Beyond an ITIL Service Strategy

Written by Richard Thomas

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    For many years, ITIL has been the major IT Service Management (ITSM) framework — loved and hated in equal measure. Since then ITIL has undergone multiple overhauls, not least the fundamental overhaul of 2019 — moving from v3 to ITIL 4.

    While ITIL 4 is an excellent step forward from previous versions of ITIL — it is neither the definitive nor final answer for delivering a service strategy. Nevertheless, it has progressed, evolving into a more flexible, agile format rather than the stage-by-stage process-driven mantra of its predecessor. But the future success of ITIL really sits with the ability to demonstrate the framework is working, enabling differentiated services, value delivery, growing margin and happy customers.

    What actually ITIL 4 means…

    To understand ITIL 4, you could work through 212 pages of the ITIL Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition book or accept that ITIL 4 now focuses on service management, not just ITSM, and the co-creation of value. ITIL 4 has evolved by re-shaping its ITSM practices into the broader context of digital transformation, value streams and customer experience. It is also meant to embrace new ways of working, such as Agile, Lean, and DevOps.

    The main differences between ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 can be boiled down to — 

    • A new ITIL Service Value System (SVS) and Service Value Chain (SVC)
    • ITIL v3 processes are now ITIL 4 management practices.

    For those familiar with the ITIL v3 service lifecycle, SVC can be mapped to the ITIL 4 service value chain as follows — 

    • Engage/Plan = Design and transition
    • Obtain/build = Design and transition
    • Deliver and support = Improve

    Although ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 are very different in their approach, it is worth looking at some of the terminology and its equivalence — since definitions really matter in the ITIL world. The table produced by AXELOS (the UK government/Capita joint venture) is a good reference for the differences in approach and terminology between v3 and ITIL 4.

    ITIL Best Practices Currently

    ITIL, through the years, has always been based on the dubious premise of best practices, adopting ways of working already proven to be successful by multiple organisations. This rear-view mirror approach of what is best practice has always been the Achilles heel of ITIL. A pragmatic view centred on measurable customer experience and clear KPIs tends towards a mix of frameworks rather than a single best practice. Here are the best practices within ITIL that will best contribute to the best customer experience.

    1. Follow ITIL Guiding principles: These seven principles embody the ITIL philosophy. Moreover, they are universal, so adopting them offers a quick and easy route to benefitting from ITIL.
    2. Take the SVC approach: Viewing activities as value streams helps keep the focus on customer experience.
    3. Embrace continual improvement: The continual improvement model is also beneficial. This model can target specific improvements in any of four dimensions: Organization, IT, Partners, Processes.
    4. Adopt an insights platform: With the right platform to Incorporate ITIL 4 into your KPIs and ways of doing things, you will be quicker to see customer and business benefits (but more on this later). 
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    Why go beyond ITIL 

    The ITIL evolution is focused on generating value. This can only be achieved by knowing your IT systems exceptionally well and deploying rigorous data analysis. Basically, slavishly following ITIL isn’t enough:

    • ITIL is not a framework to be applied the same way across all businesses — there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You need to understand the practices and pick and choose what’s right for you and your customers.
    • ITIL is so overly complex with so many practices now. This leads to a difficulty in understanding which ITIL practices are most important for your customers. 
    • The trend towards commoditisation means customers expect more for less. This is showing that following existing best practices may not be enough to keep you ahead of the game.
    • There is little insight into the value generated by ITIL across networks.

    The future of ITIL is beyond ITIL, and it is down to insights and actions. Data-transparent ITSM activities tied with clever use of ITIL 4 practices are needed to deliver what is required — 

    • Differentiated services
    • Margin growth
    • More services sold
    • Customer retention

    Fundamentally, you need to look beyond ITIL 4 towards a more holistic approach to managed services.

    What’s the real future of managed service delivery?

    Frameworks such as ITIL are championed by passionate and enthusiastic supporters. But, is the ITL 4 framework the ultimate solution to service management problems? The simple answer is no.

    • ITIL 4 is not the answer.
    • Agile is not the answer.
    • DevOps is not the answer.
    • No single framework or model is really THE answer.

    Ensuring people and frameworks work together gets you closest to what you need. Collaboration using insight platforms is critical in creating value for customers. Rather than diving into the minutiae of ITIL 4, two objectives must remain in focus:

    1. Differentiate: Don’t be like the others. Service Providers need to avoid selling the same basic products as everyone else. This will hamper selling on value and encourages customers to challenge your pricing directly.
    2. Delight: Deliver a service customers will pay more for. You and your customers need to engage in an ongoing conversation about actual and future problems and opportunities and how to address them.

    Below are some practical ways analytics-driven insight will help. It will deliver — 

    • A better understanding of how your IT ecosystem really works. 
    • Shows how increasing or lowering service levels will increase or decrease IT costs versus the resulting change in business performance.
    • Insight into the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.
    • The ability to use ITSM data from various ITSM tool ‘modules’ to create a real-world service taxonomy.

    How Highlight can help 

    ITIL v4 shows we are all service providers now. To stay ahead and avoid commoditisation, Managed Service Providers have to look to improve their Support and Operational functions using tools that help them to be more effective and efficient without having to tear up all of their current ways of working. That means having a central system providing KPIs in a format that you and your customers can act upon and readily understand.

    Platforms need to be cross-functional to deliver frameworks such as ITIL 4. We often see businesses using siloed toolsets that aren’t flexible enough to share among their business stakeholders. Highlight is designed to reach countless people in your business: Sales Managers, Product Managers, Customer Service Managers, IT Managers, Operations and more — so everyone can stay on the same page concerning ITIL 4.

    This enables the business to:

    • Focus on the right data for the right KPIs
    • Enable communications by sharing common data in one source of truth
    • Close more deals by giving salespeople and customers shared insights
    • Be seen more as a customer consultant or trusted advisor
    • Reduce churn by building an embedded relationship with your customer

    To make the most of ITIL 4 and drive beyond it, you need all elements working together, constantly demonstrating value. Success beyond ITIL 4 will depend on integrating with in-house customer teams and harnessing data to provide value-based experiences.

    By looking beyond ITIL 4, with Highlight’s help, you can continue to differentiate your service offerings. Many Service Providers will focus too much on the definitions and text and forget that ITIL 4 is ultimately about value, outcomes and customer experience. But don’t just take our word for it, talk to an expert today!

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