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The rise of “service orientation” or “Service Oriented Architectures” (SOA), raises some fundamental issues for IT systems developers more serious than whether you should put “services” in front of the name of every deliverable or whether you existing vendor is telling the truth when it says it has had an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) all along. You can’t buy service orientation just by buying technology.
Firstly, developers have to decide just what a service is, in consultation with the business. A key guideline here is ITIL version 3, which provides an independent (non-vendor) definition: “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“(from ITIL Service Strategy, 2.2.1 The Value Proposition). This definition is a consensus effort and, according to the ITIL authors, reaching consensus took quite a lot of work . Developer groups should take advantage of this work, rather than attempting to “reinvent the wheel”.
Secondly, IT and development culture has to change. In the past, developers were the creative gods of IT, throwing programs over the wall to the operations group, the foot soldiers who made it all work. But from the business’ point of view and remember that, ultimately, the business pays everyone’s wages operational systems deliver business benefit throughout most of their lives and development is just a small part of the (hopefully) productive lifecycle. Perhaps the operations people are now the gods, managing the applications that deliver business services, managing the introduction of new services and managing risk (business availability, capacity planning, configuration management etc.). In our opinion, the obvious framework for this service delivery lifecycle view is ITIL v3. Developers may have thought of ITIL as a purely Operations thing (if they thought of it at all) but that was ITIL v2. ITIL v3 is the spec for holistic services delivery and developers should start taking notice of it. ITIL v3 co-author Shirley Lacy (who has a practical development background and co-authored the ITIL v3 “Service Transition” book) tells us that at least one local government organisation gave its developers ITIL training as part of implementing ITIL, several years ago.
In this situation, you can no longer always rely on your usual advisers perhaps they just don’t realise that things have changed for them too. For example, we were recently at a seminar given by a respected CMMI process improvement consultancy, to introduce “CMMI for Services” Yes, CMMI is having to get on the Services bandwagon, although in this it is rather playing catchup CMMI-SVC isn’t released yet and still has some interesting attitudes (the service catalogue seems to be optional, for example). This particular CMMI consultancy is possibly unusual in that it is well-aware of ITIl (it was discussing the mapping of CMMI onto ITIL years ago) but in this presentation it was comparing the yet-to-be-released CMMI-SVC with the now-obsolete ITIL v2 which rather spoiled the credibility of the comparison. At times of disruptive change, you have to question even what you think you are sure of.
Change is always difficult and unpopular (if you doubt this, try making radical changes to your change management team and see how happily it “embraces change” (although remember that everyone always says that “change is good” to your face). Dan North of Thoughtworks, evangelists for Agile development process, tells us that any successes he has largely come from his ability to mange change, not his technology expertise and understanding if Agile. Introducing “service orientation” means cultural change for all parts of the organisation, including the depths of the IT department. And you’ll always need developers, although they won’t necessarily be in your organisation (the increasing use of “outsourcing” and COTS – Commercial Off The Shelf software – are both real trends) but do you really still need an IT group and a CIO? The answer to this question really isn’t obvious yet but it’s a question worth asking remember that ITIL version 3 is all about delivery of holistic business services from the “integration of IT with the business”; merely “aligning IT with the business”, as we used to say, is no longer enough.
The author of this piece has reviewed the key Service Strategy ITIL volume on Reg Developer.