When it comes to implementing an Enterprise Service Management (ESM) program and building solutions like Service Process Automation and a Service Catalog, many IT professionals have a hard time identifying and separating different Services into the classifications that make it easier and more intuitive for stakeholders to work with them. Understanding the differences between Dial-Tone Services and Transactional Services will help you address these problems more effectively and efficiently.
NOTE: The article “Service Management: Service Categories” discusses various general Service Categories. The materials covered in this article represent a more detailed discussion on the topic of classification and categorization of Services for the purposes of Enterprise Service Management (ESM).
A Transactional Service is one that has a fixed lifespan, which is tied to the invocation, execution, and completion of a Service Request.
Transaction Service Invocation
A Transactional Service is invoked by a Service Requestor who submits a clear Service Request (a.k.a. Electronic Ticket or Ticket), which is accompanied with any required inputs for Service Work to be performed.
Transactional Service Execution
Once the Service Request is received, the Service Provider (a.k.a. Service Group), which can be composed of a Person, a group of People and/or any specific Applications that are accountable for providing the Service, performs a repeatable Service (using Service Resources) and then delivers a known, controlled, and repeatable output (i.e. a Service Deliverable).
Transactional Service Completion
When the work to deliver the Service Deliverable is completed by the Service Provider and meets the satisfaction (a.k.a. Service Level Agreement / SLA) of the Service Requestor, the original Service Request is marked with a final state, such as Closed or Completed.
Transactional Services can be measured
The time to perform a Transactional Service can be measured, from start (opening of a Service Request) to finish (closing of a Service Request due to successful completion).
Service Deliverables can also be measured for things like quality and cost.
Transactional Services are located in the Service Catalog
Transactional Services are inventoried in, maintained in, and exposed through a tool called a Service Catalog.
See an interactive Example of a simple Service catalog.
Transactional Service Automation States
Transactional Services exist in one of three automation states…
- Manual: All functions to perform the Service are not automated at all, meaning they are all performed manually.
- Partially-Automated: Some functions related to performing the Service are automated while others remain manual.
- Automated or Fully Automated: All functions within the Service are fully automated and there are no functions that are performed manually.
Tools such as Business Process Automation Software (BPMS), Rules Engines, and Batch Job Scheduling Software are often used to orchestrate and automate some Transactional Services that are deemed critical to an enterprise.
Note: It is often expensive to automate Transactional Services so care should be taken to select and prioritize the Services you and your enterprise decide to automate.
Note: Applications will be discussed as Dial-Tone Services, below, but it should be understood that many Applications are used as automation of Transactional Services, as well. For example, an Application that offers a Shopping Cart feature that allows you to purchase and/or procure Services, and then track them through complete delivery.
A Dial-Tone Service is one that, like the old-fashioned dial-tone on your telephone or your internet service, is expected to be there, up and running, without any issues, for an expected period or window of time.
Just like a telephone or your internet connection, Dial-Tone Services are almost always technical systems or applications that perform and provide a constant Service. In other words, there is no Service Request needed to engage the Service Provider, in order to ship or hand off a Service Deliverable. However, a Transactional Service might be used to procure and invoke a Dial-Tone Service. For example, you might need to call and enter a Service Request that allows you to pay for and turn on your Internet Service, for the first time.
Dial-Tone Services often have very specific Classifications
Unlike Transactional Services that have transactional Service Categories, Dial-Tone Services are usually classified by the technology that provides them. For example:
- Software Applications,
- Batch Jobs, and
- Software/Network Appliances.
It cannot be stressed enough that Dial-Tone Services are expected to be up, running, and available, in an uninterrupted manner, for clearly specified windows of time (sometimes even 24×7).
Dial-Tone Services are catalogued in Domain-Specific Catalogs
Unlike Transactional Services that are housed in the formal Service Catalog, Dial-Tone Services are usually given more specific levels of classification (i.e. given a specific Type, like a Data Type). As a result, they are usually inventoried, maintained, and made available to stakeholders via their domain-specific Catalogs. For example:
- Applications are catalogued and indexed in an Application Catalog,
- Batch Jobs are catalogued and indexed in a Batch Jobs Catalog,
- Appliances are catalogued and indexed in an Appliance Catalog.
See an interactive Example of an Applications Catalog.
Dial-Tone Services are Measured Operationally
Because there is no quantifiable Service Deliverable, Dial-Tone Services are measured by different factors, such as but not limited to Service Up-Time vs. Service Down-Time, Number of Service Interruptions, Service Usage Patterns (e.g. Traffic by Time-of-Day), etc.
Often, Service Specifications for Dial-Tone Services are called Operational Level Agreements (OLAs).
Summary and Conclusions
Transactional Services and Dial-Tone Services are two very different things. What makes a Service transactional is dictated by many individual Service Requests that are tied to clear Service Deliverables, while Services that are considered dial-tone are expected to be up and running for very clear time periods or windows of operations. Each category is inventoried, catalogued, indexed and made available differently and care should be taken when selecting technologies to help implement and support them.
If you are building individual Services or if you are implementing broader Enterprise Service Management (ESM), it is important to be able to distinguish between Transactional Services and Dial-Tone Service to ensure the most effective and efficient solutions for you, your enterprise and any other Service Stakeholders you might have.