The ITSM community can be a parochial and insular lot. Much of what prior versions of ITIL offered as wisdom were either obvious or as thin as tissue paper.
This volume is a welcome departure from this impoverished tradition. Whilst the prose is challenging (it appears to strive more for precision than ease) the ideas are noteworthy and current. If Service Strategy is intended to provide a strong strategic foundation to ITIL, then it has succeeded.
The template offered by Service Strategy for companies that want to use ITIL for value is as follows. First, determine the customer's desired outcomes, and pick one or more that enable it to be unique and inimitable. Then, work backwards to develop the internal outcomes that are essential to the delivery of these external outcomes, and aim for efficiency in them. And, finally, use these choices to pick relevant resources and competencies.
Camouflaged in the common-sense--which also links the goal of process reengineering with that of strategy--is a major piece of heresy for those who accept the value-chain as the best analytical tool for understanding the activities of a company and seeking a source of competitive advantage. Its smaller component is the contention that Porter's advocacy of either cost or differentiation--but, usually, not both--as a generic strategy is anachronistic. As industry gurus from Hamel and Prahalad to Philip Kotler have pointed out, success belongs to those companies that can provide highest value at low costs, without attempting to enter into a trade-off. SS's principle of the value of desired outcomes as the source of advantage dovetails neatly into modern management praxis.
More important, however, is its argument that the value which a company seeks to capture resides not in its internal abilities and processes but in its marketplace, in the customer's perception. Everything else must flow backwards from that. And IT's differentiation is a matter of identifying the outcomes that matter to the customer and making them visible whilst making those that are irrelevant either invisible or extinct. The proof--and the profits--of the competitiveness pudding is squarely in the eating.
Out the window, accordingly, goes the notion that merely optimizing processes is a source of advantage. Only by leveraging it for a value offering that, crucially, competitors cannot imitate even with other resources will a company extract a competitive advantage. Why should the customer care that its IT uses processes to ensure speedy repair when alternative providers offer services that never break down?
The SS volume should be mandatory study for senior IT leaders. Those seeking the illusion of pragmatism ("12 easy steps to a service strategy") may find themselves treading water but those willing to embark on careful study might find this the most pragmatic ITIL book of all.