ITIL


When I attended my initial ITIL® trainings, (it was version 2 at that point) to some of the questions raised by the students (us), the trainer used to (often with a quirky smile) respond ‘It depends!’ – some, with follow-up explanations and others, without.

 I kept hearing the same phrase in answers from many other trainers, consultants, experts, authors and practitioners all along.  I felt some of them using that as a trump card to brush off difficult questions (and quite frankly made a mental note of the same tool for future use!). It is another thing that even the person(s) on the other end also started understanding the trick very soon.

On a serious note, ‘it depends’ is a genuine answer (or prelude to the answer) to many questions regarding ITIL® (or any frameworks similar). Examples:

  • Some “Evergreen” questions in LinkedIn groups and other forums such as: “is password reset an incident or service request”, “ Is Server reboot a change” etc etc…
  • “Which ITIL process should be implemented first? ” or “ which order the processes need to be implemented?”
  • “What categories should Incident tickets have” or “how many levels of priorities a ticket should have”?
  • “What details a Service catalogue should have”

And so on…

It depends…” is not THE answer to the above questions, but it is a good prelude (which sets the perspective right) to the answer, which SHOULD be followed up with a clear explanation on “what it depends on…” and more importantly “why…”. A right combination of these will make the answer the best. (more…)

I finally managed (delay due to my work and other pressures) to go through the ‘Standard+Case’ (S+C) approach that Rob England (The ITSkeptic) has come up through the Basic Service management site as well as the recently released book of his (Haven’t got to the book myself yet, will get soon!).

The concept and approach is definitely pretty interesting and useful in an ITSM (and of course generic Service management) context – more specifically in service support world of incidents, Service requests and problems.

ITIL® has been dividing the support requests (or tickets in a more popular terminology) into Incidents, Service Requests, Problems, Change requests, Access requests etc  – to be handled by respective, best-practice driven, processes.  The process–driven approach of ITIL® (which the framework has been trying to shrug-off not-so-successfully through the Lifecycle approach of V3 and 2011 editions) has been often criticized to create process-silo in organizations.

The S+C approach kind of cuts the support domain in a different plane. Irrespective of the request to IT  is incident, Service request, Problem , change or any other , the approach to the response can be broadly classified into two:

  • Standard: Predefined because they deal with a known situation, known solution, well defined actions etc.
  • Case: An unknown or unfamiliar situation that rely on the knowledge, skills and professionalism of the person dealing with them

ITIL® has references to concepts to practices such as Incident models, Request models etc which in a way relate to the Standard cases. However, it is not as distinctly and prominently established as would be, if someone adopts an approach like the S+C model.

The key points that I like about the model and approach are:

  • It is complementary to ITIL®or any other models. It doesn’t try to say ITIL® is wrong and hence here is the alternate way of doing ITSM. I have a strong belief in the basic structure and principles of ITIL®, and anything that complements or enhances or fine-tunes the existing principles are the ones I personally, would want to adopt.
  • It is very simple(as opposite to ‘complicated’ and not to ‘difficult’) yet powerful– small organizations and those organizations who are not familiar with and/or established the concepts of Incident, Problems, Service requests etc. can still adopt the approach onto their existing practices.
  • Easier way of communicating to business or non-IT and agreeing on timelines, SLAs etc. As Rob has mentioned in the introduction to the model, it is a terminology/approach already in use in many other service scenarios such as hospitals, law and order, etc.
  • The approach of ‘adaptive case management’ and not trying to put Cases into a defined process – this has been a concerning factor for me in ITIL® problem management,  to some extent in Incident/Major Incident handling and in some instances of business requests for new/changed services.

However, the following points are also worthwhile to be noted: (more…)

A supposed to be big news that didn’t make the expected kind of ripples in the ITSM domain recently was regarding the joint venture of Cabinet office with Capita which will have the joint ownership of Best practice frameworks like PRINCE2 and ITIL®.

If you haven’t already, you can read the details of this joint venture here,  here:  and here.

A few other names were being used in speculations prior to the announcement – but the name Capita Inc as the joint venture partner seems to have come as a surprise to many in the domain.

Though I don’t have much first-hand exposure or understanding of the situation and development around that, here are a few observations (aided by opinions and discussions of various experts in the domain) :

  • The announcement focuses absolutely nothing on the objectives or impact on the best practices themselves or to the respective domains – but too much on financials, tax-payers money etc.  This could also be a reason why there have been less ripples in the industry than expected. Good or bad, it throws up unnecessary focus (or at least speculations) to ‘valuation’ of the best practice frameworks – and in turn to that of ITIL®. Stephen Mann in his Forrester blog  felt this was “possibly be the worst advertisement for ITIL® ever released”!
  • For some of us in the ITSM domain who has been constantly complaining or criticizing the way ITIL® was run so far – this could be the change that could bring the change in approach.  For the time being at least that is an optimistic possibility.
  • With the 51:49 stakes-split (in favour of Capita) shifts the governing control to Capita. Will the interest of Cabinet office get limited to just the commercial ROI from their 49% stakes – time will tell. As many in the industry has already commented on, the significant fact here is: the governing control of ITIL® is moving to a public entity to a private company. (In my view, this could actually turn out to be a good thing). (more…)

Recently a couple of discussions raised in social media were regarding the clarity between a Service Request and Change. For those who has the right understanding of these two terms, this discussion might look too basic – but my experience shows that many practitioners are carrying some level of confusion on these terms.

