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Service Design (ITIL 4)

Parent Process Reference Framework: ITIL 4

Service Value Stream Activities

Highly impacted Service Value System(SVS) Activities:

  • Obtain/build
  • Design and Transition


The purpose of the service design practice is to design products and services that are fit for purpose, fit for use, and that can be delivered by the organization and its ecosystem. This includes planning and organizing people, partners and suppliers, information, communication, technology, and practices for new or changed products and services, and the interaction between the organization and its customers.

If products, services, or practices are not designed properly, they will not necessarily fulfil customer needs or facilitate value creation. If they evolve without proper architecture, interfaces or controls, they are less able to deliver the overall vision and needs of the organization and its internal and external customers.

Even when a product or service is well designed, delivering a solution that addresses the needs of both the organization and customer in a cost-effective and resilient way can be difficult. It is therefore important to consider iterative and incremental approaches to service design, which can ensure that products and services introduced to live operation can continually adapt in alignment with the evolving needs of the organization and its customers.

In the absence of formalized service design, products and services can be unduly expensive to run and prone to failure, resulting in resources being wasted and the product or service not being customer-centred or designed holistically. It is unlikely that any improvement programme will ever be able to achieve what proper design could have achieved in the first place. Without service design, cost-effective products and services that deliver what customers need and expect are extremely hard to achieve.

Service design practice should also ensure that the customer’s journey from demand through to value realization is as pleasant and frictionless as it can be, and delivers the best customer outcome possible. This is achieved by focusing on customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX).

Adopting and implementing a service design practice focused on CX and UX will:

  • result in customer-centred products and services that include stakeholders in design activities
  • consider the entire environment of a product or service
  • enable projects to estimate the cost, timing, resource requirement, and risks associated with service design more accurately
  • result in higher volumes of successful change
  • make design methods easier for people to adopt and follow
  • enable service design assets to be shared and re-used across projects and services
  • increase confidence that the new or changed product or service can be delivered to specification without unexpectedly affecting other products, services, or stakeholders
  • ensure that new or changed products and services will be maintainable and cost-effective.

It is important that a holistic, results-driven approach to all aspects of service design is adopted, and that when changing or amending any of the individual elements of a service design, all other aspects are considered. It is for this reason that the coordination aspect of service design with the whole organization’s SVS is essential. Designing and developing a new or changed product or service should not be done in isolation, but should consider the impact it will have on:

  • other products and services
  • all relevant parties, including customers and suppliers
  • the existing architectures
  • the required technology
  • the service management practices
  • the necessary measurements and metrics.

Consideration of these factors will not only ensure that the design addresses the functional elements of the service, but also that the management and operational requirements are regarded as a fundamental part of the design, and are not added as an afterthought.

Service design should also be used when the change being made to the product or service is its retirement. Unless the retirement of a product/service is carefully planned, it could cause unexpected negative effects on customers or the organization that might otherwise have been avoided.

Not every change to a product or service will require the same level of service design activity. Every change, no matter how small, will need some degree of design work, but the scale of the activity necessary to ensure success will vary greatly from one change type to another. Organizations must define what level of design activity is required for each category of change, and ensure that everyone within the organization is clear on these criteria.

Service design supports products and services that:

  • are business- and customer-oriented, focused, and driven
  • are cost-effective
  • meet the information and physical security requirements of the organization and any external customers
  • are flexible and adaptable, yet fit for purpose at the point of delivery
  • can absorb an ever-increasing demand in the volume and speed of change
  • meet increasing organizational and customer demands for continuous operation
  • are managed and operated to an acceptable level of risk.

With many pressures on the organization, there can be a temptation to ‘cut corners’ on the coordination of practices and relevant parties for service design activities, or to ignore them completely. This should be avoided, as integration and coordination are essential to the overall quality of the products and services that are delivered.

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