ITIL 4 is based on a system approach. It introduces and is based on a service value system or SVS. As a result, ITIL 4 is positioning service management more holistically within the organization. What does that mean for organizations which have benefited from previous ITIL editions and desire to benefit from ITIL 4? The short answer is to take a fresh end-to-end look at your current way of doing business and determine where ITIL’s recommendations can help achieving your goals and objectives.
This article will provide a few tips for you to consider.
Why Care About a System Approach?
The best way to answer this question is to take a close look at the image below.
You’ll see several gears. Each is interlocked with at least one other gear. Each gear serves a purpose and has a function. If one fails, it impacts at least one other gear, which in turn may impact another one, and so on. The short of it is that something is failing or not functioning. It is a true representation of how organizations “work”; everything is interconnected: the people, the processes, and the technology.
When translating this to a real-life example, think of a customer who is experiencing a software application that is performing much slower than usual. This application may run on a computer that is connected to a network. That’s three interlocked gears right there. To add a few gears to the equation, this customer may contact the service desk for help. That’s one more gear. Since the issue requires expertise that goes beyond the service desk agent’s skills set, several IT experts from different IT teams get involved in figuring out what is going on. That’s a few more gears. The question becomes, which of these gears is causing, or has caused, the issue? By looking at the performance issue more holistically, the effort involved to determine the cause of the issue and therefore the fix that is needed, can be performed more effectively.
You may say, these interlocked “people-process-technology gears” are not new. And, you are right! What is new, is that ITIL 4 no longer limits itself to technology, process or service aspects. It now emphasizes quite a bit more on how all these gears are connected to each other. Besides that, organizational aspects such as people, culture and governance play a much more predominant role in the new edition of ITIL.
The ITIL 4 System
The ITIL service value system ensures that the organization continually co-creates value with all stakeholders in response to opportunities and demands through the use and management of products and services.
| SVS Components: |
Each component of the SVS plays a role in turning opportunities and demands from customers into a products and services that are of value to them. Consider each of them a large-sized gear that have many smaller gears. By looking at the organization in this holistic way, it allows for ensuring that each is given the attention it needs before (plan), during(do) and after (check and act) the co-creation of products and services.
The Gears of the ITIL 4 System
ITIL’s service value system has the following main gears. The function of each is briefly described below as well.
- Guiding principles
- Service Value Chain
- Continual Improvement
The ITIL 4 System in 4D
Every gear of the service value system is being looked at, or organized or applied, in 4 dimensions (4D).
| Four dimensions:|
Why is this important? Let’s look at the continual improvement gear for example. Remember that saying from Maslow who said “If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail”? That’s exactly it. If every opportunity for improvement that is being looked at, is only considering improving tools and technologies, we are limiting ourselves by not, or insufficiently, considering improvements to our organization and our people, improvements to our supplier’s performance, and/or improving our way of working or our processes.
Looking at every gear of the value system from all four different angles is what makes us more all-round. Or, in other words, we approach every opportunity or demand even more holistically.
Benefiting from a System Approach
By looking at your organization more holistically and more from a system perspective that has many moving parts, or gears, you are allowing yourselves to be, or become, more flexible.
For every opportunity or demand, you decide which gears to activate and in which dimension. Repeat demands for example become service value streams that can be triggered again and again. Non-repetitive demands are approaches from a value perspective. Meaning, the demand will be met with the customer’s value expectations and perceptions in mind from the beginning to the end of the co-creation of the product and/or service.
Another benefit is that in today’s highly specialized IT environments, the dependency on internal and external partners and suppliers is becoming an increasingly critical factor for success. Ever asked yourself, what are my partner’s or supplier’s gears? And how do my gears interlock with theirs? Looking at your relationships from this angle may shine a whole new perspective on your next selection process or your relationship improvement plan.
The BRM Institute’s body of knowledge provides us with a plethora of fresh and innovative concepts, tools and techniques to improve on relationships. So does ISO’s business relationship management standard ISO 44001. And, let’s not forget the SIAM framework for managing service integrations. All three are welcome “plug-ins” to your ITIL 4 SVS components.
VeriSM’s management mash is a worthwhile tool to look at your organization’s capabilities more holistically and in 4D.
Having the right gears is one thing. Taking the interconnections of these gears into account is what makes organizations more robust and its products and services of quality. We all know what it means when we identify and address the weakest link. Maybe, going forward, we need to replace the word “link” with the word “gear”.
How ITIL 4 Can Help You
Below are some hints and tips how to best benefit from ITIL 4. Even after having applied ITIL best practices for, up to three, decades you may say, what is left for me to consider?
The obvious answer is that nothing will ever be perfect and that there is always room for improvement.
That said, how about enhancing your continual improvement approach with applying the four dimensions? Or, enhancing your root cause analysis approach or your preventive actions approach with applying the four dimensions?
Another low-hanging fruit is to take a close look at the guiding principles. Do you have any at all? And, how would they help you with determining year-over-year with your efforts to come up with corporate and/or service management and/or service and/or process goals and objectives? Guiding principles are there to keep you on course for long periods of time.
IT4IT from the OpenGroup has done a great job of looking at (IT) organizations from a service value stream perspective. How does the information flow within your organization? This approach provides hands-on guidance to determine, design, built and implement service value streams.
And finally, a system approach to service management is not new. For as long as ITSM has been able to leverage from the ISO/IEC 20000 service management standard, this system approach has been around. ISO/IEC 20000-certified organizations have already experienced the benefits from putting in place management systems. These organizations will consider ITIL 4 a welcome addition to become even more effective and efficient. Organizations seeking certification will benefit from ITIL 4’s guidance. And, organizations seeking a prescriptive way to implement a service value system, or, as ISO calls it, a service management system, I highly recommend spending the $200 and creating your to-do-list that is based on ISO/IEC 20000 and chip away on every 212 requirements, one at a time. Whether you are seeking compliance, certification, or simply becoming a more valuable organization for your customers.
More involved are steps that will impact the way you are doing business and your organization’s culture. With more ITIL publications to come during the second half of 2019, it might be worthwhile to wait for ITIL’s guidance in these areas, assuming you prefer to wait.
Take a close look at your current processes and the interfaces between the process. Previous versions of ITIL, never stood out when it was about these interfaces. With the new system approach, these interfaces are now on the forefront. Are they defined? Completely? Who is managing them? How are they being managed? Who owns them? Are they effective? Can they be more efficient?
In the mid-90s, INTERPROM introduced its SPOT™ model. SPOT was the acronym for services, processes, organization and tools. A free interpretation of people-process-tool and ITIL’s 4-Ps. The 4 dimensions have survived the time, I would argue. Call them what you like. Approaching service management in 4D remains crucial. Incorporate this in every opportunity for improvement.
And finally, I welcome hearing from you. Having implemented ITIL best practices for our customers since 1992, I would love to continue being at our service with this fresh new look at service management that is much easier to integrate with the concepts, approaches, frameworks and standards as referenced in this article, but also when embracing Agile, Lean and DevOps. ITIL 4 deserves your attention. Let’s just hope that ITIL 5 will become available in (much less) less than 12 years. Our (service management) world is evolving fast.