ITSM

Applying the 7 Guiding Principles of ITIL 4 in the Service Desk

January 16, 2020

Applying the 7 Guiding Principles of ITIL 4 in the Service Desk

You may be familiar with the 7 guiding principles in the ITIL framework. What you may not be as familiar with is how you could apply the principles in your service desk configuration.

Here are some common service desk scenarios demonstrating ways to put these guiding principles into practice in your organization.

Focus on Value

From ITIL 4 Foundations: “Everything the organization does should link back, directly or indirectly, to value for itself, its customers, and other stakeholders.”

A common request from the service desk is to run recurring reports—usually on a weekly or monthly basis. Since executives often initiate these requests, they are delivered without question. Have you ever stepped back to ask, “Why?”

“Focus on value” encourages teams to do just that—ensure you’re delivering and maximizing value. That also means encouraging people to ask questions about the requests they receive.

For those responsible for running the reports, consider asking the following: Who reviews this report? What story does this data tell?

It may be that the report goes straight in the email trash folder. Maybe it could have more value if the data was presented differently or aligned with other key company objectives. Perhaps there’s a better audience or a more efficient way to review the information.

When doing work, supporting services, and designing products, always remember to ask:

Does this help create value?

Start Where You Are

From ITIL 4 Foundations: “The current state should be investigated and observed directly to make sure it is fully understood.”

In a nutshell, don’t start from scratch without first considering what you already have available.

A common story I hear from customers starts with new leadership joining an organization. Stepping into a new position often requires a review of current ITSM practices, like a new IT director assessing the service desk’s classification of incidents.

This presents an opportunity to improve the organization’s categorization, which could improve the platform’s ease of use, streamline incident routing, and drive more granular reports. Rather than scrapping everything, this IT director can take a page from the principle, “start where you are.” Examine what the organization has previously established in their environment and understand why.

What was the design thinking behind how the existing environment was built, and were there any requirements around why they are gathering specific data? What value, no matter how small, do they currently gain from what is already built?

There might be significant risks or consequences to a complete teardown and rebuild. Sometimes it’s necessary, but it often makes the most sense to “start where you are” and find areas for improvement.

You need to know where you are before you can get to where you want to go.

Progress Iteratively With Feedback

From ITIL 4 Foundations: “Do not attempt to do everything at once. By organizing work into smaller, manageable sections that can be executed and completed in a timely manner, it is easier to maintain a sharper focus on each effort.”

Using feedback before, throughout, and after each iteration helps ensure that actions are focused and appropriate, even if circumstances change.

Let’s say an organization is implementing a new ITSM platform, intended for multiple internal service providers’ workflows and day-to-day functions. The improvement manager is weighing the possibility of implementing the new system in a phased approach or as one concentrated initiative. Keeping this guiding principle in mind can:

  • Reduce organizational impact by focusing on a set of resources at a time
  • Foster visibility into areas for improvement for future phases
  • Ensure that the focus is maintained for each business unit during their stage of the project

Do less at once, and do it better.

Collaborate and Promote Visibility

From ITIL 4 Foundations: “Working together across boundaries produces results that have greater buy-in, more relevance to objectives, and increased likelihood of long-term success.”

A business customer for an IT department asks for ways to deliver their services better. To do this, IT knows that it will require major changes to the infrastructure. The changes will take some services offline for the duration of the improvement activities, including services unrelated to the specific asks of the initial business customer. Following this guiding principle and encouraging a partnership across stakeholders can produce the following results:

  • Reduce or avoid negative impact or downtime
  • Create an opportunity to show value in these changes for the other areas of business
  • Allow for other potential improvements to be realized by these activities

Encouraging cross-functional knowledge makes for a smarter, more successful organization.

Think and Work Holistically

From ITIL 4 Foundations: “No service, or element used to provide a service, stands alone. The outcomes achieved by the service provider and service consumer will suffer unless the organization works on the service as a whole, not just its parts.”

When considering an improvement to one of their primary services, an organization must think about four dimensions of service management:

  • The people (consumers) wish their experience was more user-friendly.
  • The technology their consumers interface with needs to be compatible with the technology of the service it’s hosted on.
  • The service is hosted by a third-party partner.
  • The current processes to manage and support the service may receive significant change as a result of this improvement.

The whole of a service has four dimensions to always consider: the people, the information and technology, the partners/suppliers, and the processes.

Keep it Simple and Practical

From ITIL 4 Foundations: “In a process or procedure, use the minimum number of steps necessary to accomplish objectives.”

When a process is designed to meet an objective, it should run efficiently. As process improvements are introduced, technological advancements and business partners’ needs should also be taken into consideration. Following this principle encourages stakeholders to break from “what’s known” in an effort to embrace practicality.

When internal service providers such as human resources embrace the digital transformation, there is often a migration of processes from hardcopy PDFs to digital workflows.

Consider onboarding a new hire. Information traditionally collected in a paper form can be easily collected digitally. Retaining the form’s simplicity but translating to your ITSM tool can automate data collection and streamline the process.

Most organizations have an idea of how the onboarding process should flow. Connect with stakeholders to outline a workflow that automates notifications and assigns tasks to the appropriate parties based on the digital form you create. This workflow should simplify the means to the end goal, and the only way to do that is to involve each stakeholder in its construction.

Work should deliver results, not create more work.

Optimize and Automate

From ITIL 4 Foundations: “Eliminate anything that is truly wasteful and use technology to achieve whatever it is capable of. Human intervention should only happen where it really contributes value.”

IT teams are usually familiar with category-based ticket routing, which allows certain incidents to skip the general queue and land directly with the appropriate agents. Other teams within the organization can leverage similar automation.

Many legal teams intake requests through manual assignment. As each request comes in, the manager reviews and assigns based on his/her employees’ expertise. Introducing an ITSM platform enables the manager to leverage the unique skills of each employee by automating request routing.

When defined parameters are met, the requests are automatically dispatched to the legal employee that meets the appropriate skill set.

Optimizing service desk categories, and then using that data to automate ticket routing is a great way to deliver faster resolutions. But the automation is only possible when the configuration and workflows are carefully planned. Follow this guiding principle to help requests get fulfilled in a more efficient manner.

Optimize to do it right. Automate to do it efficiently.


Sean Sebring is a Solutions Engineer at SolarWinds ITSM, and is a technical resource for SolarWinds Service Desk customers and prospects. His ITIL certifications include IT service management and IT service strategy, including  ITIL 4.