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Co-ordinate outsourced services with Siam

We look at the practical considerations of implementing an effective service integration and management strategy

Service integration and management (Siam) is a new concept for outsourced services in which the end-to-end ownership and co-ordination of various third-party suppliers is managed by a single entity.

This framework enables the facilitation of services from an array of providers.

IT departments often use service level agreements (SLAs) to manage IT service delivery, but SLAs have been, at best, challenging to achieve when several providers are involved, because of varying hours of service and varying calculations.

Siam’s role is to look at these complex, multi-level scenarios and consider effects before defining service levels. This can extend to using financial incentives for all providers when sharing success, and penalising all for service failure.

Such mechanisms are essential to encourage real collaboration across the supplier landscape, which means Siam has the potential to become the de-facto way for IT organisations to deliver joined-up services to the business.

Siam can be delivered in various models, but the basic concept is the same – that the IT delivery and value chains are managed by a single entity, regardless of the number of suppliers.

To date, this has been driven primarily by the UK government, although the same idea is also referenced in other areas as service integration, or SI.

As a quick overview, Siam is a layer of management and control over a number of suppliers, and there are four main models that can be used:

  • Retained client as Siam – where the retained organisation manages all suppliers and co-ordinates the Siam function itself;
  • Single supplier – where the managed service provider (MSP) handles all the service and the Siam layer of management;
  • Service guardian – where an MSP provides the Siam layer and one or more delivery functions, as well as managing other suppliers;
  • Separate service integrator – where an MSP provides the Siam layer (no delivery function) and manages all the other suppliers.

Siam is not ITIL v4 – it is much broader than ITIL’s scope, and encompasses areas where little advice currently exists, such as cultural and behavioural change, managing programmes in a multi-supplier environment, and commercial/ contractual constructs.

Suit requirements

Many organisations are embarking on Siam to help them deliver services to their business. There is a need to clearly define services that businesses can understand and relate to, so Siam can manage providers to suit the organisation’s requirements. Boundaries of responsibility and clarity on processes are also key to a successful Siam implementation. 

So it is important to determine a strategy for the type of Siam required to meet the needs of the business, rather than simply creating a Siam buzzword. A clear structure and governance model is required for a successful implementation of Siam. 

Each organisation must consider the best model to achieve its transition to a more co-ordinated service-supplier landscape. The real challenge is to identify this and then work towards their goal with clarity and focus, both internally and with suppliers.

The value of Siam

Rather than a supply chain for IT, Siam provides an opportunity to realise improvements in efficiency and quality, as well as offering practical solutions to co-ordinate complex IT supply chains and interlinked systems.

Simply replacing what an organisation already does or has is not the answer and will not achieve success or tangible improvement. Instead, Siam needs to create value, which is growing in importance because:

Processes need to be adapted to organisations’ current working cultures and enhanced over time. This means accepting that different providers are likely to apply the same process differently and a need for service level management (SLM) remains because Siam does not replace the need for SLM.

Service delivery still needs to be managed against service levels and those service levels need to remain relevant to the service received by users. 

SIAM top tips

• Siam is not a silver bullet – any problems will not disappear by swapping what is currently in place with Siam. This is because swapping what is in place with a different set of individuals or a different organisation is unlikely to remove any inefficiencies or constraints that may exist.

• Successful Siam implementation requires a collaborative approach – a service is, in effect, a supply chain that may cross several reporting lines. Customers/users need to be consulted and involved, as well as stakeholders across the IT supply chain. Providers need to collaborate to ensure value can be delivered to the business.

• Many providers provide their own Siam model and method of working for each ITIL process. This can save a lot of time by creating something new should the organisation be immature, but will bring with it many challenges if the organisation does not adapt its own way of working.

• A visual representation of the structure of provided services is useful to identify responsibilities – a picture can be vastly more descriptive than a 20-page document and will help nail down roles and responsibilities.

• Approach Siam from both a top-down and down-top perspective. Top-down will help set vision, strategy and help achieve medium- to long-term organisational goals, whereas down-top will ensure focus remains on current pain points.

Role of IT service management

In many ways, Siam builds on IT service management best practices. ITSMF UK’s Siam Special Interest Group (SIG) is formed of IT practitioners from a variety of backgrounds – consultants, service providers, and public and private sector organisations. 

The SIG sees Siam as the “operating model which organisations adopt when working in a multi-service provider model”. This comprises a number of organisational and governance models, a process model and wide options around tooling.

“We don’t believe that there is a universal understanding of Siam in the industry currently, and we are looking to address this,” says SIG chairman Steve Morgan, who has worked on many Siam and SI projects. “Many organisations are ‘doing Siam’ without even realising it.”

The SIG currently has four working groups: Process, tooling, business case, and people and change.

The process working group has been developing a process model that will enable organisations and service providers to define their future operational processes and, critically, to decide where ownership, accountability and operational responsibility are likely to sit in a variety of implementation options available.

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The tooling working group is addressing the data model and tooling considerations that come about in a Siam model. These vary depending on the Siam model that is being deployed, and the group has developed a number of scenario-based models that reflect an organisation’s challenges in deploying a Siam toolset that covers IT service management, reporting, governance, contract management, financial management, and so on.

The business case working group is predicated on the fact that organisations normally arrive at Siam as a result of a multi-supplier sourcing strategy. It focuses on the need to design an effective operating model and supporting organisation, and how to justify this cost against quantifiable benefits.

The people and change group has been addressing the softer side of implementing Siam, notably the cultural and behavioural challenges that can occur when attempting to run a single end-to-end service across many different organisations, each with its own ethos and organisational culture.

Barclay Rae is an experienced ITSM leader who has worked on about 500 IT service management (ITSM) projects over the past 25 years.

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