Service Integration; A Different Service Management Art Form

For many businesses, the complexity of modern IT service environments and finding staff to manage and lead them is an increasing challenge.  Many are moving to a Service Integration and Management (SIAM™) based solution in the hope of establishing a mechanism to manage the complexity of integrating multiple service providers.

A move to a SIAM model is a considerable undertaking.  Unlike traditional approaches, SIAM requires cross provider, cross process, cross function operations.  Those within the SIAM environment need to be adaptable and able to work alongside other teams, departments, providers, suppliers and organisations; and demonstrate or develop very specific skills such as negotiation and influencing, organisational leadership and commercial experience, amongst others.


Back to SIAM basics


First, let’s look briefly at SIAM.  The term ‘service integration and management’ or SIAM, and the concept of SIAM as a management methodology originated around 2005 from within the UK public sector.  Interest in SIAM became ‘global’ when in 2015 AXELOS published several white papers on SIAM, and in 2016 the SIAM Foundation Architect Group was formed by Scopism.  The objective was to bring practitioners of SIAM together and create a consolidated view of their knowledge and experience.  The success of the SIAM Foundation Body of Knowledge in 2017, was followed by the subsequent release of the SIAM Professional Body of Knowledge in 2018, providing further insight and guidance in the application of SIAM practices.

SIAM has a different level of focus to traditional multi-sourced ecosystems with one customer and multiple suppliers.  It introduces the concept of a service integrator, which is a single, logical entity held accountable for the end to end delivery of services and the business value that the customer receives.  This removes the requirement for the customer to concern itself with the management overhead of looking after the complex web of service providers.  However, it relies on the customer empowering the service integrator and giving it the responsibilities of day-to-day coordination and control of service providers.


So, SIAM will help?


The most common way of organising a multi-provider environment splits the IT delivery functions into technology towers (and I do hate that word, so let’s call them ‘modules’ instead) such as networks, data centre, desktop and mobile computing, service desk and so on.  This provides for a fairly straightforward sourcing approach for a customer since it creates demarcation lines between the components.  But it can also increase the number of distinct providers managing discreet technologies; thus, leaving the customer exposed to the overhead of trying to manage end to end service quality in what are often commercially competing groups or teams with isolated service agreements and targets.

Introducing a service integrator means the integration function is responsible for providing this coordinated approach to managing service providers.   It focuses on the end to end provision of service, ensuring that all providers are engaged in service delivery.  The integrator encourages collaboration between service providers so achievement of benefits, such as service satisfaction, reduction in silos and other operational efficiencies, can be achieved by the customer.  So yes, SIAM can help.  The introduction of a service integration capability can manage the service complexity, so the customer can focus on their core business.


Moving from a service management function to an integration capability


A SIAM ecosystem includes three main elements: a customer function, a service integrator function and a number of service providers, which can be internal or external.  Managing and working within each of these SIAM layers requires very specific skills.

Most organisations’ IT departments already have significant in-house service management expertise.  They are used to managing process activities, managing people and managing systems with service and process managers running the show, often using established service management principles and processes devised from frameworks like ITIL® or COBIT®.

Some think that SIAM is simply about end to end process management.  But, whilst process management still matters, within a SIAM model, process execution is likely to involve multiple stakeholders and it is not necessary for all service providers to use the same process documents, practices or tools.  Each service provider might carry out individual steps in a different way, but as part of an overall integrated process model with defined interactions, rules, and controls.

Things will get complex, because as well as managing the activities, the focus of the integrator’s role is to manage improvement and innovation too, which is not always a focus within ‘traditional’ process management.

SIAM is therefore a different art form.  It is about managing integration across diverse providers; and not just at a technical level.  This is a considerable challenge involving a moving technology landscape, a plethora of service management frameworks and practices, complex contractual and personal relationships, processes across provider networks and internal staff with a frequent change of players and a different corporate culture with every new ecosystem member.

Your traditional service manager isn’t necessarily equipped to deal with this task at hand.  And herein lies the challenge for many organisations.  A juxtaposition between a wish to retain existing staff thus avoiding the many complexities associated with staff displacement but also an aspiration to enjoy the benefits promised from a SIAM implementation.


Defining roles and responsibilities for a SIAM model


Organisations moving to a SIAM model need to define roles clearly.  Establishing ownership and specific responsibilities is especially important when the model is operated over multiple geographies, locations, sites and organisations.  In these complex environments, there is a higher risk of roles being duplicated or not being filled.  Establishing the role of the integrator is crucial and it is important to ensure that the service integrator is at the relevant organisational level and has the appropriate autonomy if it is to command its position as the ‘voice of the customer’.

Additionally, creating an understanding of the specific skills and capabilities required is important.  Taking a role within service integration requires skills outside of traditional service management and as such the skills required to do this may not be available within incumbent staff and existing service providers.  When individuals are asked to take on roles it is necessary to assess whether they have the required level of authority, autonomy, influence, capacity, skills and experience to successfully carry out what is required.  If this is not achieved it could result in individuals being asked to perform tasks that they may not be able to successfully execute to the required level of quality.

It is crucial to define principles and policies for roles and responsibilities for the customer organisation, retained capabilities, the service integrator and the service providers within the planned SIAM model. Within this it can be useful to use a standard framework when defining the skills for each role, as this helps to ensure consistent understanding across all layers (and across different organisations).  SFIA is a widely used skills framework.  It defines the skills within roles and helps define development gaps within individuals.  I would certainly recommend that all organisations assess their staff’s skills and use this as a baseline for evaluating the requirements and risks associated with the move to SIAM and the underlying business case and benefits.


