In the first part of this two-part blog post series on ITSM anti-practices, ITIL Expert Pavel Demin described the problems of being too focused on implementation, increasing process maturity, "join-the-dots" ITSM and the risks of fast-tracking change requests. This time, Pavel turns his attention to the weakness of workarounds, getting the value chain right and how ITIL can help eliminate ITSM anti-practices.
Focusing too much on short-term and instant effects
Daniel H. Kim, an organizational consultant and a System Dynamics researcher, said: “Because western business and social culture quickly rewards prompt, decisive action, we move rapidly to implement a solution that alleviates the symptom.”
A common example of this is when technical support gets a huge amount of tickets from users that need to be solved as soon as possible. For the purpose of rapid service recovery, we use workarounds. The anti-practice of relying too much on workarounds to solve incidents quickly conserves problems that cause new incidents. In turn, problems accumulate and provoke even bigger, recurring incidents which can trigger a chain reaction in IT infrastructure and lead to new problems arising. Furthermore, the more workarounds implemented the more complex and fragile the IT infrastructure is; and this risks the system falling down more easily even with minor changes, because nobody knows how it really functions.
The service/customer dominant paradigm
The service-oriented paradigm that dominates in IT management nowadays emphasizes customer needs. However, focus on value (one of ITIL’s guiding principles) is often converted into the focus on the customer. This leads to the anti-practice of over-focusing on the customer and neglecting knowledge discovery.
There are different types of value and value for the customer is not the only one. Knowledge value – derived from knowledge discovery – is crucial in the early stages of the service value chain when uncertainty and risk are highest. Investments in knowledge discovery and storage do not contribute any value to a customer directly but make a huge difference to the service provider. It reduces risks and lets IT people do their work in a more predictive and controlled manner until it's time to contribute value to a customer.
In the customer dominant paradigm, as well as constant business pressure and an expectation of quick wins, IT managers forget the painful truth: delivering outcomes for a customer is not possible out of thin air, without some preliminary work.
There is nothing new in the problems described. So, it’s no surprise that we already have all we need to cope with them, particularly in the ITIL publications. The “adopt and adapt” principle and the Continual Improvement Model helps us to tackle the best practice implementation mindset. The definition of value, the description of how it forms and Lean principles should protect us from choosing the wrong level of bureaucracy. The Knowledge Management process itself and the knowledge discovery part in other processes (i.e. PIR in Change Management) emphasize the importance of knowledge value. Risk management activities throughout the service lifecycle can be especially helpful in overcoming short-termism.
Now, with ITIL 4, there is a lot of optimism that it will address many of the issues – such as the ITSM anti-practices discussed here – that have affected service management. ITIL 4 is bringing new ideas, approaches and fresh insights – essential for organizations managing IT, providing services and co-creating value in the digital economy.
Meanwhile, organizations that want to soothe their suffering on the service management journey need to examine the faulty models they have been using on a daily basis for too long. Doing this will help them leverage the benefits of best practice and minimize the existence of anti-practice.
Read the first post in this series, The problem of ITSM anti-practices - Part 1.