ITIL evolves

ITIL evolves

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

The new edition of ITIL is timely in the global digital transformation. The world is continuously moving further into the information era where data is an asset just like gold or property. We are no longer simply doing more of everything, we are also digitizing everything which means that information is becoming more easily accessible and moves everything closer together – online.

ITIL is a commonly used and widely spread framework for IT service management. First and foremost ITIL is probably known for Service Operation (and maybe Service Transition), incident management and delivery handovers. The way ITIL has been described over the past 20 years has been as an end to end framework for running IT. With the release of ITIL 4, Axelos is yet again trying for a wider adoption of the framework in digital companies. The end-to-end approach is more clearly described. ITIL is opting for a shift from processes and service life cycle to a service value system and different dimensions of service management.

ITIL version 3 (2007) and ITIL 2011

The previous, and for many users current, version of ITIL is based on a process model for IT service lifecycle management. The basis in Deming’s PDCA (plan-do-check-act) way of thinking and the iterative process model. The cycles are however often seen as long and bureaucratic with rigor process steps and lots of written documentation. Many organisations have started backwards with a pragmatic approach to implementing Service Operation. In later years we have also seen emerging Continual Service Improvement with high focus on automation of incidents and changes. In many cases this has been a natural approach to address consolidation of IT operations and the IT Service Desk function. Larger organisations have often spent lots of time and resources on this and have not been able to also properly look into the initial steps of Service Strategy, Service Design and Service Transition.

The thought of ITIL being a best practice framework and to start where you are has sometimes been missed when larger companies are trying to change and continue to move forward at the same time.

The change ITIL has taken with the latest version is quite interesting. I think that the shift from processes and service life cycle into a service value system with a clear focus on opportunity and value is what’s needed to bring ITSM into the digital transformation arena.

ITIL 4 (2019)

The big change for me going through the new ITIL edition for the first time is to see how ITIL has been transformed from five volumes of process descriptions into one single volume where a holistic approach is described already on page one. The foundation is still in ITSM but there is also focus on how to develop and function using agile methods and Lean. Customer experience and value streams are mentioned straight off the bat, and the outspoken goal of ITIL is now to be the overall IT best practice framework.

Two new components describing the framework are the service value system (SVS) and the four dimensions model of service management.

I would like to start though with the ITIL Guiding principles, they are simple, straight forward and universal. With them you will go in the right direction.

(I know they are a rewrite from IITIL Practitioner, but I like them so here we go!)

ITIL 4 Guiding principles

The guiding principles are the core message of ITIL 4 and of service management in general. They are also seen in many other frameworks, standards and methods like Lean, Agile, DevOps, COBIT, PRINCE2...

  • Focus on value - generate stakeholder value directly or indirectly in everything you do.

  • Start where you are – make sure that you preserve positive capabilities and improve where needed.

  • Progress iteratively with feedback - improve often, in small steps, and measure your way forward.

  • Collaborate and promote visibility - transparent work in teams, together with stakeholders and partners.

  • Think and work holistically - it’s always an end-to-end responsibility, the service and the SVS.

  • Keep it simple and practical - an appropriate size of workload and use of processes, tools, resources matters.

  • Optimize and automate - manual work is a bug, reserve human intervention only for when really needed.

These principles ought to be thought in school, so that they are always remembered.

ITIL Service Value System (SVS)

The Service Value Chain is described as the facilitator of value co-creation together with the support of Guiding principles, Governance, Practices and Continual improvement.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the Service Value Chain which is the main component of SVS.

In the service value chain, there is a high degree of recognition from previous ITIL versions. It’s like the five process books have been boiled down into one model with the activities of plan, improve, engage, design and transition, obtain/build and finally deliver and support. You can clearly see the similarities with PDCA and also with the process model of Service strategy, design, transition and operation with a little continual improvement built in. The activities do however encompass the steps most organisations take to create value-based deliveries from some kind of demand.

Based on the capabilities you build up in your organisation in the service value chain you are then able to realise different value streams needed to create the expected value.

The four dimensions of service management model

The second significant component in ITIL 4 is the four dimensions model. The dimensions described are:

  • organisations and people

  • information and technology

  • partners and suppliers

  • value streams and processes

ITIL uses this component to bind things together and talks about how all aspects (dimensions) of service management needs to be considered if you expect to be successful in delivering products and value. You shouldn’t do changes in one dimension without considering the consequences for, and potential changes in, the other three if you expect to succeed. It is also in the four dimensions aspect you need to catch external influences on the SVS like political, legal, technological and environmental factors.

I can’t write this article without mentioning the fact that the processes are no more in the framework – they have been replaced by management practices. The practices are divided in three parts: general (14), service management (17) and technological management practices (3).

Overall I have to say that ITIL 4 feels very well worked through and in some aspects it has grown in such a way that I will need some time to grasp it all. My general take is that it’s comprehensive and well described in a way I lacked in the previous version. I really look forward to come out and discuss these changes and new aspects in different organisations to see how their ITIL implementations will change going forward. Hopefully there will be material in the future for a case study on changes and challenges when evolving with ITIL 4.

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