groups as needed.
  • Maintain and deliver the Service Improvement Plan or Continual Service Improvement Plan.
  • Work with the Business Service Owner to create the future strategy and roadmap for the service from the business needs and requirements – with input from SOM.
  • Own and prioritise “Request for changes” list.
  • Achieve the customer satisfaction targets for the service.
  • Escalation point for the SOM on the resolution of problems (ITIL Definition) with the service.

Service Operations Manager

The Service Operations Manager (SOM) is the primary operational owner for the service. They make sure the service is available, secure and performing on a daily basis against its Service Level Agreements (SLAs). They lead a (sometimes virtual) team (across Information Services (ISG) and beyond) including interfacing with any SOMs of underpinning technical services. They understand the full technical detail and design of the service and its components.

Some tasks that the Service Operations Manager is accountable or responsible for:

  • Primary point of contact for technical escalation within ISG for incidents, major questions, ideas or comments regarding the service from other ISG staff.
  • Maintain the stated availability, reliability, capacity and performance of the service against agreed targets, in line with relevant processes to agreed service quality standards in the SLA e.g. Availability, Disaster Recovery, Data Retention and Restoration.
  • Overall incident queue manager for their service.
  • Negotiate and agree the Operational Level Agreement (OLAs) between the service team and the technical services teams that form part of the service delivery architecture.
  • Input to the underpinning contracts and SLAs with suppliers.
  • Chair regular team meetings with supporting technical services.
  • Contribute to the Service or Continual Improvement Plan.
  • Work with the Service Owner on the prioritisation and resolution of identified problems

Business Service Owner (sometimes known as the business sponsor)

The Business Service Owner (BSO) is the senior customer of the service representing the user community. They are therefore not a member of the service providing organisational unit. For example, the BSO for Email and Diary would not be in Information Services. If a steering committee exists, a named individual is still required

Some tasks that the Business Service Owner is accountable or responsible for:

  • Act as a focal or communication point for their senior business peers who also use the service
  • Agree the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Service Owner on behalf of the customer community
  • Attend regular service review meetings and input to prioritisation of the service improvement plan
  • Work with the Service Owner to agree the future service strategy and roadmap
  • Input into relevant business cases and support in securing the necessary business resources to meet the future service strategy and roadmap
  • Represent the whole user community seek consensus and provide definition of major user requirements, input to the prioritisation of enhancement and feature changes
  • Approve significant changes to service policy
  • Act as the service sponsor, promoting increased usage and best practice
  • Provide the Service Owner (SO) with a steer based on, industry / community best practice, shared services and other industry matters.
  • Often chair Project Board for major projects within their service area, unless delegated to an alternate customer

There we have it – three distinct roles that all work together to support the delivery of quality services which meet the user community’s needs.

In 2020 the ITIL Team will review these definitions against the University’s current strategy and ensure that the accountability and responsibilities of these roles continue to allow our services to meet the needs of the University.

We’ll be progressing these definitions iteratively with feedback, once again using the ITIL4 Guiding principles to help us focus on value, to keep the roles simple and practical and to think and work holistically to promote and fill these roles for every ISG service. We’re looking forward to working with you to enhance our services, so please watch this space



2 replies to “Great Scott! Going back to the future of Service Management roles”

  1. Paul Caban says:

    “In a presentation to Information Services Gavin described these roles ….”
    Is this presentation available for those of us outside ISG?

    1. lisamc says:

      Hi Paul, The slides exist, however they’re limited in detail. We’re going to be reviving the descriptions, so I’ll be sure to share the new definitions. Let me know if you need to know anything else in the short term.

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