6.1 Service Integration and Quality Assurance

The service operations ecosystem is in constant change. New and often quite small suppliers who have core competence in digital development (although not necessarily in operating the services) are reshaping the ecosystem. The trend is to transfer traditional service operations from regional data centres into global data centres operated by new global mega players instead of traditional service providers. In general, the organisations are less dependent on dedicated operations management, and have to deal with a more fragmented and more complex operational ecosystem.

Service integration or Service Integration and Management (SIAM) today has a significant role as it defines how to manage services in a multi-vendor environment. It coordinates the whole service delivery ecosystem covering internal and external operations as well as local on-premise and global cloudified service operations.

Service integration and quality is responsible for:

  • Managing service catalogue
  • Unifying and harmonising service processes across services
  • Ensuring seamless integration of services for better user experience
  • Verifying operational readiness of services
  • Managing major incident situations by having control of command
  • Measuring and reporting service status, KPIs and SLA compliance
  • Managing operational environment configuration data
  • Having process to onboard and retire services.

Service integration promotes a collaborative culture in the ecosystem and directs focus from reactive issue resolution into proactive and preventive service management in good co-operation with all stakeholders.

 

Horizontal and vertical service integration

Service integration and quality assurance is a multi-dimensional effort. Horizontal service integration represents the main service integration function as it goes across all services and major service providers. Horizontal service integration is often provided by internal resources together with, or even solely by, a service provider that does not have other major service responsibilities or interest in the ecosystem.

Vertical service integration is provided by the main service providers who have accountability of the service integration and quality within their service delivery scope. Vertical service integration must be compliant with processes, policies and guidelines provided by the horizontal service integration.

Figure 6.1.1 The dimensions of service integration

 

Standard operational procedures and tools

Service integration and quality requires all delivery ecosystem parties to strictly follow the set guidelines and practices. Service integration requires standard operational procedures, defined roles and responsibilities, as well as processes and document templates to cover the typical use cases. Most procedures, such as incident and change management, can apply global best practices from ITIL, while others, like service compliance, require organisation-specific definitions.

The Business Technology Standard groups the standard operational procedures as follows:

  • Qualify compliance and quality: qualification of vendors and services to meet compliance and quality criteria
  • Govern catalogue and service levels: defining the service catalogue and verifying it is up-to-date and that services fulfil end-to-end KPIs and SLAs
  • Assure core process performance: designing and assuring the performance of core service management processes
  • Detect security and quality issues: detecting security flaws and threats by monitoring and inspecting unusual behaviour of network traffic, systems and users
  • Manage change and continuity: controlling service changes and ensuring the business continuity.

 

Figure 6.1.2 Service integration topics and related processes and activities

 

Efficient execution of service integration requires tools to manage and automate the processes. Whether implemented simultaneously or gradually, it is recommended to set up tools for service management as the following:

  • Dashboard: gathers information from different sources and provides automated on-time performance and trend information on all KPIs
  • Analytics: gathers data from different sources and analyses it through various dimensions so that improvement needs related to the services can be discovered efficiently
  • Robotics: lowers operational effort by automating routine tasks in processes and operational procedures
  • E2E monitoring: help to simulate the end user experience of a given service.

 

Service integration team/centre

The increasing business criticality and diversity of the services call for dedicated service integration capability. Service integration team, or in large companies, service integration centre, is usually a good and effective way to ensure the execution of service integration across all services.

The service integration team/centre is responsible for:

  • Managing service integration centrally with maximum payback of investments
  • Scaling service integration operations according to company size and service volumes
  • Maximising the power and value of service integration by dedicating resources to continuously improve the outcomes
  • Cooperating and collaborating with stakeholders as one accountable entity.

The business technology service integration centre is responsible for horizontal service integration while service providers’ service integration centres are responsible for vertical service integration within the vendor’s responsibility area.

Figure 6.1.3 Service integration centre

 

Responsibilities, objectives and governance

The service integration team/centre is responsible for defining standard procedures and governing proper implementation of services. It works mainly with service providers and runs service integration steering group chaired by the Business Technology Operations Officer (BTOO).

Service desk is a single point of contact for service users and has the best visibility on the most up-to-date service status. Good collaboration and cooperation between the service integration team/centre and service desk will improve the capability to respond to and prevent service failures.

Service advisory board (CAB) is responsible for approving the service releases while the service integration team/centre is responsible for defining the operational readiness procedure and consulting services for building the readiness. A close cooperation will improve the service release quality and reduce the number of release-related service issues.

Service integration team/centre also reports and analyses the service performance and consults development and operations teams related to continual service improvement.

When working in close co-operation with other functions, the service integration team/centre can contribute to the following objectives:

  • Improve user satisfaction
  • Improve cost performance
  • Reduce the number of issues.

Usually, in bigger organisations, a good-quality service integration can be achieved by forming a service integration centre with service integration leads for each standard procedure category and additional service integration centre experts for analysis, automation and maintenance activities. In smaller organisations, one person can have two roles and the service integration team can be staffed with less resources.