Another area of ITIL where people generally get confused. Functions and processes.
Functions perform specialized tasks. That is it. This is all that a function does. You go to a salon, and your barber is an expert in cutting hair. He is a function as he is performing a specialized task. Here’s the official definition from exam perspective – units of organizations specialized to perform certain types of work and are responsible for specific outcomes.
Processes on the other hand have a specific goal, and have a feedback mechanism for self reinforcing and self correcting action. So, a process is a combination of a number of coordinated activities in achieving a common goal. An important aspect to note is that a process will have a feedback mechanism which helps it to improve further. I will explain the functions and processes with an example, but before that, here’s the official definition of a process- A process is measurable, performance driven, responds to specific triggers and delivers specific results to customers or stakeholders. Once again, important from exam perspective. To understand what a process means, follow my examples.
Let us say you are disgusted with the dirt lying on your car, and finally decide to clean it. You position your car in the driveway where ever convenient and hook the water pump to a water source. First, you rinse the car with water through the water pump. Apply shampoo manually. Rinse it again. And, dry it with a microfiber cloth.
In this example, the outcome you want to achieve is a clean car. Your dirty car is the input for the process. Trigger for cleaning the car could be your spouse complaining about the condition of your car. The process activities that you need to engage to achieve a clean car are – position car, connect pump to a water source, rinse, shampoo, rinse and dry. I counted 6 activities, rather, it’s 6 coordinated activities that are needed to achieve a clean car. You cannot do any of the activities out of sequence. This is a process. You have an input, an output and some activities in between. You can add a feedback mechanism, where your spouse can be asked to provide a rating between 1 and 5, and that will give you a pulse on what she feels about the quality of cleaning. You can take this input and improve your car cleaning efficiency the next time around. This is the beauty of a process in action.
In the above example, the water pump spits out water. Yes, that is all it does. Does not matter whether you are rinsing the car the first time or the penultimate time. Its action is specific. Throw out water at a specific rate. This water pump is an illustration of a function.
Functions are leveraged inside processes for effectiveness and efficiency. They do work very closely indeed. In this case, a function called water pump nicely fitted into the process of cleaning a car.
In ITIL V3, there are 26 processes and 4 functions that are spread across 5 lifecycle phases.