Dr Jenny Dugmore of ConnectSphere and chair of BSI Service Management Committee looks at the progress of BS 15000 - the world's first service management standard.

The first successful BS 15000 audits have been completed. Several of these are non-UK organisations, including large organisations operating globally. Many more organisations have also adopted achieving BS 15000 as part of their strategy and are currently working on the necessary plans.

Moving to ISO

BSI has accepted the business case for BS 15000 to become an international standard. Extensive support has been received for this. This change is subject to agreement by other national standards bodies and if successful is expected to take 12-18 months.

What is this BS 15000?

BS 15000 is the world's first standard specifically aimed at service management. It defines the features of service management processes that are essential for delivery of high-quality services. It is published by the British Standards Institution (BSI).

BS 15000 covers:

  • Scope of service management
  • Terms and definitions 
  • Requirements for the Plan-Do-Check-Act management system 
  • Planning and implementing service management processes
  • Planning and implementing new or changed services.

The standard is in two parts. BS 15000-1 is a formal specification that defines what is required for service management processes to reach best practice standards.

It is against Part 1 that audits are performed. BS 15000-2 is a supporting code of practice that describes best practices and by doing so provides explanations of Part 1. Part 2 is not itself part of the requirements.

The standard is part of the BS 15000 series, which includes a Self-Assessment Workbook and a Management Guide to Service Management. A series of books on achieving BS 15000 will be available from BSI from late 2004.

The origins of BS 15000

The standard was produced by BSI's Service Management Committee. This committee consists of industry experts representing a range of organisations and professional bodies, with practical understanding of service management.

This BSI group started work in the dim and distant 1980s, initially producing a code of practice covering four core processes. This was replaced in 1998 by a second edition covering the 13 processes.

At this stage attention was directed to producing the standard now referred to as BS 15000. The first edition of BS 15000 was published in 2000.

At the same time the Committee also published the IT Service Management - A Self-Assessment Workbook (PD 0015). The workbook is used to check the quality of service management processes.

As well as the BSI Committee many organisations have been involved in reviewing and testing the BS 15000 series.

The role of early adopters

It was agreed that the BS 15000 series should be tested before a certification scheme was developed. This was done with the support of the early adopters, 16 organisations who provided valuable feedback based on actual use of BS 15000.

The early adopters' views can be summarised as:

  • realistic as a broad minimum;
  • fair, understandable and consistent;
  • more specific than ISO 9000;
  • providing a suitable benchmark.

During this test stage feedback was also solicited from professional auditors, quality experts, operational service delivery managers and practitioners. Following improvements based on the feedback the BS 15000 series was republished in 2002.

A management system

The major improvement was the addition of the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology. This aligned BS 15000 with management system standards such as ISO 9000.

Plan-Do-Check-Act crosses all service management process. In practical terms this means that BS 15000 requires more than a high standard for individual processes.

It is also essential to have senior management commitment, service management plans and policies, clear process ownership, for the individual processes to be integrated and with interfaces clearly defined and well understood.

At this stage A Managers' Guide to Service Management was published. It includes practical details such as the symptoms and causes of inadequate service management.

It helps managers understand the benefits of implementing the processes. The Self-Assessment Workbook was also updated to keep in step with the BS 15000 standard.

Who is the standard for?

The standard is of use to all service providers, but in particular IT service providers. As BS 15000 is process-based the requirements are independent of organisational form, and can be used by large and small organisations, across all sectors. It applies to commercial service organisations as well as in-house service providers.

BS 15000 business benefits

Many companies use BS 15000 not only for their own benefit but also to help qualify and choose suppliers and partner organisations. Is BS 15000 right for your organisation? Will it bring you business benefits?

BS 15000 is not a panacea for all quality issues but can bring a wide range of business benefits, even when service management processes fall far short of BS 15000’s requirements. The benefits include:

  • alignment of business strategy and IT services; 
  • a framework for existing service improvement programmes and assistance in building the business cases for new programmes;
  • showing how your service really compares to best practices and best-in-breed service providers;
  • helping management by requiring ownership and responsibility at all levels; 
  • common inter-enterprise operational processes, giving easier management across a diverse environment, with inter-changeability of staff and service providers; 
  • reduced risk and thus reduced cost in using external service arrangements;
  • assistance with major organisational changes such as mergers by providing a standard approach across the new organisation;
  • reliable, consistent and cost-effective services, giving competitive advantage;
  • improving overall reputation and perception of IS;
  • shifting the balance towards proactive processes;
  • improving interdepartmental relationships by giving clarity on 'who does what' and common goals;
  • a framework for staff training; 
  • a framework for automation of service management.

In a Gartner research note the standard was reported as a major step toward IT service delivery becoming mature and stable with a level of cross-enterprise consistency.

Gartner also predicted that international recognition or an international equivalent was needed for the standard to achieve full potential.

This is now happening, with active take-up of BS 15000 outside the UK and support for BS 15000 to become an international standard.

BS 15000 and ITIL®

Following a concordat between BSI, Office of Government Commerce and itSMF, BS 15000 and ITIL® were aligned.

The alignment of BS 15000 and ITIL® does not mean you have to choose one - they are not interchangeable because they serve different purposes:

  • ITIL® sets out the best practices that, if adopted, would assist an organisation to achieve the quality of service management required by BS 15000. 
  • BS 15000 sets the standards that service management processes should aim for, and objectively tests that best practices really have been adopted.

The others?

Increased maturity in the service industry has seen an explosion in the production and use of best practice advice, capability and maturity models and standards.

This includes not only ITIL® but many others: TQM, Six Sigma, CobiT, EFQM, eSCM, ISO 12207, BS 8600, ISO 15505, COPC-2000, ISO 15288, to name just some.

There are many examples of proprietary material. Useful ideas and techniques for service and process improvements are available from these other publications.

Experience has shown that it is beneficial to align service management improvements to the initiatives adopted in your organisation.

The key distinction between BS 15000 and other publications is that BS 1500 is a management system that is specific to service management processes which checks:

  • Are you doing the right things?
  • Are you doing them correctly?

Some organisations use a 'bottom up' approach to adopting best practices; this can lead to duplication of effort, gaps and overlaps in processes.

Implementing BS 15000 requires a 'top down' approach that checks and eliminates these failings. Applied properly, BS 15000 will help organisations achieve significant improvements without wasting resources.

The itSMF Certification Scheme

Claims to comply with BS 15000 can be independently verified as part of a formal certification scheme. itSMF created and now manage a Certification Scheme which provides this independence.

BSI's Management Systems division can also carry out independent auditing. It is expected that ultimately this certification scheme will be controlled by UKAS, as for other management system standards, such as ISO 9000.

The international dimension

Rather than interest being largely UK-based organisations, many of those interested in BS 15000 are non-UK organisations, or global organisations with a UK presence.

Standards Australian has also issued BS 15000 as an Australian clone, under a copyright licence agreement with the BSI, numbers AS 9.8018, also as Parts 1 and 2.

The international interest and support has provided weight to other expressions of support for an international version of BS 15000. The process of proposing BS 15000 as an international equivalent started formally in late 2004.

For further information, please visit www.bsi-global.com; itSMF are also a distributor of the BS 15000 series - please visit www.itsmf.co.uk