The IT Service Lifecycle

Published: April 25, 2008   |   Updated: October 10, 2008


The IT service lifecycle describes the life of an IT service, from planning and optimizing the IT service to align with the business strategy, through the design and delivery of the IT service, to its ongoing operation and support. Underlying all of this is a foundation of IT governance, risk management, compliance, team organization, and change management.

The Lifecycle Phases

The IT service lifecycle is composed of three ongoing phases and one foundational layer that operates throughout all of the other phases. They are:

  • The Plan Phase.
  • The Deliver Phase.
  • The Operate Phase.
  • The Manage Layer.


Figure 1. IT service lifecycle

Your IT organization is probably managing many services at any given time, and these services may be in different phases of the IT service lifecycle. Therefore, you will get the most benefit from MOF if you understand how all phases of the lifecycle operate and how they work together.

  • The Plan Phase is generally the preliminary phase. The goal of this phase is to plan and optimize an IT service strategy in order to support business goals and objectives.
  • The Deliver Phase comes next. The goal of this phase is to ensure that IT services are developed effectively, are deployed successfully, and are ready for Operations.
  • Next is the Operate Phase. The goal of this phase is to ensure that IT services are operated, maintained, and supported in a way that meets business needs and expectations.
  • The Manage Layer is the foundation of the IT service lifecycle. Its goal is to provide operating principles and best practices to ensure that the investment in IT delivers expected business value at an acceptable level of risk. This phase is concerned with IT governance, risk, compliance, roles and responsibilities, change management, and configuration. Processes in this phase take place during all phases of the lifecycle.

Following the guidelines contained in MOF can help:

  • Decrease risks through better coordination between teams.
  • Recognize compliance implications when policies are reviewed.
  • Anticipate and mitigate reliability impacts.
  • Discover possible integration issues prior to production.
  • Prevent performance issues by anticipating thresholds.
  • Effectively adapt to new business needs.

When an IT service is first released, it is generally the result of a new initiative: IT-driven or business-driven. Throughout the lifecycle of the service, whenever changes—minor, major, and significant—are made, the MOF IT service lifecycle phases should be applied.

Use the MOF IT service lifecycle phases regardless of the size or impact of a change. The formality with which you apply the lifecycle is proportionate to the risk of the change. You need to do just what is required—no more and no less. For example, a major new initiative, such as a new service on which a business function depends, should go through in-depth analysis and review in the Plan Phase, a formal project plan in the Deliver Phase, and preparation for and review of how IT will implement, support, and monitor this service in the Operate Phase.

A smaller change that does not have as much risk should also go through the lifecycle phases, but can do so in a more nimble way. For example, a change to a Web site is requested. It is not defined as a standard change, so the MOF IT service lifecycle needs to be applied. In the Plan Phase, the requirements are defined with the business, policies are checked, and reliability tradeoffs are made. In the Deliver Phase, the change is designed and tested. In the Operate Phase, the change is made in the production environment, the service is then monitored and adjustments are made as needed, and customer support is provided to assist users with issues that may arise from the change. All of this can be done very quickly for this lower-risk change by using a minimum set of MOF processes. 

Service Management Functions Within the Phases

Each phase of the IT service lifecycle contains service management functions (SMFs) that define the processes, people, and activities required to align IT services to the requirements of the business. Each SMF has its own guide that explains the flow of the SMF and details the processes and activities within it.

 Figure 2 shows the IT service lifecycle phases and the SMFs within each phase.


Figure 2. The IT service lifecycle phases and SMFs

Although each SMF can be thought of as a stand-alone set of processes, it is important to understand how the SMFs in all of the phases work to ensure that service delivery is at the desired quality and risk level. In some phases (such as Deliver), the SMFs are performed sequentially, while in other phases (such as Operate), the SMFs may be performed simultaneously to create the outputs for the phase.

Management Reviews

For each phase in the lifecycle, management reviews (MRs) serve to bring together information and people to determine the status of IT services and to establish readiness to move forward in the lifecycle. MRs are internal controls that provide management validation checks, ensuring that goals are being achieved in an appropriate fashion, and that business value is considered throughout the IT service lifecycle. The goals of management reviews, no matter where they happen in the lifecycle, are straightforward:

  • Provide management oversight and guidance.
  • Act as internal controls at the phase level of the IT lifecycle.
  • Assess the state of activities and prevent premature advancement into the next phases.
  • Capture organizational learning.
  • Improve processes.

During a management review, the criteria that a service must meet to move through the lifecycle are reviewed against actual progress. The MRs make sure that business objectives are being met, and that IT services are on track to deliver expected value.

The MRs, their locations in the IT service lifecycle, and their inputs and outputs are shown in the following table.

Table 1. MOF Management Reviews


Owned by Phase



Service Alignment


  • Results of the Operational Health Review
  • Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • Customer input


  • Opportunity for a new or improved project
  • Request for changes to SLA



  • Project proposals


  • Formation of a team
  • Initial project charter

Project Plan Approved


  • Business requirements
  • Vision statement


  • Formation of the project team
  • Approved project plan

Release Readiness


  • Documentation showing that the release meets requirements
  • Documentation showing that the release is stable
  • Documentation showing that the release is ready for operations


  • Go/no go decision about release

Operational Health


  • Operating level agreement (OLA) documents
  • OLA performance reports
  • Operational guides and service-solution specifications


  • Request for changes to the OLA documents
  • Request for changes to the IT services
  • Configuration changes to underlying technology components

Policy and Control


  • Operational and security policies
  • Policy violations, compliance incidents
  • Policy change requests
  • Changes in regulations, standards, or industry best practices


  • Requests for changes to policies and controls
  • Requests for changes to policy and control management

Figure 3 illustrates the IT service lifecycle phases and the MRs that connect them.


Figure 3. The IT service lifecycle with MRs

The MRs are described in more detail in the phase overview documents.