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Competing on the global stage with ITIL 4

Blog posted by: Szymon Urbanowicz, consultant at Mindstream, Poland, 28 November 2022.

Szymon Urbanowicz, consultant at Mindstream, says ITIL 4 provides a way for Polish companies to compete on a world stage.

Even before the pandemic, the economic outlook for Poland was strong. Analysts now predict it will be one of Europe’s growth engines despite the economic uncertainty.

I tend to agree but I think success will be greatest among the business leaders that transform how they do business by transitioning to the latest version of best practices such as ITIL 4.

ITIL v3 has run its course

Back in 2007, the new ITIL v3 soon rose in popularity. It was a specific, detailed, technical recipe for IT service management success and its five lifecyle stages provided a strong anchor for practitioners.

That’s not to say people weren’t experimenting like a cookery recipe. So, for instance, if you don’t have a red tomato for your Bolognese but you have a yellow one, it’s fine to make an adjustment. There’s little risk to the outcome; you still make a good dinner. However, you can’t make a Bolognese with fish. Or could you? You might not call it Bolognese, but you could still have dinner by adjusting a few other ingredients.

My point is that following the same process day in, day out – with the freedom to make only a small number of variations – can make things stale. There’s little room for innovation or differentiation.

ITIL 4 offers choice

Today, when I speak to clients and outsourcing partners who haven’t yet moved on from ITIL v3 they have more limited opportunity to test ideas and can’t be agile in their response to changing market dynamics.

This is exactly why ITIL 4 came into existence: the growth in technology adoption, choice in hardware and the advent of applications and the software as a service model needed to provoke a rethink for service management. Ultimately, it was no longer viable to follow a rigid, predefined process.

Take cloud computing for example. There’s a spectrum of choice for companies adopting cloud technologies at different rates: some will use hybrid models, others will go all in.

By its very nature, implementing the cloud demands flexibility, and it raises the stakes. For example, an e-commerce business wouldn’t survive five minutes without real-time access to inventory, payment processing and tools to manage warehouse logistics and people power. Any outage would affect productivity and revenue.

In a similar way, it’s too restrictive to have a lifecycle specified for an outsourced contract that spans three years. There is no room for manoeuvre if the business strategy changes.

In fact, when the business is in a constant state of change, chasing new goals and reacting to market conditions, you might need to change some of your business processes every week, if not every day. It’s this pace of change that makes ITIL 4 so appealing. It provides a framework for dynamic delivery and increased business velocity.

Decentralised decisions make sense

Spotify is often quoted as the classic example of a business that has thrown out the rule book. Henrik Kniberg admits the model the company uses is ‘scary’, not because it’s fast, but because it’s decentralised. The central premise is that when people are focused on a common goal, they are unlikely to fail. They all know what processes to follow and get on with performing their tasks. They don’t need a management hierarchy to make things happen.

This notion is now piquing the interest of other firms. They can see that when they flatten the structure and create a culture of trust, people are free to experiment and innovate. Provided of course, they are working towards the end goal.

Communicate the strategy for successful ITIL 4 adoption

That’s why communication is so important if you are moving towards adopting ITIL 4. You are creating an environment where people are motivated to make good choices. It’s a notion that underpins lean manufacturing, which is referenced in ITIL 4. Accountability and responsibility are dispersed and decentralised because everyone’s motivations are aligned and positive.

This in turn creates value. But there is also an important distinction to make on this point. Value is how you define it. As a training provider, I might define value by the way in which I tailor the courses for my clients and how I deliver them. Each course will be representative of the client sector, culture and goals.

However, another training provider might define value streams by client alone, rather than the specific courses. And that’s fine. Both reflect the skill and experience we have as practitioners and our working preferences. Neither is better than the other.

Poland can thrive if embraces a new approach

The opportunity in ITIL 4 can be a hard concept to grasp for the Polish business community. Business traditions tend to focus on pyramid structures and authoritative leadership models. But there are numerous examples of companies that have broken away and started to grow because they are using flexible processes with flatter supporting structures.

If Poland is to compete on the world stage and export beyond its borders it will need to adapt to the way business is being done elsewhere in Europe and in Asia. ITIL 4 provides an answer. It’s a path towards greater innovation and creativity, which I believe will be critical to achieve both the predicted growth and also survive in tougher times.


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