Is ITIL a library?
In the early days of ITSM, ITIL was a ‘library’: a collection of documentation that outlined best practices for planning, creating, implementing, managing, and optimizing IT services. The acronym originally stood for ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library’. However, this ceased to be the case with ITIL 4.
ITIL is no longer a ‘library’ simply because of the way technology has developed. The Digital Age has seen ITSM principles, practices, and tools evolve far more rapidly. This, in turn, has forced businesses to adapt, with IT service managers having to accommodate developments like Cloud management and the Internet of Things. In a situation like this, organizations cannot simply wait for best practice libraries to be updated, as it can give the initiative to more proactive competitors.
ITIL 4, which was released in 2019, does not follow a library format. The core framework is available online to outline the key building blocks of the framework. The wider framework has also been extended since its release, with supplementary modules separate from the main certification path. In a previous iteration of ITIL, this would not have happened in an official capacity until the release of an entirely new version (though users would naturally develop their own practices out of necessity).
While ITIL might not be a library anymore, it still has several key components that practitioners are experts at adapting and implementing. In this article, we will explore each of these components.
The Guiding Principles
The Guiding Principles of ITIL are designed to ‘guide’ practitioners as they implement the framework. They are not a set of prescriptive instructions, as this would lead to a lack of flexibility and adaptability. Rather, they help practitioners make decisions and develop strategies, even in areas where the ITIL framework has no specific guidance to offer.
The 7 Guiding Principles of ITIL 4 are:
- Focus on Value – The purpose of IT service management should always be to deliver business value, whether directly or indirectly.
- Start Where You Are – When adopting ITIL 4, there is no need to throw out the system you already have. ITIL instead encourages businesses to preserve whatever capabilities meet their needs, improving them where possible and developing additional capabilities when necessary.
- Progress Iteratively With Feedback – Haphazardly taking big steps towards major changes can result in problems that are difficult to track or resolve. To avoid this, ITIL 4 practitioners progress iteratively, regularly measuring success and collecting feedback along the way. This helps them avoid setbacks and unforeseen issues. This approach may seem slower, but it builds a stronger foundation for success. It also aligns with Agile ways of working.
- Collaborate and Promote Visibility – ITIL 4 teams prioritize the transparency and visibility of IT operations for not only team members but also stakeholders and partners. This enhances collaboration and communication between departments while also making it easier for project/ process owners to collect feedback from throughout the organization. This helps to enhance operations while also preventing the emergence of information or knowledge silos.
- Think and Work Holistically – ITIL practitioners take responsibility for the way their work fits into the Service Value System (SVS). Every action, process, or sub-process should be conducted in this way, minimizing costs and risks while providing as much business value as possible.
- Keep it Simple and Practical – ITIL may not be prescriptive, but that doesn’t mean it has to be overly complicated. Practitioners are encouraged to simplify the tools, processes, and resources of the framework in a way that matches the needs of their organization.
- Optimize and Automate – ITIL practitioners are encouraged to automate and optimize processes wherever they can. This removes tedious, time-consuming, or inefficient ways of working while also making processes far more efficient and reliable. This also ensures that human intervention is ready and available whenever it is actually necessary.
The ITIL Service Value System (SVS)
The Service Value System covers a chain of activities used to turn a business ‘demand’ or ‘opportunity’ for a service into tangible business value. This applies not just in terms of daily operations but also long-term strategic growth.
- Opportunity – Possibilities or options to improve an organization, such as by creating value for stakeholders
- Demand – A desire or need for products or services among internal or external customers
There are three elements of the SVS to consider:
- Governance – This refers to how an organization is directed. Corporate governance impacts the SVS by directing, controlling, and monitoring service delivery to make sure IT is maximizing value while minimizing risks and costs.
- Practices – ITIL 4’s 34 Practices replaced the ‘Processes’ of ITIL v3. A ‘Practice’ refers to an organizational resource used to accomplish an objective rather than a set of sequential activities. While Practices support the SVC, they should only be utilized when doing so is both practical and sure to generate value. The three Practice types are General Management Practices, Service Management Practices, and Technical Management Practices.
- Continual Improvement – Continual improvement is present throughout ITIL 4, being a component of the SVS, a Practice, and part of the Continual Improvement Model. Together, these features ensure practitioner organizations have a well-structured approach for planning, implementing, and assessing improvements. ITIL 4 practitioners will strive to apply continual improvement liberally across ITSM activities, processes, services, and strategies.
