The 7 Guiding Principles of ITIL 4 are the key messages of ITIL. They are designed to guide decisions and actions so the people who are responsible for managing and operating the organization’s service portfolio can benefit from these high-level best practices.
Focus on value
Start where you are
Progress iteratively with feedback
Collaborate and promote visibility
Think and work holistically
Keep it simple and practical
Optimize and automate
[ 5 ] Think and work holistically
Like collaboration and promoting visibility, this is another anti-silo principle. A holistic view is necessary because nothing happens in isolation—there is always a bigger picture to be seen. The delivery of services requires the coordination of activities performed by different teams and automated systems. Thinking and working holistically means thinking and working across teams, departments, systems, and other boundaries to focus on creating value. The parts need to work together to create a clean flow of value across the value chain. When we don't think and work holistically, we experience friction at the hand-off points.
Few of an organization’s products and services start and end within the same team or department. More often, the chain of activities that makes up service involves many moving parts. So, the people and teams who perform the different parts of a value stream must be aware of how the work that they do fits in with the rest of the value stream--and that there is a customer at the end of it.
It is important to understand how the value chain integrates into a complete, end-to-end process. What are the inputs and outputs of each step? Are the handovers efficient? Is there a smooth flow? Or do teams need to constantly loop backward to ask for more information on what was passed down?
This holistic perspective is particularly important when change is applied: a minor change to one step in the value stream can have a profound impact on upstream and downstream steps, so changes must be assessed from a whole-view perspective. Often, a well-intentioned improvement made by one team in isolation can break a value chain.
Working in siloes means people often fail to spot opportunities and risks. So, to deliver optimized services (and minimize risks), it is important to work with the various stakeholders to ensure that everybody is on the same page.
The 4 Dimensions of ITIL 4 provide a useful tool here to ensure you are considering all the necessary angles. The 4 dimensions cover value streams and processes, information and technology, organizations and people, and partners and suppliers. People are the collective representatives of the whole system, so close collaboration is critical. When change is required, it is necessary to pull together the people who represent parts of the system to discuss the change from both the systemic perspective and the holistic outcome perspective. It is necessary to appreciate the complexity and fragility of a value chain—and this cannot happen when teams operate as black-box siloes. Transparency is critical to getting a holistic perspective.
In the current situation, the need for social distancing prevents Change Advisory Boards from meeting in the same place, so virtual CAB alternatives must be available--for example, using teleconferencing or videoconferencing where CAB members can share their screens to show information like service maps and infrastructure maps. This can be complemented by the use of a digital forum technology to consult with a wider group of IT people--and IT customers--to gain a more complete and accurate appreciation of the potential impact of change.
For example, even when IT is 100% certain they have considered all the technical aspects and dependencies relating to a change, they may not be aware of a major business initiative that is set to overlap with the timing of the change. To business stakeholders, the timing may represent an unacceptable risk and the change window shifted to another time. This is why getting a holistic appreciation of the situation is so important.
[ 6 ] Keep it simple and practical
Like focus on value, this principle is heavily focused on the prevention of waste. Waste correlates with complexity. Higher complexity means there are more opportunities for waste to creep into a system--and it requires more work to find and eliminate waste.
Focus on delivering the desired outcome, not building the most elegant and elaborate solution. Use the minimum number of steps to deliver that outcome, ensuring you are not over-processing (delivering quality above and beyond what is required).
Apply the Pareto Principle (the 80:20 rule) to service mainstream demand without trying to solve for every possible exception. A simple process will be able to handle 80% of the variation. Adding decisions and actions to support non-mainstream demands (the outliers) will only complicate the process and slow it down by 80%. It’s better to apply general exception handling e.g. mainstream demand is handled by a simple, standardized process (possibly automated)—and the less frequent outliers are handled on a case-by-case basis.
[ 7 ] Optimize and automate
Optimizing and automating is about using people (often the most scarce resource) and automation effectively. The number of people you have is often the primary constraint on progress, so technology should be used to its full potential to ensure your people can avoid people wasting time on simple, repetitive tasks and focus on complex decisions, creative endeavors, and problem-solving tasks which require human intervention.
While a person is working on a task that ought to be automated, they’re not working on a task that cannot (yet) be automated, so this is a form of waste. Automate the automatable to ensure people are used more wisely. This means automating standard processes and decision-making which can be modeled algorithmically.
However, you should be careful what you automate—and when. It might be more accurate to call this principle “Optimize then automate”, as automating a faulty process simply gets you to the wrong outcome faster.
Nothing is ever perfect the first time. Ever. Although the waterfall model tries to do this, it rarely works out, because it starts with trying to capture the customer’s requirements perfectly (an impossible task) and degenerates from there. An interactive, agile approach will work far better--where changes can be validated with the customer on a regular basis.
The optimization principle ties in with the progress iteratively with the feedback principle. Using specific optimization practices documented in ITIL—or borrowed from DevOps, Lean, and other areas—iterative improvements can be applied and then validated through holistic metrics such as customer satisfaction.
If an improvement is made and IT customer satisfaction goes up, that's a win. If a process is streamlined for cost, and IT customer satisfaction remains steady, that's another win. However, if customer satisfaction decreases, then a problem has been created. Generally, holistic metrics like IT customer satisfaction are useful tension metrics by which you can check that "local" improvements are not having a negative impact on the "global" system.
When working to optimize and automate, think and work holistically, and collaborate and promote visibility principles also come into play, so that optimization is done from the value chain perspective and all the necessary stakeholders are involved and informed as necessary.