The guiding principles defined in ITIL®4 book embody the core messages of ITIL and service management in general, supporting successful actions and good decisions of all types and at all levels. The guiding principles are the values of propositions that offer guidance on the right behaviour for doing certain things. Principles are universal, self-validating and empowering which have to be followed, throughout the lifecycle of the services.
There should be a direction set followed (aligned) by the users & practitioners, which is an essential characteristic of a system. Principles reflect the purpose of the system's design, its objectives and ensure the effectiveness of operation and value realization, which would be impossible if principles are not considered.
The guiding principles are used to guide organizations in the work adopted by an organization for an approach to IT Service Management. These guiding principles are adapted for the specific circumstances and needs of an organization. These support & encourage organizations on continual basis to ensure the success of IT Services.
For example: If one of the principles of an organization says “High integrity”, every employee of the organization has to demonstrate a high level of integrity in everything they do, at all levels. This principle cannot be different for different individuals, different roles, different positions (authority) etc., and will not change from time to time.
There are seven principles defined in ITIL®4, which are listed below;
These seven principles complement the principles mentioned in other best practices and standards like COBIT, Agile, DevOps, lean etc., which enable the IT service management practices of an organization to align & integrate to compliment with these best practices and standards.
The value of the services is always determined in the perspective of customers. Every service or product should create value to customers and its stakeholders. More than the creation of value, it has to be realised and acknowledged by the stakeholders, upon value realization.
Every service, produces an output which can be measured and checked through its utility & warranty. While focusing on value, one should know who is being served. Therefore, in this scenario the service provider must determine the service consumer and the key stakeholders i.e. customers, users, or sponsors etc. By doing this, the service provider will obtain clarity on who will receive value from that which is being delivered, modified or improved.
For example: An IT Service like monitoring and managing the IT Infrastructure of the customer is aimed at ensuring the availability of the services. Firstly, In the absence of the monitoring and managing services, organization cannot learn the variations in the infrastructure which impacts the availability & reliability of the services. Why should one learn the variations in the infrastructure!? By learning those variations in performance of IT Infrastructure, one can take the necessary actions proactively and ensure the high availability of the IT Services.
Monitoring and Management services should focus on value, by aligning to the business objectives and availability of an IT service, whose IT Infrastructure is monitored by monitoring and management services.
Figure 15: The Monitoring and management of IT Infrastructure hosting Banking Services
Further extending on the example of the bank, let us assume, that the monitoring and management services are provided for a bank to monitor and manage the IT Infrastructure of the bank. The bank provides banking services, facilitating the customers of the bank to achieve their objectives. There are various bank products which are fulfilled through different service channels like over the counter, ATM, net banking and mobile banking.
All these services of bank have an underlying infrastructure on which the banking applications are hosted. Any failure in any of the IT Infrastructure components results in unavailability of banking services, impacting the customer of the bank. For example: failure in the server hosting mobile banking application results in unavailability of mobile banking application.
So, it is essential for an IT service provider to visualize the value, which makes sense to the customer availing the IT services. Else, it may not make sense to receive the services from an IT Service Provider.
The service provider must have a clear understanding of what the value is in true sense, for a service consumer. The service provider should always know this by asking the following questions:
Check on the following points by answering the questions relating to the example of bank;
So, it is inevitable that an IT Service Provider has to understand the value, the service has to create to its consumers and stakeholders. Accordingly, the service alignment should take place. Only then the services can make sense to the service consumer, else it will not.
Organizations on the verge of building new systems tend to scrap the existing system or try establishing the idealistic scenario to create / improve the new system. In this tendency, organizations will lose out on the opportunities of leveraging on existing environment, practices, technologies which are useful while establishing the new or improving the existing ones.
It is extremely unproductive to take such approaches, which would result in waste of effort, time, and loss of existing systems, services, practices, people, process, tools & technology platforms. These could have provided value which are significant in optimizing and improving the value. It is always recommended to first leverage on the existing service before considering anything further.
Firstly, the existing system has to be assessed, measured and observed to get a proper / correct understanding of the existing state. The possibility of re-using them as applicable & feasible should then be determined. This will provide the required insights of the existing system and guide in making the appropriate decisions. It is important to understand that, all decisions made to bring about changes in the existing system, must be made with clarity, based on the existing reality.
