Service Definition Process


Service definition is key to service management. Service definition enables both the customer and the service provider to know what to expect and not expect from a service. Clearly defined services enable customers to understand service offerings, including what each service does and does not include, eligibility, service limitations, cost, how to request services, and how to get help. A well-defined service also identifies internal processes necessary to provide and support the service.

At a minimum, every customer-facing service should have a high-level service definition as described below.


Fundamentally, five questions must be answered to define a service. These key service definition questions and a basic service definition checklist are below. Following this "quick start" section is detailed information about the service definition process.

The Five Questions

Five key questions must be answered when defining a service:

  1. What is the service, and how do I get it? (Service Description)
  2. How do I get help? How do I use the service? (Help and Self-Service)
  3. What Does It Cost? (Service Cost and Pricing)
  4. How does ITS support this service? (Service Support)
  5. How does ITS provide this service? (Service Delivery)

Service Definition/Support Readiness Checklist

This checklist lists elements to consider when answering each of the above five questions. Not all elements are required for every service; however, they should all be considered during the service definition process, and any “N/As” explained.

Download the Checklist (MS Word)
Detailed information about the Service Definition/Support Readiness Checklist
Download the Service Catalog Page template (MS Word)

Step 1:
Determine whether the offering is a service or not

Before launching into the service definition process, it is necessary to determine whether an offering is a service or not.

A service is a coherent, ready-to-use deliverable that is of value to the customer. Services allow customers to do business without worrying about underlying technology or IT infrastructure.

If the offering meets these broad criteria from the customer’s perspective, it is probably a service and should be at least minimally defined.

See "Is it a Service?" for additional information about determining whether an offering is a service.

Step 2:
Is the service currently being provided or is it a service that you want to offer in the future?

New Services:
If it is something new, would it be a feature or part of an existing service, or would it be a completely new offering?

  • If it would be a feature or part of an existing service, work with the Service Manager (see Step 3) to incorporate it into the existing service.
  • If it would be a completely new service,
    • It must have Director-level support prior to development, and a Service Sponsor [2] must be identified. A proposed service definition, draft service level requirements and/or a draft service level agreement may be used to inform this approval process. Customer input may be required.
    • The Service Manager, Service Sponsor, and supporting Director determine which of the elements in steps 4 and 5 below are required prior to developing the service and which are required prior to rolling out and announcing the service.
    • When the Service Manager thinks these requirements have been met, s/he presents the information to the Service Sponsor for sign-off. The Service Manager is responsible for ensuring that the Service Sponsor has the necessary information to make an informed decision. This will typically include information about service features, service levels, support, costs, limitations, and risks, at a minimum.

Existing Services:
If the service is currently being offered, work with the supporting Director or Service Sponsor [2] to determine the level of definition required:

  • Minimal - short service summary page for Service Catalog see the Service Definition/Support Readiness Checklist for required elements. Note: The ITS Support Center does not provide support for these services and will refer clients to the service provider, if known, for assistance. 
  • Basic - perform steps 3-4
  • Advanced - perform steps 3-5

Step 3:
Identify Service Manager and mentor

The Service Manager has overall accountability for service definition, ensuring services are delivered in accordance with agreed business requirements, and managing the service lifecycle - often in conjunction with a Service Team.

A Service Manager mentor from ITS' CSS group generally orients the Service Manager to IT Service Management tools and deliverables – introduces the tools (listed below) and what they are used for. Mentor and Service Manager identify which are applicable to the service.

Step 4:
Develop service definition -- for all Basic and Advanced-level services

See Step 2, "Existing Services," above, regarding Minimal service definition.

The following apply to Basic and Advanced service definition. See Step 2, "Existing Services," above, regarding Minimal service definition.

A. Service Manager: Answer the five service definition questions. Answers should address the "Required" and "Basic" elements of the Service Definition/Support Readiness Checklist, though can be high-level/lightweight in nature. It may be necessary to identify the service team prior to this step if assistance is needed (see C, below).
  • Issue Log:
    The Service or Project Manager should keep an issue log during the service definition process. Note which issues must be resolved before implementation and which can be deferred.
B. Basic Service Catalog page development
  • Service Manager develops initial draft based on the 5 questions.
    Service Catalog page template
  • Service Manager consults with users and subject matter experts to validate
  • Note: May need to identify service team first if assistance is needed (see C)
C. Identify core service team – may be informal, such as identifying individuals and groups that need to be consulted for service changes and development, or may be formal. See separate “Service Teams” page for details.
  • ITS formally charge service team, if appropriate
D. Service Manager leads Service Team through a high-level service review
  • High-level review of the 5 questions; identify gaps [1] and risks
  • Security review
  • Support readiness review for Basic support
  • Validate Service Catalog page
E. Complete and publish basic Service Catalog page
(Service Catalog page template )
  • When ready to publish, contact for review and approval.

F. Deploy service support

G. Service Manager coordinates annual service review and update with Service Team. Service Manager also meets/consults with Service Team when major changes to service levels or the service, itself, are proposed.

Step 5:
Advanced service definition for identified/prioritized services

Note: Depending on the service, some or all elements may be required.

ITS has identified certain priority services for advanced service definition. Other services would also apply these steps as directed.

H. Formalize Service Team and meeting schedule; Service Manager works with Service Team on the following:

I. Advanced service definition J. Complete and publish SLA/OLA K. Complete service review
  • Identify gaps [1], risks, opportunities
  • Security review
  • Support readiness review for Advanced support
L. Complete and publish advanced Service Catalog page 
(Service Catalog page template)
  • When ready to publish, contact for review and approval.

M. Deploy service support

N. SLA/OLA (annual) review and update

Additional Information

For questions, additional information, or feedback please contact Client Services and Security using the ITS feedback form



[1] Gaps that are identified during the service definition or service review process should be documented, and where appropriate, escalated to management utilizing the ITS Problem/Opportunity / Project Proposal process.

[2] The Service Sponsor is the business partner or individual responsible for signing off on and accepting delivery of a service. The Service Sponsor has the authority to accept service levels, costs, and risks associated with a service.


Rev. 3/21/12