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ITIL Practices in 2000 words: Workforce and talent, relationship, knowledge management, and OCM

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ITIL Practices in 2000 words: Workforce and talent, relationship, knowledge management, and OCM

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  • White Paper
  • IT Services
  • Problem management
  • Service management
  • ITIL

August 27, 2021 |

 9 min read

  • White Paper
  • IT Services
  • Problem management
  • Service management
  • ITIL

This paper will provide a brief overview of the four practice guides in 2,000 words.

1. Introduction


ITIL® 4 includes 34 management practices, each with a 30-40 page practice guide, which are available online. This paper explores four of them and is largely focused on the management of organizations and people, one of the four dimensions of service management. This paper will explore the following practice guides:

  • workforce and talent management
  • relationship management
  • knowledge management
  • organizational change management (OCM).

2. Key terms used in the ITIL Practice Guides

Key terms used in the ITIL Practice Guides

All ITIL practice guides follow the same structure featuring five main sections:

  • General information
    • Purpose and description
    • Terms and concepts
    • Scope
    • Practice success factors
    • Key metrics
  • Value streams and processes
  • Organizations and people
  • Information and technology
  • Partners and suppliers.

The practice guides consistently use the following key terms, which will also be used in this paper:

  • Practice
    A set of organizational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective. These resources are grouped into the four dimensions of service management.
  • Practice success factor
    A complex functional component of a practice that is required for the practice to fulfil its purpose. (Note: in this definition, ‘complex’ refers to the multi-componential character of PSFs. Like practices, PSFs draw upon all four types of the organization’s resources.)
  • Metric
    A measurement or calculation that is monitored or reported for management and improvement.
  • Process
    A set of interrelated or interacting activities
    that transform inputs into outputs. A process takes one or more defined inputs and turns them into defined outputs. Processes define the sequence of actions and their dependencies.

(Note: each practice guide describes several processes in the ‘Value streams and processes’ section.)

The best way to understand the essence of an ITIL practice is to look at its purpose and the practice success factors.

3. Purpose statements

Purpose statements

The purpose statements of the four practices reviewed in this paper are expressed as follows:

PracticePurpose statement
Workforce and
talent management
To ensure that the organization has the right people, with
the appropriate skills and knowledge, in the correct roles to support
its business objectives.
Relationship managementTo establish and nurture the links between the organization
and its stakeholders at strategic and tactical levels. It includes
the identification, analysis, monitoring, and continual
improvement of relationships with and between stakeholders.
Knowledge managementTo maintain and improve the effective, efficient and convenient
use of information and knowledge across the organization.
Organizational change
To ensure that changes in an organization are implemented
smoothly and successfully, and that lasting benefits are achieved
by managing the human aspects of the changes.

Together these practices ensure that:

  • the organization employs the right people (workforce and talent management)
  • all internal and external stakeholders are connected in the right way (relationship management)
  • teams are equipped with the relevant knowledge (knowledge management)
  • all the relevant people, connections, and knowledge change as needed to continually support the organization’s strategy (OCM).

Of these four practices, two were out of scope in the earlier versions of ITIL, and the other two had a narrower scope and did not address the people aspect of an organization. In many organizations, these practices are still perceived as someone else’s responsibility, rather than a part of IT service management. This approach does not meet today’s requirements.

The workforce and talent management practice guide says: “It is important to ensure that IT leaders, managers, and teams share responsibilities for effective workforce and talent management with the organization’s HR professionals. Teams’ effectiveness, culture, and competence cannot be developed solely by HR professionals or IT managers and the value which HR management brings to an organization, cannot be delivered: it should be co-created by HR professionals, IT managers, and IT staff together.” This applies to the other three practices. To fulfil the combined purpose stated above, many teams in the organization need to work together, including IT, HR, marketing, transformation, and others.

The workforce and talent management practice guide offers seven recommendations that can be universally applied to all practices that are concerned with the people component of an organization:

  • Organizations are open systems, their relationships with other systems cannot be ignored.
  • As an organization’s business strategy continually evolves, so should the HR strategy.
  • Digital technologies change the way organizations work and the skills that organizations need.
  • Decisions should be driven by principles, not rules.
  • Organizations should recognize and embrace complexity and complexity-driven heuristics.
  • Organizational agility, adaptability, and efficiency should be enabled by the organizational structure and management practices.
  • Workforce and talent management is the responsibility of every team, manager, and leader in the organization, not only HR professionals.

4. Key concepts and messages

Key concepts and messages

The key concepts and messages of these practices show how the respective areas of management have evolved since the last ITIL update in 2007 to 2011. It also equips organizations to address modern challenges and opportunities. Below, the most important concepts and messages are discussed.

4.1 Workforce and Talent Management

Organizations and employees co-create value for each other, as shown in Figure 4.1. The value that is co-created for an employee is important for an organization’s sustainable existence and operation.