It is also important to assess the current state by eliminating biased data and incorrect assumptions which would lead towards wrong conclusions and decisions. The individual who does the assessment and recommendations needs to have specific knowledge about the existing reality, and the state of the proposed new services and objective of the initiative. There should not be any bias while doing the assessment.
The measurement metrics used (considered) for assessment should be appropriate, which can provide the insight, supporting the analysis for right decisions. The metrics established have to be meaningful and should help interpreting the required outcome.
For example, if in a service desk the call closure performance is checked regularly to reduce the duration of call closure, it might result in improving the call closure performance. However, it Would result in too much focus on minimizing time, rather than resolving the call (for example: incident) to the satisfaction of the user.
Figure 16: steps to apply the principle “Start where you are”
Every service which is established, is done so by taking a step by step approach. It is sensible and practical to accomplish it iteratively rather than doing everything in one go. This will help in organizing the work into smaller and manageable pieces, which can be executed in order and with appropriate control.
The iterations which are sequential, are to be sequenced based on the need. It may be for establishing the new services or improving / modifying the existing ones. The individual iterations should consider both the requirements and the resources available and have to be manageable. This will ensure that the results produced should be tangible and are returned in a timely.
As the iteration progresses there should be continuous feedback, for evaluating and validating the progress of the changes being done. Initiatives to introducing a new service or improving the existing service etc., if done in an organized way by having multiple smaller iterations & efforts, can ensure success for the overall initiative. This will provide the opportunity for continuously evaluating (re-evaluating) & validating (re-validating) the progression, which helps in aligning to the value intended to be accomplished.
Today’s scenario of the market is very dynamic in nature where the situations can change rapidly with new priorities and needs. This puts a stress on altering the pace or direction of the iteration and getting things done quickly. The quick change/adjustment to a scenario is only possible by having smaller iterations with feedback loops. The feedback has to be obtained throughout the cycle by making necessary adjustments based on the feedback.
The structured feedback throughout the lifecycle of the service or products helps in understanding the value perception & preferences of the user of the services, how effective or efficient are the activities across the value chain, governance and controls, management (or engagement) with partners and suppliers, understanding the demand for the services and products.
Figure 17: Continuous feedback in every iteration of value stream
This helps in flexibility, allows for quicker responses to change in users or customer’s needs, improved capability to quickly identify and unearth the failure and improvement of the quality overall.
While applying the principle, “progress iteratively with feedback” it is essential to keep in mind that, one should not get stuck in indecisive analysis. One should look at the bigger picture and visualize the value stream and establish the required iterations and feedback mechanism. This would enable the movement to become faster and quicker.
For example: Assume a scenario where the organization decides to build an application for the finance department. While the ITSM understands the requirements of the finance department, i.e. modules for accounting, billing, payment processing etc., these modules should be there along with the capabilities of communication, reporting etc. Visualizing the entire application requirements while the product architecture is being created, provides an overall picture of the application. However, one cannot create the application in one go as it will become tedious and there may be chances of missing out on many points, resulting in an incomplete product.
While visualizing the entire architecture of the application, the sequencing of the modules, which are to be produced and in which order, should be defined. Further, a deeper dive is needed into the individual modules along with the finance department representatives to bring more clarity and relevance and accordingly the activities of the modules must be sequenced.
Further, while producing the product, obtaining continuous feedback will help in checking the progress as well as the performance of the module being considered for development. The absence of such feedbacks will not help in getting the insights required about the actual development being initiated and later correction would become difficult. The objective of this principle is to ensure that the defects are not allowed to flow towards the downstream of a value stream.
While an organization takes up an initiative, the involvement of the right set of people is essential for making the right decisions. This involves assimilating right information, which is more relevant and appropriate to take forward the initiative, with increased probability of success in the long run.
Today’s organizations are emphasising more and more on enabling the collaborative culture to bring in innovative solutions. Ideas involving different perspectives (of experts), views, and important insights helps towards establishing better working conditions, better policies and practices etc.
