Opacity: Why IT services aren't services at all

It is commonplace in our industry to refer to the applications and other functionality that IT delivers to users as "services."  We talk about the performance of the "IT services" to the desktop.  We talk about the "service catalog" that we offer the business.  We even claim to have "service-oriented architectures."

Unfortunately, despite all this talk, corporate IT is still not very service-oriented at all.  In fact, in some ways, it is the very opposite of service-oriented.  And one of the main ways this lack of service-orientation reveals itself is in IT's opacity.

Why do I say this?  Well, just consider what users know about these supposed "services" they are getting.  Do they know what they cost?  Do they understand what level of performance they can expect at that price?  Do they have visibility into any problem that may be temporarily undermining that performance?  Do they have redress if they are not satisfied with that service?

Of course not.  Which means it's not a service at all.

Contrast this to the new generation of genuine service providers.  These service providers are models of transparency.  They offer a knowable cost based on documentable metered usage.  They explicitly define service-level expectations.  If there's a problem, they pro-actively notify customers -- and they post a page that shows how they have been performing over time.  And, if they have issues, there are contractually stipulated consequences.

That's a service.

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