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What Do We Want from ITIL 4? The ITSM Industry Speaks

By | November 27, 2018 in ITSM

ITIL 4 - what do we want?

Update since publication: The latest version of ITIL – ITIL 4 – was released on Monday 18th February. To find out what is actually covered in the latest version, along with what has changed, please read this blog by ITIL 4 author Stuart Rance.

If you’ve been waiting for a new version of ITIL, then you likely have your own views as to why a new version is needed. This will probably include the fact that it’s been a long, long time since ITIL v3 was released in 2007 and then the 2011 refresh of that. But beyond the need to make ITIL more current – catering for areas such as cloud, DevOps, and customer/employee experience – how else should ITIL 4 differ from the ITIL versions of old?

By the way if you’re personally unsure as to why an update is needed you might like to check out this blog from our dear friend Stuart Rance.

In this blog I’ve crowd-sourced the opinions of 34 practitioners, consultants, analysts, and trainers – aka a selection of people from different IT service management (ITSM) walks of life and geographies – to find out what they want to see in ITIL 4. So here goes…

ITSM Practitioner Views

Okay, before you bite my head off, I appreciate that most of you are ITSM practitioners no matter where you work and what you do. However, it seemed an appropriate term to denote people who will, or might, be using ITIL 4 “in anger on a day-to-day basis to help with their organizations’ IT service delivery and support challenges and opportunities.”

Here are the received, and lightly edited, ITSM practitioner opinions (and all my people groupings are listed in alphabetical order):