Figure 4.1 Employee experience as a key factor of service experience

Figure 4.1 Employee experience as a key factor of service experience

The workforce and talent management practice should be holistic, including features such as shared values, strategy, structure, system, style, staff, and skills (collectively known as the 7-S model). It should also address the people involved in the organization’s management system, which is why the ITIL definition of an employee is broad.


Any individual engaged to work within an organization. This includes but is not limited to: permanent members of staff, contractors, volunteers, and members of another organization’s staff who are working under the organization’s authority. Also referred to as a ‘member of workforce’.

Culture and effective leadership are two essential enablers of an organization’s success.

4.2 Relationship Management 

Relationships between individuals and teams are as important as the relationships between organizations. Relationship management should address both internal and external relationships and cannot be limited to the management of relationships with customers.

Any type of relationship is an interaction between people; therefore, human nature and values should be accounted for whenever people interact with each other.

Relationships are based on communication; the relationship management practice should follow the principles of effective communication:
  • Communication is a two-way process.
  • We are all communicating all the time.
  • Timing and frequency are important.
  • There is no single method of communicating that works for everyone.
  • The message is in the medium.

Relationships are a journey, for most stakeholder journeys the service journey model described in ITIL 4: Drive Stakeholder Value applies. An example of how this model can be adapted for internal relationships is provided in the workforce and talent management practice guide (2.2.4).

4.3 Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is not about databases, storages, and FAQs. It is a way of transforming information and organizational intellectual capital into value for the organization and its stakeholders.

Knowledge is processed and used in the context of value streams. This practice is integrated into value streams and ensures that information is provided effectively and on time to meet the stakeholders’ expectations.

This practice should focus on discovering and providing high-quality information that is available, accurate, reliable, relevant, complete, timely, and compliant within a defined scope.

There are two types of knowledge:

  • Explicit knowledge: this can be transferred to others, codified, assessed, verbalized, and stored. It includes information from books, databases, descriptions, and so on.
  • Tacit knowledge: this is difficult to transfer to others, express, codify, and assess. It is based on experience, values, capabilities, and skills.

Figure 4.2 SECI model of the knowledge sharing development

Figure 4.2 SECI model of the knowledge sharing development

Effective decision-making includes data-driven and insight-driven decisions. The importance of tacit knowledge and insight-driven decisions means that knowledge management should be a people-focused practice, not just focused on information and technology. The knowledge management practice aims to create an environment where it will be possible to discover who knows what, who needs to know what, how the organization might benefit from the individual’s knowledge, how to make it sharable, and how to respect the individual’s privacy. Codes of conduct, ethical concerns, and inspiring people can be utilized to transform tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.

4.4 Organizational Change Management 

OCM is concerned with organizational improvement and evolution. This practice aims to build a value-driven environment across the organization and enable successful organizational changes of the required scope. OCM contributes to every part of the service value system. It incorporates three premises:

  • The practice is integrated into value streams and ensures that changes are effective and safe and that they meet stakeholders’ expectations.
  • The practice does not aim to unify all of the changes planned and performed in an organization, as this is neither possible nor required.
  • The practice should focus on balancing effectiveness, agility, compliance, and risk control for all the changes in the defined scope.

Stakeholders must demonstrate presence, consciousness, self-leadership, and responsibility when performing changes related to people. It is important to focus on the three dimensions of change: the individuals involved in the change, the relationships between those individuals, and the overall systems. The workforce and talent management and relationship management practices are directly connected to the first two dimensions. These practices can initiate and support organizational changes.

To create flexible, resilient, and fulfilled individuals, teams, and systems, organizations should aim to support the development of emotional, social, and system intelligence.

5. Working together

Working together

All ITIL practices can interact within the value streams that they contribute to. Value stream mapping is the most practical way to map and understand the practices’ interactions and information exchange. Figure 5.1 shows some of the connections between the processes of the four practices discussed in this paper.

Figure 5.1 Interconnected processes of the four practices

Figure 5.1 Interconnected processes of the four practices

Each practice includes a process that establishes and maintains the common rules and models. These processes are shown in the centre of the diagram. Together, they help to establish an effective organizational structure that is change-adaptive, supported with a relationship management approach, and effectively manages and uses its knowledge. Other processes apply these common rules in the context of each practice, but also to support other practices, as shown by the dashed arrows.

This diagram is not exhaustive, as interactions are never limited to these four practices and ten processes. Rather, they are always part of a bigger system, which is the value streams and overall service value system of an organization. However, even this simplified diagram shows how interconnected and interdependent the practices are.

6. Summary


ITIL 4 provides comprehensive guidance for 34 management practices. Four of them, particularly those that address the organization and people dimension of service management, provide recommendations for workforce and talent, internal and external relationship management, knowledge management, and OMC. The practice guides include principles and recommendations that apply across many practices. Some of the models and tools described in one practice guide can be applied to other practices. The practices should be designed and managed in a holistic, integrated way, to contribute to the organization’s value streams and enable value co-creation for the organization’s stakeholders.

ITIL Practices in 2000 words