Working together in collaboration is emphasized over working in a silo culture. Which means, bringing excellence through involvement of many, rather than depending on just individual excellence.
The silo culture can be a result of the existing organizational structure/belief that does not promote a collaborative culture, refuses encouragement and empowerment, and does not change established processes & practices, communication methods used etc.
Working together in collaboration is the way forward to establish and achieve the required trust and bring improvements in making the results and action visible. This would further ensure the enhanced information flow with increased awareness of the system.
Figure 18: Silo Culture vs Collaborative Culture
A successful collaboration can happen through involvement of the stakeholders in services and service management throughout the life-cycle of the services. The most important stakeholder who is quite visible is the customer. The service provider has to ensure delivering outcomes that facilitate the customer to accomplish their goals. To achieve this, there has to be interaction & collaboration across stakeholder groups that include the team, partner & suppliers.
The establishment of collaboration between all the stakeholders including customer at right levels would lead towards delivering the outcomes which are as per the preferences of all the stakeholders. It is also required to have a thorough understanding of flow of work in progress (WIP) throughout the value chain, constraints (bottlenecks), unused capacity, sources of wastes etc. Further, it is important to involve stakeholders at all levels and by realising and establishing the right communication channels a successful collaboration can be established by an organization.
For Example: An organization decided to transform the entire organization to a single technology platform (like Operating System), to bring in the better collaboration and transaction. While doing this, the organization has to engage with all stakeholders across the organization like users and department heads (functional heads) to understand the details of requirements in each function/department like the applications used, the system configuration requirement, the knowledge of the users to use the new platform etc. This requires a closer collaboration across functions.
To make it more effective, the organization can conduct a roadshow campaign, email communications, conduct user trainings etc, and create awareness about the initiative of the organization. This helps users to become aware of the initiative & its objectives. This will help the organization to have a smooth transition with increased awareness and get better cooperation.
One important point to be noted in such an initiative that the organization takes to transform itself from a Silo culture to a collaborative culture is the resistance from users, which has to be overcome. Reason for resistance can be many.
It is important to work in collaboration to enable the organization to demonstrate the capability and improve its ability to improve the services, service value and customer experience.
While establishing and managing an IT service, one needs to know the overall picture of the service and service management system; a bird’s eye view. A clear understanding is needed of how all the components of the service organization are organized and function together. To understand this, it is required to have a visibility of entire systems, right from beginning till end. One has to visualize this to understand the functioning of the system and the impact of the variations in the performance of various components used in the services.
All the services, processes, practices, functions, partner or supplier organization cannot stand alone and they have to work together in an integrated way. All the activities of the systems must be connected and visualized holistically, to work together. They are part of a single holistic system.
No service, practice, process, department, or supplier stands alone. The outputs that the organization delivers to itself, its customers, and other stakeholders will suffer unless it works in an integrated way to handle its activities as a whole, rather than as separate parts. All the organization’s activities should be focused on the delivery of value.
Figure 19: Holistic view a sample of the various channels through which bank consumers access bank’s services
The above example (Figure 19), is a depiction of various channels through which the consumers of the bank access the bank’s services. This makes it easier and simpler to picturize and understand the banking system as a whole. This also helps in understanding the interfaces and integration of all the systems together.
This is a one dimensional view providing the first level of the bigger picture, where further elaboration of all the components, like solution architecture, service architecture, technology architecture, process model, approach frameworks, MIS & tools, measurement methods and metrics etc.all have to be visualized one by one.
While doing so, it is essential to identify and recognize the complexities at various levels in the system. One can use various different techniques & methods while making certain decisions which is possible by having a holistic picture. One has to recognize, that the systems, rules or policies, processes, practices etc., built for one type of system will not suit others.
Besides, having a holistic picture of systems interactions, working together, use of appropriate technology (tools, automation etc.) are key to the success.
The principle, keep it simple and practical, emphasizes on establishing the minimum required steps in an approach or process to achieve the objectives. It is important to produce the solutions which are workable, practical, and understandable while delivering the solutions, which further, should be able to deliver value to the customer in terms of outcomes the customer wanted to achieve.
