If We Could Make 2, Even 3 Changes, About ITIL® v4

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ITIL4® is very complete in its approach to service management and value, but as we all know there’s always room for improvement – right? There’s one very basic concept to understand about why ITIL4’s changes are needed: we must convince IT people, who are so focused on operations, to work more strategically with business partners to produce services a business can use to gain a competitive edge. What, therefore, could be changed about ITIL4 that might help operational teams make that leap?

Change 1: Financial Management and the Configuration Management Database (CMDB)

In ITIL4 as in previous versions, financial management is concerned with determining and managing three types of costs:

  • Overhead: costs associated with overarching management and organizational operations, such as HR
  • Indirect: infrastructure needed to deliver all services, such as networking and data center costs
  • Direct: costs attributable to a particular service

While ITIL4 addresses a number of different practice areas that contribute to financial management, they stop at IT asset management (ITAM). While there’s no question that asset management is critical to financial management, so is configuration management. Configuration management and service mapping, in particular, support the understanding of a service’s direct costs. The difference is that while asset management can track the costs of configuration items (CI) needed to build a particular service, how is the cost of that service managed during a given period of time? The CMDB and its maintenance are critical to understanding the costs of delivering services, particularly when viewed from two essential configuration-management capabilities:

  • Discovery and integration to cloud-management services enable an organization to understand what new resources have been added
  • Service mapping and relationship mapping, when added to discovery, enable an organization to know which new resources are being used to deliver a particular service

These are two important aspects of financial management that should be considered with ITIL4 guidance.

Change 2: Reduce the Emphasis on Problem Management as Related to Incident Management

The ITIL® definition of a problem has always been “the cause of an incident.” Even though the practice of problem management requires both proactive and reactive problem management, this definition causes the emphasis to be on reactive problem management rather than proactive problem management.

Replacing one word in this phrase changes the game significantly. What if the definition of problem management referred to “the cause of an error?” Now, proactive problem management becomes possible, as an error can occur that is not an indication of an interruption to service or abnormal operation. Errors and warnings are often signs of needed attention but do not result in a change to the operational status of a service. Researching and repairing issues before a service is impacted in any manner makes problem management much more proactive.

It could be argued that an error is an incident, yet most organizations don’t act as if it is: they tend to equate incidents with actual service interruptions, using problem management in a much more reactive manner.

Change 3: Eliminate Silos

While ITIL has always advocated for the elimination operational silos, it has converted operational or departmental silos into process-based silos. Instead of being challenged by issues when trying to convince the network team to talk to the applications team, we now are challenged by silos that impact the overarching adoption of ITIL. Many organizations consider building a great CMDB to be the responsibility of the Service Asset and Configuration Management team, or whatever team has been assigned this task to complete. When its help is needed to build the non-discoverable CMDB data, team members try to avoid it, denying it is their responsibility. With all of the emphasis on value chains, guiding principles and the like, where is the emphasis to separate these silos?

Addressing the Gaps

There are answers, of course, but they are the responsibility of the service-management-adoption chain to build them into the organizational change-management initiative. The answer is in the details of ITIL4: the value stream. Special care is required to build value-stream maps for the various designated areas, ensuring the maps account for the weaknesses in the guidance as provided. Here are three value-stream concepts to address these three issues:

  1. Include service mapping and service costing in the value-stream maps for financial management.
  2. Build value-stream maps for discovering and addressing problems before they become an incident.
  3. Include technical and application management teams in the value streams involved in building the CMDB.

The answer with ITIL4 is no different than it’s ever been: ITIL4 provides guidance, it is not a prescriptive framework. The concept of “adopt and adapt” still applies to ITIL4. There’s great guidance in ITIL4, but it still must be adapted to the goals and objectives as well as the culture of an organization.

To find out more, watch the recent Virima webinar, “The Problems with Your IT Problem Management – And How to Solve Them.”  Ensure your IT people, processes and technologies are adequately prepared to deliver proactive problem management. You can also learn more about Virima’s solutions online, or by contacting Virima.


ITIL® and ITIL4® are registered Trade Marks of AXELOS Limited. Copyright © AXELOS Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

Mike Bombard

Mike Bombard

Mike Bombard COO Virima Technologies - Mike joined Virima Technologies (Atlanta, GA) in 2010 and oversees Virima ITAM/ITSM SaaS product sales, marketing and field services organizations. He has been providing solutions to solve complex IT challenges in a variety of industries for over 25 years.

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