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ITIL :: View topic - ICT: Process vs Function
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ICT: Process vs Function

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Joined: Oct 14, 2005
Posts: 4
Location: Madrid - Spain

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 11:44 pm    Post subject: ICT: Process vs Function Reply with quote

Hello Everybody,

We are currently defining the ITIL model for implementation within our group and as we just started with ICTIM, I found myself a bit lost.

After reading through the OGC publication, Best Practice for ICT Infrastructure Management, it looks as if ICTIM is far less defined and clear than Support and Delivery processes.

Right now, I am focusing on the Technical Support “Process”.
It isn’t clear at all for me whether Technical Support is a process or a function, actually if it weren’t stated otherwise in the book, I would definitely call it a function.

It seems to me that Technical Support is much more a support function for many other processes (within the three sets, Delivery, Support and ICTIM) and is supported by “sub-processes”.

The book itself is not clear on the topic:
Firstly you can read “The business should take a great deal of care in deciding the form of Technical Support process….”
And then “A successful Technical Support function…”

As irrelevant it may seam, we need to be extremely precise on terms when defining a general model. If Technical Support is indeed a process in itself then in that case it has totally different implications than those of a support function…

Any thoughts or comments on this ?

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Joined: Mar 12, 2005
Posts: 255
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a rule of thumb - if it's not in the glossary it's not a concept that requires precise definition for ITIL to work. And the term 'function' is not in either the Red or Blue book gloassaries.

Also remember that ITIL has a number authors and editors, and not all the terminology is used with perfect consistency across all the books and chapters.

The only section of the Deliver/Support pair (The ITSM books) that uses the term function in a sense that matters in in the chapter on the service desk, where it says the Service Desk is function and not a process.

This from the world of organisational theory (sub-category business organisations), and simple means an 'organisational unit'. Not necessarily a whole department or whatever - just a recognised unit. Like 'payroll' the unit responsible might be in finance (more usually in HR) or in a samller company less defined - but if there is a group of people somewhere who makeup 'payroll' then it would be a business 'function'.

Ocassionally the term is used more 'mathematically' in which case it usuall is simply a loose short hand for 'what a process' achieves.

From your example I think it isn't complete clear whether function here means 'what the technical support processes achieve' or the unit put together in the ICT organisation to carry out the technical support tasks. Either could apply. It's less likely that function is beingused as a synonym of process. But as I said the editing isn;t always consistent.

In ITIL the Service Desk is the only 'function' that is defined in the framework (but the ICT organisation will have other 'functions' as well) All the other 'things' Incident Management, Problem Management, etc are process-frameworks.

Short advice - don't sweat it, and don't make function an 'official' ITIL term in your implementation.
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Location: Madrid - Spain

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I generally agree with you but what worries me is no matter how I look at it, I don’t see a process.
There’s a set of activities that need to be performed in order to support other processes such as deployment, design & planning, capacity, problem, etc. but these don’t form a process.

What lead me to call it a function, is exactly its analogy with Service Desk, It’s there to answer a very specific need: answer the user’s demands, just like Technical Support in itself has to carry out a set of tasks in order to be able to answer inquiries from other processes but these tasks are independent.
It seems as if Technical Support is there to make sure these tasks are performed but not in a procedural way.

As it is said in ICTIM book, Technical Support is a centre of excellence and a successful Technical Support FUNCTION (as stated in ICTIM publication) can be attributed to three key points, as follows:

1. establish a core group of technically competent resources
2. develop processes and procedures for service-related technical tasks
3. manage communications within Technical Support and with other processes.

In my opinion it focuses on having a group of people capable of performing technical tasks and what these tasks are, but I don’t really see an overall process that indicates how these tasks have to be carried out and how they should interact, therefore I don’t really understand how it can be seen as a process and don’t see how to describe it as such...
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes I see your point. And agree that on the one hand Technical Support is listed as one of the Processes of infrastructure management, while on the other hand it is discussed as a busniess function.

What is being described is closer to a function than a process - regardless of the way the terms are applied and the bullet lists constructed. Technical Support, are described in terms of the types of activities they undertake.

I agree completely that a description of activities does not constitute an explanation of a process, nor a framework for deploying processes. It could make it to the status of guidlelines for devolping processes, or more to the point deciding where and how to bring the activities under the control of the other ITIL processes.

Much of what Techincal Support does will be controlled by the Design & and Planning, Deployment and Operations processes. But an important thing to consider is what activities are under control of the ITSM (Delivery and Support) processes. One would not set up controls that duplicated or conflicted with these.

Which is to say I am sure the ICTIM framework is not intended to stand alone.

Factor those processes back into the operational picture for Technical Support, and I think that:

  • Managment/Control processes and Service alignment are covered by the ITSM process suite.
  • Technology specific activity (the hand's on stuff the techies do) is covered by Design and Planning, Deployment and Operations.
  • Some additional management capabilities are still required but are outside ICTIM also - like Project Management and Application Managment, and you would not look for processes inside Techincal Support to provide these capabilities.
  • If you tried to find anything not covered by these that would constitute a major process or process fraemwork, that belong specifically to Technical Support in such a way as to enable it and define it - you wouldn't.

I am really very open to discussion about this, and if anyone can explain to me how Technical Support is a 'process' in any way that isn't simply re-badging existing processes, I would be very interested.

But for the time being my conclusion is that Technical Support is a function, an important one, but still a function and not a process as such. I would still recommend not getting to caught up in it, and certainly wouldn't go looking for Technical Suppoort Processes to implement, except at a very basic and contained level. To borrow from the Service Desk parallel, when we specified our service desk most of the process specifications were covered by the ITSM processes. There were however a few residule operational details to be attended to - general call and request handling before they became Incident Reports and Service Requests, managing the communications channels and protocols etc. These are Service Desk 'processes' in a way, but they are minor and very site-specific, and I wouldn't want to see them defined in the library. I have no doubt that from site to site, there will be similar minor operational process specific to the Technical Support function, and specific to each site. I don' think that makes Technical Support a Process though.

As I said the language in the ITIL books is not always consistent, unambiguous and precise. But they have given you (and themselves) the 'Adopt and Adapt' get-out-of-gaol-free card haven't they Smile

On a side note: How you frame your overall objectives (your implementation and cultural change tactics) can have a bearing on how easy it is to smooth out this type of wrinkle. We have a deliberate strategy not to represent ITIL as an objective. Our objective is explicitly framed as improved Serivce Delivery. It's subtle, but it frees us up when we hit the kind of debate you are talking about.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 7:58 pm    Post subject: Our decision Reply with quote

Hello rjp,

It seems this question is not really an issue for many people...
But you might be interested to know:

We finally decided to represent the all ICTIM as a process, we'll consider D&P, Deployment, Ops and Tech Support as sub-processes and activities.
It makes a lot more sense.

As for Tech Support in particular, it is clearly a function, and there is no sensible way to see it otherwise. It doesn't make any sense to try and represent its activities as a process each task affected to Tech Support is totally independent and product of a request or a necessity from another process or sub-process. It's in fact the team of people executing the tasks for the processes.

I guess the fact that ICTIM is a recent ITIL publication is mainly the reason why it is so roughly defined.
Let's see what next ITIL version brings...

Cheers and thanks anyway for your thoughts.
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