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ITIL Practitioner: A guiding light for service management White Paper

White Paper

ITIL Practitioner: A guiding light for service management White Paper

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • IT Services
  • Digital transformation
  • Benefits realization
  • Capabilities
  • ITIL

Author  Karen Ferris, Marcel Foederer, Mauricio Corona, Simone Jo Moore, Barry Corless, Arjan van der Poel, Hitesh Patel

July 7, 2018 |

 16 min read

  • White Paper
  • IT Services
  • Digital transformation
  • Benefits realization
  • Capabilities
  • ITIL

How can IT service managers and others responsible for delivering services to internal and external customers use ITIL to provide value?


How can IT service managers and other professionals, who are responsible for delivering services to internal and external customers, use their knowledge of ITIL® to provide the most value for their organization?

ITIL Practitioner was launched in 2016 as the ‘how’ that built on ITIL Foundations’ ‘what’. It offers a wealth of practical guidance for the modern service manager. At its heart sit the nine ITIL guiding principles.

This article brings together the thoughts of leading IT service management professionals on how the guiding principles have worked for them.

Design for experience, progress iteratively

Karen Ferris, Director, ITIL Practitioner Architect Team Member

How and why would an IT team employ the ITIL Practitioner guiding principle of design for experience?

One situation would be establishing a service request catalogue to automate fulfilment of the most commonly requested services, and allowing customers to log their support requests. This would meet the objective of reducing the calls to the service desk and eliminate the need to increase the number of service desk personnel. It might also increase customer satisfaction with IT, as the customer experience would be improved with the provision of self-service facilities.

However, to achieve these outcomes the service request catalogue must be user-friendly and be designed with the customer experience in mind. This is where design for experience comes into play.

The first step, for example, could involve a series of design workshops with the customer base to ensure the terminology used in the catalogue resonates with the customer, that the navigation will be intuitive and that the categorization of services makes sense from a business perspective.

When the catalogue is operational, IT should use other critical competencies highlighted in the ITIL Practitioner guidance to increase usage and customer satisfaction:

  • Using metrics and measurements of uptake of the service request catalogue would provide objective evidence that could be used to demonstrate usage levels, encouraging more customers to consider the catalogue.
  • Organizational change management would be needed to identify areas of resistance and put in place tactics to overcome the resistance, as well as reinforcing the benefits of using the catalogue to those who had already adopted it.
  • A process of continual service improvement would be applied to the service request catalogue to keep improving the experience for the customer.

Overall, adopting the guiding principle of design for experience should show the IT Service Management (ITSM) professional:

  • not to design anything without customer/business involvement. You need to design for the customer experience;
  • that everything IT does needs to map, directly or indirectly, to value for the customer;
  • not to over-engineer solutions – keep it simple.

Observe directly, focus on value

Marcel Foederer, Master Trainer at ITpreneurs

Using the ITIL Practitioner guiding principle of observe directly, managers can ensure they focus on the right things for the customer. Often IT organizations analyze their own performance rather than what’s key for the client, which leads to a conflicting picture of success.

This discrepancy can happen frequently within organizations because key performance indicators (KPIs) are often developed without proper consideration and understanding of the reasons behind the measure.

Some KPIs can actually create undesired behaviours. For example, on the service desk, many organizations focus on the length of a call or the time to pick up the phone: these are not quality metrics and do not encourage customer-focused outcomes.

It is important to remember there’s more to service management than metrics. Businesses need to ask: ‘why are we measuring this and what’s the purpose?’, and to be effective, metrics must be aligned with the corporate mission and objectives. To develop these measures, the people creating them must observe directly.

In many organizations, managers are tempted to stay safe in the comfort of their office, but this means they aren’t on the front line where things happen. This leads to an old-school management style where managers know (or think they know) what’s needed. Yet what’s actually required is a style of management that coaches and facilitates the people on the frontline, who often know more about the work they need to accomplish, and what is stopping them accomplishing it, than their manager does.

By getting out of the office and seeing what’s really happening, managers get a clearer sense of the direction of a project. This allows them to offer the appropriate support. They’ll know what’s going on, recognize if the work is off track, and can intervene where needed.

Focus on the value that is required by the organization and its customers. Providers and customers must work together as a team and take responsibility for realizing that value. That can’t be done by managing from a separate room.

Keep it simple, progress iteratively

Mauricio Corona, PHD – Associate Director of BP Guru

One of the reasons that businesses overcomplicate processes in transition projects is because they are trying to develop an approach that meets all the principles of best practice.

Quite often, the people in charge or accountable for transition projects want to achieve perfection when designing a service; it’s a natural desire and they want to do their best. However, in ITSM, you can never achieve perfection. Continual service improvement is critical and it’s important to, as ITIL Practitioner states, progress iteratively.

Project owners can overcomplicate processes by trying to provide a solution for every exception. When creating a process, service designers do need to think about exceptions, but they can’t cover them all.

But as well as trying to get a state of perfection that they may never achieve, those leading a project are often trying to consolidate services in order to do more with less. In those instances, it’s even more challenging to achieve best practice; this is why organizations need to keep it simple.

