Do you speak the language?
I have spent the last 20+ years working in the field of IT Service Management. In that time, I have had countless conversations with customers as it relates to ITIL.
The customers tend to fall into one of two main groups:
1. 50% are aware of ITIL.
- They may have even implemented some ITIL processes such as Incident or Change Management in their organization.
- They are often looking to expand their ITIL knowledge or to implement additional ITIL processes.
2. 50% are unaware or ITIL.
- They may have even been exposed to some ITIL topics and have some limited knowledge of what ITIL is, but see little to no benefit or value from it.
This 50/50 breakdown has not changed in the last 20 years. It seems to have about the same amount of impact as it did a decade ago.
So why are we still talking about ITIL today in an IT environment that is very different from that of the previous 20 years?
For me, ITIL at its core represents a codification of organizational processes and practices.
Having ITIL and ITIL Best Practices defined provides for a common language as it relates to service management.
I still hear “tickets”, helpdesk tickets”, “requests”, and other general terms used with frequency, but everyone uses those terms differently.
Providing for a common language is critical to success. Having everyone on the same page and talking the same language can often be 90% of the battle you face. Without a common language, sharing strategies and techniques becomes difficult at best.
I sat for my ITIL Expert Certification very early on in my career in IT Service Management. It seemed like 6 months of information crammed into a two-week course of 10 hour days, followed by late nights in the hotel room in order to be ready for the next day.
By the end of the class, I was dreaming about Problem Management and Configuration Items.
But it wasn’t until several years later, that I began to realize how the lessons, and terminology learned in that ITIL class had become a part of my everyday vocabulary.
The course gave me the language and the ability to apply it to everyday situations and challenges.
Problem Management has always been a focus of mine. Primarily because I feel it gets overlooked often and it one of the least understood and implemented out of the ITSM processes.
Customers become very good at Incident Management, but they find themselves dealing with the same exact Incidents over and over and over again. Never really figuring out what is happening or how to remove it. And they judge their performance on how well and quickly they can handle those incidents over time.
I hear customers say that exact same about adopting ITIL and attending ITIL training. “It seems like overkill for our company” “ITIL just doesn’t make much sense for the business we are in”, but they fail to see the potential gains achieved by tasking a team with Problem Management and what that could mean for the activity levels of the Incident Management group.
For me, ITIL, COBIT, and the many other myriads of frameworks for business process and management have one thing at their core…effective communication.
Communication between departments within the organization, communication with customers and clients who receive the products and services, and communication between the applications, devices, and databases that are used throughout the environment to provide these services are all critical to business success.
There is a tendency for organizations to become fractured, often starting in even smaller organizations and getting more divided as the organization grows.
Speed is a driving factor.
1 person can make a decision faster than 2.
Organizations designate decision makers in different areas to enable the business to adjust quickly. This segmentation tends to grow along with the organization. Tribal knowledge develops in pockets of the organization, groups define their territory, and fiefdoms are established.
Many of the organizations that I have consulted with over the years were frustrated. Frustrated that they had dozens of tools in place to help manage everything from networks to desktops, and applications and none of them communicated in any meaningful way.
The data is there, but no communication means it never materializes in the form of information that is needed to drive improvements.
ITIL embraces the concept of separation of duties, but more importantly, it establishes clear lines of communication and defines the intersection points of each process.
If you ever have the opportunity to attend an ITIL Flight Simulation, you will quickly see how communication breakdowns can spiral into disaster, albeit a simulated one.
Apply some basic ITIL principles to the exercise and everything changes. Establish clear lines of communication where needed, and share the necessary information with those that need it, and everything smooths out and operates with much less effort and stress.
I continue to hear from customers that have put ITIL training and certification a priority and are surprised to find out that rather than slowing things down, using these tools has freed up time that can be used to make more improvements.
Applying the principles of any framework like ITIL requires a change of culture throughout not just IT, but the organization. It all starts with the individual.
I personally fall into the trap of doing “what I know”. Not looking for constant improvements in the way in which I do things, but instead just continuing to do things the same way because it is easy. I must challenge myself to look for improvements.
ITIL training is applicable to everyone. Not just those in IT.
In a typical day, you handle hundreds of incidents.
Meetings, Voice Mails, emails, kids, pets, vehicles, etc…we are constantly dealing with incidents of one sort or another throughout our lives.
When I think about it, my ITIL training has simply become a framework that gets applied to everything in my life, consciously or not. When you spend as much time as I do in the world of ITIL, it is hard not to.
Imagine ITIL as the thread that ties these groups into a cohesive unit. It makes sense that we would want our organizations to be just as integrated as the applications they rely on.
I would say this…for those of you thinking about ITIL training, or even ITIL certification, don’t go into it looking for it to provide your Incident Management or Change Management process for you. Think of ITIL as providing you with the terminology, and tools, to be able to make your organization work better.
It took years after my training and certification before I really felt comfortable, and understood all of those things I learned in class. In all honesty, there was no time to really think about anything in training, because you were already onto the next topic with more terms to learn.
Over time, I started to hear myself repeating things that I had learned in ITIL class all of those years ago. It gave me the language and the understanding to be able to talk with customers about their business and allows me to help them implement their processes in the best possible manner.
I used to believe that ITIL was going to be a wave that took over the service management landscape, but instead, ITIL has seeped into the foundations of many organizations a little bit at a time. Kind of just how it was supposed to be approached.
The signs are there in every customer I talk to. I hear them speaking ITIL, whether they know it or not.
About the Author
Kyle Hamilton was born and raised in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. Kyle has spent over 25 years working in IT Service Management. He has implemented software solutions for hundreds of enterprise customers around the World.