Is ITIL still applicable to this new world of Digital Business?

November 22nd, 2016ITSM

As IT organizations begin the transition to digital, some of the existing processes, tools and ways the organization functions need to be reviewed and revamped. To get a better feel for what these issues are, Views from the Edge sat down with Paer Johansson, Unisys EMEA Director of Advisory Services for Service Management.

View Paer’s “How to Digitize Service Management” webcast.


  1. Is ITIL still applicable to this new world of digital business?  Absolutely. Although the new digital world is fast paced and more organizations are moving towards DevOps, scrum, agile and all of these new frameworks, you still need an overarching guidance and terminology around how to structure, integrate and interface with all the processes involved in your environment. ITIL might not be as all-encompassing and strategy-driving as it has been in the past with in-house datacenters and operations, but you still need to be able to integrate your various processes and services, which a common process framework like ITIL can provide. As always, ITIL is a great sweet-jar, where you can pick the methods, processes and best practices that suit your specific circumstances. I find ITIL especially relevant when you need to communicate and integrate across regional and organizational boundaries, as ITIL is still one of the few frameworks that is universally accepted and understood and that encompasses the entire lifecycle of an environment rather than “just” development or operations.
  2. What are some of the key things that IT organizations need to have in place to make the transition to digital?  One of the main things must be to have a strategic plan with clear business goals. It’s easy to be stressed by the speed of the digital market or get seduced by new technologies, services offerings and IT fashions. However, if services are outsourced or tools are purchased and integrated without having a clear strategy to follow that all these pieces fit in with, there is a very high risk that you end up with a very differentiated portfolio of tools, processes and services that do not bring synergies, do not enable end-to-end reporting and governance. In the end you might be able to show a great portfolio of cutting-edge technology and buzz-words and you might be able to save on fixed costs, but you might increase your hidden operational costs, encourage further shadow-IT and increase frustration and confusion within your business.
  3. What gaps are you seeing in clients’ current infrastructure?  We are again coming back to the consistent plan and holistic view. Within service management, for example, a lot of clients are moving to ServiceNow, which provides cutting edge technology, rapid ROI and a very scalable solution. However, if you purchase the tool and start implementing it within your organization without having a long-term roadmap and defined business goals, you risk ending up with a dispersed infrastructure that supports various teams and processes in isolation, and you miss getting the added benefits of a well-integrated infrastructure that supports processes end to end and a service oriented view. Continuing with the example of ServiceNow, the tool is great in isolation, but the value is really achieved once you start integrating it with other data sources and technologies such as discovery, monitoring, and identity management as well as utilizing the extended capabilities outside of ITSM such as Finance, HR and project management. In order to achieve this integrated solution, a well-integrated and organizationally accepted roadmap and strategy are essential.
  4. How important is the service catalog and the CMDB?  Absolutely crucial. A well-structured, implemented and maintained CMDB has been the backbone of any service management landscape since beginning of time and this has not changed due to the digital transformation. In the end, service management is simple. Somebody needs something done on something by somebody. In order for somebody to be able to quickly and accurately indicate what they need done on what, their selection of input needs to be steered and guided towards what they have or should be able to have access to. If the service catalog is not well structured, and the CMDB does not contain the right/updated configuration items including the right relationships, the end user will end up submitting unstructured requests and incidents, sometimes bypassing existing processes, in turn leading to increased work on the back-end and an inability for the organization to properly report and automate. Implementing and maintaining a well-structured service catalog and CMDB has always been one of the biggest challenges and costs for organizations in the area of service management, which is also one of the areas with the biggest wins and cost savings when we combine that with areas such as discovery, license management, automation and proactive issue resolution and prevention.
  5. What other things should IT leaders be considering as they develop their next year’s strategy?  One thing that I have seen over and over again is that many organizations underestimate the importance of maintaining an internal governance structure. In this day of digital transformation, cloud-based solutions and outsourcing, many organizations go very lean on their own internal organization, which is understandable as it reduces internal operational costs, but sometimes that is going a bit overboard. With an increasing speed of development in the marketplace and increased expectations from the new generation of end users, the internal IT and procurement departments are often faced with resource-restrictions that limit their ability to properly design solutions and strategies together with their providers and partners. This in turn leads to immature solutions being implemented into the business and a fire-fighting mode, rather than well integrated solutions with good return on investment. This leads to the importance of service governance. As discussed above, outsourcing of tools, operations or, indeed, end to end services to multiple vendors leads to the IT landscape becoming more fragmented. Without a well working and resourced governance layer on top of the delivery structure, the risk of increased handling times for incidents, changes and requests as well as decreasing end-user and client satisfaction is considerable.This governance-layer needs to be factored into the strategy in the form of internal capabilities, or – as is becoming more and more popular – in form of an outsourced service integration and management (SIAM)-service.

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