Here are the typical confusions/queries that I have seen regarding these in my training/consulting engagements as well as forum interactions:

  • How to differentiate a Service request from a Change request?

Service Requests are those requests coming from a user to the Service Desk (or in some cases, self-help channels) and fulfilled through Request fulfillment. Change requests are requests for modifications required in any part of the Services, Service management systems or underlying systems and components.

Service Requests can include requests for some changes that a user ‘is entitled to ask for’ – often defined as those forming part of ‘standard’ requests from users. To fulfill those Service requests (only those involving changes – not all), applicable change management process (or change model) need to be followed. In fact, In the fulfillment of such Service requests, two (or more) processes might work together – along with request fulfillment there could be processes such as change management, release management (where applicable), access management etc. This is very much like:  for resolving an Incident (or Problem) – you might need a change and hence has to follow change management process.

However, it is also important to note that the changes that can be requested by users will be those minor, operational changes (installation of desktop software/hardware, user id/password changes etc) – and hence will typically fall under Standard Change model (in other words, pre-authorized). So, for fulfilling of those requests, there is no change approval and such detailed change management process is not usually required. (more…)

ITIL documentation (Ref: Service Transition Publication) includes Definite Media Library as a part of Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS).  This has always been a key debate points in training and consulting discussions for me – the reasons for the same, will be given below.

I also had an interesting Twitter interaction with Mr. Stuart Rance (one of the authors of the Service Transition publication 2011) on the same, yesterday.  Some  of the points of this discussion also will be explained along with my further views on the same.  Realized later, that the 140 character restriction of twitter was constraining the ability to explain viewpoints clearly and hence this post took shape.

Prior to getting into the specifics, let us look at some of the pointers about the DML and SKMS from ITIL, and based on my interpretation of the same:

As per ITIL 2011:

The definitive media library (DML) is the secure library which contains the master copies of all controlled software in an organization. The DML should include definitive copies of purchased software (along with licence documents or information), as well as software  developed on site. Master copies of controlled documentation for a system are also stored in the DML.  Electronic assets in the DML are held within the SKMS.

The service knowledge management system (SKMS), is concerned, as its name implies, with knowledge. Underpinning this knowledge will be a considerable quantity of data, which will also be held in the SKMS.

My interpretation of the same was like this:

  • Since DML contains some ‘information assets’ such as controlled documentation, technical information about the software etc – these should automatically become part of the larger SKMS.
  • Hence, “DML will be ‘stored’ in SKMS” is a wrong way of putting it. The information assets stored in DML will also form part of the SKMS.
  • There are other service assets / CIs stored in DML such as: Bought-in software with their media, in-house built software etc. These assets won’t really fit in the ‘data-information-knowledge’ spectrum in the SKMS context.  Such assets won’t be part of the SKMS.

Now, in my interaction with Mr. Stuart Rance, he has given me a few interesting view points on this: (more…)

This week, I have completed and published a small paper on our (Wings2i) website with title same as the title of this post.

You can read/download the paper here.

The paper is a summary of some of the critical misinterpretations/misconceptions that I have observed in the Industry so far, regarding the Core concept of ITIL ® : The Service Lifecycle. Such pitfalls can negate or degrade the power of such holistic concept introduced by the global best practice framework.

The Paper looks into the following aspects of the Service lifecycle :

  1. It is SERVICE Lifecycle – NOT Service Management Lifecycle
  2. The Progression of Stages is not Linear
  3. All Stages are NOT Equal!
  4. Stages will and can overlap
  5. Processes can/will span multiple lifecycle stages
  6. The Risk of “Lifecycle Stage Silo’s”

 There might be other such considerations that are important for adoption of the model. Such inputs and any debates on the points that I raised in the paper are most welcome!

 

What is Problem management in ITSM?

When there is ’unknown underlying cause’ for ‘one or more incidents’, Problem management process is used to find the ‘underlying cause’, convert them into ‘Known Errors’ and ‘Resolve them permanently’.

Problem management can be Reactive (when it is used to do analyze and permanently fix the cause of an incident that just happened) or proactive, where  areas requiring Root cause analysis are proactively identified – through trend analysis, proactive identification of potential issues etc.

All these are fine – but have a very basic ‘problem’:  The whole set of explanations gives an impression that it is all above correcting a ‘problem’ and identifying and fixing an ‘error’.

Why this process should only address ‘Problems’ and ‘errors only? Won’t the same process useful for ‘Cause analysis’ and ‘management’ of any ‘unknown’ element in the Service management?

In a broader sense, we are discussing a process that aims at:

  • Identify an area that requires detailed cause analysis
  • Derive and document the underlying cause
  • Address the cause fully (as required) and further actions on it

Take the following scenarios as examples:

1. After a particular patch/bug-fix is implemented on a Server, the performance of the Server has improved significantly – It is an unintended outcome from the patch update. The concerned technical team is not sure ‘why’ this has happened.

It might be a good idea to do a ‘cause analysis’ in this case to identify the root cause of this positive change in Server performance and address questions like:

  • Is this positive performance change really due to the patch update?
  • If so, which element of the update has caused the improvement?
  • Can this element be used on other (similar) servers to improve the performance?
  • Can this element be included as a part of design document for such servers? (more…)

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