This is applicable to every process, practice, approach, solution etc., defined for a service. Defining the minimum or optimum steps essential to deliver the outcome, is needed to make it simple and relevant.
While defining a service, attempting to consider the solution with every exception, would result in over-complication. It is not wrong to assess and analyze the exceptions related to the services. However, considering all of them, even those which are not very important to address makes the service solution too complex. One has to make the decision on only what is important and needed for the service.
Figure 20: Various transactions done through Net-banking
For Example: In an online “net banking” service, capturing data, such as how long it took for a customer of bank to complete the entire process of his/her activity, may add little value for decision-making and identifying the opportunity to improve customer experience. True value creation may be possible if focus is on time taken to check on processes triggered by systems configured to facilitate the transaction like login process, time taken to display details after submission, number of steps followed to make a transfer etc.. By checking these the overall performance of the customer experience while using the net banking services can be improved.
If the “login process” for a net banking is considered, it can involve a series of four steps to make it simple & practical as shown in Figure 21. It may become irrelevant and complex if the additional authentication levels (more than two) are introduced as in Figure 22.
While applying the principle, one has to keep value in mind, ensure simplification, ensure each step works effectively, give importance to the time of the people involved, create quick wins so that people are motivated to use them etc., and remove all the non-value added steps or processes.
The optimization refers to making something more effective and improving the usefulness of that as needed. Optimization shall be done for entire services, systems, processes, products etc. The objective of optimizing helps in maximizing the value by better utilization of resources i.e. Human resources or Technology Resources.
The continual effort put by the service organization to optimize should result in improving the performance of services and delivering service value. The guidance for optimization is obtained through the guidance of ITIL®4 & can also refer to the guidance provided in best practices followed in industry like Lean, Kanban and DevOps etc. ITIL®4 complements these frameworks.
The effort put in optimization should have an intended objective of supporting the overall objective of the service management & organization. It should be optimized to a level where it makes sense to do so. Optimizing beyond certain points would not add any further value. The consideration of compliance needs such as time, resources, finance etc. should be kept in mind while optimizing.
Figure 23: Manual to Automation
For example: Resource Optimization refers to the methods and processes, which are used for aligning the available resource to what is required. That is, achieving the goals or objectives established by an organization, by delivering the intended results within the set constraints such as scope, schedule, cost, quality etc.
Once the optimization is achieved, checking the possibility of automation is essential to make it more efficient and effective. Usage of right technology products is very important. In a simpler way automation could be termed as standardizing and streamlining the manual tasks, such as event correlation done by monitoring tools and triggering the incident management process by logging incident ticket automatically. Efficiency of the processes and services will improve drastically with the reduced involvement of humans, which requires evaluation at each part of the process.
Identifying the opportunities for automation in every service is essential. Before thinking about automation, one has to identify the objective of automation like saving costs, reducing human error, improving user experience, improving efficiency and effectiveness etc.
This requires simplification (optimization) first. The one which is considered for automation should be simple and more repetitive in nature. For example: Automating a process like back-up which happens regularly (daily, weekly, monthly) would make sense rather than automating a process like onboarding an employee, if it happens once in a month.
The consideration of guiding principles like focus on value, start where you are, progress iteratively with feedback, keep it simple & practical is essential while following this principle of optimize and automate.
While following the ITIL guiding principles, it is important to recognize that they interact and depend upon each other. They don’t exist alone. For example, if an organization is applying the principle “progressing iteratively with feedback”, it should also apply the principle “think and work holistically”, so that it can ensure that improvements are included in each iteration, including all the components required to deliver results. Similarly, all other principles, like “Focus on value” help in understanding true value for customers, and “collaborate & promote visibility”, makes it easier to keep things simple and practical.
Figure 24: ITIL®4 Guiding Principles interaction
Organizations should consider how to apply principles that are relevant to them and how to apply them together. All principles may not be critical in every scenario, but their application should be reviewed in every situation and how they can be made appropriate has to be determined.
Principles are applicable throughout the lifecycle of the service and entire value chain of the services. They are universal, empowering and self-validating. They cannot be customized or ignored while providing value to customer through services.
To summarize, in this module we looked at all the seven guiding principles defined in ITIL®4. The seven guiding principles are;