  1. David Backham – ITSM Subject Matter Expert, Aldermore Bank PLC – “More guidance around the implementation of service integration and management (SIAM). Looking at the organizational changes that may be needed, and guidance for managing across organizational boundaries. The multi-supplier world provides many challenges and leads to lots of shadowing, with roles in different organizations facing off to each other where before one would lead. I'd specifically like to see guidance on how to manage this and how to avoid lots of people being involved – having responsibility but with no one personally accountable.”
  2. Earl Begley – ITT Compliance Officer, San Francisco International Airport – “Tighter interfacing of ITIL with other popular approaches such as DevOps and Agile. Plus, guidance on aligning ITIL with emerging technologies, service delivery via the cloud, and artificial intelligence (AI). Finally, guidance or the mapping of ITIL to ISO standards to help practitioners justify the value propositions the business desires from IT service delivery.”
  3. Sally Bogg – Head of End User Services, University of Leeds – “A focus on adopt and adapt, and how ITIL can be used to complement other methodologies such as Agile. A stronger focus on the human element of IT from both a customer perspective, e.g. business relationship management (BRM) and customer relationship management (CRM), and the perspective of staff involved in delivering IT, e.g. cultural change and moving to a service- not tech-focused culture. With an emphasis on the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’.”
  4. Sofi Fahlberg – Customer Success Manager, Signicat – “A focus on the guiding principles from ITIL Practitioner and, for me personally, I especially hope that the “progress iteratively,” “work holistically,” and “focus on value” principles from ITIL Practitioner get a lot of attention.”
  5. Gregory Hall – IT Service Management Analyst, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner – “A flexible framework that can keep up with the times, where we can bolt on new facets and remove the ones that are no longer relevant. In essence – ITIL 4 needs to practice what it preaches and continuously improve. I’d also like people to be able to fall back in love with ITIL instead of the perception that it’s clunky, bureaucratic, and out of touch with the modern IT department.”
  6. Steve Hodgkinson – CIO, Victoria Department of Health & Human Services – “From a CIO's perspective, what I most need from an update of ITIL is for it to assist IT professionals to understand how to create sustainable increases in the cadence of business systems delivery by taking advantage of cloud services. Additionally, a key goal of ITIL certification must be to provide IT professionals with the mindsets and tools required to negotiate a sustainable balance between contradictory demands for speed of action, solution quality and cost; and it’s important that ITIL certification is regarded as an enabler of business agility as well as a means to ensure competent and trustworthy mission-critical IT operations.”
  7. Clare Hopton – IT Service Delivery Manager, Royal London – “A further focus on people. Clear guidance on the skills and capabilities our people need to competently conduct specific ITIL functions in demonstrating professionalism.”
  8. Kirstie Magowan – Problem and Knowledge Manager, Inland Revenue – “I want to see ITIL 4 be as relevant now as ITIL was 20 years ago. Currently that relevance is missing because we’ve moved on and ITIL didn’t keep pace. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge of service management and the ITIL architects and authors need to make sure that they’ve married the common sense that ITIL has always been based on with the agility and flexibility that the industry now expects.”
  9. Jon Morley – IT Service Support Manager, Dunelm – “A bridging course that’s fair, inexpensive, and doesn’t throw all of the work and effort from my v2/v3/2011 journey in the bin. I’d also like it to be more community- and diversity-driven, with less focus on books and profit, and more focus on value and outcomes. Furthermore, I’d like to see acknowledgement and blending of complementary – and competitive – frameworks and methods such as VeriSM, Agile, DevOps, TOGAF, and so on.”
  10. Ryan Ogilvie – Service Management Specialist, BURNCO Rock Products Ltd – “The inclusion of value. While previous versions of ITIL outlined a framework in which to standardize planning, delivery, and support of IT services to a business, it’s my hope that the inclusion of value will enable service providers to become strategic partners with the business.”
  11. Christian Plante – Service Owner for Emerging Technologies, CIBC – “An integration between ITIL and architecture-type standards such as COBIT. This begins to combine the ITIL framework with an enterprise architecture framework to drive a common language and expectations. Plus I’d like ITIL 4 to be an ITIL for Agile framework. Right now, it seems like ITIL and Agile complement each other but it requires strength of character to make it work. Agile seems to be anti-ITIL and it would be nice to see them reframed for each other.”
  12. Don Powell – IT Project Manager, NAVSUP BSC – “Firstly, updated for, and integrated with, the best practices of DevOps and Agile. Secondly, for it to plan for the rapid growth/development of AI tools for ITIL service operations control processes. Thirdly, for it to incorporate the high-level NIST Cybersecurity Framework. And, finally, to ensure that ITIL is flexible and scalable for future IT environments.”
  13. John Roberson – IT Support Analyst, Sunderland University – “Greater speed of adoption for ITIL capabilities – for example, I’ve joined numerous companies that have been creating their unpublished service catalog only to be still creating it when I’ve left years later. Perhaps an incremental approach is needed. Agile has already recognized this issue in the context of development. I’d also like ITIL 4 to offer the ability to deal with an IT estate with diversity and deviation. For instance, in higher education where funding is both central and from research grants paid directly to the project/academic. In such cases the expert user is the researcher not the IT operations team. It would be interesting if ITIL 4 could cater for such situations that go beyond the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) covered in ITIL v3.”
  14. Paul Turner – Service Desk Team Leader, NHS Lothian – “An awareness-level course – below the Foundation course – with no exam and low cost (if any...). Something to give an insight into why some of the ITSM processes we follow actually exist. As an example, I looked on two major recruitment sites at ten different service desk roles each. Of the 20 roles, one asked for ITIL v3 Foundation, one asked for ‘possesses an understanding of ITIL...,’ and the other 18 had nothing.”

So, from those 14 opinions, in summary, for me, the key needs coming from the collated ITSM practitioner views are:

  • The flexibility and agility for ITIL 4 to change to:
      • Reflect, align with, and accommodate other popular, and valuable, IT management approaches
      • Stay in tune with new and emerging technologies
  • The linkages from ITSM to business success and value
  • A focus on people and required skills and capabilities
  • More on adopting ITIL at a reasonable pace, plus the “hows” as well as the “whats”
  • The removal, or lowering, of often cost-based barriers to entry or qualification progression

Consultant Views

What is a consultant?

For the purpose of my blog, I’ve included people who offer advice to others – in multiple organizations – in some form of professional capacity. Oh, and having consultant in their job title helps to identify them too.

