Sign in
  • Blog
  • ITIL4
  • ITIL

Author  David Cannon

Executive VP, nfiniti3 and lead editor, ITIL 4 Leader: Digital and IT Strategy

September 20, 2023 |

 8 min read

  • Blog
  • ITIL4
  • ITIL

In the second of our three-part series looking at ITIL’s learning and certification routes to greater career development, David Cannon talks us through the value of ITIL 4 Strategic Leader:

What is the need for both strategy and leadership skills in IT management?

The changes in digital technology – so fundamental to the way businesses work at every level – has brought the need to be strategic, wherever you work in an organization.

Introducing technology that changes the way people do their jobs means that users will function differently, business operations will evolve and products/services will change.

And the problems begin when investing in IT functionality that appears easy to use but is deceptively more complex. For example, while a cloud-based software application may be simple and inexpensive, how do you then access, merge and use its data? This involves extra cost and specialized data engineering skills.

Perhaps less pressing but still an issue is introducing applications and AI tools – such as bots to communicate with the service desk, interpret questions and help users find answers – which requires strategic thinking because, in practice, these tools are not so intuitive and need educating.

And what about leadership?

While the previously predominant form of overseeing people was through management, today we see a different style of directing in many organizations: more autonomous teams who are given a job to do and required to figure out the “what” and “how”.

Leadership – as opposed to management – is more about vision and purpose. And the more digital an organization is, the less programmed and predetermined its decisions are. Therefore, a leader needs to ensure a team includes people with the right skills and knowledge; provides them with the necessary tools and funding and removes any “roadblocks” to getting the job done.

ITIL 4 Strategic Leader – what’s the relevance today?

The shift to ITIL 4 from ITIL v3 was partly driven by the move in organizations away from a single group managing technology on-premise. With cloud technology, anyone in an enterprise can access, acquire, and manage digital services.

Now, IT departments working in this cloud-based context must engage with business units developing their own apps for customers and help them manage and secure these technology products. This means an even greater need for service management, especially given all the variables and costs involved.

And this is one reason why the knowledge and competencies contained in the modules that make up ITIL 4 Strategic Leader remain so vital. Another is the advent of AI and the expectation among some people that AI will automatically be able to identify and apply ways to manage digital technology, while exploring new business opportunities. I think this is a complete misunderstanding of AI and simply doesn’t work. Ultimately, as leadership and strategy are critical, it’s down to people to decide the future of a company, not machines.

ITIL 4 Strategist: Direct, Plan and Improve (DPI) – enterprise-wide thinking

Within the ITIL 4 Strategic Leader learning and certification route, the Direct, Plan and Improve (DPI) module asks practitioners to look beyond their teams to the wider enterprise and their role within it.

Many people and organizations struggle to think of their enterprise as a whole, resulting in silos and a focus on individual team interests.

When digital transformation is limited to the departmental level rather than taking a holistic approach, it creates disconnected projects trying to solve a small number of business/technology problems, rather than transforming the entire business.

Therefore, the knowledge and skills in DPI are about understanding, consolidating and driving enterprise-wide digital transformation in a concerted way.  

Organizational change and continual improvement are still – in 2023 – very much a work in progress; to coin a space age analogy, we’re moving at the speed of light with a spaceship that’s in danger of falling to pieces.

If established companies are not thinking more broadly about new business models, they risk failing against disruptive newcomers.   

ITIL 4 Leader: Digital and IT Strategy – where are we going to?

If companies want to be truly effective in their digital strategy, they need to focus on business sustainability – in other words, thinking five to ten years ahead. Paradoxically, most organizations remain more focused on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

The second module within ITIL 4 Strategic Leader – Digital and IT Strategy – helps you work out where you are now, what you can hope to be, what capability you need to change, what type of organization you want to be and how you’re going to get there.

It helps set a vision, define how the business needs to change and how to manage and adjust along the journey. It focuses on business and operating models; for today and the future, while devising a transition plan between the two.

And ITIL 4 Leader: Digital and IT Strategy helps practitioners understand the role of innovation in an organization: how to encourage it and view innovation as a core competency. This also means monitoring and measuring your own technology development against the industry at large; knowing how to be adaptable and switch quickly when necessary.

While ITIL 4’s Managing Professional learning and certification route is there to ensure the organization meets its existing commitments, ITIL 4 Strategic Leader continually challenges the status quo and looks for new opportunities to get better, both today and tomorrow.