Tag Archives: service operations

Lean ITIL Service Operation

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of pre-defined processes and common practices (I try to avoid the word “best practice” when talking about ITIL) for the IT service management (ITSM).

When I talk with customers about ITIL, they often complain about the overhead of ITSM processes, that were designed according to ITIL. I already wrote about this in one of my previous blog posts (Is lean ITSM a myth?). Companies mainly have three problems during the implementation and/ or operation of ITIL processes:

  • slow processes
  • complex processes
  • error prone processes.

ITIL doesn’t tell you how to design a process. ITIL is a collection of common practices. Usually, you have someone that helps you to design and implement the processes and functions. If you don’t have an experienced consultant, you might get processes, that lead you to the wrong direction: Big, fat, complex, ugly, error prone processes.

At the end, your processes have to deliver value. But I saw so many crappy/ slow/ complex processes that doesn’t deliver any value, that I seriously began to doubt in ITIL. But again: ITIL isn’t slow, complex or error prone by default. The processes you design are slow, complex and error prone. The success of ITSM with ITIL is based on the processes that you design and implement.

The ITIL life cycle

The biggest difference between ITIL v2 and ITIL v3 is, that ITIL v3 focuses on the full life cycle of services, covering the entire IT organization.

ITIL v3 Lifecycle

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

ITIL Service Operation

The ITIL Service Operation phase manages services in supported environments. The ITIL Service Operation volume describes the Service Operation phase as the part of the lifecycle, where the services and value is actually delivered to end-users and customers. The Service Operation phase is the only phase of the ITIL life cycle, that consists of process and functions.

ProcessFunction
Event ManagementService Desk
Access ManagementTechnical Management
Request FulfillmentApplication Management
Problem ManagementIT Operations Management
Incident Management

When designing the processs and functions, it’s important to focus on the delivered value! Without this focus, you will never be able to develop your IT from manufactory to factory.

Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping is method for analyzing the current state, and designing the new state of a process. Knowledge about the current state is mandatory for the design of the future state. Value Stream Mapping is a well-known method in Lean Management, and it can be applied to any value chain. A value chain is a number of activities to deliver a valuable product or service to a customer.

Value Stream Mapping can be used to analyze ITIL Service Operation processes and functions for potential waste. With the knowledge about potential waste, processes and functions can be optimized.

The Lean Management/ Toyota Production System knows three types of waste:

  • Mura (waste due to variation)
  • Muri (waste due to overburdening)
  • Muda (transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, extra processing)

I’m sure you can apply all three types of waste to ITIL Service Operation processes and functions. And because of this, methods and instruments known from the Lean Management can help to streamline ITIL Service Operation processes and functions.

Lean Managenent and ITIL

Lean Management offers a lot instruments and methods, that can be used together with the processes and functions of the ITIL Service Operation phase.

One of the greatest benefits is automation. Automate as much as you can. Kaizen (“improvement”) can be used as part of the Continuous Improvement of ITIL. Kanban can be used as part of the Service Desk, Incident or Problem Management. Problem-solving techniques, like A3, Kepner-Tregoe or 5W, can be used in the Problem and Incident Management processes. FMEA can be used for quality management as part of the Application, Technical and IT Operations Management. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) can be used as part of the IT Operations Management. And there are many more possibilities to use methods and instruments of the Lean Management as part of the ITIL Service Operation Phase.

Summary

Every process may suffer from different types of waste. This can be due to bad design or bad execution. This can be a big problem in case of the processes and functions of the ITIL Service Operation, because these processes and functions  actually deliver services to end-users and customers. To provide the best possible service quality, you need effective and valuable processes and functions. The Value Stream Mapping can help to analyze current processes. With the knowledge about the value-adding activites of the current processes, IT organizations are able to design valuable and waste-free processes and functions. Methods and instruments of the Lean Management can help to achieve this.

Lean ITIL Service Operation must be the goal!

Is lean ITSM a myth?

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

When I talk with companies about IT processes and IT service management (ITSM), ITIL seems to be the de facto standard for ITSM. Implementing an ITSM without using ITIL, seems to be impossible. I have many customers that have implemented ITIL-based ITSM processes and most of them had enormous trouble during the implementation and/ or operation.

Lean ITSM and ITIL?

