One of the most crucial questions for service management is of course: "What is a service?".

The inventory of 100 ISO and IEC definitions of 'service' already revealed that standards have made rather a mess of this. The popular best practice frameworks do the same. They define a service in an utterly vague way like "A means of enabling value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks" [ITIL 4] or "Way to provide value to customers through bringing about results that they want to achieve" [FitSM], or they limit this to only IT as in "The day-to-day provision to customers of IT infrastructure and applications and support for their use" [COBIT]. These definitions are not operable, and not applicable at an enterprise-wide level.

USM solves this strategically with the following definition:

A service is a supported facility. The facility is specified in terms of goods and actions, and the service is evaluated in terms of functionality and functioning.

This is a universal definition, applicable to any service in any line of business.

It also is operable, in the sense that:

  • it can be constructed in a systematic way
  • it can be used as a default building block for any service agreement, enabling a service decomposition strategy (e.g., for outsourcing purposes) as well as a service integration strategy (e.g., to create integrated services in a SIAM-like strategy)
  • it can be used to create a structure for service reporting that is completely in line with the service agreements

Furthermore, the USM definition of service will enable service providers to align their services over all their individual customers, enhancing the efficiency of their service delivery in an integrated way.