The Adaptive Service Model

The Taking Service Forward initiative has launched the first release of the Adaptive Service Model, you can see the official announcement here. This model is the first step on the way to an open architecture for service management. I’d like to share some of my thoughts about what the model is, why we need it, and how it might evolve in the future.

This model is owned by a community called Taking Service Forward. The initial members were invited to participate, but in a few weeks anyone will be able to join by making contributions to the architecture. If you want to see announcements about this then join the Taking Service Forward community on Google+, or the  group on Facebook or on LinkedIn .  You can also see more details about the history of Taking Service Forward on these sites.

This first release is a “meta-model” showing the types of things that will be in the actual architecture. For example it includes “process” and “role” but not any specific processes or roles.

Adaptive Service Model - Abstraction - Diagram v0.11
This diagram shows a very high level view of the model.

Even at the level shown in this diagram there are some interesting things that you can see about the model:

  • There is no reference to IT. This is not an IT service model, it is a generic model about services. It can certainly be used by people who manage IT services, but the intent was to start at a higher level where the key concept is “service”, not “IT service”.
  • There is a symmetrical relationship between the service provider and the service consumer. This is not a model about how service providers create services, it is about how service providers and service consumers work together to create value based on using services. The service consumer plays just as important a role in this relationship as the service provider: both provider and consumer receive outputs and outcomes from the service; and both provider and consumer must have suitable processes and roles to enable the creation of service value.

The meta model has been published as three entities:

  • A document which describes the concepts, modelling language and principles
  • The model itself. This is an entity-relationship diagram which has been created in ArchiMate®, an open and independent modelling language for enterprise architecture. You need to install the free, open source Archi software to open the model, but you can download a diagram showing all the entities and relationships if you want to see the model without being able to make edits
  • A table with descriptions and attributes for each entity and relationship

The Adaptive Service Model is open source, released under a creative commons license, so it can be freely used by anyone, even in a modified form – so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

Use of the meta model

The main use of the meta model will be as a foundation for creating an architecture, with much more specific entities. For example the meta model has entities called “process” and “role”, the architecture will show all the different processes and roles needed by both service providers and service consumers. The meta model will be useful for a number of purposes, even with the current very generic level of detail:

  • Facilitating discussions between service providers and service consumers, helping them to articulate their needs and expectations
  • Helping managers in service provider and service consumer organizations educate their staff about service relationships, management, governance and other high level concepts
  • Providing a context to help different types of service providers (and consumers) discuss what is common between them, to help create opportunities were we can learn from people in different industries
  • Improving our ability to provide mapping between standards and best practices by providing a consistent, common language for the highest level entities

Next stages

The next stage of our work will be to validate the meta model, correct any aspects that need improvement, and complete missing content. The intent is that this should be done with open participation from the service management community so that we can pull on the widest possible breadth of knowledge.

Once the meta model is complete there will be two more stages to this work:

1)     Creating a detailed service architecture, based on the meta model. This architecture could be used for a number of purposes.

  • It could help the owners of different best practices and standards improve their alignment with each other
  • It could provide a formal structure for service management, to help organizations create and review their systems for governance and management of IT
  • It could be further developed to create industry specific variants (for example an IT service management architecture)
  • It could provide a framework for future releases of best practice such as ITIL, to improve internal consistency while allowing for a natural, narrative, style of communication

2)     Creating a detailed ontology, based on the architecture. An ontology would define detailed protocols for interoperability, for example an “incident exchange” message format. A formal ontology has many potential uses, including:

  • Enabling tool vendors to create inter-operable tools based on open source, published definitions
  • Helping people designing complex multi-supplier solutions to specify the requirements for interchange of incidents, changes, problems and other records

The work has only just started, and there is a huge amount to do to get to our end goal, but I think it will be worth the effort. Please download the model and see what you think of it. Then consider signing up to contribute to the future development of this Adaptive Service Model, it will only be as good as the people who take part. You can offer feedback using any of the community groups listed at the beginning of this article, and in a few weeks you will be able to submit change requests and become a member of the Taking Service Forward initiative that owns the model.

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