Mixing ITIL with complementary flavors: Crafting the Perfect Service Management Cocktail – for your organization

We live in a VUCA1 world, and within this ever-evolving landscape, organizations and their te ams need to manage the design, operation, and improvement of digital services using IT service management. When conducting these activities, they must do so while respecting their organization's strategic intent and the value of the digital services offered to customers and colleagues.

Various service management frameworks have emerged over the last 40 years to help organizations streamline their processes and deliver efficient, standardized, customer-centric, and regulated digital services. ITIL (formerly known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a renowned and widely adopted framework.

This article will explore the comparisons between ITIL and other prominent frameworks, focusing on how these comparisons matter to service management practitioners, service desk teams, and technical support teams.

We'll aim to shed light on the unique characteristics of each framework and explore how they positively impact daily IT service management (ITSM) operations; we'll also discuss their similarities and differences and how blending the complementary key aspects could benefit you and your organization. Behind all of this is the awareness that these methodologies are rarely, if ever, opposed to one another – but when they are not adapted correctly, they can be structured in opposition to one another.

ITIL and ITSM: Core Ingredients with a Blend that Requires Understanding

The distinction between ITIL and ITSM serves as a core foundation for service management practitioners and service desk technicians. ITIL is a set of guiding principles and best practices, while ITSM represents the broader discipline encompassing the entire IT service lifecycle. Understanding this difference is vital, as it sets the stage for effective service management.

In practice, service management practitioners need to grasp the intricacies of ITIL to ensure that IT services are delivered and managed efficiently. Meanwhile, service desk admins and technicians rely on these principles to resolve organizational incidents and fulfill service requests promptly. Blending an understanding of ITIL and ITSM lays the groundwork for a delightful blend.

ITIL and Enterprise Service Management (ESM): A More Palatable Flavor?

In addition to ITSM, we must consider ITIL in the context of ESM. This is a concept that has existed since the early 2000s.

At this time, ITIL was perceived to be tailored specifically for IT service management, focusing on IT-related processes and challenges. ESM takes a broader approach by applying service management principles to organizational departments and functions, aiming to create a unified culture of digital service excellence.

This said, the author would argue that ITIL was designed to be organizationally focused rather than just information technology-centric. In 2019, ITIL 4's release saw the framework become more clearly organizationally focused, with its guiding principles and practices designed to expand beyond mere IT.

ITIL and COBIT: Blending Governance and Service Management

The comparison between ITIL and COBIT is particularly pertinent for service management practitioners. While ITIL primarily focuses on service management, COBIT extends its reach into governance and control. Practitioners must balance their flavors between these two frameworks, ensuring service delivery aligns with organizational goals while adhering to governance standards.

Service desk admins and technicians may not directly engage with COBIT, but they play a critical role in maintaining governance by adhering to ITIL practices. Understanding this interplay can help them align their day-to-day tasks with broader organizational objectives.

ITIL and Agile: Flexible and Collaborative Flavours

Agile methodologies have reshaped project management, and the comparison with ITIL is valuable for service management practitioners and service desk technicians. ITIL emphasizes long-term stability and reliability in service delivery, while Agile prioritizes flexibility, collaboration, and rapid development cycles.

Service management practitioners often adapt ITIL principles to accommodate Agile projects within their blended service delivery framework. For example, handling requests and incidents generated by Agile teams efficiently for service desk admins and technicians.

Understanding the Agile-ITIL flavors can lead to a smoother cocktail between service management and development teams.

ITIL and DevOps: Blended for Service Excellence

DevOps, emphasizing collaboration between development and IT operations, intersects with ITIL in service delivery. For service management practitioners and DevOps professionals, it's critical to reduce silos and reconcile these two approaches, even though it can be a strategic challenge.

ITIL provides a framework designed for collaboration; DevOps focuses on breaking down silos and accelerating the delivery of digital services, and innovating at pace.

Service desk admins and technicians feel the impact of DevOps when handling incidents or service requests originating from DevOps-driven changes. Blending the core ingredients of ITIL and DevOps is essential to maintaining service stability and meeting rapid development demands. After all, even in a low-risk, highly regulated service management environment, working together at a pace is better than working apart slowly.

ITIL and Lean: Don't Waste Your Ingredients...

Lean principles derived from manufacturing emphasize efficiency and waste reduction. ITIL shares the efficiency goal, providing comprehensive guiding principles and practices. For service management practitioners, Lean concepts offer tools to enhance ITIL-based processes further.

