How can USM be applied?

There are three different scenarios for applying USM:

  • Scenario 1: “do-it-yourself”. Read the book “The USM Method” and start applying what you have learned. This approach often requires additional effort to achieve a shared vision of USM.
  • Scenario 2: ”read and train”. Having read the USM book participate in certified USM training. In the training the participants practice the theory, and through discussions they learn to understand their own problems, using the USM method as reference. You can limit the training group to in-house experts that can pass on the knowledge internally.
  • Scenario 3: “supported deployment”. Once the organization has acquired the USM knowledge, it can start the USM deployment. You can hire a certified expert, provided by an Accredited USM Partner, that will act as a coach for the internal staff.

In any of these scenarios, a phased approach supports the practical deployment of USM in the organization. The guided deployment of USM follows an iterative, step by step, continuous improvement approach, leading to controlled improvement.

All teams and profiles use the same USM processes:

Any combination of practices can be implemented:


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How does it work?

The diagram at the top of the page describes the USM customer-provider interaction model.

In USM’s view, the customer is central to the service. The service provider makes a facility available for the customer to use. This facility consists of a mix of goods and actions. The customer needs that facility to improve the execution of its work. The customer should fundamentally benefit from this facility – otherwise he would not have a demand for it. So, there’s value creation involved.

The provider not only makes that facility available for use – he also supports the customer in using that facility, in accordance with agreements made, otherwise it is not a service.

That service provider is the service organization. The service provider converts the demand of its customers into predictable service delivery, consisting of supported facilities.

To deliver services the provider uses three types of resources:

  • Processes: WHAT is done.
  • People: WHO does it.
  • Technology: HOW is it done.

In short: each organization is actually a group of people, doing things with stuff.

The routines in USM are structured in a workflow system that encompasses all activities in a service organization. This workflow system is based on an integral an integrated process model, consisting of only five non-redundant processes that are the same in all service organizations.

Process in USM is a series of consecutive activities that lead to a result that is meaningful to the customer, and which is supervised to ensure that that result is achieved.

The five processes include all the activities of the service management organization, insofar as they are relevant to managing the service:

  • AGREE: manage service agreements with customers/external suppliers/internal solution teams.
  • CHANGE: make controlled changes to the managed infrastructure of service systems.
  • RECOVER: restore the service in accordance with agreements (also for imminent failures).
  • OPERATE: plan all operational actions and monitor the performance of the service systems.
  • IMPROVE: promote structural improvements in the agreed services and prevent effects that are detrimental to it. Risks are both opportunities and threats. Self-triggering.

There are only eight workflows, following the possible paths through the processes and their interconnections.

A workflow is a logical series of consecutive activities, composed of parts of the process model, required to handle a call from initiation to completion.

For example, the Recover process, triggered by an incident, will trigger a Change process with an RFC, if the recover activity requires a change to a managed resource; otherwise, it will trigger an Operate process with a service request. A Change process always trigger an Operate process with a service request to deploy the change.

After the triggered process finishes, the calling process will continue to completion.

The eight possible workflows are:

  • Making or changing to agreements.
  • Changing managed resources.
  • Incident resolution requiring a change to managed resources.
  • Incident resolution that does not require a change to managed resources.
  • Operations: routine work required for service level agreements, change deployments, recover activities, risk measures and customer service requests.
  • Risk handling via a modification of a service agreement.
  • Risk handling via a change to managed resources.
  • Risk handling via a service request.

Any local practice is now just an instance of a generic USM workflow. Existing practices only need to be realigned with the USM logic to establish numerous improvement opportunities. The local tooling should be reconfigured to support eight templates, one for each type of USM workflow.

We know that a provider doesn't have more than three organizational resources, so all routines consist of combinations of those three.

  • With the resource process we only describe the WHAT: that provides us with the process description, the process model, the process architecture.
  • If we add the WHO to the WHAT, then we get the procedures: with that we answer the question "who does what here?”
  • If we then add the HOW then we get the work instructions: how do those people do that in practice, when applying those procedures?

That gives us three types of routines, where the latter is the only one to detail the work in practice, so there we find the practices from the frameworks and standards mentioned earlier.

This makes it clear that we derive procedures from processes, and work instructions from procedures. When you have worked out the process architecture concretely, the rest is just a consequence of that. You can even derive that from the process model with templates.


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Who is USM for?

USM can be deployed in all service organizations and teams, in all disciplines, ranging from ICT to healthcare, from building management to security, from telecoms to government.

Even though the organization, the tooling and the services differ for each service organization, the management of services is universal.

What position you occupy in a network or supply chain is not important at all as long as you are a service provider: at the front you have your customers, at the back you have your suppliers. Nobody does everything on their own anymore. Outsourcing has become the most common thing in the world.

The following figure summarizes all roles in one picture, from shadow services to supply chains and networks of internal and external, direct and indirect suppliers.

USM provides the standard link that enables the integration in the network or supply chain.

© COPYRIGHT SURVUZ Foundation, 2021

Why using USM?

The Unified Service Management method – USM – is a method for service management and provides a standard for a service management system with the following characteristics:

  • It is universal, you can use it to manage any service in any domain.
  • It is integral and comprehensive; it covers all aspects of managing a service organization.
  • It is non-redundant; it avoids duplication of work.
  • It is based on principles, not practices, so it has a solid stable foundation.
  • It is simple, you can learn it easily and apply it yourself, without expensive external support.
  • It is open, encouraging a culture of sharing of ideas, experiences, and tools.
  • It is free, you do not need to pay royalties for its use.

USM can be used to create the routines of a service provider, based on the practices of frameworks of best practices like ITIL®, COBIT® or practices compliant with standards like FitSM, ISO/IEC 20000-1 or ISO/IEC 27001.

USM is complements those sources of practices.


© COPYRIGHT SURVUZ Foundation, 2021; Based on "Simple USM" by Mikko Ahonen.

Modern challenges for businesses

We live a time of digitization with huge impact and big challenges for businesses.

Everything is becoming connected and as a result complexity is increasing exponentially. IT plays a key role in this evolution.

To respond and keep control in this context we need ever more management and direction skills, we need greater cooperation and integration. Control requires overview of your activities and insight about what is happening.

We also see that today that all businesses are service businesses. Even if you just sell goods you need to provide some degree of supporting service to your customer.

And for many organizations is not enough to provide services: they must become customer-driven to survive in the market. That requires looking beyond isolated transactions and focusing on nurturing long-term relationships, achieving customer excellence.

In terms of their positioning in a value maturity model they need to attain a service-driven level and progress to a customer-driven level of maturity, eventually moving to a business-driven level.

USM focuses on levels 4 and 5 of the value maturity model.


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USM core message


"Every organization can get in control of its service delivery, with a management system of only 5 processes and 8 workflows."

How can it be so simple? After all, we have been learning, and trying to apply, complex frameworks of best practices and standards for those practices for so many years!

USM is a method, not a compilation of practices.

As a method, it requires a methodical approach, based on a service management architecture, and a simple but smart service management system.

Following this approach, you can base your service management system on a very simple customer-provider interaction model - see top of the page – where the service provider needs no more than five processes – see the process model below – and eight standard workflows – see image at the bottom.

With that system you can reproduce all thirty-four ITIL®4 management practices or comply with ISO/IEC 20000-1 two hundred and thirteen requirements!

The USM process model for service delivery:

The 8 USM workflows:


© COPYRIGHT SURVUZ Foundation, 2021