ITIL®, formerly Information Technology Infrastructure Library, provides numerous best practices that help organizations establish, manage and maintain accountability, boundaries and consistency (the ABCs) in an organization, resulting in increased quality and cost-effectiveness. This blog post will describe the concept of boundaries.
What are Boundaries?
A boundary refers to a dividing line or something that separates two or more discrete objects. Among many other types of boundaries, ITIL encourages an organization to view its IT in the form of a “service.”
According to ITIL, a service is “a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.” Services are defined by the specific utility, or functionality, they offer, as well as the specific warranty, or quality of service, provided. Only when the utility of a service is fit for a purpose and the warranty of a service is fit for use does a service provide value.
Services then, are boundaries that are defined based on the specific type of functionality they offer, as well as the specific levels of quality constraints against which that functionality is provided.
Individuals and organizations often face various challenges when the services they offer are not well bounded. A well-bounded service is one that is clearly defined, has clear and achievable service level targets and measurements, and lets the customer focus on the value provided, while the service provider manages and supports the underpinning technical details.
An organization with poorly defined boundaries, in the form of services, will often experience difficulty with exactly what level of support is provided for which specific activities, measuring important service-related activities, and managing the financial aspects associated with a specific set of organizational functionality.
For example, many organizations provide “desktop support” as a service throughout the enterprise. Organizations that clearly define the service-related aspects of a desktop support service, and clearly communicate these aspects to customers and user, often are better able to control the costs and quality of the service compared to other organizations with weaker service boundaries.
In the absence of effective boundaries, organizations can find themselves supporting things that they’re not equipped to manage, managing services with less budget than required, or worse, being replaced with a service provider that provides effective boundaries and a means of engagement with customers and users.
Some boundaries exist in common sense and practical use. For example, in a parking lot, lines are typically marked that help guide drivers when parking their vehicles. ITIL helps an organization understand, establish, manage and maintain many of these common sense boundaries, as well as boundaries that might seem more esoteric to those not directly involved in IT activities. Furthermore, the effective establishment, management and maintenance of various boundaries is a hallmark of many best practice bodies of knowledge, including project management, development and other activities important to organizations.
This is part two in a three-part series taken from the Global Knowledge white paper, The ABCs of ITIL.