Service Management truths revealed in a refreshing new guide

Rae-Maree Powell believes the new ITIL® Practitioner Guidance benefits more than just the ITSM crowd.



When I first heard about the recently-published ITIL Practitioner’s Guidance, I thought it would be similar to ITIL version 2 – perhaps covering particular topics such as change management or incident management.

I was wrong… As soon as I picked up this short book I realised it encapsulated everything I’ve thought about service management for years; it was just as though the authors had read my mind!

My light-bulb moment

I’m a fan of Ray McKenzie’s 2001 book, Relationship-Based Enterprise, and was reminded of it when I started reading ITIL Practitioner’s Guidance. McKenzie says that service management is primarily about business and customer needs and everything else comes behind. Get to the bottom of those needs and design service delivery around them; only then will service management work.

Yet again, my inner light-bulb flashed: this is what I do and the way I approach my client engagements. It reminded me of a client who thought they needed a Business Analyst to solve an internal IT problem, when what they actually had was a service design problem that had nothing to do with IT. So often in our industry it’s much more about people than technology.

You could easily drop the ‘IT’ from the title of this new guidebook; it’s essentially about:

  • How you keep your business running
  • How you keep improving things
  • How, when the world changes, you must change with it

For that reason, I firmly believe that it offers considerable value beyond the ITIL world – and I’d recommend it to any executive who wants to understand the success factors in engineering business change and continuous improvement for competitive advantage.

Refreshingly simple

The ITIL Practitioner’s Guidance is essentially practical good sense. Its six contributing authors (Kevin Behr, Karen Ferris, Lou Hunnebeck, Barclay Rae, Stuart Rance and Paul Wilkinson) are leading ITIL practitioners who’ve coalesced the realities of their considerable experiences on multiple programs to deliver some down-to-earth advice.

Not at all theoretical, it outlines ten ‘guiding principles’, the first three being:

  • 1. Focus on the value
  • 2. Design for experience
  • 3. Start where you are

This gives you a picture, and my favourite is the last:

  • 10. Keep it simple

The guiding principles are related back to ITSM and current philosophies and methodologies including DevOps, Lean and Agile.

The book has an overall emphasis on continual service improvement. There’s a chapter on metrics and measurement – critical if you’re to justify and achieve CSI. It also underlines the importance of reporting: put it in from the start rather than tacking it on towards the end – when it’s too late!

It takes the stance that communication is key; you need to fully understand ‘what’s in it for them’ and base your communications with stakeholders on that. IT folk can sometimes forget the people affected by change of technology and new ways of working. One of the key learnings is that you need to be looking outside-in, not inside-out.

I was reminded of John P Kotter’s legendary text, Leading Change, where he describes three types of people: those open to change, those who’ll never change and those already converted. To implement successful change, your focus must be concentrated on the first group: those you can sway, as it’s an uphill battle changing the resistors and a waste of time preaching to the converted.

Deceptively simple?

As I’ve said, this new guide crystallises everything I believe, seeming like a culmination of my work. However, it is causing some consternation in the ITSM community.

The course based on the book is a joy to participate in. It’s an opportunity to get together for two days of intense discussion with like-minded people and thrash through practical business (rather than technology) issues.

What some are finding perplexing is the exam for the certification. The book only assumes knowledge of ITIL and ITSM up to ITIL Foundation level, and because the principles are so ‘obvious’, why is it proving difficult to get a pass?

The exam contains a scenario to ‘fix’; my advice is don’t get hung up on an in-depth reading of the scenario – not all questions refer to it and trusting in your own practical experience will stand you in very good stead. Unlike typical ITIL courses where you just read the theory to pass the exam, I believe this certification requires at least three solid years of experience including enterprise change management and CSI in an ITSM context.

Only with that experience under your belt can you truly appreciate and ‘get’ the value of this welcome addition to the ITIL world of wisdom. This said, I still recommend it as reading for non-ITIL practitioners who want to understand the simple fundamentals of making technology (or any other) change work.

Further Reading

About the Author

Rae-Maree Powell is ITSM Principal Consultant with CSC Consulting, based in Canberra. With over 25 years’ experience in both the public and private sector, she has a strong background in the acquisition, support and maintenance of IT systems and in service delivery. Specialising in service design and transition over recent years, Rae-Maree is a certified ITIL V3 Expert/Practitioner and ISO®/IEC 20000 Consultant.