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Bouncing back with ITIL4

At the srvision and Trends in Tooling workshop day in Utrecht a brave team of delegates took part in a MarsLander simulation. The aim was to explore how ITIL®4 could help them transform their ITSM capabilities.

The question was ‘Do they need to transform’. After experiencing one round of the simulation it was clear that they did. The sales director and product owner experienced ‘little value from ITSM’ and were insisting that their requests and features be forced through. Only outages that were directly related to their requests would be considered. Meanwhile there was a growing backlog of technical debt and outages. The delegates recognized this from their daily reality!

Resilience: ‘The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’. Oxforddictionaries.com

Resilience was the theme of the srvision conference. This definition above is very appropriate. ITSM needs to recover its relevance quickly in a world that is rapidly adopting Agile and DevOps ways of working. ITSM, or more specifically ITIL as an ITSM practice, is in a tough position, rightly or wrongly it is seen as more of a barrier to flow than a flow enabler. Will ITIL®4 help it bounce back? As Charles Betz, Forrester said in his presentation at the conference – There are things we must ‘Stop’, ‘Continue’ and ‘Start’ doing. We must ‘Continue’ and expand service management. But service management must ‘Start’ with a focus on ‘flow’ and ‘feedback’. Which fits in nicely with some of the new ITIL®4 thinking, such as value streams and the flow of work, and a stronger focus on ‘continual improvement’ and the guiding principle ‘Progress iteratively with feedback’.

In the simulation the team applied ITIL®4 concepts to try and win over the sales director and product owner. ‘Show me the value that ITSM brings’ asked the sales director, whilst the product owner was mumbling about ‘outsourcing’.

Picture this, and imagine now this happening in YOUR organization:

We looked at ‘Collaborate & promote visibility’ one of the new ITIL®4 guiding principles. The Service manager facilitated an end-to-end mapping of the different types of demands, how they passed through the value chain and the expected value that should come out at the end. The exercise revealed a lot of demands entering. Not just business demands but also incidents, defects, events, problems, emerging technology and service improvements.

ITIL®4 Service Value System

We then explored ‘Focus on value’, a core guiding principle in ITIL®4. The contribution to value of each type of demand was unclear. As the business had never actually shared their strategic value goals it was almost impossible to effectively prioritize demands. This mapped to a key message from Will Evans in his opening keynote, ‘the need for the right governance structure to make sure we are solving problems that need solving – not just “what feature should we be deploying next”’.

At the same time we looked at ‘Start where you are’, another guiding principle. As Will Evans also presented in his keynote ‘How well do we know the situation now’? ‘Do we have situational awareness’?, ‘What are the impediments that are preventing value flow’?  – too few organizations spend time on this. Many don’t dive deep enough.

The Service manager and problem manager presented ‘situational awareness’, identifying wasted ‘TOIL’ throughout the chain, as well as the amount and impact of outages and what this would mean to future business demands (based upon the strategic goals). Service management presented a list of service improvement initiatives, together with the development team, aimed at being able to deliver more value. These were put on the backlog of demands. As Charles Betz presented in his session, in which he discussed ‘Site Reliability Engineering’ – 50% of time should be spent on reducing toil!  Eventually freeing up more time for value creation activities.

The product owner and sales director both admitted they now saw value in this “ITSM stuff’. ITIL® had bounced back from being seen as irrelevant to being seen as a value creating enabler. They both now also agreed the need to prioritize the value leakage improvements on the backlog of demands.

We then asked delegates ‘What will you take away from ITIL®4 concepts and start applying’?

  • Look at Value in terms of Value Creation (Positive effects) as well as Value leakage (negative effects). This needs to be visualized and used to prioritize.
  • The importance of collaboration through the value chain (and through individual value streams), and the need to visualize the demands, how they pass through the stream, and blockers and waste in the stream that is leaking value – such as toil.
  • Communicate the value and the value streams to help people break out of the SILO focus (people are too focused on resource allocation for own priorities, not shared value goals).
  • Visualize all types of demands passing through, visualize all of these different types of work, including service improvement initiatives and how each impact value.
  • Definitions and terminology is a barrier. Look for same principles and an end-to-end understanding of what we all want to work on, e.g. DevOps, Lean, Agile are all trying to understand and map value streams. This is a common focus.
  • Problem management needs to change focus (profile and skills) to identify repeat issues and outages, HOW they contribute to value leakage, and which future outcomes are placed at risk, which means a solid understanding of business goals and expected demands entering the value chain. This contributes to what Charles Bets suggested ‘Start with a focus on feedback – close and tighten feedback loops’ and use these to improve value flow.
  • Co-Creation of value requires ALL stakeholders, including vendor, vendor as partner not supplier, vendor also engaged in collaboration and visualization and how vendor can contribute.
  • Ensure each role in the value stream can relate their work to value. Not in terms of technology, services, service levels, code, features, but in terms of value.
  • Change prioritization needs to be related to the value stream, not to the functional silos submitting changes.
  • The Service manager was ignored in the simulation. A Service manager should ‘observe directly’ (ITILV2011 guiding principle), go to the teams and identify and discuss demands, flows, blockers then get people together, using visualization and map waste as well as potential service improvements, including emerging technologies to reduce toil (waste) and automate for speed.
  • Gain a better understanding (working together with the business) of the actual impact of events, incidents, defects, technical debt.
  • Identify ALL WIP and visualization is crucial, there is often too much hidden work. This work prevents allocation of resources to real value generation.

It was clear to delegates that ITIL®4 represents a mindset and behavior shift for many organizations, but provides some valuable new concepts to help align ITIL with other practice such as Agile and DevOps, and at the same time help shift the focus to value. However it will require new skills, and the ability to translate these concepts into practice.