Is this the missing manual for SOA?
"Service Strategy" is part of ITIL (the IT Infrastructure Library), which is one of the, perhaps surprising, success stories of UK government computing.
Originally, ITIL was a set of Operations-oriented “good practices” for IT Service Management: a non-prescriptive guide to the best way of doing things, backed up with ISO 20000, for people who wanted to certify what they were doing against ITIL. It was, and is, widely adopted outside of the UK.
Now, building on this success, ITIL has been “refreshed” as a complete service management lifecycle framework. It is important to modern developers as it is, in essence, a “spec” for integrating IT with the business in a service-oriented environment.
This book is the first manual in the five-core volumes that make up the ITIL v3 Refresh library – reviews of the other volumes will follow. As a service-based lifecycle approach is key to what the Refresh is all about, this book deals up-front with service strategy in terms your business paymasters can understand. It deals with services as (quoting the Afterword) “the predominant form in which value is created and transferred between organisations” and recognises that “service management is in time maturing as a discipline”.
The book’s authors, from Accenture and Carnegie Mellon University, demonstrate both practical and theoretical knowledge of their subject. They have also benefited from a wide-ranging review and feedback process – to a significant extent, ITIL v3 is a true community effort.
Chapters range from the definition of Services and the Service Management lifecycle, through strategy, the economics of service delivery, organisational issues, tactics and even the relationship of technology to strategy. The identification of the Tool Trap (even adoption of good tools requires training and lowers productivity in the short term, which may tip a resource-constrained organisation over into failure) might justify the purchase of this book by itself for some organisations. There is an interesting (if quite short) final chapter on “challenges, critical success factors and risks”, together with a glossary and a guide to further reading.
There are plentiful diagrams throughout the book, which lighten the text and aid understanding, although some are a bit glib and it can be difficult to work out what some of them really mean. Even so, overall, this book is both thought-provoking and a fairly easy read.
In the modern “service-oriented” world, this book helps you think about what you mean by a “service”. It should help address a significant issue with, SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture): technologists think about service-oriented applications in technology terms, rather than asking what business services the company needs in order to do business in a service-oriented world and then automating the delivery of these services. In order to be “not optional” (as William Green CEO of Accenture, puts it) developers have to start delivering holistic business services and this book should help them do this (or, if they already are, help them to convince business managers of this).
It is intended to be a “living resource” – It will change and grow, supplemented by complementary online resources, although it is too early to assess how successful this will be. However, ITIL does seem to be an evolving community now, rather than just a set of arid standards.
My only real concern with this book is the cost. Although cheaper, online, versions are available, this is the sort of book you want to read on the train and make marginal notes in. As accessible knowledge, it’s actually quite good value but, since it could help promote the effectiveness of UK, plc on the world stage, it’s a pity that the government doesn’t subsidise it so as to enable wider usage. All concerned deserve their proper reward, so it does need a subsidy to cover the authoring and publication, but the wider the distribution of the ITIL manuals, the more opportunities for well-paid training, mentoring and consultancy open up to the ITIL community.
Verdict: This book might be the “missing manual” for any SOA initiative. As a book, it is expensive; but as packaged consultancy in developing automated services, it is invaluable. It is really all about making IT “not optional” and is, therefore, worth the attention of anyone wanting a career in IT.
Authors: Majid Iqbal and Michael Nieves
List Price: £85.00
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A discounted collection of all 5 ITIL V3 manuals is available here, for £269.10 (subject to change)