Title:              How to make a success of ITIL® 4 with USM

Author:        Jan van Bon

Publisher:    Inform-IT, Knowledge Center for Service Management

ISBN:             978-94-91710-17-9

Edition:        First edition, January 2020

© 2020 SURVUZ

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form by print, photo print, microfilm or any other means without written permission by the publisher.

Although this publication has been composed with much care, neither author, nor editor, nor publisher can accept any liability for damage caused by possible errors and/or incompleteness in this publication.


ITIL® is a registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.


ITIL has been the most important guideline for IT service management (ITSM) in the past three decades. Millions of practitioners around the world have applied this guidance in their day-to-day work, for a structured approach to one of the most important support areas of modern organizations: delivering IT services to improve business outcomes.

In all its versions, ITIL has adopted an approach that found a powerful basis in the description of practices: routines for performing certain tasks in practice. By conducting thorough research into successful examples of such practices, and subsequently rewriting them into examples that could serve as inspiration for others, numerous practically applicable techniques and instruments have been made available to an immense audience.

However, the application of this best practice approach in the target group of IT departments and organizations did not always deliver the expected result. Many implementation projects suffered from relapse behavior, leading to repeated deployments of the intended organizational improvements. The spectrum of practices that were laid down in ITIL was also so broad that users were forced to make a selection of the available practices for their own organization. A logical explanation for this limited return on investment can be found in the lack of principles for a methodical and systematic deployment of these practices: ITIL did not provide robust principles for the organization’s Management System that should be used to apply the practices.

Organizations that adopted ITIL were therefore forced to each develop their own management system in order to achieve the highest possible return on investment from the application of ITIL practices. That management system was and is not explicitly documented in ITIL, and other references were often not available. This eventually led to the development of USM - a method for setting up a standard management system for service providers, based on a thorough Service Management Architecture. With that management system, an organization can then manage its own selection of ITIL practices.

The generic nature of the USM method enables the deployment of this management system in any discipline for any kind of service organization, as the core building block in an integrated service management architecture: the ideal tool for an Enterprise Service Management strategy.

The combination of an easily learnable, standardized management system, and a rich collection of inspiring, well-documented best practices, therefore seems a very powerful combination: "A match made in heaven".

This publication describes the latest version of ITIL, ITIL 4, and provides instructions on how USM can be used to support the (selective) application of ITIL 4 and its practices. Text on ITIL 4 topics is in black text.

Guidance on how to apply USM for these ITIL topics is placed in a red text box, titled "The vision of USM", with a USM logo in the top right corner.

Note: The reader is supposed to be sufficiently aware of the structure and operation of USM. Those who do not know enough about USM are advised to familiarize themselves with USM in more detail on this or to read the USM Repository.

1. Introduction to USM

 The USM method is a universal, methodical approach for managing service organizations. USM describes a standardized service management system for setting up the organization, the processes and the technology of a service provider. USM offers an easily learnable method based on business principles and an explicit service management architecture.

Service management architecture: a set of rules and guidelines for organizing and managing a service organization, that enable that organization to make consistent decisions in the future.

The method is suitable for service organizations that want to be in control of their routines, their management and their performance, creating peace and quiet, exploiting the full creative potential of their staff.

With USM, selected practices from frameworks can be realized as required, in a step-by-step approach.

USM provides the standard management system that can be used to comply with the requirements of any (ISO) standard.

USM can be deployed by any service organization you can think of: healthcare, government, finance, IT, education, telecom companies, etc.

1.1      Where does USM come from?

USM (Unified Service Management) was developed in 2015 as the next step in the evolution of service management methods that started in the early nineties of the last century. The method is based on Systems Thinking - the system theory that says that a system consists of coherent components, none of which can reproduce the functions of the integral system on their own.

A system is a whole that consists of parts, each of which can affect its properties. Each part of the system, when it affects the system, is dependent on the other parts for its effect. No part of the system, or any combination of parts, has an independent effect on the system. Therefor a system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts. A system is not the sum of the behavior of its parts, it’s the product of their interactions.