How to keep it simple

Working with businesses ranging from telecoms to financial institutions, I’ve seen many examples of processes being overcomplicated and confusing. However, I’ve also seen how they can be handled effectively – and that isn’t through employing lots of people.

A good service desk is achieved through simple, thought-through processes that are efficiently automated and staffed by well-trained professionals. In fact, I once encountered a huge financial organization that had an effective service desk manned by just four people, which goes to show it isn’t all about numbers.

To keep it simple, I’d recommend the following considerations:

  • Ensure value. Every process should provide value and every activity should have a purpose.
  • Define your metrics. What does success actually look like?
  • Worse is better. Don’t expect too much from the first iteration; it should allow you to evolve and improve.
  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Leonardo Da Vinci’s advice is as true today as ever: It may seem harder to simplify but it’s more effective.
  • Do fewer things but better. Focus on the essence of what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Respect the time of the people. A 1 000-step process might be perfect but it’s too complicated, bureaucratic and, ultimately, is a poor use of customers’ time.
  • Easier to understand, more likely to adopt. To embed a process, make sure it’s easy to follow.
  • Simplicity is the best way to achieve quick wins. On any project, quick wins are important because they demonstrate value. By keeping it simple, you can demonstrate success more quickly.

Work holistically, work collaboratively

Simone Jo Moore, ITSM Consultant and Master Trainer

Approximately 70 per cent of all ITSM transformation projects fail, according to researchers from Gartner to McKinsey. Of these failed projects, about half are unsuccessful because of internal resistance.

But resistance isn’t always bad. It’s good to ask questions and be challenged on your assumptions, as it helps you refine your ideas and make improvements. Yet resistance without engagement can’t be channelled positively. Choosing to work holistically and collaboratively with others is critical to the success of a transition project.

One of the reasons negative resistance occurs is a lack of clarity on the goals and vision of a project. This often highlights an absence of leadership and governance at the top. If you’re going to be affected by a project and you’re not aware of the goal and why it’s happening, why would you engage with it or look forward to it happening? A project implemented without clear, well-communicated goals and vision is always going to struggle.

For an ITSM transformation project to be successful, it must support the business strategy and customer objectives; it can’t be done in isolation from other projects. Therefore, the guiding principle of work holistically must align with another guiding principle, work collaboratively.

Within a company, an ITSM project may be one of many streams of activity happening simultaneously. An HR project, for example, could also be running, with an impact on the same stakeholders. For this reason, project management offices (PMOs) of different projects must work together and have a responsibility to align and collaborate with others.

By consulting and collaborating with other departments, you can also identify where different teams can support and be a resource for the successful delivery of your project. For example, could the marketing team help with internal communications? Is there a research team better placed to poll stakeholders and gather insight? This expert support will make your life easier, while getting wider team involvement means the teams you consult can be additional internal champions for your project. Ultimately, this approach will also ensure momentum and help the change get traction.

During the initial analysis stage of an ITSM transformation project, you must access the power and influence of different stakeholders; their support can be of great benefit to the change initiative.

By understanding their relationships and attitudes, their ways of working and the cultural aspects that impact on how they use and integrate IT, you can create a communication plan that collaborates with and engages stakeholders.

Having a strong insight into your stakeholders additionally supports on-boarding planning and makes sure that once the ‘go live’ button is hit, every person has the necessary knowledge and skills. Undoubtedly, there will be deficits in knowledge within an organization, but by being aware of this in advance, PMOs can address the gap before they push the button.

For an ITSM transformation project to be successful, PMOs need to have an eagle-eye view and grasp the relationships and interdependencies of all aspects of an organization and its stakeholders. Having an overall view of the project is great, but when it comes to fruition, it’s important not to forget these relationships.

Be transparent

Barry Corless, Business Development Director for Best Practice, Global Knowledge

Why is the ITIL Practitioner guiding principle, Be transparent, so important to get right?

At times, the resolution of an incident isn’t communicated back to the service desk, and they may have nothing more to report to the customer than ‘it’s fixed’. This can leave the service desk feeling exposed, as they cannot advise the user on what was learned that might help them spot a problem in the future, or how they could lessen the impacts of these problems. Equally, there might be a perceived lack of time and resource required to send out effective communications.

As laid down in service level agreements, IT may be allowed to resolve an incident, send an email and close down the incident after a couple of days. However, that might not work well within the culture of the organization.

The ITIL guiding principle be transparent recommends meeting the customer, gathering feedback, being transparent and managing expectations. This is pertinent to people who lead service improvement initiatives; they should understand that transparency starts at home. If a service provider is transparent within itself, then chances are it will be transparent with the external customer, too.

I will share an example of successful transparency, but first it’s useful to recognize what can happen when an organization isn’t transparent:

In this real-life scenario, an organization was looking to introduce an ITIL-based problem management process. But, as there was a lack of transparency about what they were trying to achieve, namely looking for underlying causes and reducing incidents - the staff saw it as a way to put incident management out of business, and make service desk staff redundant.

