Over the past few years IT organizations have become more focused on effectively defining and reporting against business services. However there is some confusion around what constitutes a business service and what constitutes a technical service. What are the differences and where do we, as IT professionals, draw the line between? More importantly, how do we explain the difference to the business?
Before we explain the differences between the two it is useful to define and understand what Business Service Management (also called Business Services Management) is. As defined by ITIL v3 Service Design volume 4.1.3, "Business Services Management (BSM) provides a central source of information on the IT services delivered by the service provider organization. This ensures that all areas of the business can view an accurate, consistent picture of the IT services, their details and their status." As noted in the definition, technical services are key to BSM. However, business services are not defined in the definition.
Business services are a set of business activities delivered to an outside party, such as a customer or a partner. The context of a business service is defined by the business and is further defined by business processes (the actual workflow) that make up/enable the service. An example of a business service is "order to cash." An IT business service that would support "order to cash", as an example could be "supply chain service." The supply chain service could be delivered by an application such as SAP, with the customer of that service being an employee in finance/accounting using the application to perform a customer facing service such as accounts receivable, or the collection of cash from an outside party. Below that, we find additional services such as IT infrastructure services. Examples of this type of service could be networking, hosting or database.
As you look at this example - you can see an interconnected chain of services, and an interconnected chain of customers. What you label a service - whether business, technical or infrastructuer is less important than you may think - they are all just services. It is certainly much less important than understanding the interconnected chain of services and customers. This led us to one of our principles, "everyone has services and everyone has customers."
So keep it simple and focus your energy on the interconnected chain of customers and services, and getting everyone to see their role in this most valuable chain.