Let's Redefine The Term "Business Service" To Address Real Business And IT Needs

IT has too many separate portfolios to manage, and that hinders its ability to help business change. We have project portfolios, application portfolios, technology portfolios, and IT service portfolios – each managed in silos. These portfolios are all IT-centric – they generally mean nothing to business leaders. The business has products, customers, partners, and processes – and the connection between these business portfolios and the IT portfolios isn't readily apparent and usually not even documented. Change in the business – in any of these areas – is connected to IT only in the requirements document of a siloed project. Lots of requirement documents for lots of siloed projects leads to more complexity and less ability to support business change. 

How do we connect these business concepts to IT? What's the "unit" that connects IT projects, apps, and technology with business processes and products? 

It's not "business capabilities" – they are an abstraction most useful for prioritizing, analysis, and planning. We need a term to manage the day-to-day adaptation and implementation of these capabilities – the implementation with all its messiness such as fragmented processes and redundant apps – that we can use to manage any type of change. 

We believe the best term for this unit is "business services," with this definition:

The output of a business capability with links to the implementation of people, processes, information, and technology necessary to provide that output.

Business services help business and IT evaluate the implications for desired changes and plan in a unified way how to effect these small and large changes. The business wishes to add or change a strategy – what business services will this impact, and what is the best way to change them to support the strategy? The business wishes to adopt common global business processes – which business services are consolidated, standardized, and improved as a result? The business wants to reduce the cost of operations – how do you reduce the cost of the business services (using people, process, information, and technology) that the business runs on? The business would like to adapt to the changing market context, requiring a slight adaptation of the service/price ratio? Forrester proposes to manage these changes through a central portfolio of really business-oriented descriptions of "business services."


We want your thoughts on this concept. Will it be a good foundation to use to bring business and IT portfolios together? Does it fill a void? 



Great start

Henry, I really like the approach you are taking linking capabilities to services. I wonder if we can abstract this further to drop the qualifier of "business" and really build a sense of the whole enterprise. I will need to do some thinking on this and might blog a response.

Regards, Leo

Need to clearly define business capability and business service

Business service is thing that business enterprises/organizations does to serve its customers and/or to achieve its vision or to carry out its mission based on its capabilities. While the business capabilities required to deliver a business service consists of the people, process, information and technology and other resources. Which implies that business enterprises need to develop the capabilities required to deliver business services. Based on this premise, I will argue that business capability concept can be used to align business and IT needs. Consequently, whenever a business enterprise wishes to add or change a strategy it should assess if it has the required business capabilities to do so and to execute the new strategy.

Given Business Service definition, what is a Business Capability

I always equated the two, business capabilities and business services , to be the same thing. Both were the combination of people, process, technology, information with the goal of achieving a measureable outcome.

What definition of business capabilities were assumed when creating the definition of a business service?

Business service is right in the middle

Thanks Solomon and Vince for your comments. You are right both BC and BS need to be more clearly defined. Two of my colleagues Jeff Scott and Nigel Fenwick specialist of defining and using Business capabilities disagree themselves about what is BC exactly.

Vince, if I understand you correctly, you tend to tell me that the lowest levels of BCs are directly the Business services.

At the other opposite side, some others tend to tell me that a BC being a skill, it cannot generate an output. The business service should only be the output of a Business Process.

In fact my position is right in the middle of both. A BC can generate one or several outputs, but even the lowest levels are not the BS. They are close. They seem the same, but they are not. A BS should be seen as a “contract” between parties (IT and business, but also between business themselves). There is not this notion of engagement in BC.

And this contract should described with descriptors which are different from BC. They are :
1. on one side what the business requires to work with and make their own assembly of services to deliver product/services to enterprises customers (description, context of usage, limitation, guarantee of delivery, price/cost and others to come because the list depends on the type of business and risks or quality elements)
2. on the other side the implementation details like people, process, information, technology.

But the second point is NOT mandatory. Think how the business can deal with outsourcers or Cloud providers through contracts without caring how the implementation will be done to deliver that service… If the service is internally delivered then it makes sense to get the links to the implementation details. Because at the end these “details” will be used to fulfill some of the descriptors (contract clauses). Like for example the costs/price information should be fulfilled by decomposing process, information, roles average costs and technology costs.


Business Services


Good thinking. If I may, I would like to suggest you visit www.entarcousa.com and read some of the blogs regarding Enterprise Management Services. I think the underlying issues and thinking are very similar.

Enterprise Management Service

Thank you Douglas for referencing your blog.

I would like to recommend everyone to take a look at Douglas' posts here : http://entarcousa.com/category/enterprise-management-services/. The content is even more ambitious than business service definition that the iT group should be called anymore IT but Enterprise Management Services. Something in between IT and our concept of BT.

He is developping the idea that the IT (the technology and the IT staff) is enablig the "management of the enterprise". and the EMS is delivering several services from architecting, designing and delivering management services. Please Douglas tell us if I misinterpreted your thoughts.

My comment is.... If Douglas and I are making the same analysis the proposal is a little bit different. The services in EMS are still IT (business) services while I am talking about business business services delivered or supported or not by IT. So I would say both are complementary and I think it is going in the same direction even if there are differences.


Business Services

I agree whole-heartedly with the concept of "Busienss Services" I have evovled to a concept I call "Enterprise Management Servcies". The reason for moving to this label is to shift the focus from IT to the Enterprise and to provide a structural mechanism to integrate the enterprise. The foundation for architecting, engineering and constructing (developing) the enterprise data and business processes must be achieveable in a manner that results in an information systems environment that is in fact aligned, integrated, and flexible. This shift must involve changes in the fundamental approaches and methodologies used to architect, engineer, construct, and sustain an enterprise.

Conventional/traditional methods have not delivered enterprise solutions - just more framented silos of disintegration. More and more technology has not solved the fundamental problem and in many cases has aggrevated the problem. This is not to say that this or that technology is good or bad but rather that it doesn't address the fundamental problems.

Management (the operators of the enterprise) need to have an enterprise infrasturcture that is stable, consistent, yet flexible, to be able to effectively innovate and manage change to the operations of their enterprise. This is a key issue expressed by management people over my years of experience. In my opinion, this requires a "systems" approach that starts with the recognition that an enterprise is a system composed of a hierarchy of subsystems that must be complete and non-redundant, with highly integrated data and business processes. This is a prerequite to eliminate the "silos" situation. If the foundation (architecture) of the enterprise is not established before the engineering and development starts, the likelyhood of more silos being produced is very high.

Often people will agree with these ideas but then quickly dismiss them by declaring that they will take to long and cost to much and besides we have ciritical issues we need to address right now. That is true if you don't know how to solve the problem. On the other hand, if you knew how to solve the problem you could start solving it today!

I offer some rather extensive thoughts on this subject and an approach for going forward on the www.entarcousa.com website blogs which address the concept of "Enterprise Management Services".

Organise your information systematically...

A changing business need... needs a change in one or more business services. Amongst lots of other things/aspects (organisational, technical etc) a changed business service -only- requires other combinations of systematically organised information. The systematically organised information itself doesn't really change. In that way "the connection between these business portfolios and the IT portfolios [doesn't need to be] readily apparent".

Once you infrastructuralise your information (i.e. organise it systematically)... this base information becomes very stable and robust. From it you can easily and quickly make any of the combinations you need to support your ever changing business needs.

"How do we connect these business concepts to IT? What's the "unit" that connects IT projects, apps, and technology with business processes and products?" The 'unit' is systematically organised information.... What do you think?