Ultimately, the organization’s goal was to reduce the number of incidents, particularly where a customer was unhappy with a repeated problem. But by not being transparent and communicating fully, the IT department created its own negative story, which had a direct effect on the team’s enthusiasm for the job. However, with the appointment of a new service delivery manager, the full facts were communicated and everything changed, practically overnight.

Conversely, in a different organization, transparency was used to impressive effect: as the organization was considering service improvement, the CIO wanted to ensure as many people as possible were involved. Teams were brought together in ‘town hall’ style meetings and were asked what they would do to make their jobs easier and what effect that would have on the customer.

This generated a wealth of ideas about toolsets and ways of working across the organization. Each idea was recorded in a continual service improvement (CSI) register and made available so everyone could see the ideas. This resulted in about 35 different ideas for improvement that could be used, with transparency about who would be using them and why. It created a completely different environment for service improvement and customer focus; the IT team felt, for the first time, measured on the value it added to the organization, which was a real boost and bonus to them.

It takes a change in attitude to drive transparent behaviour, which then affects culture. Transparency shouldn’t be difficult but, as my experience in organizations has shown, a lack of it will affect people’s state of mind for the worse.

Start where you are, progress iteratively

Arjan van der Poel, Leadership and Management Trainer/Coach, Suerte Academy

When embedding a configuration management approach in an organization, the ITIL Practitioner guiding principle of start where you are is critical. Configuration management underpins all other processes. A configuration management database (CMDB) is dependent on the maturity of all other processes.

When beginning a configuration management journey, professionals should start by looking at the maturity of their other processes. This should be done with process managers to understand what’s working and what isn’t.

As a consultant, I came across an organization exploring configuration management. Its project lead asked technical experts for their opinions on what would be good in the CMDB. The project they wanted would’ve cost millions of Euros, yet would have been impossible to implement. Instead, if the project lead had focused on speaking with the process managers, and asking where they are now – rather than where they want to be – they would’ve ended up with a very different and much more achievable result.

So, as well as starting where you are, it’s important to take small steps in configuration management. By breaking down an activity or project into smaller parts, it’s more manageable and maintains the integrity of the CMDB. It also ensures that you can show senior stakeholders the benefits of your changes more immediately.

For consultants, or someone internal tasked with configuration management, it might seem easier to start from scratch with useable elements already in existence. By completing a thorough assessment of where a business is at the start of the process, you’ll get a sense of its maturity, what is working and what is not, plus what’s been done before and failed.

Walking into a business and immediately dismissing existing systems, approaches and processes is disrespectful and undermining to people within the company. Ultimately, this team has done the best they could in the circumstances so, rather than rejecting their efforts, you can learn from them. If configuration management was an easy task within their business, they would’ve already done it. Therefore, you can use the team’s input to understand why previous efforts didn’t succeed and use what they learned to inform future approaches.

By breaking configuration management into small steps, assessing where the business is now and learning lessons from the past, organizations can create a more sustainable solution. They’ll also see greater collaboration and willingness to participate from the whole business and ensure configuration management happens longer term.

Work collaboratively, keep it simple

Hitesh Patel, ITIL Implementation Consultant, Trainer, Coach and Author at Learning Tree International

A lot of organizations experience frustration with their service desk.

While that’s not a criticism – the majority get things done quickly – end users get annoyed by the speed of service desk support. Interestingly, what’s usually at fault is effectiveness rather than efficiency.

In some instances, service desks, and more broadly other IT teams, aren’t as effective as they could be because there’s a disconnect between the team and the rest of the business. They don’t have a relationship with other departments and often work in a silo. This can create a ‘them versus us’ attitude, when really what’s needed to be efficient and effective is a ‘we’ approach.

The ITIL Practitioner guiding principle, work collaboratively, helps to break down these barriers.

Knowing how and where to start are often the biggest challenges to collaboration and a common mistake is to start too big and end up in information overload. To avoid this, I’d recommend that collaboration is used alongside two other ITIL® Practitioner guiding principles: keep it simple and progress iteratively.

Rather than thinking of all the things that can be improved, instead decide on three things. The principle of focus on value should come into play here, as the three changes should make the biggest difference to the organization and the end user.

Knowing which stakeholders to engage can also be a barrier but, again, refer to ITIL Practitioner. Remember to start where you are: who are the people already involved? Could you begin with the service desk team themselves? After all, they do encounter the issues on a daily basis.

Ultimately, you want to find the key stakeholders and get a clear picture of the current situation. Engaging a business relationship manager (BRM) is absolutely critical at this stage, as they’ll be instrumental in helping you uncover the biggest pain points and what’s important to the customer.

Collaboration is a great way to identify issues with current processes, but it should be maintained throughout the lifecycle, too – and this is where a BRM can help as the conduit between the service desk and the end user.

It’s also important to remember the other guiding principles of be transparent and design for experience at this stage.

Collaborative approaches such as workshops and group activities can help identify issues. Maintaining communication channels ensures true collaboration throughout the lifecycle and means teams are efficient and effective.

ITIL Practitioner – Service management White Paper