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Decoding the ITIL "Service" Definition

If you’ve considered taking the ITIL Foundation exam, you should be expecting to be bombarded with tons of content and questions on the various definitions covered as part of the ITIL framework.

Therefore, I am starting a series of blog posts covering the various definitions, concepts, and subtleties involved in understanding the course content and the exam strategy.

ITIL defines as a Service as a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks”.

Seems complex?? Confusing?? Not really. Let’s quickly try to understand the definition using a simple example.

Imagine you walk into a Cafe and order yourself, say a “Mocha (my favorite). As a customer, you are only interested in getting your coffee hot (obviously), quickly (you might be running late) while tasting good (which is a great start to the morning) and reasonably priced. These basic parameters being in place (for buying coffee) is what is VALUE in your eyes.

This is the OUTCOME = VALUE that you expect.

ROLE CHANGE: Now, assume you are the Cafe Owner/Manager and as the CAPTAIN of the cafe you have so many things on your plate which you need to manage effectively (eg. Inventory, people, billing, coffee brewing machines and on and on) so that you can provide a delightful experience to your customers.

SITUATION: Say, as Cafe Owner you run out of Mocha powder and you get Mocha loving customers like me walking in ordering one. Now 2 things can happen here.

A)   You tell the customer that Mocha is over and he/she like most customers picks a substitute.


 B)   The customer walks away and buys nothing.

If the customer walks away, the Cafe Owner loses the opportunity to make a sale which probably is a pretty small loss to the owner but still, it’s a loss. This situation of a simple ingredient being unavailable or the coffee machine breaking down or an employee not showing up on a busy day are all risks (i.e threats) to this small cafe business owner.

To a customer, it doesn’t matter to them the threats faced by the cafe owner in the back end. They just care about their steaming cup of coffee on a Monday morning! They only care about their outcomes/needs but not the ownership or accountability of associated costs and risks.

But the Cafe owner as a service provider is taking the risks (the threats) and costs (eg. Cost of ingredients, rent/lease payment for the cafe premises, lighting costs) that come along with the decision of running his cafe.

So, taking you back to the definition of a "Service" to piece it together.

A service is a means of delivering value to customers (which a customer seeks and is provided by the cafe owner in the form of his/her service) facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve (the satisfaction of a great coffee) without the ownership of specific costs and risks (borne by the service provider).”

In conclusion, if all of us as customers really cared about the specific costs and risks to service providers, then today we would be carrying our own portable coffee machine wherever we go instead of buying it from a Cafe.



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