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"ITIL 4 focuses on the ‘people side’ of things way more"

Philip Hearsum is one of the ITIL 4 lead architects. We spoke with him about why we needed a revised ITIL and how both IT and non-IT departments can benefit from it.
Lucie Rozmarinová

15. 6. 2021

Why do we need a new version of ITIL?

Historically ITIL has never been good at the people side of things. It has focused on process and an understanding of the way that services interact. Sure, it talked about good communication, working with the business and adopting and adapting the guidance without real focus on how. Now that we have moved into the agile digital revolution, this is not enough. I believe that the WHY we do things is as important as the HOW. Indeed, you need to understand why you are doing something before you can truly understand how. Also, the old guidance was often misinterpreted and placed people into silos. You were in Incidents, or in Change, these silos had to be broken down and again the why is important. The guiding principles, first raised in Practitioner, have been updated and enhanced along with the 4 domains (Organizations and people, Information and technology, Partners and suppliers, Value streams and processes) and the Service Value System (SVS), these are the major changes and are vital to modern service management. The idea of co-creation, the service provider does not PROVIDE value, they enable the co-creation of value with the service consumer. If you produce the best, fastest and flashiest website and no one uses it, where is the value? All of these things have evolved the old processes into the new PRACTICES which are capabilities in that area, comprising People, Technology, Knowledge, Partners and Processes.   


My Role in ITIL4

I was a member of the Lead Architect Team (LAT) that worked on producing ITIL4. I was involved from the design stage onward, I am involved with working with academia in getting ITIL (and the other AXELOS portfolio guidance) embedded into their courses. So I was not one of the AXELOS guys who managed the actual project for ITIL4. So, I looked at myself as almost a SME (Subject Matter Expert) that happened to also work for AXELOS. As I was also heavily involved with ITIL 2011 when I was with the Cabinet Office it also added a bit of context. I am truly proud to have been part of ITIL4 and feel blessed to have worked with the other LAT members, who I really look up to and admire. They are truly a inspirational group. Also the AXELOS team worked wonders to keep us all in line and produce what we now have.


Which chapter of ITIL4 is of most interest to you? Why?

Chapter 4, the 7 Guiding Principles. To me they are fundamental in all we want to achieve in service management. They are 

Focus on Value, – if something you are doing does not provide value then why are you doing it? A simple question but do we always follow this principle? Whenever we start a new service, add a process step, communicate with someone, we should ask this question. However, remember that value is not just financial, it could be regulatory, for potential growth, to improve customer service or indeed because it is seen as a value to senior stakeholders. 

Start where you are, – look at what you already have, don’t throw everything out, find what you do well, reinforce and use improvement to bring it to where you need it to be. So often we start afresh and cause huge disruption to both the business and the people it affects without taking the time for this. 

Progress iteratively with feedback, – resist the temptation to do everything at once, break it down and most importantly get feedback at every opportunity to ensure that you are moving in the right direction and proving the value. 

Collaborate and promote visibility, – work with others to produce the required outcome and value (here is that word again) keep people informed, be visible (get feedback). 

Think and work holistically, – nothing stands alone in the service world, make sure that your output fits in with the whole organization, will the “improvement” you make affect detrimentally someone else in the system? The important part of this for me is “think” it should become part of your mindset that your function can/will affect other parts of the business. 

Keep it simple and pragmatic, – note that simple is not a term for simplistic, it means  “simple is the other side of complex” to explain get a detailed view of what needs to be done, how it will produce value (again) and what must be done, then simplify as much as possible in a pragmatic way. 

Optimize and automate, – you should maximize the work carried out by your valuable people. Tasks that are mundane and can be automated, should be. Your people are far to valuable to waste on tasks that can be automated. 

If you follow these principles in EVERYTHING you do in your role, I think that you will find benefits both as an individual and for your business. 


How can non-IT departments benefit from ITIL?

The question that is fundamental to this is in two parts. 

1) Is there an IT department as we all know it anymore inside a business? 

2) Is there any department that is not reliant on IT or IT enabled services? 

We are moving away from the traditional siloed approach in all things, the “business” needs to understand what it can expect and what its responsibility is. After all how can we truly co-create value if we are separate. Therefore, I think that it is very important that this is understood by all. If this happens and we move closer to an integrated approach, then the benefits will follow. Look at the guiding principles they are designed to add value, to make things simpler and to bring the business along with the service provision. This all adds up to a more agile and dynamic outcome. Resulting in a faster to market provision, with fewer issues, less waste, and more abilities to respond to change. This also adds to the support area, as now the services around them are designed for customer experience and the practices ensure that not only do we have good processes, but good people running them, tools and information at hand, with a clear focus and vision as to why we are doing whatever that practice requires.


Any funny moments that happened during preparation of ITIL4?

Not that I can think of, however I do think it was incredible how at the early stages there was long debate about what was going into this guidance, with many different (but not, I confess, radically different) views. Articulated by very clever and knowledgeable people. All of whom had strong views. However, like magic, as things moved on they coalesced into something that I feel was greater than the original parts. It never ceases to amaze me when this happens. I really feel that we managed to use the guiding principles in producing the document we have and that is an important fact. I hope you all like the new ITIL4, if you do remember it was created using the ideals it supports.