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Interview: You can’t be dogmatic about ITIL®. But you won’t find any nonsense in it.

You won’t find a classic salesperson at ALVAO. Nor in the person of Zdeněk Jelínek, who has been in charge of our activities in Slovakia since September. Originally an IT manager and ITIL sceptic, he has become one of the few certified ITIL experts in the Czech Republic. We talked about ITIL 4 and plans for ALVAO in Slovakia.
Jan Škrabánek

29. 6. 2022

After 30 years in IT management and ITIL training, you are now engaged in doing business. Is this a major change?

The change is quite big, but to be honest, I don’t see myself primarily as a businessman. I know the problems of IT management first-hand, from when I was an IT manager myself. In addition, in recent years, I have spoken to dozens of people from our community as part of ITIL training and consultations, so I know what people in IT are struggling with. I know the real benefits of ALVAO. I truly believe I can offer customers a good solution to the real problems bothering them.

You are a certified ITIL expert. Does one have to know ITIL to manage IT well?

I don’t think that’s entirely true. I myself have been a long-time ITIL sceptic. Later on, after I did the ITIL Foundation course, I projected what it taught me back over my 30 years of experience and found it covered a lot of the things we had implemented in the company without recourse to ITIL. We had arrived at it through common sense. So, it can be done without ITIL. At the same time, however, ITIL does actually document good real-world measures, proven best practices. There is no nonsense in it. That’s why it appeals to me. When I was training ITIL, I noticed that people sometimes follow company regulations for so long they stop seeing that things could be done differently. ITIL will offer you a fresh perspective. It is an opportunity to challenge your thinking with actual good practice, so you can let yourself be inspired. It doesn’t say anywhere that you have to follow it blindly. It’s up to you what you take from it.

But many people see ITIL as a binding standard…

That’s still the case, unfortunately. I have also seen that during the courses. ‘According to ITIL, the reaction time at this urgency and priority should be 2 hours.’ That kind of reasoning is, of course, nonsense. ITIL itself emphasizes that it is not some standard or norm. It is a framework. So, let’s use it that way. It’s summed up in the ITIL motto Adopt and Adapt. And I would add, Improve.


If I want to implement ITIL, what hurdles should I be ready to face?

From my point of view, the most important is the relationship between IT and business management. You can always tell whether ITIL comes into the company from below or above. Each approach has its pitfalls. When ITIL is pushed by management, it often meets with resistance. ITIL is seen as a way to limit IT autonomy. On the other hand, if IT has a weak position in the company, and decides to implement ITIL, it won’t be able to push through any process changes, simply because their counterparties will not be convinced. Take, for example, the guiding principles from ITIL 4. One of them is ‘collaborate and promote visibility’, i.e. work together and be transparent. Cooperation always takes two. Ideally, ITIL implementation comes to be the shared goal of IT and the organization’s leadership.

You used to be an ITIL sceptic yourself. How do you convince a sceptical IT team?

Whenever I introduce a change, a new process, or a tool, it always requires some discipline from the team, which can be a hassle. You have to clearly demonstrate how this initiative will help the team. We can illustrate this with the example of incident management. As long as incidents are handled haphazardly, then each technician does whatever comes to mind, or more often, what s/he is most harassed about by users. This has its advantages, but at the same time it puts the team under considerable stress. So I will show them that if we record all incidents in the service desk, they’ll have less freedom in some respects, but on the other hand, they will get clearly structured workload, with defined rules. Yes, they will have to log each incident into the system, but in no time at all they’ll be able to find solutions to similar incidents in the past, quickly, so they can better plan their time, and thanks to rules and better communication, they get rid of user pressure. IT people have to understand that they’ll benefit, too.

As a trainer and consultant, you’ve met a lot of people from different industries. How are Czech managers doing, as regards IT management?

Differences are plain to see between organizations with parent companies abroad, purely Czech companies and the public sector. But it always depends the most on each particular organization. One can find cases where it is a wonder that anything works at all. Yet being too tied to directives and policies is also counterproductive. That’s what we’re here for, to make it easier for them to do their daily operational tasks and to help implement a better system, not just processing user requests, but also asset management. The registration and management of assets is often called the Achilles’ heel of IT. Situations vary, but the most telling aspect is whether people want to move things forward. And I find the experience of training very encouraging. I enjoy dealing with these things, and I look forward to many opportunities to do so with ALVAO.

What are the upcoming plans for Slovakia?

We already have a number of customers in Slovakia, but there is definitely great potential for growth. Further activities will be based on what has already proven itself in the Czech Republic. We are starting to build a network of partners and, of course, I want to make use of where I live. Břeclav is not far from the Slovak border, so it is a good base for trips to Slovakia.