So down to the specific skills…


Let’s consider the specific skills required by each of the layers within a SIAM environment.

Customer retained capabilities


The role of the customer is to commission services and provide direction.  In a traditional multi-service provider model, the customer organisation has a direct relationship with each service provider.  In a SIAM model, the customer organisation has a relationship with the service integrator.  The customer retains ownership of the commercial relationship with each service provider, but the service integrator carries out management, governance, integration, coordination and assurance activities.

Trust between all parties is essential in SIAM ecosystems.  A lack of trust can manifest itself as duplication of roles and activities, such as the customer continually checking what the service integrator has done or being unable to ‘let go’ of activities it used to perform, creating confusion and inconsistency.  This will increase cost and result in savings and efficiencies across the SIAM environment not being realised.

There are specific roles that must sit with the customer and not a third-party organisation.  The customer retained capabilities must have skills to support activities such as contract management, enterprise architecture, business relationship and strategy management.  One important role for the customer to undertake is the SIAM Governance Lead, which is primarily responsible for providing assurance regarding the implementation and operation of the SIAM strategy and operating model.  The role requires knowledge, skills and experience such as governance and risk management, auditing, operations and large program management, excellent communication and reporting skills and an ability to communicate at all levels, across multiple organisations.

Service provider skills

In the most part the role of service providers, whether internal or external, remains as you would expect.  They will be responsible for the delivery of one or more services, or service elements, and operating its own processes.  However, within a SIAM model they will also need to engage with other providers, potentially from competing organisations navigating relationships not just across their organisation but across other teams, other cultures and often other geographies.

Modern IT staff requires T shaped skills.  The vertical bar of the T refers to expert knowledge and experience in a particular area, probably their technical domain; while the top of the T refers to an ability to collaborate with experts in other disciplines and a willingness to use the knowledge gained from this collaboration.  Certainly, within a SIAM model, they will need those skills to engage with others in the structural SIAM elements, boards, process forums and working groups.  These are specific to a SIAM environment and designed to provide opportunities to establish and improve cross provider working, improvement and innovation.


And then the all-important service integrator


Remember, people make SIAM work, not just processes.  The skills required here are broad and varied and ultimately it depends on the integration roles being undertaken.  Don’t forget the integrator isn’t just one person, it’s a team and that team can be structured and sourced in many ways, so the capabilities needed depend on the individual team and the specific tasks you want them to do.  All those involved within your SIAM ecosystem need to be ‘service management’ experienced, although some service management skills and knowledge are more important than others… but there is enough there for another blog, so I will leave that for now.


The service integrator is responsible for managing the various service providers, so good managers are essential.  The integrator needs to make sure that everyone feels part of a single team and so demonstrating impartiality, a consistency of approach and openly rewarding the desired behaviours every time they appear, discouraging unproductive behaviours when they appear and treating everyone equally is important.

Establishing team goals is necessary as this focus on the end to end provision of service, ensuring that all service providers are properly engaged in service delivery.  The service integrator encourages collaboration between service providers, and so relationship management, negotiation skills and commercial and legal awareness are important.  There’s also soft skills such as emotional intelligence and conflict management, all important tenets where we want to build trust and a one team culture and not overuse contracts and legal constraints to keep things functioning.


Principles for defining roles and responsibilities for SIAM


It is important to give focus on defining roles and responsibilities within such complexity.  I’d recommend that some key principles are observed:

The overall structure and division of responsibilities should be subject to ongoing audits, to ensure roles are being conducted as defined and continue to be appropriate.  There is lots more about this in the SIAM Professional BoK so it probably a good idea to take a look at that.


A different ‘art form’


Understanding the current and expected future state of the organisation’s internal and external environment, before the SIAM model can be designed, is very important.  This insight will help the organisation to identify the capabilities in their current operating model that are not at the desired level of maturity; and whether or not they have the capability or the appetite to address the shortfall.  Organisations often use an external advisor to support their maturity assessment and to provide an objective view.  Conversely, many organisations ignore assessment activities to save time or resources.

Some organisations conduct internal analysis and create outputs that are wildly different from reality.  Organisations may be overly optimistic, so they receive a surprise when the reality does not match the assessment outcome and the required capabilities are missing when they try to get their new model to work.  So, it is important to focus on the people within the model and the skills that they need to undertake their defined roles.  Pushing people into roles in which they are ill-equipped to serve isn’t just risky for the functioning of the ecosystem, but it can severely impact business performance, team morale, financial turnover and an organisations ability to attract and retain good employees.

Done well, SIAM can provide a solution to the management of complex supply chains and interlinked systems and can certainly provide opportunities to realise improvements in efficiency and quality.  But, just incorporating an extra layer with the service integrator and simply operating in the same way an organisation already does, is not the answer.

Creating a SIAM ecosystem, and deploying service management practice within it, is a particular art form.  It is important to understand that it is an evolution of how to apply a framework for integrated service management across multiple service providers.  Considering the skills, competencies, resources and roles both available and sought is very important in engineering a fully functioning team who can support business success and tangible improvements to service quality.

SIAM® is a registered trademark of EXIN Holding B.V.

COBIT® is a Registered Trademark of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association and the IT Governance Institute

ITIL®, is a registered Trademarks of AXELOS Limited

SFIA® is a Registered Trademark of the SFIA Foundation Limited