Here are the received consultant opinions:

  1. Aprill Allen – Principal Consultant, Knowledge Bird – “A stronger statement of purpose and intent. The messaging, if you like. In my view, asserting the technicalities of services and their relationship to utility, warranty, and value is lost on many people and doesn't speak to the pain that ITIL can help to alleviate. The pain is in the challenge of balancing performance against compliance and how those decisions play out in service delivery, regardless of the business function seeking improvement.”
  2. Carlos Casanova – President and Solutions Architect, Casanova Advisory Services – “A fresh look at delivering real business value. ITIL 4 must help to eliminate friction from the flow of work and enable business partners to easily understand and measure its worthiness.”
  3. Rob England – Managing Director, Two Hills Ltd – “We don't need formal definitions of how work is done as much as we need new ways of thinking and behaving. ITIL Practitioner was headed in the right direction. So, if ITIL 4 is all about flow of work, incremental iterative exploratory work, whole value networks, preventing siloes and local optima, getting the management and governance out of the way, and servant leadership, that would be great. And if continual improvement was the foundational culture instead of an extraneous process that would be progress too. P.S. and of course they need to resolve once and for all whether a password reset is a request or an incident.
  4. Karen Ferris – Director, – “A much bigger emphasis on using ITIL integrated with other approaches such as agility, DevOps, Lean, etc. That it’s not one or the other. ITIL is just one approach that underpins the plinth that is ITSM and other approaches can complement it. It doesn't have to be replaced. I also want to see a reinforcement of the age-old ITIL v1 piece of guidance – adopt and adapt. I don't know how many times we can say it in so many different ways, but individuals and organizations are still taking ITIL guidance by the letter. Stop it NOW!”
  5. Leticia Hernandez – Senior ITSM Consultant, IT Performance – “A simpler approach in its structure that can be easily assimilated by IT professionals involved in the delivery of IT services. Which can also be interpreted in a manner consistent with the operation of IT areas in environments that need to be agile.”
  6. Kathryn Howard – Conference Director, itSMF Australia – “More emphasis on the people and the customer/user. Plus, on employee experience – with guidance on enhancing capabilities and human-centered design. I’d also like to see a different approach to service level agreements (SLAs), with less focus on negative quantitative measures such as x% unavailability or number of breached incidents, and more focus on business value measures, e.g. increased capacity, high availability, or that problems resolved enabled x% more profit or products. In addition I’d like guidance around establishing not only a strategy but a tactical plan enabling cohesion and interaction between processes in order to deliver end-to-end service outcomes and a reduction in the frequent siloed roadblocks. And, finally, elevation of the importance of innovation and value improvement through embedding of continual service improvement (CS)I into services."
  7. Dan McCarthy – CEO, Verax Consulting – “The things I want from the new framework fall into two categories – form and content. Regarding form, I want ITIL 4 to be better written and presented than its predecessor: concise, consistent in its explanations and definitions, and non-repetitive. We deserve clearer thought expressed through better writing – then we can stop blaming people for ‘not reading the books properly,’ like it’s their fault that ITIL v3 is ambiguous and inconsistent! Regarding content, give us an effective presentation of the power and practicality of value chain-thinking, not just as a theory but a real-world way to make things better (disclaimer: this is what I do for a living). But they need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and make sure that true operational processes and procedures are included and improved. I see a lot of academic debates about how ITSM is really about ‘practices’ and not ‘processes,’ but the fact is that ITIL has done a fantastic job over the years of introducing the fundamental value of process thinking, and the idea that technology is not an end in itself.”
  8. Tobias Nyberg – Owner and Consultant, Galestro AB – “More good experiences from several different industries with an even more holistic way of linking them together in a valuable and practical way”. Plus, a better view of the most important ingredients of being a great IT service provider, in a practitioner’s context – as well as the strategic view of what’s significant for people working within that context in an organization and with different frameworks. I fear that the core books will grow out of proportion as additional, new, important things are added and existing material stays in – making it even more cumbersome for many to get their heads around.”
  9. Elina Pirjanti, ITSM Consultant Lead, Cognizant – “Guidance needs to take into consideration that businesses are now moving much faster than before and we need to focus on the speed and the process value instead of adding control. I'm also expecting to get guidance related to digital transformation, or digital optimization.”
  10. Doug Tedder – Principal Consultant, Tedder Consulting – “What many of us already know – that ITIL can, and does, play nice with other service management methodologies and approaches, such as DevOps, Lean, and Agile. And while I would still expect ITIL4 to be non-prescriptive, a bit more discussion around the kinds of things that should be considered as organizations adopt and adapt ITIL would be helpful.”
  11. Duncan Watkins – Senior Consultant, Forrester Research – “An accurate understanding of how service management can be customer centric. A clear view of what service management is now in the face of trends like cloud, automation, and hyper-adoption. And finally, how to best integrate ITIL with Agile and DevOps.”
  12. David Wheable – Vice President and Principal Consultant, Forrester Research – “Advice (the stuff we know works) needs to be adapted to cover service integration/brokering, multi-supplier management, and the realities of a modern IT environment. At the same time, I’d like to see the advice we are less certain about treated as ‘work in progress’ that takes feedback from the community and builds on real experience.”

