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What is SIAM: Service integration and management?

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/niroworld)

IT organisations are outsourcing increasingly more services, but in doing so, you may wonder how you keep your service quality high when you’re working with both internal and external service providers. The SIAM (service integration and management) approach was developed in response to this question. But what is it? And how do you go about implementing it within your organisation?

The development of SIAM

In the past, IT organisations did most of the work internally, from racking servers to replacing backup tapes. The current pace of technology innovation is forcing IT organisations to call on outside expertise more often.

The outsourcing of IT services has been expanding over the last few decades. For example, cloud storage and software-as-a-service (SaaS) are being used more often. Issues may arise with how you maintain an end-to-end overview with numerous suppliers involved, as well as how you can prevent them from working in silos while reducing cost inefficiencies.

SIAM was developed in response to these types of questions. Using industry jargon, SIAM aims to enable IT organisations the ability to manage the end-to-end supply chain process in a multi-sourced environment.

In layman terms, SIAM is a methodology that organisations can work with across many different suppliers. SIAM can facilitate this process in a smarter, more organised way.

SIAM Explained

In a nutshell, the purpose of SIAM is to ensure that someone coordinates all the parties delivering services to your organisation.

SIAM identifies three roles within an organisation:

  • Customer organisation: This is the customer of those providing the services, which determines strategy and what type of work can and can’t be outsourced. It also determines the applicable criteria for making these decisions.
  • Service providers (operational): These include every internal or external party delivering a service to the customer organisation and range from such departments as IT, facility management, and human resources, and such outside vendors as hardware suppliers, telecom providers, and caterers.
  • Service integrator (tactical): This is the role responsible for the delivery of services and reciprocal collaboration between service providers. The service integrator can be a person, team, department, or external party.

Service integrator 101

The service integrator role is a distinctive SIAM feature and has various forms, depending on what works best.

 External service integrator

  • You hire an external resource that coordinates everyone involved in the process.
  • Benefits: You immediately receive all the benefits of outsourcing (i.e., people and expertise).
  • Disadvantages: You rely heavily on external sources to coordinate all other external (and internal) parties. Using an external integrator requires excellent collaboration and a very trustful relationship. All hell could break loose if things go sour. Also, it's not usually cheap.

Internal service integrator

  • You appoint an internal resource inside your organisation to coordinate all parties.
  • Benefits: You have full control over all services, and it is easier for you to ensure the services being delivered are in alignment with your organisation’s goals.
  • Disadvantage: It’s possible the party acting as an internal service integrator is not taken seriously by the teams that previously coordinated suppliers.

Lead supplier as a service integrator

  • What is it? You coordinate the service providers, supported by external staffing capacity.
  • Benefits: You have complete control of all services, but make use of external people and expertise for areas where you don’t have current staffing capacity. This could serve as a first step toward taking on the role of service integrator internally.
  • Benefits: You have complete control of all services, but make use of external people and expertise for areas where you don’t have current staffing capacity. This could serve as a first step toward taking on the role of service integrator internally.

Lead supplier as a service integrator

  • In this model, one of your service providers acts as your service integrator. This is often a supplier you trust well and with whom you’re already collaborating at the strategic level.
  • Benefits: This approach comes with all the benefits of outsourcing, plus the added bonus of extending trust to a supplier who already knows your organisation well.
  • Disadvantages: There are conflicts of interest risks. The supplier acting as service integrator to coordinate all parties on behalf of your company, but also wants to continue to deliver its services. A high-trust relationship is required for this arrangement to work.

SIAM implementation

The SIAM Body of Knowledge describes how SIAM is implemented in detail. To summarise:

  1. The SIAM Body of Knowledge describes how SIAM is implemented in detail. To summarise:
  2. Plan and build: Translate strategies for a plan for the SIAM transformation. This also requires acquiring all the necessary approvals.
  3. Implement: Implement the plan, resulting in a functioning and operational SIAM model.
  4. Run and improve: Monitor operational services delivery and everything this involves, and keep on continuously improving.

These four stages are quite generic. For complete information about how SIAM is implemented – including the meetings to hold, where and what roles fall under the new function, and what responsibilities lie with the customer organisation – refer to the SIAM Body of Knowledge page.

ITIL and SIAM

ITIL v3 primarily contains best practices for collaborating with a single supplier. A significant element of ITIL v3 is that you establish delivery terms and conditions for the services provided to you, and you create underpinning contracts with external parties and operational level agreements for internal parties.

But ITIL v3 doesn't say anything about how to coordinate multiple suppliers smartly.

Moreover, ITIL v4 (published last year) offers few references to SIAM. While claims suggest that ITIL v4 links well with concepts like DevOps, Agile, and SIAM, in actuality, they are hardly mentioned in the latest guidance (perhaps that will happen in a follow-up to the Foundation level.)

SIAM In practice

A completely “SIAM-proof” organisation is hard to find. Getting SIAM to work well is not easy. The goal is to improve collaboration between all service providers. It can be hard enough to set up a smooth collaboration with just one party, much less among dozens of them.

When you try to improve collaboration between many different service providers, you run up against certain things:

  • It's challenging to get different suppliers to follow the same processes. Most departments and organisations already have their working method and won't give them up easily.
  • Every party has its tools and reports, making centralising your reporting complicated and time-intensive.
  • Some parties may be reluctant to collaborate intensively. They may meet their contractual obligations, but can’t (or won’t) invest time in jointly exploring ways to improve their service delivery.

The first step could be to start small. You don’t necessarily have to implement SIAM to improve collaboration with your service providers.

Determine which of your suppliers are strategic suppliers – those with the highest supply risk and the highest profit impact. The Kraljic Matrix could be helpful here.

Meet with a strategic supplier to discuss what can be done to improve collaboration. This collaboration can help determine how to improve collaboration with other service providers.

Ruben Franzen, president, TOPdesk US