[Prof. Russel Ackoff]

An IT service organization can make software available, but without the associated hardware that software cannot do anything... And even if the software runs on suitable hardware, without a network it does nothing... And even if the software runs on that hardware in a network, without administrators, nothing will work... And even if there are competent administrators for that software on that hardware in that network, without the right routines it does not deliver the intended results... A function of a system cannot be produced by parts of that system, but only through the cooperation of the components of that system.

Service management system: The coherent system of organization resources used to realize the goals of a service organization in an effective and efficient way.

This way, USM puts business principles in a coherent, methodical approach, to be used by a service organization for setting up its management system. These principles can be combined with any framework or any preferred combination of practices (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The routines in a service management system are created from a combination of principles and practices

1.2 Why USM?

It is not the daily job of a manager to develop such a structured approach - a service management system – by himself. USM provides the standard for that.

Basically, USM can be used for three goals:

  1. assessing the internal routines of a service provider: USM is the reference model of a mature service provider
  2. improving the internal routines and the performance of a service provider (a service organization or a support team)
  3. outsourcing (here USM is the reference model of a mature supplier)

1.3 Who is USM for?

USM can be deployed in all service organizations and teams, in all disciplines, ranging from IT to healthcare, from building management to security, from telecom to government (Figure 2). After all, every service organization benefits from a service management architecture and a service management system that can be produced with it.

Figure 2. Primary and secondary service disciplines

Even though the organization, the tooling and the services differ for each service organization, the management of services is universal.

1.4 What makes USM special?

The USM method does not work from practices (examples of others' practices) but starts with clear principles (see Figure 1). From there, an organization applies USM in a step by step approach towards the desired practices. This makes USM learnable and offers essential benefits:

  • USM is methodical and therefore universally applicable.
  • USM is holistic, it covers all aspects of managing a service organization. That makes USM integraland comprehensive.
  • USM is (super) simple. This means that the application of USM has low costs, and anyone can afford it.

In USM's view, the customer is central to the service. The service provider makes a facility available for the customer to use. This facility consists of a mix of goods and actions (Figure 3).

Figure 3. A service is a supported facility

The service provider supports the customer in the use of the facility, in accordance with agreements made, otherwise it is not a service. USM defines the management system of the service organization (the provider) in the context of that service.

The routines in USM are structured in a workflow system that encompasses all activities in a service organization. This workflow system is based on an integral and integrated process model (Figure 4), consisting of only five non-redundant and customer-facing processes that are the same for all service organizations.

These five processes include all activities of the service organization, insofar as they are relevant to managing the service: agree, change, repair, operate and improve.

Figure 4. The USM process model: integral and integrated

Because this process model is integral and integrated, there are only eight workflows to manage all service management activities in the service organization (Figure 5).

Figure 5. USM workflows are predefined logical sequences of activities in the USM process model

Any local practice is now just an instance of a generic USM workflow (see Figure 6 for an example of one of the eight USM templates).

Existing practices only need to be realigned with the USM logic to establish numerous improvement opportunities. The local tooling should be reconfigured to support eight templates, one for each default USM workflow, to be used as an Enterprise Service Management product.

Figure 6. Example of a default workflow based on the USM process architecture

With this clear and simple starting point, any service provider can use USM to get in control of their routines and to set up their tooling effectively and efficiently. That then opens the door to service and customer excellence and innovation, throughout the organization.

1.5 What does USM deliver?

The USM method provides the standardized management system for any service organization, to manage its people, its processes, its technology and the resulting routines, for managing its services. USM builds that service management system in the service management architecture of the service organization, an architecture not for structuring the deployed infrastructure, but for managing the services.

USM not only provides the building blocks for the management system of every service organization, but also the standard routine for the integrated improvement of services with those service building blocks (Figure 7).

