Service Providers and Risk

I’m having quite a bit of work done to my yard at the moment. I’m not opposed to doing this work myself. However, it makes more sense for me to use a service provider, as someone who is skilled at this type of work can do it more effectively, efficiently, and at a lower cost than I can. That’s only part of the picture though, as ITIL defines a service as: 

A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.

In the case of the work being done on my yard, clearly the company that I engaged provides a service in that they’re making possible an outcome that’s important to me: an attractive and mosquito-free yard that my family and I can enjoy. These are both outcomes (rather than outputs). In another post I will discuss the difference between outcomes and outputs and why sometimes these things are confused. 

The company doing the work on my yard also has equipment that I don’t own, competitive arrangements with suppliers, and specific capabilities that allow them to do the work on my yard at a lower cost than I could do myself.

However, this post is about the risk aspect of being a service provider. My yard is basically at the bottom of a small bluff. On each level of this terrace we are faced with a problem; various vines and weeds tend to grow quickly in this area, and if we don’t manage it closely, it becomes overgrown. 

I don’t want to climb twenty or thirty feet to remove weeds that sometimes have thorns. It’s too risky to me. About a month ago the workman was removing the weeds when he stumbled upon a nest of copperhead snakes. He called animal control and had the snakes removed before he finished the clearing out the terraces. 

Effectively this is part of the risk that I paid him to take in place of me. In fact, being in business as a landscape company in Texas and offering landscaping services is basically stating that the company is aware of the risk of snakes and is capable of dealing with that risk. 

IT service providers take on risk from their customers exactly how the landscaping company took on risk on my behalf. It may not involve poisonous snakes, but IT service providers often deal with an equal level of risk in terms of possibility of harm or loss. For example, an IT service provider that supports a pharmacy might take on the risk associated with accurately tracking and accounting for all of the drugs owned by the pharmacy, as well as the risk associated with providing automated advice about drug interactions to patients.

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