In IT service management, as taught in online ITIL courses, the IT service provider comes into contact with the business, business units, suppliers and the customer throughout the ITIL service lifecycle. During each of the five ITIL lifecycle stages, which are intrinsically interlinked, there are two main entities in the IT service provider structure who liaise with the business, business units, suppliers or customers regarding a service and its service levels according to ITIL foundation training. These two faces of IT service management are the Service Level Manager and the Service Owner.
Service Management: Duties of Service Level Manager
The main service management focus of the Service Level Manager is the agreement with the customer on the service level targets and assuring that the service level targets can be met during service management. Based on the service level requirements and service level targets of the customer or business, capabilities and resources of the organization are evaluated to check whether the desired service level targets can be met. If the service level targets cannot be met, either the resources or capabilities of the organization must be improved to meet the desired service level targets, or the business or customer should decrease its expectations and service level targets. Managing service levels is a critical part of IT service management.
The Service Level Manager plays a vital role during negotiating and maintenance of service level agreements (SLAs) at this point. SLA‘s are an important part of IT service management. If the service requires the usage of other services provided by the other parts of the same organization, service levels must be agreed with those parts of the organization as well. IT Service Level Managers must apply service management principles to meet the service level targets required by the customer. At this stage, the Service Level Manager is responsible for developing and maintaining operation level agreements with the other parts of the same organization as part of service management.
Meetings with the customer to review the service level performance and results are organized by Service Level Managers as well. Service review meetings are organized periodically and the actual performance of the delivered services are compared against the service level targets that has to be met. The reasons for service level breaches are investigated and actions for preventing future breaches are taken respectively as part of service management.
Service Management: Duties of Service Owner
The main service management focus of the Service Owner is the delivery of a service to the customer fundamentally. The Service Owner is the ultimate responsible person for a specific service inside the organization and a key player in service management within the organization. A service owner can be the responsible for several services but a service will have only one owner. The main service management responsibilities of the Service Owner are reviewing and evaluation of the service performance and results, also initiating measures for improvements and service improvement plan respectively. As the ultimate responsible person for the service in the organization, a service owner has to measure and review the service performance during the delivery to the customer. And if there are underperforming points of the service, actions and improvements are initiated by the Service Owner.
The Service Owner is accountable for the service
The Service Owner must know exactly how the service and its components work. Having sufficient knowledge regarding the design and operation of the service will give the Service Owner the necessary tools for service management and to troubleshoot any problems in service delivery. It will also help the Service Owner to initiate any actions or improvements necessary to have the service run smoothly. Furthermore, it is the Service Owner’s prerogative to escalate any problems regarding the service to senior management in the case of service delivery problems with a potentially massive financial impact on the business. While the Service Level Manager is responsible for the details of service level management, the Service Owner is the person who is able to make commitments regarding the use of resources and capabilities for a specific service. This is all part of the service management responsibilities of the Service Owner.
Service Owner accountability throughout the ITIL Service Lifecycle
The Service Owner is accountable for the service management of a service throughout its service lifecycle:
- In the Service Strategy stage, the Service Owner liaises with the business to understand what the business requirements are and how the service can be aligned with the business strategy.
- During the Service Design stage, the Service Owner has to ensure that the service is designed in such a way that it can fulfill the business requirements.
- During the ITIL Service Transition stage, the Service Owner is responsible for service management that results in a service that can be integrated into a live environment.
- During the ITIL Service Operation stage, the Service Owner must apply service management strategies to ensure that the service does what it was intended to do.
- And in the Continual Service Improvement stage, the Service Owner must liaise with the Continual Service Improvement Manager to determine how the service can be improved and he must facilitate the improvement plans.
In summary, the Service Owner facilitates service management for specific services throughout the ITIL service lifecycle.
Service Management: The main difference between the Service Level Manager and the Service Owner
Hence, according to the ITIL foundation certification training, the main difference between the Service Level Manager and Service Owner in service management is that the Service Level Manager is responsible for service levels, service level agreements and liaisons around service level targets. But the Service Owner is responsible for the service in its entirety. It is important in IT service management that roles and responsibilities, also the accountabilities are clearly defined.
Following ITIL guidelines will help to clarify who does what and will create a transparency in which each team member can be held accountable for the objectives of their roles.