USM is a method, based on Systems Theory. USM's earliest ideas were created during the biomathematics study of USM's chief architect, Jan van Bon, in the early seventies when he was working on the simulation modeling of ecosystems.

After working a decade as an academic researcher, the author moved to IT, to work in some large Dutch semi-government companies. The next step in the evolution of USM was initiated by the assignment to create a control system for a large IT organization. This is where the first ITIL practice guidance and theories on Quality Management delivered the inspiration for the initial setup of a simple management system, in the late 1980s.

From research to the business side

The next step in the evolution was triggered by the first Dutch organization that applied the guidance from ITIL practices in an organization improvement project. That very first Dutch ITIL application was not done by just applying all ITIL practices, but by creating a simple management-system-like approach, using only some of the ITIL practices. This initial management system was called IPW: "Implementation of Process-based Working". It was a very rudimentary system, still heavily practice-based, but for the early nineties, it was revolutionary.

Until the late 1990s, the systems-based approach was developed further as 'ISM' (Integrated Service Management), applying it to several other organizations, but it was still heavily influenced by a practice-driven mindset. In 1999, the first paper on ISM was published in the Dutch IT Management Yearbook (Van den Elskamp, H., W.J.J. Kuiper, H. Wanders, J. van Bon en W. Hoving. “Integrated Service Management (ISM)™”. In: J. van Bon (ed.), IT Beheer Jaarboek 1999, ten Hagen & Stam Uitgevers).

From business to the supplier side

In 1998 the approach was used to set up a consultancy product, and a lot of research was done on the field of a systems-based approach to service management. Meanwhile, ITIL had become the mainstream approach to service management. The author was heavily involved in attempts to adjust the course of ITIL, from a purely practice-based framework to a more methodical approach based on Systems Theory. With the launch of ITIL v3, it was clear that these attempts had completely failed. Instead of reducing the complexity of the approach to service management, ITIL v3 obviously had made it more complex. This stimulated the ongoing development of an approach that focused on reducing that complexity.

From suppliers to the non-profit side

By 2014, it was clear that a commercial product was not going to allow for the required next step in evolution, so a new initiative was created. In 2015 a project for a full redesign of the approach was initiated, focused on specifying the underlying architecture. This project resulted in the initiation of the non-profit SURVUZ Foundation as the owner of a completely redesigned and open knowledge product: the Unified Service Management method (USM), based on an unambiguous Service Management Architecture and a Service Management System. USM had completely left the isolation of the IT discipline: it had developed into a pure method for service management, independent of size and discipline.

This turned out to be the crucial step in the development of USM: putting it in a non-profit setting, "taking the money out of the game". From that point on, USM gained momentum. Moving away from commerce, in an open knowledge-sharing setting, finally, the conditions had been created for the development of a pure systems-based approach to service management.

In 2016 the USM method was documented in a publication with a huge set of underpinning knowledge products, templates, tools, and additional resources on the USM Portal. For as far as possible, these resources were made available for free to user organizations. This was followed by the development of free templates, tools, and other resources for coaches, trainers, and product experts.

Extension to the community

The SURVUZ Foundation had limited itself to the role of guardian of the method, so all the USM-related work had to be done by players in the normal economy: coaches, trainers, and other experts. To support this, the Foundation set up an ecosystem of parties who were supported in their upgraded offerings to their market, with a range of certified but free USM products. All these parties have a seat in the USM Management Board, guiding the further development of USM support and trusted USM products.

USM now is a community product, supported by a growing number of users and suppliers in the market: the USM ecosystem. These parties work together on a sustainable improvement of the quality of service delivery in all disciplines and markets, supporting an Enterprise Service Management strategy, by means of sharing their experiences with USM.

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