ITIL: Piece by Piece


I am no Roget Thesaurus, but having been watching the recent series of MasterChef, I feel like I was gifted the word ‘deconstructed’. Apparently it’s all the rage in contemporary cooking. The interesting thing for me was the uncanny applicability of the word in the information technology space. I know, you are probably thinking this is some sort of paradox, and you may be right. But what came to me spontaneously, in the midst of a deconstructed cheesecake, was the concept of a deconstructed ITIL.

We all know too well the effervescency of ‘all or nothing’ or ‘big bang’ language when it comes to selecting, never mind implementing and adopting, a new standard or solution. In fact a typical approach seems to be one of actually trying to construct a way of getting all the bells and whistles day 1 – boom. More consideration often seems to be given to making way for delivery of the whole bang shoot, than what’s realistic, achievable and best for the organization. ITIL is a real case in point. Folks also tend to conclude that no value whatsoever can be gained from the pending proposition until it has been wholly embedded. Fortunately that’s a million miles from the truth.

When I envisage an ITIL implementation, I immediately start to map out a path of quick wins and incremental gains through to the desired end-point. Which I might add, might only be a very small piece of the ITIL framework. And I certainly don’t try to solve ‘all’ of the organization’s IT Service Management (SM) problems or provide all of the capabilities at the same time. So what better way to describe the approach of implementing ITIL piece by piece, than deconstructed.

The Enterprise landscape today is dotted with countless small to medium organizations, and that number is growing. These SME’s invest a lot of time and effort in making headway to becoming the next big business. This includes choosing best practices and solutions to help take their enterprise to the next level.  Conversely, and rather ironically, the large organizations out there spend a lot of hours figuring out how to harness some of the characteristics of SMEs, like flexibility, adaptability, close customer relations… And this also includes evaluating what best practices they can bring in and leverage for competitive advantage, or to reduce risks or costs. So can ITIL really be deconstructed and implemented piece by piece? The answer is a resounding YES!

In the domain of IT Service Management (ITSM), ITIL can still lay claim to being the most widely accepted and in use approach to ITSM in the world. The IT Infrastructure Library or ITIL as it is known, is suitable for any organization in any industry and of any size. It can help organizations to improve any part or all of their IT Service delivery, and in so doing contribute to the competitive positioning of the enterprise.

The ITSM Lifecycle defined in ITIL is a broad, deep integrated framework, comprising five key phases:

  • Service Strategy – how to design, develop and implement service management as a strategic asset, essentially marrying services to business outcomes and customer demand
  • Service Design – designing and developing high quality, cost effective services and service management processes
  • Service Transition – development and improvement of capabilities necessary to transition new and or changed services into operations
  • Service Operations – ensuring value is realised for the customer by achieving effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery and support of services
  • Continual Service Improvement – sustaining the creation and maintenance of customer value through better design, introduction and operation of services and improvements and enhancements to them

And yes, it can be deconstructed. In other words ITIL can be analyzed and broken down into its constituent parts, and implemented, piece by piece. Whilst it is an integrated framework, ITIL’s deconstructed processes and functions can be pieced together incrementally providing increased value with each and every piece (increment). Most organizations I know can easily come up with a list of their most pressing pain points, but what they don’t know how to do is resolve these challenges one by one. Take an organization that is struggling with a situation where changes are being made to the live environment in an uncontrolled manner causing no end of service disruptions. Let’s implement ITIL comes the call. Really, ‘ITIL’, all of it?

When enterprises have a challenge like that, we can immediately start to deconstruct the challenge itself and then deconstruct ITIL, until we have identified the quick win/s, matching solution to issue/s. Bear in mind that it doesn’t mean abandoning all plans to implement a significant portion of ITIL in the long term, it simply means ‘let’s tackle the challenge and improve piece by piece’. We may unearth that in fact the solution lies in simply implementing ITIL’s Change Management process to ensure that authorized changes are prioritized, planned, tested, implemented, documented and reviewed in a controlled manner. Quick win delivered, disruptions to the live environment and services minimized. Or we may learn that only the 1st piece of the solution is Change Management, and that we need to follow that up swiftly with an implementation of the Release and Deployment Management process. The organization can start to incrementally accrue the benefits from these initial pieces whilst it contemplates the next piece, maybe the Change Evaluation process to provide a consistent and standardized means of determining the performance of a service change.

And the pieces don’t all need to be from the same Service Lifecycle Phase, they can be stitched together to cover the diverse challenges your organization faces in different areas. You could have Incident Management from Service Operation, Financial Management from Service Strategy, Availability Management from Service Design and Knowledge Management from Service Transition and keep going from there, one piece at a time.

We can all look at ITIL, and thinking like a tin-dropper, ask “How can we drop this whole thing into the business’’… The reality is that nine times out of ten, that’s neither what a business needs nor what they can achieve – and in the case of ITIL it’s not recommended either. There’s no best practice framework in the world that’s a magical silver bullet, one shot, one drop. ITIL is a framework of best practice processes and functions that can be deconstructed, and implemented piece by piece. And there’s not a single piece of ITIL, which by itself, won’t be of value to one organization or another. So next time you’re looking at an ITIL blueprint for your organization, deconstruct it into pieces and you may well find it’s a lot more palatable (and rewarding) than you think!