ITIL 4 – a healthy balance of structure and agility

Illuminated road track spiralling though urban landscape

Organizations that previously set up IT processes that lasted for years are now preparing themselves for new ways of working – and a “machine” of constant change.

Running in parallel to this has been the introduction of alternative ways of working – such as Agile methods and DevOps – while discussions about IT service management (ITSM) in the market and at trade shows have reflected more the history than the future of providing tech-enabled services.

In the way that Agile and DevOps have been looking forwards rather than backwards, and leading the conversation, this has attracted more users and created a different “vibe” in the industry.

However, the initial determination to move forwards and, in some cases, throw out the more established frameworks like ITIL®, has certainly caused a swing back to a healthier balance between structure and agility.

And this is why the evolution of the guidance in ITIL 4, which maintains the core of ITIL while adopting Agile approaches, is right.

ITIL 4 and the Guiding Principles

In ITIL 4, the seven Guiding principles are key to directing organizations towards effective service management.

They are relatively easy to understand and, for those IT practitioners coming from an Agile background, provide both a familiarity and another reason to show interest in what else the ITIL framework has to offer. In fact, ITIL’s Guiding Principles contain a clear recognition of the Agile Manifesto’s principles.

For example, Progress iteratively with feedback encourages doing work in smaller chunks; is about creating tangible results within a short time period and then gathering feedback to ensure the work remains focused and can respond to any changing circumstances.

Equally, Collaborate and promote visibility means avoiding silos and bringing together different functions or business units to understand customer requirements and design the best solutions.

For established ITIL practitioners, ITIL 4 gives a critical insight into Lean, DevOps and Agile principles along with an understanding of the 34 management practices which fit within the four dimensions of service management: organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers, value streams and processes.

So, people who have been adopting and adapting ITIL v3 can look to ITIL 4 with confidence that the terminology and processes they already know remain relevant but are enhanced with an updated approach more aligned to ITSM management today.

As it’s always been, ITIL is like a cookery book with plenty of recipes to choose from but without forcing anybody or any organization to “cook” everything.

And in relation to one of the main challenges I see with organizations – that is the process of trying to tear down silos between development, operations and business – ITIL 4 will certainly help.

Where, previously, the target user for ITIL was the person working in IT operations, the latest version shows that the framework can and should reach other parts of an organization and provide a more complete picture for service management and value co-creation.

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