A Requirements Engineering Process for User Centered IT Services - Gathering Service Requirements for the University of the Future
Rudolph D., Thoring A., Remfert C., Vogl R.
Since the mid-90s, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a so-called best practice standard, has attracted much attention from practitioners as well as academia, where the ideas of ITIL have been discussed under the label of IT Service Management (ITSM). At the core of ITIL/ITSM is the idea of a service orientation for IT service providers that support business activities of employees (the "users") and thus provide a value for the organization they are working for (the "customer"). Thus, IT services won't exist without the customers' business needs and are therefore "customer-oriented". Although the idea of service orientation seems appealing, the introduction of ITSM in organizations is a tough endeavor and many organizations struggle even at the first steps of such an introduction. One of the issues, organizations have to deal with, is the collection of potential service candidates and especially the gathering of concrete requirements for those. The reason for this is two-folded: on the one hand, employees of IT service providers are often thinking more in technical assets rather than in value for the customer/user. They therefore often misinterpret the term "IT service" as the bare delivery of IT components. On the other hand, customers and users are often not able to clearly formulate their requirements in a way that the service provider is able to define an IT service out of those. This is even recognized by standards like the ITIL, which refer to the adoption of methods from software requirements engineering (SRE) to solve this issue. While this looks promising on a first sight, those methods have not been tested for IT services in the sense of ITSM. This is, what we did in a joint project with the data center of the University of Muenster in Germany (ZIV). ZIV is the central supplier of IT infrastructure for the whole university, powering the work of around 45.000 students and 8.000 scientific as well as non-scientific employees. In 2016, the ZIV management started an ITSM initiative and - in particular - focused on the creation of an IT service catalogue. Beside the intention to get a complete overview about and to standardize the currently delivered service offerings, a further goal was to question the currently offered set of services and to investigate the demand for new services, to address the changes that the digital transformation with the ever more pervasive use of information technology creates for the support for teaching and learning in higher education (e.g. time-shifted learning via podcasts, digital materials and annotation or real-time interaction in class).At that point in the project, we faced the same issues as described above: users were not able to formulate their requirements for new services in a structured manner and therefore, we set up a sub-project to evaluate the recommendation to use SRE methods for this.In a first step, a comparison of specific characteristics of software and IT services has been done to find out where they differ and if IT services might eventually be suitable for being used with SRE processes. In a further step, a literature review has been conducted to identify possible SRE processes with their methods and a checklist has been developed to check which methods might address IT services and their specific characteristics at best. Based on this, we designed workshops to test a prototypical process for SRE use in the field of ITSM. Also, we wanted to identify and develop requirements for specific new services in the area of IT-supported learning. We afterwards conducted three workshops with different student groups: one groupof first semester students and two groups of advanced students, each comprised of 5-8 people. These groups were asked to conduct the full process of requirements engineering under supervision of a researcher, who was introducing the methods and acted as a moderator, but was not taking an active part in the discussion and the development of the requirements. Based on the results of the workshops, a service requirements specification for a user centered service has been derived, including relevant information like the corresponding customer, user, supported business processes, functionalities, customer value to be generated and possible variants. The specification was then presented to the university data center staff to see if a first definition for a new IT service could be created based on it. Afterwards, this service definition has been presented to the students again to validate, if the resulting service fulfills their actual requirements and is therefore suiting their needs.
ITIL; IT Service; software requirements engineering