Holistic IT – a non-siloed approach with ITIL 4

Team of IT service managers sat around desks in office with desktop computers discussing holistic approach to their IT work

Siloed working has always been one of the most common issues in IT and IT service management (ITSM).

The lack of contact across operations teams, lack of knowledge about what design and development is happening and low collaboration is very painful for IT support, leading to low visibility, low transparency and less information.

This rigid way of working can happen through following procedures and processes without question, even though this might often make no sense at all.

However, thanks to ITIL® 4, I’m hoping to see more collaboration and more shared goals in IT organizations. But, first, why is it important to break down siloed ways of working?

The wastefulness of silos

The siloed IT mindset means the function fails to understand wider organizational requirements, strategic direction and how to create value. Ultimately, this causes waste – of time, resources and value, which is ineffective and uncompetitive.

Fulfilling technical IT requirements without a broader view of the final goal is not enough and, of course, this leads to conflict.

Solving the problem of siloed working is difficult as the organizational culture and structure often support it. This leads to teams that want to maintain a closed environment to survive, to preserve their power and absolutely avoid change.

Today, this is unacceptable. With the level of competition demanded by the market, organizations need to create value quickly and this needs a different approach based around Lean and Agile concepts.

It involves empowering people to be creative and collaborative; to achieve better results through different and more effective ways of working.

How does ITIL 4 help create a holistic IT approach?

Previously, I have seen ITIL processes treated like gospel and used in a prescriptive way. This was never the spirit and intention of ITIL.

Now, in ITIL 4, the service value chain gets rid of orthodox processes and focuses on the element of value co-creation. So, the goal is to achieve value rather than “implementing” the framework as a goal in itself.

Therefore, the guidance is more flexible and adaptable to handling a specific situation in order to achieve the value needed.

Also, the guiding principles are vital to build holistic IT: for example, rather than focus on process or procedure, the point is to “focus on value”. In turn, “collaborate and promote visibility” is about sharing information, goals and establishing trust. “Think and work holistically” addresses the silo problem directly and all of this helps to promote a different culture.

Encouraging continual improvement at every level of the organization means that change happens and is then tested with feedback, leading to greater improvements and optimization.

Cultivating a customer-oriented mindset, as shown in ITIL 4, helps to abandon silos by focusing on customer value. This can happen only with teams empowered to take responsibility and share goals.

ITIL 4 in the real world

In my role, I’m adopting service management practices (incident management, for example), gaining feedback and improving continually. This approach avoids waste and conflicts and instead focuses on what is required to succeed.

Despite this, silos remain difficult to break down and so I think – with the help of ITIL 4 – this will be a medium-term challenge to persuade people that a different approach is valuable and necessary.

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