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Author  David Crouch – consultant, Beyond20 and co-author, ITIL 4 Digital and IT Strategy

November 16, 2021 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Service management
  • Value
  • ITIL

In teaching and consulting with companies about the concepts in ITIL® 4, I see a need to level up in IT.

When I’m asked why someone in IT needs to “learn business school-type ideas”, it’s clear that some people and organizations need to modernize, especially with the importance of digital transformation.

One area that I think is vital – both now and moving into 2022 – is the concept of managing value streams.

Value streams: from ITIL v3 to ITIL 4

The repeatable processes of ITIL v3 – while still a good thing in many respects – run the risk of creating organizational silos, with different teams or departments not collaborating or communicating well.

For example, a functional group may theoretically take ownership of individual processes, such as the service desk and tier two and three teams. However, in a process world, often nobody would end up owning the end-to-end processes.

Instead, the value stream concept says that even across processes and functional areas, teams need to do a better job of communicating to understand what the customer really wants. If an employee has a broken laptop the immediate resolution might be a loaned replacement, though a better option would be the ability to order a new laptop themselves.

When moving such a process from incident to service request (including financial management, procurement and supplier management) you could face “black hole syndrome”: who’s in charge of doing what? From the customer perspective, where is my request in the process, who do I contact, and when will I receive what I requested?

Instead, the goal of value stream mapping is to make all the work visible to identify the different steps and the collaboration and duration needed to improve the customer experience and eliminate waste. In many instances, this means multiple functions beyond just IT working together.

Value streams in action

One instance where I’ve seen value streams working well is helping managed service providers to onboard new customers.

Typically, a breakdown can occur when the operations and infrastructure teams are unable to meet the customer service promises made in the initial sales process.

To address this, you need to get more and different stakeholders involved in value stream mapping workshops from the beginning, including IT, service design, infrastructure, enterprise architecture and the service desk.

This helps to identify any gaps in the value stream when delivering a service (e.g., not having the necessary subject matter expertise in-house), removing waste and ensuring there is greater collaboration and less dependence on single individuals in any team.

Value streams are introduced in ITIL 4 Foundation but expanded in the ITIL 4 Specialist Drive Stakeholder Value and ITIL 4 Specialist High-Velocity IT modules. The concepts fit with Agile approaches such as developing a minimal viable service that can be changed if necessary.

A value stream plan for 2022

Organizations should pick a handful of value streams and start experimenting as a proof of concept.

That means putting owners in place and starting to organize activities in value streams rather than disparate processes and teams. It’s not necessary to hire new people for this, as a value stream owner may have other roles (e.g., project manager, service delivery manager) with some skills that cross over.

Further down the line, if a particular value stream is large and important enough it might need a dedicated role. For example, if a managed service provider is onboarding new customers constantly, having a person committed to that role will make sure things run smoothly.

By doing this, organizations can expect to see increased customer satisfaction, the introduction of new skills – elements of business analysis, project management and service ownership – and the start of culture change: from one of “me and my team” to “we’re all in this together”.