So, while there were two less responses from consultants versus practitioners (12 versus 14), there’s still seems to be a wider range of points made. Importantly, with less focus, i.e. repeat mentions, around certain topics.

However, there was consultant-view agreement with practitioner views across:

  • The flexibility and agility related to both other approaches and new and emerging technologies
  • The focus on business success and value
  • People-related needs
  • The “hows” as well as the “whats”

With flexibility and agility related to both other approaches, and new and emerging technologies and the focus on business success and value coming out on top – mention-wise – for both groups of contributors. The people aspects also appear (in the consultant opinions) as expected, but not as much, and with an interesting new perspective from Rob England related to: new ways of thinking and behaving. And in the above consultant views, the fourth common point is more frequently linked to providing information on how to “adopt and adapt” ITIL as well as how to employ the detail of what it suggests.

Finally, one new area, that was prevalent within consultant responses, relates to how ITIL content is presented to the reader (and exam taker) – from messaging, through simplicity, to ease of understanding.

Training Service Provider and Member Organization Views

This is the first of two smaller groups of contributors, but I though it worth keeping them separate – from practitioners and consultants – to see if there are any different perspectives that might get lost in the larger groups.

Here are the received training service provider (and membership service provider) opinions:

  1. Rae Ann Bruno – Owner, Business Solutions Training Inc. – “A stronger emphasis on culture change and proven methods for facilitating adoption in companies. Getting these points across is very instructor-dependent today. Plus I’d like to see more templates and examples that people can use during their implementation such as maturity assessments, sample reports, etc.”
  2. Jayne Groll – CEO, DevOps Institute – “Tangible insight into how to manage services across modern architectures such as cloud, microservices, and containers. This is particularly important for transition processes such as change and release which will rely much more heavily on the faster flow of automated pipelines and fewer downstream handoffs.”
  3. Paul Wilkinson – Director and Owner, GamingWorks – “A stronger focus on the end-to-end ‘value stream.’ With an emphasis on business ‘outcomes.’ ITIL Practitioner was a good start, but unfortunately a non-mandatory plug-on to existing courseware which didn’t get the impact it deserved. Unfortunately, we’re still at a level of maturity focused on ‘frameworks,’ therefore I’d like to see a recognition, and clear integration, of ITIL 4 in the existing ecosystem of framework silos. And of course, I’d like to see a revolutionary shift from the theoretical certificate to more ‘hands-on,’ practical demonstration of skills, with an on-going framework of ‘how to’ skills development, with more specific case studies. The ongoing skills approach would mirror what should be THE core ITIL 4 capability ‘Continual Learning & Improvement,’ building on the CSI focus laid down in the ITIL Practitioner Guidance.”
  4. David Wright – Chief Value & Innovation Officer, SDI Institute – “More focus on how organizations can positively embrace ITIL 4, some guiding principles, and promotion of the necessity to adapt ITIL to support business outcomes, rather than adopting a linear, one-size-fits-all approach. I’d also like to see organizations harness ITIL 4 and focus on people and service; to encourage altruistic, collaborative cultures of success.”

While this is a much smaller sample of opinions, the training and member service providers offer up a very similar set of comments (to practitioners and consultants). It’s in no way scientific, but my gut feeling is that this is almost the intersection of a two-part Venn diagram of the practitioner and consultant views – with the key aspects being the need for more guidance related to people, adoption, and practical help.

Industry Analyst and Industry Commentator Views

My final – again small – group is made up of people who are both involved in, yet potentially also detached enough from, the day-to-day of ITSM to have slightly different views of what ITIL 4 needs. And this isn’t meant as an insult, but a positive – it’s the equivalent of saying that someone brings “a fresh pair of eyes” to a problem.

