Last couple of months i have read an increasing number of posts and articles addressing ITIL and the challenges with achieving good IT Service Management. All of them are good, some even exceptionally good. I read them and agree with them but they seem to have one thing in common. They are all pointing out the fact that the initiative must be Customer focused. The guiding star needs to be business value. I do not disagree with that. For sure not. Enable business and business value should be the guiding stars and a Customer focus should be main ingredient.
I made a quick un-scientific search for articles and posts a few years back in time and guess what, we said the same thing back then. There might have been a few differences in the words used but the message was clear. Customer focus, Business value, IT as enabler seems to have been the receipt for ITSM success.
This gives us what?
If this is what we today promote as success factors for ITIL and ITSM i guess we will get the same result in a couple of years as we have today based on our recommendations a few years back. And what was that again. IT organizations still struggling and the community still promoting the same mantra, IT as enabler, business value bla bla bla.
How can ITIL help?
Do I have an easy answers? No! There are no easy answers. There are no silver bullets. There is hard work and practice. What do I mean with that? If we take a closer look at ITIL there is something called ITIL Maturity levels which i really like. It actually states that every organization, in relation to ITL, has a maturity level that defines where they are positioned based on this maturity model. When taking a dive into this model we find that it is more than just the five main levels. It is multidimensional and a organization can carry out activities belonging to maturity levels both above and below their "actual" level of maturity. This makes things complicated even when simplified to 5 levels of maturity.
What should we promote?
Is it easy enough to say Customer focus and Business value? I really do not think so. If we consider the ITIL maturity level model, there should be at least 5 different answers (and things are not even that simple). All of them shooting for Customer focus and Business value as their "End game" but there is usually a long way there. If we can not come up with better answers that are more inline with an IT organization needs we will just continue like this until all trust is spent. I know there are really good ITIL and ITSM practitioners and consultants out there but that is not enough. They might know what is needed but the general message is still not useful in the sense that it can be used by an IT organization in general.
ITIL and ITSM contains a lot of culture and you do not change culture. You can change behavior and behavior will eventually change culture. Culture is partly a result of behavior and not the opposite. That would mean that we have to start with a set of practical recommendations that is achievable on the lower levels. Considering that most IT organizations are at the lower maturity levels I guess that the first steps should not be to address IT as a Business, which is the highest level of maturity according to the ITIL maturity model, but that is still what we do.
Each level has its requirements, roles, activities and results. We can not cut corners or do shortcuts. There are effective ways to speed up progress but we can not jump ahead of time. I have the impression that many IT organizations tend to identify themselves higher in the maturity model than they really are. When this is the case there are important fundametal parts missing from lower maturity levels that will result in that the next level will be harder to accomplish, in some cases almost impossible. This is usually due to that some activities that are performed, and some results that an IT organization actually achieve, really are mapped higher in the maturity model but that does not count for everything that they do. We should try to identify ourself in the maturity model from the lowest level of activities and results we achieve, not the highest. This approach enable us to establish all the necessary requirements to evolve and establishes a solid ground to stand on to take the next step in the maturity model. Not to forget, the change of behavior that is established makes sure that the change of culture is also in the progress.
The shortcut to ITSM.
The shortcut to achieve good ITSM is not to think that one can go to the highest level of maturity at once. The shortcut is to establish, practice and verify that each maturity level is fulfilled before trying to address the next one, even if there are few parts of the next one that is already carried out. One step at a time with no leaps of faith. Does this mean that we need to do everything that is written in ITIL. For sure not. To achieve the "End game" there is a lot to do but the key is to identify the basic parts for each maturity level to enable the next step. Not to address the next step and later on realize what was missing.