ITIL update: Putting principles before process

White man in suit facing a wall on whcih entwined arrows are pointing right

Stuart RanceWhen I first ‘discovered’ ITIL® in the 1990s, it was both a revelation and like discovering a “family” I never knew I had.

At that time, I loved that “family” because of how it took us where we needed to be. And it was needed because IT was largely run by people with technical backgrounds and ad-hoc approaches to process and people.

ITIL introduced a set of defined processes and this was an essential stage on the journey from an anarchic, techno-central approach to the more managed, predictable and reliable delivery of service to customers.

Along the journey, however, some people absorbed ITIL in a way that led to an unintended bureaucratic approach, using the guidance as a set of instructions rather than adopting and adapting the advice to meet specific business needs.

Also, people who used to enjoy the techno-centric part of IT saw process as sucking the joy out of their jobs. I remember, in the 1980s, hearing a techie comment that “I don’t do people I only do computers!” when he was confronted with a customer complaint. I realized then that people who “only did computers” were going to run into problems.

Updating ITIL

The job that now falls to us on AXELOS’ Lead Architect Team (LAT) is guiding the latest ITIL update; that means seeking ways to be more agile and with greater focus on principles than processes.

Service management needs to move away from being prescriptive and instead focus on value, collaboration and agility. A good example of this is ITIL Practitioner, introduced last year with its 9 Guiding Principles and distilling other practices – such as Agile, DevOps and Lean – into simplified language so that people can use them more easily.

I’d love to see the ITIL update continue that emphasis, moving away from being prescriptive and instead providing principles and practical examples of how others have used them. This means telling people the important things they should be doing but not loading them with great detail about how. It needs to be practical, with good examples of how to apply those principles but ensuring there is a clear separation between what you must do (e.g. focus on value) and the examples, which are illustrative but not to be copied slavishly.

ITIL and DevOps

What should the ITIL update mean to the DevOps community? While it values the power of collaboration, that needs to extend to operations also! It can’t focus solely on automating the development stream at the expense of operational activities.

For change management, it’s possible to have integrated tools in a slick, end-to-end process that doesn’t get in anybody’s way. With IT Service Management (ITSM) people working in parallel with development, you can automate away the bureaucracy of change management and deliver value to the customer. That involves collaboration between development and operations, the latter which is still ITIL-focused.

The ultimate goal for our team is guiding a new ITIL version that will be concise and well-structured; in other words, short, sharp and helpful to organizations taking the next big step towards agility.

For more information, see our ITIL Update section.

More AXELOS Blog Posts about the ITIL Update

ITIL® Update: Mapping IT services with ITIL to drive business value

ITIL® Update: New effective ways of applying old ideas

ITIL® Update: IT Service Management Evolved

ITIL® Update: Evolution and Integration

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Stuart Rance

Service Desk Improvement - Part 1

Service Desk Improvement - Part 2.

Service Desk Improvement - Part 3

How does 'Focus on Value' relate to the rest of ITIL Practitioner Guidance?

ITIL® Practitioner - Focus on Value

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11 Dec 2018 Jason Zou
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I just achieved Expert level recently after completing the service lifecycle modules. I totally see the ITIL relevance to the business. However, every organisation is different and it is so easy to fall into the habit of introducing the process for the sake of "ITIL says so", rather than to adopt and adapt. So looking forward to seeing ITIL 4
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