Here are the received industry analyst and industry commentator opinions:

  1. Michael Dortch – Principal Analyst, DortchOnIT – “Every IT leader I know is seeking greater collaboration and harmonization of their IT management efforts with those of their security and operations management counterparts. Yet neither the ITIL 4 news release nor the published FAQ mentions security or operations, beyond a nod to DevOps. For ITIL to have maximum, actionable, business value, I can't help but believe it needs to include more explicit, specific guidance about alignment with security and business operations management.”
  2. Emma Lander – ITSM Writer, CopyTwentyOne – “I’d love ITIL 4 to include employee wellness management within its IT leadership principles area. This would have focus on recognizing mental health issues and how to talk to employees about their state of mind/how to normalize these conversations. I’d also like to see more around knowledge management and an emphasis on the importance of this organizational capability. The current version of ITIL doesn’t focus enough on knowledge management, so it’d be great to see some sub-processes that display how knowledge management sits everywhere and not just as a process of service transition.”
  3. Sanjeev NC – Product Evangelist, Freshworks – “More guidance on how to use software, especially ITSM tools, to help you succeed. When someone wants to adopt ITIL best practices in their organization, it’s commonly executed using a tool (any tool) and there’s minimal guidance on how to use technology to achieve the required objectives. Thus, I’d like ITIL 4 to talk about guiding principles on tool selection, partner selection, and guidance on implementing the tool to achieve success.”
  4. Alan Rodger – Senior Analyst, Ovum – “A major focus on service value that helps organizations prioritize development and change across their service portfolios. Failure to understand this properly is still one of the greatest root causes of IT being perceived as ‘out of touch’ with the business. Establishing a comprehensive business case for investment, with full business involvement, and all risks quantified, ensures the value equation is understood properly, and this should be a continuous reference point during the service lifecycle, right up to replacement or retirement.”

I guess I was right with regards to this subset of people having slightly different views, given that these four opinions are bringing in mentions of security, business operations management, employee wellbeing, knowledge management, ITSM tools, and the ongoing focus on value.

The question is: are these views slightly ahead of the curve and should ITIL 4 be considering them?

Taking a Collective View of What ITIL 4 Needs

Thankfully, there’s much commonality – albeit sometimes with a different focus – across the people, and groups of people, who kindly contributed their opinions for my blog.

As to what the industry needs from ITIL 4, and placing a higher emphasis on the views of those who will use it in anger the most (i.e. the practitioners and consultants), we have:

  • Better messaging (of “what it’s all about”), simplicity of presentation, and ease-of-use and understanding
  • Alignment with, and accommodation of, other popular, and valuable, IT management approaches – with the ability to factor in new thinking over time
  • Reflection of the changing IT landscape, with ITIL 4 able to stay in tune with new and emerging technologies
  • The focus on business success and value over ITSM process adoption and execution
  • A greater focus on people aspects and the importance of people to ITSM and then the resultant business outcomes
  • More on the “hows” as well as the “whats,” including how to best adopt and adapt ITIL to business needs
  • The removal, or lowering, of often cost-based barriers to entry or qualification progression

However, one thing that wasn’t mentioned as much as I’d expected was “the customer” – in terms of the people who consume the delivered IT services and support (rather than the far more prevalent mentions of “the business,” which is of course the “primary” customer). There's no doubt that employees today are bringing their often-superior, personal-life, consumer-world experiences into the workplace – in the form of higher expectations of, and demand on, IT – and it will significantly affect how IT services and support are delivered.

As to what ITIL 4 will actually hold, the best we have right now is something written by ITIL author Stuart Rance – “What’s Coming in ITIL 4?” and the 2016 ITIL Practitioner Guidance publication (which was mentioned a few times above). Also, if you’re interested you can read Joe the IT Guy’s views on what he’d personally like to see in the ITIL 4 update.

So, that’s what others think – along with my collation and occasional opinion. How do you think ITIL 4 needs to change? Please let me know in the comments.

Dena Wieder-Freiden

About Dena Wieder-Freiden

As SysAid’s Head of Content, Dena values most her friendships and daily conversations with the awesome IT service management (ITSM) authorities from all over the world! As they share their knowledge with her, she enjoys paying it forward to the IT community at large. Outside of work, she’s most likely at the gym, the beach, or at home watching a movie and spending time with her family.

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