What does ITIL mean?

ITIL stands for ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library. This involves a selection of ‘Best Practice’ processes, which are made available as IT services to the employees of your company or organization. ITIL defines the underlying processes, roles, and terminology - representing the relevant topics of an IT service organization. The idea is for IT services to be introduced, developed and operated competently, and to be constantly improved.

The ITIL principle can, like ITSM, be applied to departments outside of IT, for example facilities or HR.

The added value of your company/organization can be maximized by aligning the processes and services with its demands. Using ITIL offers several advantages:

  • ITIL helps to solve problems relating to service provision and contributes to process optimization.
  • In addition, it incentivizes working and thinking in a process-oriented way and demonstrates the benefits of doing so.
  • It also introduces a common terminology so that employees and service providers use the same terms. This creates a common basis of communication for everyone involved.

ITIL is often mentioned in connection with ITSM (Information Technology Service Management). This raises the question of how these two interact. ITIL relates to an existing framework, which offers best practices for the correct introduction of ITSM in your company/organization. ITSM refers to the management of IT services for employees. You can find further information about ITSM here.

ITIL was developed 40 years ago, and its fourth version is now available (as of 2021). The most important additions of ITIL 4 are the 7 basic principles. They should be widely understood, and describe guidelines to be used when implementing service management. They are intended to offer help and guidance with all sorts of decisions, independent of which project they relate to or what phase that project is in, in order to identify problems and hurdles in good time. The main thing is the added value your company/organization is striving for.

The Seven Basic Principles of ITIL

This refers to the following seven basic principles:

Value-Based Management

ITIL Version 4 prioritizes the customer’s added value. This is where we meet the first hurdle. For many companies, it is difficult to define this added value in the first place. Therefore, it is important to work closely with customers and stakeholders to determine what added value is being provided to the service users. All aspects must be examined. It is important to recognize the experience of the customer with the service and the company as a unit, through a clear awareness of customer experience (CX) or user experience (UX). Every action of the service organization must directly or indirectly reflect a benefit for our stakeholders. Any action which is not beneficial is to be avoided.

Start where you are

Another principle is to start where you are. It is crucial to recognize and justify your current state, which can save both time and money. This also generally increases the acceptance of all participants towards changes. It does not make sense to discard or abandon everything which is already in place. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and it is important to recognize when a total replacement is unavoidable.

Decisions on how to proceed should always be based on the most accurate information available. Some of the available services, employees, project programs and processes can all potentially be used to achieve the desired result. It is important to understand what already works well in the current state, which aspects could be improved, and which are clear hindrances. 

Iterative development and feedback

Previously, attempts were always made to implement ITSM as an entire project, as it was assumed that added value can only be achieved after a project’s completion. However, industries are developing so quickly that certain aspects change before the entire project can be completed. Thus, the original goal is no longer appropriate and up-to-date. Agile methodology works better here. Using Minimum Viable Products, results are achieved more quickly, which can be used directly and are based on current requirements. By sharing tasks into smaller individual projects, it is possible to focus on the individual more precisely and effectively. It is important to constantly reevaluate the overall project and its aims, and adapt them as necessary. In this way, circumstantial changes can be accounted for, and the focus remains on the desired added value. Feedback is also vital here. Added value can only be achieved when stakeholders are allowed to communicate their feelings and impressions.

Encourage collaboration and transparency

The principle of collaboration and transparency often aims to break down established structures and departments, to encourage collaboration between individual departments/teams. This is also one of the basic principles of DevOps. It is often advantageous to certain departments/teams, for example, if specific expertise is needed for certain tasks. However, it is not only currently necessary to adapt to change in technical areas, but also regarding method and exchange with suppliers and customers. 

The important thing with this principle, of course, is that collaboration is carried out in such a way that leads to an increase in performance and added value. This requires an exchange of information as well as trust in the other departments/teams and understanding of their work. This is why transparency, as well as collaboration, is necessary. Generally, transparency works better by breaking down old structures. By being involved in the processes and projects, there is greater acceptance of this and for innovations.

This principle is based on the idea that collaboration across barriers leads to outcomes that have a higher buy-in and expanded relevance to objectives, resulting in a higher likelihood of long-term success.

Think and work holistically

It is often considered easy to perform your work independently of other areas. Even if at first glance this seems to make sense from the point of view of one's own work, this is detrimental on the whole for efficiency. Due to the complexity of today's services, there is practically no member of a company/organization who can comprehend and master all processes. Therefore, a principle of service management is the understanding of all departments and the way in which they interlock and interact. Subsequently, it is necessary to focus on the entire value stream in order to increase flow and reduce interdependence. In a complex system, a change to one component can have an effect on others. The goal then should be to identify and analyze these impacts and plan for them.

Focus on simplicity and practicability 

As mentioned earlier, collaboration between individual departments/teams and services is very complex. However, this is often due to the fact that the work to be performed is not sufficiently scrutinized and attempts are made to simplify processes. It can be beneficial here to consider the entirety and the desired goal from a distance. Subsequently, each individual step should be considered and analyzed to determine whether it actually offers added value or whether there are other reasons for sticking to this methodology. In order to develop practicable solutions that offer effective added value, results-oriented thinking is increasingly required. Simple processes are also more often accepted by employees. It is not necessary for all possible eventualities to be represented in a process flow. Standard procedure should remain simple. However, this requires trust in the team responsible that they will react and act correctly in unexpected situations.

Optimize and automate 

Moving forward, there will not be fewer tasks in the service organization. Resources will also remain in short supply. If, then, the company/organization wants to introduce and advance digitization, the service organization will have to move with it. For process efficiency to be improved, they must be automated. This is because every manual intervention causes bottlenecks, which ultimately lead to delays. However, every process should first be checked, analyzed and optimized before it is automated, to increase efficiency.

The future of ITIL

If the service ecosystem of the future consists of a variety of providers and cloud solutions, traditional tools and methods will no longer be sufficient. There is already a new generation of cognitive tools, which are increasingly making their way into service organizations. However, this is also placing new demands on the shoulders of employees. Since you cannot always rely on technology without human interference, these employees will be required, as blindly automating all processes can reduce the resilience and stability of a company/organization. However, the important thing here is that employee intervention should only be possible when it brings with it a contribution to the added value. The intervention of employees should therefore take place in areas where this contribution to added value can be created, but not to processes which can be easily automated.

It is crucial that these seven basic principles are not considered and applied individually. Rather, their benefit is greatest when they are applied and taken on board as a whole.

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