Figure 7. The service organization systematically converts all its customers' needs into predictable achievements

1.6 What does USM cost?

There are three different scenarios for applying USM:

  • Scenario 1: “do-it-yourself”. Read a USM book and apply what you have learned. This scenario costs a few tens at the most, but it often requires additional effort to converge the understanding of USM into a shared vision.
  • Scenario 2: "read and train". Having read the USM book, training usually costs a few hundred euros per employee. In the training the participants practice the theory, and through discussions they learn to understand their own problems, using the USM method as the reference architecture. If you have enough in-house experts, you can limit the training to a pioneer group that passes on the knowledge internally.
  • Scenario 3: "supported deployment". Once the organization has acquired the USM knowledge, it can start the USM deployment. Organizations that do not have an internal change manager can hire a certified expert who will act as a coach for the internal staff. This scenario naturally has more out-of-pocket costs.

User organizations that join the USM user community can use certified, open USM resources (the process and workflow specifications and dozens of templates and guidelines) free of charge, so there are no costs in that material.

SURVUZ Foundation also encourages the development of certified, off-the-shelf variants of existing instruments (tools), which are obviously not free of charge, but which save a lot of energy, time and costs in comparison with traditional custom projects.

1.7 What are USM products?

The SURVUZ Foundation certifies USM products that support the application of USM, after an audit against the USM architecture. With these products, organizations grow faster, improve more efficiently, and improve further.

Certified products serve as a service building block in a local USM deployment. In this way every organization can support its own USM deployment with ready-made tools, to be as building blocks in a LEGO box.

To the extent possible, these products are made available free of charge to USM user organizations. Suppliers of commercial products of course determine their own price for their (USM certified) products.

1.8 How does an organization deploy USM?

Section 1.6 describes three scenarios. In all cases, a phased approach supports the practical deployment of USM in the organization (Figure 8). The (guided) deployment of USM follows an iterative, step by step, continuous improvement approach (lean and agile).

Figure 8. Phasing of the USM deployment

Every service organization can set up its organizational structure as desired (Figure 9), using USM, and selecting and optimizing its own tooling. The USM process model applies to every service organization.

This offers great freedom to an organization to tailor USM to its own local needs, structure and culture, while still reaping the benefits of a uniform methodical approach.

The USM method pays a lot of attention to the organizational change involved with introducing USM, in a people-centered approach. USM integrates methods and techniques from other disciplines, such as Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), but also generic management skills such as Text Strategy, for effective communication.

Figure 9. All teams and profiles use the same USM processes

The generic nature of USM brings broad, multidisciplinary deployments within reach, in an Enterprise Service Management setting. IT departments are increasingly integrating with other facility disciplines, such as building management, security, HRM, medical technology, logistics, etc. This is increasingly happening in the form of multidisciplinary service teams. Standardization is essential for such situations. USM provides the standard link for any chain or network you want to set up.

The USM method supports all these service disciplines, including the business domains, and provides the basis for the required standardization.

The logical order for applying USM is processes -> tools -> organization (see Figure 10):

  1. The five USM processes specify the eight USM workflows for controlling all service management activities. The processes are the common factor for all the teams and employees involved, and – just like a fundament in a building – they need to be shared before you start improving your organization.
  2. Select and configure your tooling based on that common process and workflow architecture. Because the cooperation between the teams and employees involved is essential for the ultimate service achievements, the involved parties should manage their practices in one and the same tool.
  3. Once you’ve done that - depending on local conditions, insights and preferences – you organize the involved people in "the organization". However, that may now be something you can completely avoid, because you’ve already integrated your routines in a multidisciplinary organization.

A commonly practiced approach is often the other way around: first, we ‘reorganize’, then the involved staff start using a shared tool, leaving standardization of routines as the last item of the budget. It may now be clear that this approach is doomed to deliver limited results.

 Figure 10. The logical sequence for organizational improvements:
processes -> tools -> organization

1.9      Who manages USM?

The USM method is owned and managed by the SURVUZ Foundation, as a not-for-profit knowledge base.

SURVUZ accredits parties that support USM, certifies experts who are supporting USM in practice, and makes resources available for the deployment of USM.

Registered user organizations have the certified open USM resources at their disposal free of charge.