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encoding the plan for reliable outcomes

The concept of “Services” provides a mental model to explore how business objectives are transformed from ideas to experience.

You might have guessed that we’re not talking about “micro-services” or “service-oriented architecture”. Clearly, the term “service” is a very much overloaded. We need to frame the word for our purposes. Put on your “Thinking in Systems” hat, and let’s explore the idea of Services as a means of encoding and expressing strategy through design.

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Service Specifications

codify the creation of value

Services are a means to codify the creation of value for the business. Typically a service is a component of a larger system, modeled as a series of steps, a boundary delimited fragment, where each step is a key waypoint on the road toward some definite objective.

Being a mental model, there is no single definite solution. The “right” model of a service is one that produces value for the business under the current circumstances of time and place.

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Reciprocity in Services

looking at both sides of the coin

When two parties share a common interest in a successful outcome, then the next biggest obstacle is arriving at a shared understanding how the thing will happen. Mistaking agreement for actual understanding of how to proceed is a common source of trouble.

There are two sides to any story. How we describe the give-and-take of an arrangement will influence what emerges to become the focus of attention. Seeing the reciprocal to any story will help force contradictions and inconsistencies onto the surface.

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Service Boundaries

good fences make for good neighbors

Services emerge when a process is constrained within defined boundaries. We use language to define the boundaries of our Services. Not just any language, but carefully chosen taxonomies, forged and hardened like machine tools.

The fact that a service is defined as having a final outcome implies a system boundary. Title companies establish property boundaries by sending out a survey crew to painstakingly measure the bounds and then mark it by driving metal pins in the ground.

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Service Patterns

resilience in the face of continually changing circumstances

Services are adaptable patterns which describe the core of the solution to a problem in such a way that you can use this solution repeatedly under continually varied circumstances.

To begin on a journey of Strategy through Design, we need to unmask existing services which are hiding in plain sight, concealed by the terrain of our business landscape. Once they are effable, they become subject to management, susceptible to improvement; a pliable medium for establishing productive patterns.

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The Function and Purpose of a Service

a system's behaviors signals it's real purpose

Dogmatism describes the case when our understanding of reality is viewed primarily through the lens of theory. Pragmatism has been reduced in common usage as a synonym of practical, but here we intend the tradition meaning of the adoption of observation as a first class partner to theory.

Attempting to understand the real function and purpose of a system from a requirements document or stakeholders narrative alone often leaves us blind to essential attributes. What we choose to include from the world of experience and observation to augment our understanding of what’s needed is important. Pragmatism in process modeling strikes a balance between what we said we wanted, and what we’re actually doing .

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Artifacts, Events, Capabilities and Resources

the four components of any service

Everything that is important within a service can be sorted into one of four buckets: Artifacts, Events, Capabilities and Resources. The demand for any service can be expressed in terms of Artifacts and the Events provided for, while everything needed to fulfill the demand can be expressed in terms of Capabilities and Resources.

This four term taxonomy of services lays down a foundation for the language of services.

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Who, Why, How and What

the four dimensions of strategy

A service encodes a strategy for creating value for the business. We’re using the term strategy in the sense of the definition “A careful plan or method…”

In Demystifying Strategy, Michael Watkins defines strategy as how people throughout the organization should make decisions and allocate resources in order accomplish key objectives.

The questions who, why, how and what form the four dimensions of strategy. Analysis of these four questions will subsume the four components of a service, discussed above, and put them in the context of the function and purpose of the service.

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The Language of Services

a 4x4 model to navigate rough terrain

When we consider each of the four components of a service from the vantage of these four dimensions, what emerges is complete vocabulary for the language of services.

This taxonomy gives us the structure to complete an interlocking grid of service stories which serves as the basis for service agreements to form valid contracts.

Service Discovery is putting together the puzzle of who, what, how and why resources are afforded (budgeted) and the interaction with performances that supply outcomes.

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Patterns of Performance

dev team as a service

Process modeling in software development usually takes the product as the object of the model; there’s nothing wrong with that, as far as that goes, but rather than focus on what is being built, let’s explore the idea of how software is developed as a service.

Keeping in mind that a model is just a hypothesis, not an assertion of fact, let’s see if we can identify a small set of patterns that encompass the activities of a development team; just an exploration of the question.

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