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ITIL and its role in service governance

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Kathy Gibson reports from SMEXA 2015 – To remain relevant in a changing world, service governance professionals need to optimise the value they offer, increasing value while lowering costs – in fact, effectively implementing ITIL.

People often ask why it’s important to have service governance in the first place,” says Peter Brooks, author of the book “Adopting Service Governance”. “I bet Volkswagen didn’t ask someone to cheat on their emissions tests – but it happened.

“If you are not in charge of what’s going on you could potentially be in a lot of trouble.”

In fact, service governance should be the concern of C-suite management, and not relegated to the IT department at all, he adds.

“Governance is about delivering value, the financial performance of the organisation and designing the service portfolio.”

ITIL has been misrepresented, Brooks adds. “It’s been marketed and sold as something for service managers. In fact, ITIL is about designing services.”

Another problem with the public face of ITIL, he says, is that it’s not recognised as being about service governance – when it should be about embedding corporate values into the services offered by the company.

ITIL is also about embedding governance into operations, so that the services deliver what the organisation expects, Brooks adds.

However, ITIL training itself often fails to focus on value, particularly on value through the full organisation – even though it should really permeate through the business, he stresses.

There is a big difference between management and governance, Brooks adds. Management looks after business operations, processes and services while governance focuses on service, compliance/control and value creation.

“South Africa has for some time been ahead of the world in corporate governance because of the King Committee,” Brooks says. “Now the rest of the world Is starting to understand that things like Sarbanes-Oxley don’t work. They give you a check list and if you can answer all the questions, you are compliant.

“But those boxes have nothing to do with governance at all. King realised that the boxes are useless; instead you have this timing called ‘comply or explain’, which is much better.”

In fact, many governance frameworks are driving by IT – and this is why they fail. When it comes to governance, the impetus needs to come from the top of the organisation.

There are a number of questions that organisations should ask when considering service governance, Brooks says:

What is the cost of not doing it? And what other risks are there?

Why should we do it?

What exactly does it means for the organisation

When do we have to do it by?

Who will benefit; who will be involved; who will not benefit?

How does it fit with the company vision, mission and charter?

“But IT service managers already know this because it’s what ITIL teaches us,” Brooks says. “But it can’t just be IT that’s involved.”

The big question, he adds, is how does an organisation measure value?

“You need to know what exactly you want to measure. You want to link every service to a value that is important to your vision, mission and charter.

“But you can’t just pick six and tick them.”

Service governance depends on the organisations culture, which means that attitude, behaviour and culture have to be aligned with the company vision.

The vision has to be communicated to all levels of the organisation; there should be a culture of improvement; a culture of openness; and a culture of innovation.

To this end, the service portfolio needs to include customer experience, product design, demand management and supply chain. It includes a cycle of continuous improvement.