What is a Service?

What is a service?


Large fleas have lesser fleas,

Upon their backs to bite 'em,

Lesser ones have lesser ones,

And so on, ad infinitum.



The problem:


The Adaptive Service Model (ASM), produced by the Taking Service Forward initiative (TSF) does an excellent job, resting, as it does, on the shoulders of many others who have worked to define services before. It shows how a service interacts with resources, service suppliers and providers, and the other essentials to deliver value. The site is takingserviceforward.org, and the latest diagram is:




The difficulty is how to define the service itself. There are many different sorts of service, and they all must be served (if you excuse the term) by the definition. For example:

Accounting services

Architectural services

Building services

Car services

Catering services

Cleaning services

Clinical services

Currency conversion services

Dealing services

Delivery services

Electronic services

Financial services

Insurance services

Laundry services

Legal services

Manufacturing services

Pathology services

Personal services

Police services

Prison services

Rental services

Room service,

Technical services

Technical services

Wreck recovery services


..And many more. How is it possible to have a definition that encompasses all these, without it being horribly complicated with lots of exclusions or possible alternatives?


There are other requirements of the definition, including:


  • Not confusing 'service' with process, activity or procedure

  • Not getting involved in trying to distinguish 'produce' & 'service'

  • Making it, if possible, easy to understand and remember


What about using a recursive definition?


It has been done before. For example:


Gnu: Gnu is not Unix

Recursion : See Recursion

There's a problem with these two, they go on, like the fleas, ad infinitum.


Mathematicians and programmers have known a solution to this for some time – mathematicians call it 'induction', rather than recursion, but it's the same thing. The solution, is to have an end-stop. Like this:

Calculate N! – that is N x (N-1) x (N-2) x …. x 1 [ 6! = 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 720

A recursive solution could be:


Function factor(N) returns an integer

if N > 1 then N * factor(N-1)


return 1


If you called the function like this:

Print factor(6)

Then the answer would be 720.

Definition of a service:

The Adaptive Service Model describes the context within which a service exists. The service is either:

An Atomic Service (or quantum service)


A service that is supported by other services that contribute to it delivering value.

Definition of an 'Atomic/quantum service':

An Atomic/quantum service is a service at the lowest level of useful description for the circumstances.


The picture below shows the breakdown of a service into its component services. It only goes down one of the trees to the bottom (and there could be services below that), to give the idea.

Usually it would be silly to go below the e-mail service for most purposes, but it's useful to see that you can go as far as you want, if it is useful for a particular purpose.




For much more, including comprehensive information on Service Governance, see Service Governance


Last modified on Wednesday, 30 August 2017 11:31
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Peter Brooks


  • University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, BSc. 1979
  • Major Subjects; Maths & Physics

Industry Qualifications

  • ITIL V2 Manager’s Certificate in IT Service Management
  • ITIL V3 ITIL Expert Certification
  • ISO20000 Consultant’s Certificate Management
  • Fellow in Service Management (FSM)® (prISM)


  • Certified ISEB instructor for ITIL Foundations + Service Manager courses
  • FISM - Fellow of the Institute of IT Service Management
  • Marketing and Business Development Director itSMF International
  • Marketing Director itSMF South Africa
  • Member of itSMF South Africa Western Cape

Consulting Delivery

  • Governance
  • Policy Consulting - start up organisation
  • Service Governance
  • Business Analysis
  • OpenView Network and System Management; design and implementation.
  • Secure web implementation.
  • HP Service Desk implementation.
  • Application, System, and Network Consolidation.
  • Business Disaster Recovery process consulting, implementation and testing.
  • ITIL process management (practical consulting delivery):
Service Portfolio    Service Strategy    Service Desk
Incident Problem Configuration
Change Release Capacity
Financial Availability Service level

Specialties and interests

ASM Adaptive Service Model
Service Governance Business Analysis
CSF Capacity
Consulting Demand
Governance HP OpenView
KPI Metric Design and Implementation
Metrics Open Source
Policy Requirements
SANS15000 Security
Service Desk Teaching
Training Service Management
Dialetheism :Service governance
Physics :Philosophy
Psychiatry :Maths


I have never been further
As08-16-2593.jpg north Helsinki Helsinki 60°10′15″N 024°56′15″E
south Dunedin Dunedin 45°52′S 170°30′E
west Sausalito Sausalito Coordinates: 37°51′33″N 122°29′07″W ]
east Rotorua Rotorua 38°08′16″S 176°15′05″E
... and higher than Title=3.050 m3.050 m
... and Title=faster than 320 kphfaster than 320 kph (on the ground)






Adopting Service Governance

Collaborative Consulting
ISBN: 978-0113314652 ISBN: 978-0113313914
Webinar: Adopting Service Governance: Governing portfolio value for sound corporate citizenship Review in International Best Practice
Issues in corporate governance and service governance as a solution  
AXELOS interview with Peter Brooks  
Service Governance in the Cloud  




Adopting Service Governance.png
Adopting Service Governance - Governing portfolio value for sound corporate citizenship - AXELOS 2015 ISBN: 978-0113314652
Collaborative Consulting.jpg
Collaborative Consulting – TSO 2013 ISBN: 978-0113313914
  Review - Ivor Macfarlane
Integrated Requirements.jpg
An Integrated Requirements Process - Governing Cost & Risk in Business Analysis - itSMFsa 2013 ISBN: 978-1490489162
  Review - David Lowe
  Review - Karen Ferris
Metrics for Service Management.jpg
Metrics for Service Management: Designing for ITIL – VHP 2012 ISBN-13: 978-9087536480
Metrics for IT Service Management.jpg

Metrics for IT Service Management – VHP 2006 ISBN-13: 978-9077212691











Definition of Service Governance

Service Governance describes the means of achieving effective corporate and portfolio governance, within the ‘comply or explain’ framework, by designing the service portfolio as the overarching management system that monitors & controls corporate financial performance & value delivery.

From '''Adopting Service Governance''' http://service-governance.org/index.php?title=Category:Best_Practice Service Governance - Best Practice

Website: za.linkedin.com/in/peterhmbrooks/
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