Where to start? – The 7 ITIL Guiding Principles

ITIL - Information Technology Infrastructure Library

A guiding principle is a recommendation that provides universal and enduring guidance to an organization, which applies in all circumstances, regardless of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or management structure.

1. Focus on value.

Everything the organization does should link back, directly or indirectly, to value for itself, its “customers”, and other stakeholders. When focusing on value, the first step is to know who are the customers and key stakeholders that my value is being served. Second, it is important to understand what constitutes value from the consumer’s perspective. It is also critical to understand the customer’s experience with the organization and the product/service through a clear awareness of the customer experience or user experience.

  • Know the usage of your service/product/organization.

  • Encourage a focus on value among your team members.

  • Focus on value during every normal operational activity.

  • Include in any improvement initiative the focus on value.

2. Start where you are.

When you seek an improvement opportunity, do not start over without considering what is already available to be leveraged. You should not waste your time by wrecking the base of your work – be aware what has been invested (costs, sweat and time).

Observing existing services and methods should be in line with measurement if possible, to properly understand their current state and what can be reused from them. Information should always be as accurate as possible to make objective decisions. Always see measurement as a support for the analysis. Be aware – measurement is used to support the analysis of what has been observed rather than to replace it, as over-reliance on data analytics and reporting can unintentionally introduce biases and risks in decision-making.

  • The Starting Point is either the “customer” or result. Judge your existing methods as objective as possible!

  • Did you find successful existing practices? Use them! Determine if and how these can be expanded and replicated upon to achieve a desired improvement.

  • Evaluate with risk management skills.

  • Face it! Sometimes almost nothing or even nothing can be re-used.

3. Progress iteratively with feedback.

Resist the temptation to do everything at once. Slice it! Small steps or milestones (iterations) can be executed and completed in a timely manner. Each goal will be easier to achieve, its motivating instead of a frustrating. The focus on each effort will be sharper. Reflect any changes in circumstances and keep the focus on value on mind to re-evaluate and potentially revision every iteration as well as the whole initiative. Honest feedback is your tool to review your actions – analyze your improvement opportunities, risks and issues. Give feedback a value to learn, build and improve.

  • Small steps or milestones, while comprehend the whole.

  • Feedback is essential – circumstances change fast.

  • Fast =/= incomplete.

4. Collaborate and promote visibility.

Involving the right people in the correct roles, efforts benefit from more relevance (judgement for decision making has more value) and create increased long-term success. Inclusion is generally a better policy than exclusion since enthusiastic contributions, creative solutions, and important perspectives can be obtained from unexpected sources. Requirements for success are information, understanding and trust.

Identify and manage all stakeholders or groups involved. The most obvious stakeholder group is the “customers”, as in ITIL the organization’s main goal is to facilitate customer outcomes. Other examples of stakeholder collaboration include: developers (collaboration with other internal teams – like research) or internal and external suppliers.

The contribution to improvement of each stakeholder group at each level should be understood, as should the most effective methods to engage with them. Expect different variations about the level and type of collaboration, depending on the relationship between the organization and “consumer”. Address the needs of involved stakeholders! Determining the type, method, and frequency of such messaging! An organized activity @communication is highly recommended.

Stakeholders need a clear vision of the progress and workload! Never give the impression that nothing happens! Insufficient visibility leads to poor decision making and impacts the ability to improve internal capabilities. To avoid this, you will need critical (and sincere!) analysis of the workflow, bottlenecks and excess capacity.

  • Collaboration =/= consensus

  • Shout out loud – frequent communication is the way to go.

  • “Good” decisions can only be made with visibility.

5. Think and work holistically.

In a complex system, the alteration of one element can impact others. These impacts need to be identified, analyzed and planned for. Nothing stands alone – whether a service, practice, process or department. The result will suffer unless it works in an integrated way to handle its activities as a whole, rather than as separate parts.

Taking a holistic approach to ITIL concepts includes establishing an understanding of how all the parts of an organization work together (four dimensions: organizations and people, information and technology, partners and/or suppliers, value streams and processes). Demand is captured and translated into outcomes.

  • Recognize the complexity of every element.

  • Collaboration is key to working holistically.

  • Reach out for patterns in the needs of and interactions between elements.

  • Automation can facilitate working integrated.

6. Keep it simple and practical.

Always use the minimum number of steps to accomplish an objective. Result-based thinking should be used to produce practical solutions that deliver valuable outcomes. If a process, action or metric fails to provide value or produce a useful outcome, then eliminate it. Do not focus on every exception, this will automatically lead to over-complication. Instead, rules, workflows or processes should be designed that can be used to handle exceptions generally.

Value creation is your goal – keeping it simple and practical helps to understand the contribution. Establish and communicate a holistic view of the work. Individual teams or groups can understand how their work is being influenced by, and in turn influences, others.

Keep your eyes open of conflicting objectives when designing, managing, or operating practices. For example, managers may want a lot of data (quantity), but service teams might be constrained in prioritizing the collection and detail of that data. Find a compromise between competing objectives.

  • Ensure value.

  • Simplicity is key.

  • Set only a few rules to cover the major practices.

  • Respect the time and work of people involved.

  • Adoption is easier when it is not complicated.

  • Get the low-hanging fruits.

7. Optimize and automate.

Maximize the value of the work carried out by human and technical resources. Technology can help organizations to scale up and take on frequent and repetitive tasks. However, technology should not always be relied upon without the capability of human intervention, as automation for automation’s sake can increase costs and reduce robustness and resilience.

Optimization intents to make something as effective and useful as it should be. Always optimize first before considering an automation. Consider that you have set constraint limits for optimization! E.g. Costs, time or resources could be wasted.

The path to optimization follows these high-level steps:

  • Declare the context in which the proposed optimization exists.

  • Judge the current state of the proposed optimization.

  • Focus for the desired outcome on simplification and value of an optimization. Set limits!

  • Ensure the optimization is for everyone involved acceptable,

  • Remember iterations – optimizations and everyone involved loves low-hanging fruits.

  • Monitor the impact/effect of optimizations.

Automation typically refers to the use of technology to perform a step or series of steps correctly. Set automation in the context of standardization and streamlining of manual tasks. E.g. define rules to allow decisions without being reviewed individually. Stop human involvement and evaluation of each part of a process to achieve more efficiency. Automation is an opportunity for reduced costs, reduced human errors, and (important!) improving experiences for involved.

  • Optimization >>>> Automation

  • Use automation to achieve better experiences, reduce errors and save costs and time.

  • Define your metrics.

  • Use the other guiding principles when applying this one!

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