Companies mainly have three problems during the implementation and/ or operation of ITIL processes:

  • slow processes
  • complex processes
  • error prone processes.

ITIL doesn’t show you how to design a process. ITIL is a collection of best practices. Usually, you have someone that helps you to design and implement the processes and functions. If you don’t have an experienced consultant, you might get processes, that lead you to the wrong direction: Big, fat, complex, ugly, error prone processes.

You don’t have to implement all processes. It’s sufficient to implement some of the processes of the ITIL Service Operation phase to slow down you business. I used the term “agility” in one of my last blog posts (Industrialize your IT – after you have done your homework) to describe the ability of an organization to act flexible, proactive, adaptable and with initiative in times of change and uncertainty.

Agility needs lean processes

If your business has to be agile, your IT has to be agile. Agility needs lean processes. What are the characteristics of a lean process?

  • It delivers value

For sure, every process should deliver value. The value should, however, be determined by the customer. Only if the customer would pay for it, it’s has a true value.

  • It respects and involves the people who run the process

I don’t know how often I saw teams, that has to communicate over a ticket system, just because “it’s the process”. That’s not what I would call a process that respects and involves people. It’s a waste of time and knowhow.

  • It’s steamlined and free of waste

The Toyota Production System (TPS) knows three types of waste:

  • Mura (waste due to variation)
  • Muri (waste due to overburdening)
  • Muda (transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, extra processing)

To get a streamlined and waste-free process, you have to examine your current processes for potential waste. The Lean Management/ TPS knows different methods and instruments to streamline processes and to avoid waste.

Lean IT or ITIL? Or lean ITIL?

Some companies think that Kanban is all you need for Lean IT. No, that’s not all you need. Kanban is only an instrument to implement the pull principle. Lean IT is much more. But you don’t have to throw away your ITIL knowhow.

It can be useful to review your current ITIL processes for potential waste. Many Lean Management methods and instruments can be used in ITIL processes and functions. With a little skill, you can streamline your processes and get much leaner ITIL processes.

This is nothing new. ITIL and Six Sigma are often used together. In this case, Six Sigma is used to optimize the quality and the output of ITIL processes. So why not use Lean Management methods and instruments to put ITIL processes on diet?

Industrialize your IT – after you have done your homework

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Today a tweet from Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor) has caught my attention:

Keith wrote a nice blog post and I really recommend to read it. His point is, that automation enables business agility.

The point of automation is to enable business agility. Business agility isn’t achieved by automating inefficient processes. The start of an IT automation project begins by examining existing processes and eliminating inefficiency.

Agility is the ability of an organization to act flexible, proactive, adaptable and with initiative in times of change and uncertainty. Can IT automation enable business agility? No, I don’t think that IT automation can enable business agility.

It’s all about processes

Business processes are the key to business agility. Keith wrote, that

Business processes are very organic systems that grow and evolve as a company’s business and culture matures.

and I’m totally fine with this statement. Processes tend to optimize themselves, if you let them. In cases where consultants are hired to improve faulty processes, the processes are often not the problem. The people who run them are often the problem.

Before you should think about IT automation, you should optimize your processes. Keith has a similar view:

Automation comes after you’ve established a repeatable process that has few if any points of contention.

Lean processes are the key

A business process has to deliver value. That’s quite clear. But a process has to deliver value and it has to be lean. Otherwise the business would lose its agility.

What are the characteristics of a lean process?

  • It delivers value
  • It respects and involves the people who run the process
  • It’s steamlined and free of waste

Streamlining processes and avoiding waste are the anchors for IT automation! But you should only automate what you have fully understood. Keith mentioned a nice example:

Money and time are better spent implementing an IP management system and continuing the manual processes. The problem wasn’t self-provisioning of VM’s but waiting for IP address assignment.

This example clearly shows that it’s mandatory to check each and every process for potential waste and pain points. Only after this step, you will be able to design a new, lean process.

IT automation can’t enable business agility. But lean business processes can do. IT automation can help you to streamline your business processes.

Time is changing

At the end I would like to refer to an important statement in Keiths blog post:

All of this goes back to my drumbeat that IT infrastructure practitioners acquire business alongside their technical skill set.

100% agree! The time of the people who have been sitting in dark basements, with their “There are 10 types of people” shirts and the opinion, that IT is the navel of the world, comes to an end.