The Four Dimensions Model
The Four Dimensions Model is based on considering the broader aspects of the ‘service ecosystem’; that is to say, the environment in which services are created, managed, etc. It is designed to encourage us to change the ways we view service value streams.
The four dimensions are:
- Organizations and People – This dimension sets out the ‘people’ aspects to be considered in ITSM. These can include customers, employees, suppliers (and their employees), executives, managers, and anyone else involved in creating or consuming services.
- Information and Technology – This dimension considers how information and technology support individual value streams, as well as the wider ITSM capabilities of your organization and service portfolio.
- Partners and Suppliers – Be aware of your in-house capabilities, regulatory requirements, and sourcing biases. This should decide to what extent you utilize suppliers and partners to deliver services.
- Value Streams and Processes – This dimension contains the ITIL Service Value Chain (SVC), a flexible model designed to guide users through the service lifecycle. The SVC model also accommodates both linear and flexible approaches, such as Agile.
These are further based on the ‘PESTLE Framework’, which defines the six factors that can positively or negatively impact the four dimensions. The aspects of the PESTLE framework are:
- Political – This refers to the leadership in an organization (or the locality where it exists). Political factors can generate positive or negative sentiment towards an organization, along with its services and management practices. Examples could include a government implementing open borders, which could impact a company’s regional market share.
- Economical – Economic factors can quickly impact the profitability and feasibility of an organization’s services. Examples include changes to gas prices, average salaries, interest rates, and so on.
- Social – This refers to people’s preferences and perceptions, which can change over time. Stakeholders can range widely in terms of ages, demographics, and so on, making it important not to take a one-size-fits-all approach with ITSM.
- Technological – New technology such as the Cloud, Internet of Things, or cryptocurrencies can have a major impact on how services are created, delivered, improved, and perceived. Market expectations can also evolve rapidly as a result of technology, forcing companies to either evolve or lose customers.
- Legal – Regulations such as the GDPR can create significant changes in how service providers deal with users and their data. Aspects like service delivery and access can be similarly affected, with providers that fail to meet new standards facing serious fines and public scrutiny.
- Environmental – Digital services do indeed have a carbon footprint, and climate change is having a significant impact on ITSM. This is true in terms not only of spending and government regulations but also customer expectations, as users are eager to work with companies with a pro-environmental stance.
Considered together, these dimensions are essential for effectively and efficiently delivering value to customers and other stakeholders via products and services.
The ITIL Service Value Chain (SVC)
The ITIL Service Value Chain (SVC) is a set of interconnected activities used to deliver products or services and facilitate value realization. It is an operating model and contains a number of key activities for creating, delivering, and managing services.
In many ways, the current SVC is a refined version of the IT Service Lifecycle (SL) outlined in ITIL v3. This reflects AXELOS’ commitment to having ITIL 4 focus on the ‘co-creation of value‘.
The core elements of the SVC are:
- Plan – Create a shared understanding of the products and services across an organization in terms of vision, status, and improvement direction
- Engage – Make sure you have a solid understanding of stakeholder needs, provide them with transparency, and make sure to continually engage and foster a good relationship with all stakeholders
- Design and transition – Make it so that products and services meet stakeholder needs in terms of costs, quality, and time to market
- Obtain/build – Ensure the service components meet the agreed specifications and are available wherever and whenever necessary
- Deliver and support – Make sure the services are delivered and supported in accordance with the agreed specifications, as well as the expectations of stakeholders
- Improve – Continually improve products, services, and practices for all value chain activities. This also applies to the four dimensions of service management
While ITIL may not be a ‘library’ anymore, there are still several key components:
- Guiding Principles – Flexible practices to help ITIL practitioners make and develop viable strategies
- Service Value System (SVS) – Chain of all activities used to turn business demands or opportunities into tangible business value
- 4 Dimensions Model – A model based on the environment in which services are created, releasd, managed, and so on.
- Service Value Chain (SVC) – An operating model for creating, delivering, and managing services
Even with these elements memorized, it is important to remember that none of them are designed to be used prescriptively. Instead, the tools should be applied flexibly, depending on the requirements of the company in question.
With this in mind, practitioners do not simply build their knowledge of the ‘library’ components but also their working knowledge. Experience is key, and ITIL-powered products and services should only be managed by experienced and qualified practitioners.
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