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Author  Stephen Mann

June 22, 2023 |

 8 min read

  • Blog

Silos are easily formed in the workplace. How can you combat this phenomenon?

Silos are one of the most commonly touted causes of ineffective organizations and processes. Overly functional thinking results in operational and outcome-based issues.

The service desk buys new software licenses, even though the asset management team has a license surplus. IT is belatedly informed of a departing employee, making it nearly impossible to collect physical IT assets. This is often the organizational equivalent of ‘the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing’.

This article looks at how ITIL 4 can help resolve the silos in organizations and their unwanted impact.

Processes and silos

One of the traditional issues with early versions of ITIL, or at least ITIL training, was a total focus on processes. This issue translated to organizations singularly adopting processes. For example, the corporate IT service desk might adopt incident management best practices, but this is done ‘in a bubble’. The process might appear to work well, but it is ultimately siloed, creating potentially problematic links when other ITIL processes, such as problem and change management or continual service improvement, are later adopted.

This silo-based working was never the intention of the ITIL best practices and, similar to IT service management (ITSM) tool implementation issues, it is an industry-wide problem that requires attention for organizations to fully reap ITIL’s potential benefits.

ITIL 4 recognized this limitation with the earlier versions of ITIL and has addressed them.

One element of ITIL 4 aimed at reducing silo-based operations is the linkage of each practice guide to other practices. For example, the service desk practice guide outlines the activities related to other ITIL 4 practice guides:


Practice guide

Incident resolution and managementIncident management
Management and fulfilment of service requestsService request management
Definition of content, timing, and format of communications between users and the service providerAll practices providing information to or using information from users. These include incident management, problem management, change enablement, release management, project management, software development and management, infrastructure and platform management, information security management, and many others
Monitoring of technology and service performanceMonitoring and event management
Management of improvement initiativesContinual improvement
Communications between the service provider and stakeholders other than usersRelationship management
Maintenance and improvement of the use of information and knowledgeKnowledge management

Source: Axelos, Service desk: ITIL 4 Practice Guide (2023)

But the ability of ITIL 4 to help organizations remove the silos often found in IT operations is probably best demonstrated through the use of the ITIL service value chain and example value streams.

A simple value stream for incident management

A key point to note is that using the ITIL 4 service value chain to map out value streams allows those responsible to understand who does what and when. This visibility and insight helps to break down the silos that would otherwise occur.

So, for incident management, the value stream might include various parties, including the IT service desk, the end-user, problem management personnel, and the application development team. A simple incident management value stream could entail the following:

  • Engage The end-user experiences an issue with a software application and contacts the IT service desk.
  • Plan The IT service desk logs an incident and categorizes and prioritizes it.
  • Design & Transition If it is a known error, the IT service desk resolves the incident using the solution from the known error database. The incident is escalated to the problem management team if it is a new error.
  • Obtain/Build If the problem management team cannot resolve the incident, they escalate it to the application development team, who might need to make some changes in the application to fix the issue (which invokes change enablement).
  • Deliver & Support Once the fix is applied, the application development team informs the problem management team and IT service desk.
  • Engage The IT service desk communicates the fix back to the end-user and verifies that the incident has been resolved satisfactorily.
  • Improve Any identified improvements are logged for future consideration.

The use of value stream mapping for incident management, even in such a simple manner, allows IT service desk personnel to understand the links and dependencies on other IT teams such that siloed working and issues this brings can be avoided.

A simple value stream for leavers

A key point to note about the leaver value stream is that it involves third parties outside of IT. It is important that IT personnel can see the links and dependencies between what they need to do and the requirements and work of other business functions.

A simple (IT-focused) value stream for leavers might include the following:

  • Engage Human Resources (HR) engages with the departing employee’s manager to understand the terms of departure and the last working day.
  • Engage HR communicates the leaver’s details to IT to ensure the necessary steps are taken to handle the IT aspects of the employee’s departure.
  • Plan IT plans the necessary actions, such as retrieval of IT equipment, employee account deactivation, file backup or transfer, etc.
  • Design & Transition IT makes any changes necessary to accommodate the employee’s departure. These actions might also include the transition of responsibilities if the employee had special IT system roles. It might also involve the collection of physical assets from a colleague if the employee is not office based on their last day.
  • Obtain/Build If a new employee is replacing the leaver, IT may need to obtain or build a new user profile, email account, etc. for them (although this might be addressed through an onboarding process).
  • Deliver & Support IT carries out the planned actions, ensuring all company IT resources are retrieved.
  • Engage If needed, IT informs HR that the leaver’s IT assets have been processed.
  • Improve Feedback and lessons learned are used to improve the leaver process as appropriate. This improvement could involve addressing any handover and silo-based difficulties.

Again, using value stream mapping allows an IT team to better understand where the key touchpoints and dependencies are with third parties. The risks of silo-based working are minimized, and disparate groups can work together seamlessly to achieve business objectives.

Understand more about how to integrate different ITIL practices together by exploring the ITIL practice guides.