Throughout the 25 years of its existence, ITIL has supported IT organizations in providing business value for their customers in the form of well-designed and supported services. ITIL has become the most widely used and most successful ITSM (IT Service Management) framework in the world, with true global reach. Over this time, ITIL has seen several major updates (the latest being in 2011) to make sure the recent advancements in technology and the latest changes in overall business requirements are taken into account. The recent surveys have shown that the core best practice principles ITIL follows - supporting business objectives, enabling business change, optimizing customer experience and continual improvement - have remained relevant and helpful in the modern age of Cloud, Agile and BYOD. What does the future hold for ITIL though?
A Holistic Approach
Successful ITSM initiatives rely on three main components - fit for purpose and fit for use processes, people who are valued and supported by the organizational culture, and technology as an enabler. Whenever one of these components is ignored, only failure can result. When we look at problematic initiatives, common patterns emerge. Creating processes is where many organizations start, but moderation and common sense is sometimes not considered. The result of this exercise can be a list of overly complicated processes, each accompanied by an impressive set of documentation, not always meeting the real needs of the organization. The next step then is buying an ITSM tool, which will be configured to match the newly created processes, resulting in a significant investment. Unfortunately, this is also where the organizations very often stop. For many reasons - main of which is perhaps the fact that this is the most complex one - the people side is often ignored.
ITIL is 'guilty' in making the process part easy, as it offers an effective process design, implementation and maintenance framework, introducing concepts like service design and continual service improvement. It provides the service management professionals with a smörgåsbord of processes and activities, most of which make sense to all types of IT organizations, and people tend to over consume. Having felt the pain of failing services, unhappy users and disappointed customers, those professionals are starving for solutions - and can end up with starters, mains and desserts on the same plate, in a huge heap.
Instead, ITSM initiatives should be more like a good à la carte experience - each dish chosen carefully, and cooked to one's liking. This is why ITIL will be focusing on a holistic approach, complementing the core principles with additional guidance on how to choose and design good processes, work with and enable people, and leverage technology to support it all. Responding to practitioners' requirements, an improved set of IT governance processes will also be added to the mix.
An Integrated Approach
Good services are not designed in isolation - a continuous dialogue between the service provider and their customers is essential. Rarely are all the components of one service delivered by just one team, so we need to take well-maintained (supplier) partnerships into account as well. The recent emergence of the DevOps philosophy has put even more focus on creating a value-focused well-functioning ecosystem between all parties involved, and getting rid of the silo-enforcing over-the-wall 'not my problem' attitude. Value creation requires a good understanding of the value chain, and this extends much further than just inside the IT department. Even though the DevOps name implies the concepts might apply only to the IT Development and Operations teams, the reality is that DevOps is about well-functioning cooperation between all teams, including HR, Finance, Facilities, and all the others. Also, let's not forget the Project Management Office.
ITIL has built-in support for this approach with processes such as business relationship management, service portfolio management, service level management and others. At the same time, much more guidance is needed for the 'how' - the context-dependent adoption of the best practice, the basis for organizational good practice.
There are various frameworks and methodologies that focus on specific aspects of the 'how'. Using e.g. KCS (Knowledge Centered Support) practices for additional guidance and Service Desk Institute's role-based trainings for staff development when designing service operation processes, might be the most successful way to transfer the key principles from ITIL's best practice framework into the organization.
We also need to look at other disciplines. There is no reason for ITIL to enter the field of e.g. software development with a wish to redefine the best practices there, but it does make a lot of sense to both explore those said practices and bridge them with ITIL. Doing this, ITIL also needs to define its own 'APIs' for other frameworks to tap into. At a first glance, the concepts behind Scrum, or Agile in general, might not seem relevant for IT service management, but who wouldn't want to have more visibility around the work done or guidance on how to break large tasks into bite sized correctly prioritised chunks for improved delivery? In fact, many of the best practices around how to adopt IT service management principles in Cloud-based environments do currently reside in the software development domain. The responsibilities there for infrastructure management have moved from physical hardware to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Infrastructure as Code, and the levels of automation that are now technically possible can be leveraged to greatly improve the efficiency of IT service management.
By providing a continually improving set of service management best practices, underpinned by a cybersecurity portfolio and well-defined bridges with other frameworks, ITIL of the future will be the 'grid' that can be laid over the whole organization, connecting the dots between business requirements and IT capabilities and providing the appropriate governance and risk management models to ensure maximum business benefits. Community involvement in all this is the key - ITIL needs to be a set of real best practices, collected and analysed by practitioners, for practitioners.
A Supportive Approach
To provide help on the service management improvement journey, ITIL will take the lead in Continuing Professional Development (CPD). A wide array of complementary trainings, in addition to a well-designed set of ITIL core trainings, will help professionals to keep their skills up to date, as well as learn more about emerging methodologies and how to apply them for their work. This is in turn supported by complimentary publications, including various practical white papers and related case studies. While acknowledging that rarely will a custom-made model described in a case study fit the needs of another organization perfectly, the reasons for and expected outcomes from choosing a particular approach, accompanied by lessons learned, can be very helpful and provide significant savings both in time and money.
A Future-Proof Approach
ITIL has been and will always remain an evolving set of best practices. As with any other framework, it has its strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on the needs of the practitioners, while ensuring the delivery of business value will make sure the strengths of ITIL will be developed further, and areas where it lacks comprehensive models will be addressed and improved. Instead of trying to describe one 'true' method to follow for adopting ITIL, the core set of universal principles will be supported by additional context-based materials where organizations of all sizes and from all geographies will find useful guidance on how to make the change happen. For the most widely adopted IT service management best practice framework, the future looks bright.