An IT-driven service fit for purpose

Over the next few weeks Brian Johnson and Léon-Paul de Rouw, authors of Collaborative Business Design and Collaborative Business Design: The Fundamentals, will be posting about collaborative business service design (CBSD).

Brian Johnson is ITGP’s author of the month for June 2018.


What does the business need to realise its outcomes, and how can IT help? It’s one of the most difficult questions that should be answered by the senior responsible owner (SRO), senior business managers or directors about an IT-driven business project. It’s sometimes forgotten that an answer is needed before zillions of pounds are spent. Business departments or suppliers (internal or external) may jump to conclusions about available services or technologies. Business directors often have no clue how IT should (and could) support them.

Budget constraints make it essential to address the issues that structure the delivery of the project, but also the conditions that limit the possibilities or that need to be adapted to achieve business success. Awareness of these issues before leaping into the IT-driven service lifecycle avoids much heartache about cost overrun and delay.

Pressure to improve at speed generally means we are too eager to start a detailed requirement analysis. This means there is not a good understanding of the boundaries and guidelines that provide strategic direction for decisions that include the wishes and interests of all stakeholders. There are many examples of IT-driven projects where there was failure to address the tensions raised by stakeholders or to understand the business roadmap that necessitated a different transformation path, release management strategy or implementation strategy.

Business service design is a collective responsibility

CBSD is predicated on the novel idea that business services are needed by business people to transact business, and not to employ IT people to write endless process models of how method x or tool y can improve life.

CBSD requires people to think, to ask questions, formulate ideas, promote and challenge pre-existing concepts and often, to bash together the collective heads of people. Why? So that a fully coherent model is available to all involved in building the detail of a design and so that all the stakeholders (business and IT) can understand their roles.

Nothing in CBSD is (or should be) a surprise; it uses proven good practices to mitigate the risk of business services being built that do not perform as they should or fail before ever getting into operation.

The CBSD approach promotes:

  • An agile, structured working method;
  • A simultaneous requirement analysis and synthesis of concepts and ideas
  • A focus on outcome and output: the target formulated by the customer, ‘the business outcome’, throughout the design process;
  • Involving all stakeholders and evaluating their perspectives/concerns: exploring design with input from every relevant discipline; and
  • Thinking about the consequences of decisions rather than hoping IT will fix everything.

The result of a CBSD session is a total set of requirements of the desired service (business requirements, user requirements, demand-side and customer requirements, and functional and system requirements). The total set of (high-level) requirements is called a service design statement (SDS).

CBSD is positioned between business and supplier (whether internal or external) as shown in figure 1.


CBSD in the IT-driven business service lifecycle

Figure 1: CBSD in the IT-driven business service lifecycle


Using CBSD to build a service design statement (SDS)

Before you start designing, prototyping and developing, the SDS explains to all stakeholders (demand and supply alike) what the business needs, what providers should and can deliver and what essential requirements should be part of final design and delivery. The SDS ensures that you focus on improvement in the activities of the entire service lifecycle, which leads to better operational excellence, more customer intimacy, faster time to market and more strategic agility. We’ll come back to the ‘service lifecycle’ in other blogs.

The goals of getting insight into IT-driven business services and using CBSD to gather the right requirements in a SDS are to:

  • Promote the coherent design (and possible disaggregation of services) so that fundamental issues and requirements of needs (requirements) are mapped, based on different perspectives between demand and supply;
  • Get insight into the dynamics between stakeholders within an enterprise;
  • Formulate a practical and realistic roadmap; and
  • Explore ideas or problems and develop possible interventions.

Collaborative Business Design and Collaborative Business Design: The Fundamentals are available to order from ITGP. Get 15% off when you order in June 2018 – enter discount code JUNE15 at the checkout.

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