Remote working and ITIL 4: It’s not business as usual

A woman speaking to her colleagues on video as remote working is facilitated with ITIL 4

Remote working for many companies during this lockdown has proven the proverb: “necessity is the mother of invention”. In other words, if you’re forced to do it, you make it happen.

US companies have often struggled with remote working; it’s too early to tell which organizations have succeeded under these circumstances and whether they will continue this way of operating in the future.

To benefit from virtual teamworking, organizations need to rethink their value streams for delivering products. This means not only equipping remote employees with laptops and collaboration tools, but also helping them to understand, improve and streamline their workflows.

The risk of “walls of confusion” with remote working

Siloed working is not a new problem; under normal working conditions, every workplace department has its own “tribes” with goals and objectives that are often unaligned with the overall system. Now, imagine how remote working might further affect that situation.

Because they may feel isolated, I believe people working at home have a desire to be part of something. This is a new experience for most people and often means they’re looking for a sense of security.

The current, enforced way of working remotely can – I believe – affect employees' abilities to think of themselves as part of a larger organization and "system".

Organizations and their leaders/managers would do well to capitalize on these feelings by working more diligently to establish a sense of something bigger and ensure people stay connected. ITIL® 4’s framework is positioned to help with this.

Lessons from ITIL 4’s Service Value System

ITIL 4's Service Value System (SVS) offers learning that can help in the current situation by breaking down silos as well as encouraging collaboration and holistic working that’s based on effective communications and relationships.

If we think of an organization as a service management operation, this has to include value streams and how they can be made more efficient. And this also means building relevant skills that help people understand their role and that their work is part of the larger system.

Other critical skills include relationship management and the co-creation of value by focusing on what value is and how stakeholders achieve it collaboratively.

Important to the SVS approach is the culture of continual improvement, where people have a clear responsibility to ask the question: “Why are we doing things this way?”

I believe this type of thinking is already happening in some organizations during lockdown. For example, according to an article in media outlet NPR, the US Social Security Administration’s workforce – now working remotely – has reduced the department’s work backlog by 11%. There is no study that explains why, but the article suggests people are working longer at home; I would speculate they are not necessarily working longer, but possibly working smarter and more efficiently.

Maintaining such results when returning to the workplace is where ITIL 4’s organizational change management approach is valid. It can help workers learn from the remote working experience and create momentum to move forward from the less productive work habits previously displayed in the workplace.

Changing businesses and creating value

So how do the concepts of ITIL and remote working relate to one another?

A young IT candidate participating in a recent ITIL 4 Foundation course I was teaching said he didn’t see how it pertained to him or his technical training needs. A more senior colleague replied: “I can answer your question right now. Technology is not the issue; what you need to know is how to provide value. That’s why you’re here.”

This is a key consideration for organizations both now and beyond lockdown. ITIL 4 provides the Service Value System to change the way they normally do business as well as guidance for the motivation and the skills to do this. And the guidance also gives leaders the capability and approach to make this happen.

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