Some time ago, my friend and colleague Praveen Ramesh wrote a piece about ITIL Certification and whether it’s worth your time. His stand is that the certification is just a tool and enables you with the knowledge of ITIL best practices. It’s what you do with that knowledge that counts. A certificate cannot, and does not, replace practical experience.
I think it’s spot on. The ITIL foundation, for instance, helps you get familiar with basic ITSM concepts and the 5 stages of the ITIL service lifecycle. In addition to helping you speak the language of ITIL, it provides a basis for everything else you will learn about ITIL and IT service management. But once you’ve learned the ITIL vocabulary, you need to translate it into a practically usable format.
So in February 2016, ITIL added ITIL Practitioner to its hierarchy of certificates. ITIL Practitioner focuses on providing practically applicable knowledge of ITIL best practices. It aims to help you adopt and adapt ITIL in the context of your organization.
At its core, ITIL Practitioner consists of 9 guiding principles. These principles will help you break down complex problems and make better decisions. And while they originated in an ITSM context, I would argue, they provide a model that can be applied to several other fields that involve making crucial decisions.
Here are the 9 guiding principles of ITIL Practitioner:
● Focus on value
● Design for experience
● Start where you are
● Work holistically
● Progress iteratively
● Observe directly
● Be transparent
● Keep it simple
Let’s discuss each of them in detail.
Focus on value
This one’s pretty similar to the lean philosophy. It basically states that everything you do as a service provider needs to be based on providing value to the customer. This means once you have a list of activities you want to carry out, prioritize ruthlessly. Strike out anything that doesn’t directly or indirectly map to the needs of your customer and/or their organization.
When you’re faced with a tough decision about service management, ask yourself what you can do to maximize the value you provide to the customer. And it is the customer who determines what’s of value to them, as opposed to the service provider (you).
Design for experience
Okay, so now you know you need to focus on customer/business value while building an improvement. That helps you make efficient high-level decisions. But once you’ve made that decision, you need to design it before your team starts to build it. And if once you release it, users do not adopt it – or worse, they prefer the option that was causing the problem you were trying to solve in the first place – the entire effort your team put in goes to waste. This principle states that you need to ensure your users get the best experience possible every time they interact with the service (or the service provider). You can do this by talking to customers, and if possible, users while designing the service and getting their inputs.
Start where you are
Oftentimes, when we’re faced with a problem, we’re tempted to create a solution from scratch. Not only is this approach highly inefficient, but you might end up reinventing the wheel and overlooking a potentially better solution. Resist the temptation to start with a clean slate. While trying to solve a problem, consider the options you already have that can be leveraged. Then build on them to deliver the maximum value to the customer while ensuring the best user experience.
If a system has evolved over time to finally be successful, it’s success can rarely be attributed to a specific component. More often than not, the system is bigger and better than the sum of its parts. So, while considering to enhance one aspect of a service, don’t think of it as an isolated element but as a part of the whole service.
When you’re working on improving a system with many moving parts, look at it holistically. This will make sure it works seamlessly and does not break something else in the process.
Imagine you’ve been assigned a massive project where the potential risk of failure is much more than the reward if the project is successful. It’s easy to panic or try to do many things at once. Resist this temptation.
When dealing with a complex problem, try to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. Then prioritize and focus on making small iterative improvements. This makes it a lot easier to manage the project (and the associated risks) and because you’ll be able to view the progress sooner, you’ll know when to stick to the plan and when it’s time for course correction.
Every major decision that your team will need to make is bound to have some disagreements. Although a healthy discussion is great to catch everybody up with necessary context, the decision itself becomes much clearer if you go the source.
Observing directly will address some assumptions that might skew you into making the wrong call. Obtaining 100% of the information might not always be possible for every decision, but remembering this principle will help you avoid potential delays, unnecessary costs, and sub-par results.
Bringing about any major change is challenging, but you might need to overcome another hurdle – people. Every major change is bound to impact a group of people in some way. Being transparent as to what is happening and why it’s happening will help address this.
Before you make a big change, address all the stakeholders – including customers if the change impacts them. Explain the context and the business implications of the change as clearly as possible. You’ll stand a bigger chance of not only avoiding obstructions but also getting them to help in the best possible way.
You likely have a diverse team of smart individuals with specific sets of skills. Make the most of this while working on an improvement. Encourage everyone to contribute and bring their perspectives to the table. This gives you better buy-in, better relevance, and more information to work with.
Collaboration is an integral part of most projects. And if the right people are involved in the right way, the project is more likely to become a long-term success.
Keep it simple
In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. Complicated systems and processes are fraught with inefficiencies.
If a process, service, action, metric etc. provides no value or produces no useful outcome, eliminate it. As much as possible, use the minimum number of steps needed to accomplish the objective.
ITIL Practitioner is built on these fundamental principles. It encourages a culture of continual service improvement and adds value to any improvement initiative – by improving efficiency, productivity, and the collaborations between ITSM and the wider business. And remembering these principles is essential to make sure you maximize the improvement at every step of the way.