What can CIOs expect from ITIL 4? More leadership advice, for one

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Defining IT value

How do you think IT value should be defined?

Ratcliffe: It’s a very tricky subject, and so you have got to really think deeply about it, almost on a project-That’s an important nuance — that IT value depends upon the context. In one situation, speed may represent the highest value; in another, reliability, or ease of use.

Ratcliffe: In ITIL 3, we talk about utility and warranty. Utility is what does an action do, and warranty is how reliably does it work.

In ITIL 4, they have gone beyond that — maybe it is not possible to write down what value is, but we’ve got to talk about it with the customer before we get too deeply into development. ‘What is going to be most useful to you? And can we break it down using Agile concepts into a way that we check and do it iteratively and stop when there is no more value in proceeding?’

So, there are discussions around Agile and, particularly, around lean thinking, which helps developers and the IT folks make sure what they’re doing for the business is cost-effective and worthwhile.

Dictionary definitions of value like this have been around for a long time: Determine whether what you’re getting out of the activity is worth what you’re putting into it in terms of cost.

But in IT, it’s tough because things are changing so much. One group of customers might value one aspect of the service or an application, and another group might value something else, because of their level of previous experience or awareness or how they use the service.

Determining IT value and how it relates to organizational change means you’ve got to have good collaboration between the IT people — this is the DevOps stuff — and you’ve got to have good relationship management with business people and with other suppliers in order to resolve this discussion around value every time we have to do something different.

So, having good communications, collaboration, an attitude of cooperation; it’s important to understand what we call the voice of the customer as being a critical tool, so we can make sure what we do is worthwhile and we’re not just making assumptions and steaming ahead.

What do you say to critics who say, ‘ITIL is dead?’

Ratcliffe: I don’t know if it is a very fair comment. I think there are people out there who believe it is an easy way to get attention I’d say: ‘You’re probably saying that because you’re using what you need from it already, and you don’t think you need to pay much attention to it anymore. But you’ve embedded it in.’

I think if ITIL had been left on its own without the recent development work — what we call an update — yeah, people might not pay as much attention to it in terms of new adoptions, because when you looked at it, you’d think: ‘Where is the reference to DevOps? Where is the reference to the types of applications and services we’re providing today?’ This all looks much like the old mainframe world of 20 years ago, which is where most people worked at that time. And so, yeah, I can imagine it is easy for people to say it’s not of value anymore.

But I don’t think that’s the case. ITIL 4 is going to help us make use of other frameworks and techniques, because it is going to crystallize together things like Agile, DevOps, IT governance and leadership, and strategy. It helps us to say, ‘Hey, let’s get together and make sure we exploit all these techniques and keep in mind the prerequisites of delivering IT service quality.’