This section provides a general introduction to process theory and practice, which is the basis for the design of ITIL processes that are used in the Service Lifecycle. A process model enables understanding and helps to articulate the distinctive features of a process.
A process is a structured set of activities designed to accomplish a specific objective. A process takes one or more inputs and turns them into defined outputs. A process includes all of the roles, responsibilities, tools and management controls required to reliably deliver the outputs. A process may also define or revise policies, standards, guidelines, activities, processes, procedures and work instructions if they are needed.
Process control can be defined as:
The activity of planning and regulating a process, with the objective of performing a process in an effective, efficient and consistent manner.
Processes, once defined, should be documented and controlled. Once under control, they can be repeated and become manageable. Degrees of control over processes can be defined, and then process measurement and metrics can be built in to the process to control and improve the process, as illustrated in Figure 3.11.
Figure 3.11 The generic process elements
The generic process elements show data enters the process, is processed, is output and the outcome is measured and reviewed. This very basic description underpins any process description. A process is always organized around a set of objectives. The main outputs from the process should be driven by the objectives and should always include process measurements (metrics), reports and process improvement.
Each process should be owned by a process owner, who should be responsible for the process and its improvement and for ensuring that a process meets its objectives. The objectives of any IT process should be defined in measurable terms and should be expressed in terms of business benefits and underpinning business strategy and goals. Service Design should assist each process owner with the design of processes, in order to ensure that all processes use standard terms and templates, are consistent and integrate with each other to provide end-to-end integration across all areas.
The output produced by a process has to conform to operational norms that are derived from business objectives. If products conform to the set norm, the process can be considered effective (because it can be repeated, measured and managed). If the activities are carried out with a minimum use of resources, the process can also be considered efficient. Process analysis, results and metrics should be incorporated in regular management reports and process improvements.
All these areas should be included within the design of any process. These new ITIL publications have been written around ‘sets of processes’ that reflect the stages in the lifecycle of a service. The Service Design set of processes detailed in this publication covers the processes principally related to all aspects of design.
Working with defined processes has been the foundation of ITIL from its beginning. By defining what the organization’s activities are, which inputs are necessary and which outputs will result from the process, it is possible to work in a more efficient and effective manner. Measuring and steering the activities increases this effectiveness. Finally, by adding norms to the process, it is possible to add quality measures to the output.
This approach underpins the Plan–Do–Check–Act cycle of continual improvement for any quality-management system. Plan the purpose of the process in such a way that process actions can be reviewed, assessed or audited for successful achievement and improved.
Norms define certain conditions that the results should meet. Defining norms introduces quality aspects to the process. Even before starting, it is important to think about what the process outcomes should look like. To discover whether or not process activities are contributing optimally to the business goal and the objectives of the process, aligned to business goals, the effectiveness should be measured on a regular basis. Measuring allows comparison of what has actually been done with what the organization set out to do, and to identify and implement improvements within the process.
Each organization should adopt a formalized approach to the design and implementation of Service Management processes. The objective should not be to design ‘perfect processes’, but to design practical and appropriate processes with ‘in-built’ improvement mechanisms, so that the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes are improved in the most suitable manner for the organization. Documentation standards, processes and templates should be used to ensure that the processes are easily adopted throughout the organization. Some example process documentation templates are included in Appendix C.
The goal for now and in the future is to design processes and support these with tools that can provide integration between organizations. This has now become possible because management tools are providing support of open standards, such as the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), that support the exchange of information based on ITIL concepts, such as incidents, problems and changes with standard formats and contents. This allows service providers to support efficient and effective process interfaces with their main suppliers with automated exchange of key operational information in real time.