Bridging process principles and practical implementation

Bridging process principles and practical implementationOver the years, awareness on the importance of IT support and operations has improved. Even small or decentralized IT platforms come with improved and accessible management tools. Today's management tools from different vendors allow for a combination of embracing the need for extreme flexibility and speed and at the same time an acceptable level of control. All of them focus on controlling and improving total cost of ownership of ever more complex IT environments. For each technological platform, common best practices have emerged across organizations for keeping them running in the most effective and efficient way.

A common awareness has emerged on typical tasks that IT professionals need to perform within an IT support organization. For instance, when coming in in the morning, people responsible for the operations check the backups and the results of the batch processing. They have a look at the relevant non-critical alerts coming in on the monitoring dashboard and maybe optimize the tooling for false positives or negatives while analyzing the errors. They check for documentation from vendors, colleagues and their own experience on previous similar experiences and while doing so potentially update some of that documentation. Others have a meeting or phone call with a project team on questions regarding a bug that they were able to reproduce at least once but that seems to behave differently on the test environment. While contacting the user to discuss this progress, they provide some advanced functional support on a question coming from the business. Later on, someone helps a user on running a complex report that requires some custom scripting.

In fact, all of these sample activities are typical useful tasks that are done in a real-life organization. Therefore, they could be recurring / reusable elements of a typical operations handbook, sysadmin guide, process binder, operational documentation, etc. for the teams. Yet, for almost all of the tasks listed above, it would be difficult to link them to one of the ITIL processes. ITIL processes seem to be described at a layer of abstraction above the typical tasks of today's IT support teams. They focus on key topics that are relevant when making different teams work together. But the processes are not optimized for mapping on exhaustive lists of tasks you need to do to keep IT services running in general neither for specific platforms. In fact, you could arbitrarily link the tasks above to almost all of the ITIL processes, or equally defend that these activities are not covered in any of them.

Also, drawing the actual value chain of tasks per process the other way around may not turn out to be self-evident.

Even in the world of large centralized mainframes associated to the times the set of ITIL processes started to grow, it is difficult to clearly link all basic day-to-day tasks, checklists or activities within the IT team to the various generic ITIL process. The concept of "Operations Management" is covered in ITIL but difficult to relate to the processes view that is the core of what ITIL is known for. And even when defining it as an organizational structure next to the Service Desk, Application Management or Technical Management, it is difficult to have a clear line between each of them.

Some ITIL consultants have spent months of their life (and  their stakeholder's budget) on trying to translate just one of the ITIL processes to a real IT organization. Others have spent additional months discussing on the "right" implementation or even the "right" interpretation. Of course, this is more a problem with how ITIL is applied and used by the community, rather than only a limitation of the framework itself. Some consultants and managers have found a way to use ITIL in a pragmatic way, and as a starting point to come to light, efficient delivery structures. They overcome the pitfalls of confusion by making things simple for the teams they work with. Is there a way to make this link with reality become an even more integral part of the framework itself?