Focus on value is one of the nine guiding principles described in the ITIL® Practitioner Guidance and is the subject of the animated video below. Of course it’s so obvious that we should focus on value that you might wonder whether it needs saying at all.
The truth is that it’s easy to become distracted. Have you ever watched colleagues spend time and effort on things that don’t create enough value for paying customers. And, if you’re being honest, have you ever done it yourself?
I hope this blog will prompt you to ask yourself what a focus on value looks like, and to think about how a focus on value can improve the way you deliver and support IT services.
What is value?
The animated video shows an improvement project that didn’t focus on value. The project just implemented tools and processes. There was apparently little consultation with users and little thought given to organizational change management. The result was predictable, and one many of us will recognize; lots of money spent on a project that leaves customers unhappy.
The guiding principle focus on value tells us how to avoid outcomes like the one in the video: “Everything the service provider does needs to map back, directly or indirectly, to value for their customer."
The most important thing to remember is that value is defined by customers. It’s not defined by IT. So if you want to focus on value, the first thing you need to do is talk to your customers. Why do they use the services? How do the services help them meet their goals? If you focus on knowing your customers and understanding their needs, you will automatically have a focus on value.
When do we need to think about value?
The animation demonstrates how important it is to think about value during an IT Service Management (ITSM) improvement project. But that’s not the only time you need to focus on value.
When I worked in a technical support role, I had a wise manager who offered me this advice. “At least once every day you should stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself ‘If the paying customers knew that this was what they were funding, how happy would they be?’” I’ve followed this advice for many years, and it has really helped me focus on value. So my answer to the question “When do we need to think about value?” is “All the time!” Whether you are resolving an incident, planning a software upgrade, creating a capacity plan, or managing a service desk team, you should ensure that everything you do helps your customers achieve their goals. This is the real meaning of focus on value. It’s not an abstract concept; it’s a way of working that applies to everything you do.
Who defines value?
Hopefully you agree that the only people who can define value are customers. For some lucky people it is obvious who their customers are, but it can sometimes be more difficult.
Consider how value gets created in a typical internal IT department.
In this example the infrastructure teams manage servers, storage, networking etc. These teams provide services to application teams, which maintain and support business applications. Application teams have customers in business units such as sales, manufacturing etc. The business units create goods and services for sale to external customers.
So who are the customers of the infrastructure teams? Clearly their direct customers are the application teams, but if they want to focus on value it’s not enough for them to just create value for the application teams. They must also consider the needs of the business customers. Even this may not be enough because if the external customers aren’t getting value then where is the money going to come from to fund all this effort? So when you focus on value, you need to consider the entire value chain. Make sure you create value for your immediate customers, but also think about how you contribute to business processes, and how that creates value for paying customers.
Who needs to think about value?
In the animation we saw that the project didn’t just forget to ask customers about value, it also didn’t engage IT staff effectively. Thinking about value isn’t something that is just for management, everybody in the entire organization needs to understand how they create value.
This means that you need to go beyond the ITIL® Foundation training offered to staff in the animation. Management of change should ensure that all your staff understand how you intend to create value for customers, and you need to constantly reinforce this with appropriate communication and training.
See our ITIL® Practitioner section for more information
Read the Stuart's second blog on Focus on Value, How does 'Focus on Value' relate to the rest of ITIL Practitioner Guidance?.
See more blogs and animations about the ITIL Practitioner Guiding Principles
Observe Directly: how to avoid the "watermelon effect"
Why transformational projects go wrong unless you Work Holistically
Them vs us: the importance of Collaboration
ITIL® Practitioner: why it’s always best to Keep It Simple
ITIL® Practitioner - Be Transparent
The past and the present: why it's always important to Start Where You Are
ITIL® Practitioner - Design for Experience