ITIL 4 – Value Streams: doing the right things for customers

Cartoon graphics depitcing connected clous, IT service management documentation maginifying glass, computer monitors and files

Value streams are without doubt my favourite topic in ITIL® 4, because the concept makes clear how the overall value that a service delivers is a complex combination of sub-components.

Now, to explain how value streams work I’d like to invite you for coffee:

Going to a coffee shop, you want to get a great coffee. This is the overall value you want. So what are the subcomponents? You want service with a smile, to have a comfortable seat and a clean table. Each is a value stream and without doubt contributes to the overall value of having a coffee, but they have their own specifics. For example, you get the coffee on the counter from one person, but another person is responsible for cleaning up the tables. Focusing on each individual topic can increase the overall value.

ITIL 4’s definition of value stream is “a series of steps an organization undertakes to create and deliver products and services to consumers”, all working across the ITIL 4 service value chain (SVC).

This concept clearly evolves the previous ITIL focus on processes and process outputs by helping people to easily understand how a stream connects processes to services and how operations support business strategy.

Value streams in practice

As value streams allow greater focus on particular elements of value created, IT practitioners can be more specific about which ITIL practices and activities to involve.

For example, incident management: taking this as a value stream, it means thinking about the journey, the skills, tools and combination of practices in the SVC to co-create value and solve issues.

This value stream will definitely include the SVC activity “Engage”. Why? The service desk makes the first, important impression on the customer. Therefore, the engage activity and service desk practice form a key part of this value stream.

Returning to our coffee example, if we see the whole thing as only a process, we will define the steps, the roles and responsibilities, create procedures and work instructions. In an ITIL 4 world we think more about the value of the different interactions with the customer and focus on topics which we would never put in process documentation.

Value streams are a practical approach and offer clarity about what value is. Today, with technology becoming more commoditized, it’s more about how you structure your interaction with customers than the technology itself.

Value streams and processes

One of the four dimensions of service management is value streams and processes which “defines activities, workflows, controls and procedures needed to achieve the agreed objective”.

However, despite having value streams and processes in one dimension they are still interconnected with the rest of the service value system – both in general and relating to specific products and services.

For example, to outsource part or all of your value stream you need to decide how important the value stream is for overall value co-creation. Also, you need to consider the other service management dimensions to clearly define the value stream.

Let’s say a customer wants to have a service in multiple languages. Do you build this service stream internally or use partners? Will your technology allow you to do that? You need to think about these things when defining a value stream.

Who gets value from value streams?

Value streams support the customer journey and the customer will notice that their provider has an eye for detail. Having a focus on each value stream that affects the customer means you can define the activities to optimize where necessary and ensure the customer experiences this.

ITIL 4 value streams are the vessel and toolset for this journey: moving from a process-driven approach to enabling you to deliver what the customer expects and wants. This perspective is more about service value management and asks the questions: are we delivering value? Can we optimize? Can the customer be happier?

It’s less about doing things right but doing the right things for the customer

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts from Nikola Gaydarov

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19 Mar 2020 Hsiao Huei
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Well said, however in a full cloud base world where service desk are usually automated, how does “engage” create service value for customer in an immature system? It is not immediate definable. it is enhanced overtime and built from base to maturity, service value are created only when the experience need improvement overtime.
13 Apr 2020 Nikola Gaydarov
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Hi Hsiao, I believe that in Engage one should be focused on all activities related to it. Even if we have a great degree of automation, there will be many ways a human can bring value. Engage is not the same as just Answer back. You can proactively ask questions :)
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