Service desk admins and technicians can apply Lean principles in daily tasks, ensuring service delivery and customer service remain efficient and waste-free. Understanding that less is more is critical to delivering excellent digital services.

ITIL and ISO 20000: Documenting a Quality Recipe

ISO 20000 is an international standard offering a structured framework for effectively delivering and managing digital IT services. For service management practitioners, blending ITIL with ISO 20000 standards is crucial for demonstrating to customers that you have the best recipe for them.

During 2022, it was reported that ISO/IEC 20000-1 attained the 8th2 position in all management system standards in those organizations looking to be certified in this standard. This is key; an individual can gain an ITIL qualification, but it's an organization that achieves ISO certification.

Service desk admins and technicians may not be directly involved in ISO 20000 certification, but their adherence to ITIL practices contributes to meeting these standards. Understanding the blend between ITIL and ISO 20000 ensures that their efforts align with global service management standards.

ITIL and Human-Centred Design Thinking – Stirring Emotions

Humanizing IT is an approach that emphasizes the importance of the human element in IT service management. It recognizes that digital services are delivered to people, whether internal employees or external customers and focuses on creating positive and meaningful interactions throughout the service lifecycle.

ITIL and Humanizing IT share the goal of improving digital IT service delivery and approach this from slightly different angles. ITIL provides a structured framework for IT service management, emphasizing processes, best practices, etc. Humanizing IT prioritizes the human element, emphasizing empathy, user experience, and customer-centricity. When combined, these form a powerful combination that stirs emotions.

Blending Methodologies: The Art of Mixology

You may now be thinking:

Where do I start?

Returning to our VUCA1 theme, being a service management practitioner, service desk team, or technical support team member is challenging when designing a service management system (SMS) for your organization. However, this challenge isn't impossible.

Blending service management methodologies is akin to adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Just as a skilled mixologist balances various ingredients to create a harmonious flavor, organizations and those within them can choose to balance any combination of ITIL, Agile, DevOps, Lean, COBIT, ISO 20000, or Humanizing IT to achieve an effective service management strategy.

The true essence of success lies in recognizing that each of these methodologies serves as a unique ingredient that can be combined to craft a winning formula. Imagine a seasoned mixologist who expertly blends various spirits, liqueurs, and flavors to create a delightful cocktail. Similarly, IT professionals can combine these frameworks' best practices and principles, selecting the finest ingredients to concoct a service management strategy that fits their organization.

Begin with the foundational practices of ITIL and ITSM/ESM, providing a structured framework from which to begin. These form the base of your mix. Then, infuse these with the governance and control aspects of COBIT, offering a broader perspective that aligns IT with organizational goals.

Add the flexibility and collaboration of Agile, emphasizing rapid development cycles. Incorporate the collaborative spirit of DevOps, which breaks down silos and accelerates delivery. Draw inspiration from Lean's focus on efficiency and waste elimination.

Remember the international standard of ISO 20000, which ensures effective IT service management practices at an organizational level. Finally, sprinkle in the human-centric principles of Humanizing IT, emphasizing emotion, empathy, experience, and customer-centricity. Voila! Think of it as crafting a personalized concoction that satisfies the diverse tastes of your clients, stakeholders, and team members.

Then, of course, you need something extra: the sprinkle of stardust. The magic happens when you add common sense, adaptability, and your team's skills, experience, and qualifications. These secret ingredients bring the blend to life, reflecting your organization's culture and aspirations.

In IT service management, success doesn't come from rigidly adhering to a single framework but from artfully combining the best elements from various methodologies. As a master mixologist creates memorable cocktails, mastering the art of blending service management methodologies can lead to exceptional IT service experiences and organizational triumphs.

Embrace the journey of continuous learning, experimentation, and collaboration. Remember that the ideal blend evolves with the ever-changing demands of the organizational landscape, just as tastes evolve; the key lies in embracing the complexity, experimenting with the blend, and staying agile in a world where change is the only constant.

In this spirit, cheers to crafting your unique and successful IT service management concoction!

1 VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity

2 ISO Survey of Certifications

About the author

David Barrow holds the ITIL4® Master and VeriSM Professional certifications; he is recognised as a Chartered Information Technology Professional by the British Computer Society (BCS) and was awarded a fellowship by the BCS in 2022. In addition, he mentors people at various levels both in partnership with Reed within the 'Women in Technology' programme and with the BCS.

David's is a committee member for ITSM (IT service management) on behalf of the British Standards Institute (BSI), BCS and International Organization for Standardization (ISO),

David hosts his own YouTube channel, "IT's all about choices" where he and his guests discuss their careers and the challenges they've faced.

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