What is ITIL Service Delivery?

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ITIL service delivery occurs when an IT organization performs an IT service for a customer (business process, IT skills, application, or infrastructure service) that the customer values and desires and that the customer cannot or does not want to own and perform itself. Services are designed, deployed, delivered, improved, and retired by using the ITIL v3 service lifecycle.

You might be confused if I asked you “What is Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Service Delivery inside an IT Service Management (ITSM) environment?” ITIL service delivery in ITSM sounds like an abstract and difficult concept, but it’s really at the core of what we do as IT professionals to provide services to our internal and external customers using the ITIL framework.

Today, I’d like to reduce the mystery and build an unofficial working definition that IMHO describes what ITIL service delivery is. I’ll do that by:

  • Looking at what ITSM and ITIL are
  • What an IT service is
  • What types of IT services are available
  • The evolution of ITIL service delivery

By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what ITIL service delivery is, how it affects your organization, and be able to answer the question: What is ITIL Service Delivery?  (For the quick answer, skip to the bottom of this post)

What are ITSM and ITIL?

IT Service Management (ITSM) refers to all the activities, plans, and processes an organization uses to design, deliver, and manage service delivery for its customers. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of best practices and a universal framework for implementing ITSM, which can be applied and used by any IT organization.  Together, ITSM and ITIL enable ITIL service delivery for almost any business (see our simple primer for understanding ITSM and ITIL for more info) .  Customers can request services through an IT service catalog, where IT publishes the services it offers. When you deliver an IT service requested through a service catalog request, you are engaging in ITIL service delivery.

What’s an IT service?

The ITIL v3 framework describes 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.”

There are three assumptions implicit in this service definition.

  1. IT organizations provide IT services that provide outcomes (end results) the customer desires
  2. Service delivery produces positive results (value) for the customer
  3. An IT organization (not the customer) owns the service and is responsible for its delivery

Given all we’ve covered so far, a starting unofficial definition of ITIL service delivery is:

ITIL service delivery occurs when an IT organization performs an IT service for a customer that the customer values and desires and that the customer cannot or does not want to own and perform itself. 

What types of IT services are there?

We can further refine the definition of an IT service as something that creates, modifies, manages, or provides access to these general IT service categories.

  • Business process services for performing repeatable activities that achieve a concrete goal for the customer. IT business process services usually follow a process that has specific starting and ending points, such as entering orders, running on-demand processes, or updating employee information.
  • IT skill services that use internal or external IT resources to design, build, or run a service for the customer, including programming, trouble-shooting, installing, and operating the service.
  • Application services, including installing, configuring, and providing access to applications.
  • Infrastructure services, such as building, maintaining, and configuring network infrastructure components (ex., file servers, Web servers, telecommunication lines) for accessing applications or other services

IT services can be provided by an organization’s internal IT department or outsourced to an external vendor.

A single IT service catalog item can encompass several related services.  For example, you may add an IT service called Add New Network User to an ITIL service catalog. When a user requests the Add New Network User service, it spawns additional sub-services such as creating a network profile, authorizing the user to file shares or printers, creating an email account, accessing the ERP system, and configuring a desktop environment. Each of these sub-services may exist in different service categories but they are ordered and delivered as one service.

Given our defined service categories, our unofficial working definition of ITIL service delivery now changes to (additions are in bold type):

ITIL service delivery occurs when an IT organization performs an IT service for a customer (business process, IT skills, application, or infrastructure service) that the customer values and desires and that the customer cannot or does not want to own and perform itself. 

How ITIL service delivery evolved

Between the ITIL v2 and v3 standards, there was a change in how ITIL service delivery was performed. In ITIL v2, IT service management was separated into two core disciplines:

  • Service support which includes service desk and incident management, problem management, change management, release management, and configuration management
  • Service delivery which includes service level management, capacity management, contingency planning, availability management, and IT financial management

Indeed, when you Google ITIL service delivery, you’ll see the old ITIL v2 definition of service delivery. In ITIL v2, service delivery is a separate discipline from service support. It revolves around separate processes & mechanics for delivering the service versus supporting the service.  Many organizations built their ITSM environment on ITIL v2, and many ITIL v2 implementations are still alive and well today.

The idea of service delivery evolved in ITIL v3 (the latest standard) with the introduction of the IT service lifecycle that focuses on these five core areas, as shown in figure 1:

  • Service strategy
  • Service design
  • Service transition
  • Service operation
  • Continual service improvement

ITIL v3 did away with the idea of service support and service delivery being two separate disciplines. Service delivery is now built around the various stages of producing and delivering a service. Each ITIL v3 stage is part of the flow and provides a birth through retirement template for the lifecycle of each service. With ITIL v3, service delivery and service support are now co-mingled in every core area in the service lifecycle. You can read more about the ITIL v3 service lifecycle by reading our simple primer for understanding ITSM and ITIL.

it-services

Figure 1: The IT services lifecycle

The final definition of ITIL service delivery

Given our starting definition of ITIL service delivery, the types of services that are offered, and the continued evolution of ITIL service delivery, our final unofficial definition of ITIL service delivery changes to the following (additions are in bold):

ITIL service delivery occurs when an IT organization performs an IT service for a customer (business process, IT skills, application, or infrastructure service) that the customer values and desires and that the customer cannot or does not want to own and perform itself.  Services are designed, deployed, delivered, improved, and retired by using the ITIL v3 service lifecycle.

And that’s how you can answer the question: What is ITIL service delivery? To learn more about ITSM, the ITIL framework, and ITIL service delivery, be sure to check out BMC’s Complete Guide to ITIL.

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Joe Hertvik

Joe Hertvik

Joe Hertvik works in the tech industry as a business owner and an IT Director, specializing in Data Center infrastructure management and IBM i management. Joe owns Hertvik Business Services, a content strategy business that produces white papers, case studies, and other content for the tech industry. Joe has produced over 1,000 articles and other IT-related content for various publications and tech companies over the last 15 years. Joe also provides consulting services for IBM i shops, Data Centers, and Help Desks. Joe can be reached via email at joe@joehertvik.com, or on his web site at joehertvik.com.