What is new in ITIL 4?

I February 2019 the ITIL 4 Foundation Book was released. But what is new? And does it make sense to take the certification?

From my point of view the main advantage of ITIL is still the same: You get a vocabulary that you can use when you work with other people that work with IT. You get best practices and defined roles and responsibilities. We form the world we live in with the words we use, and everything just goes a lot faster if you have a common language. That it is exactly what ITIL offers.

I have taken the ITIL certification three times: In 2006, in 2014 and latest in April 2019. Below I have outlined what I think is the most important news in ITIL 4.

Generally ITIL 4 has tried to incorporate principles from lean and agile methods to reduce costs, maximize delivered value and shorten time to market.

SVS – Service Value System

In 2011 all the processes were placed in the ITIL service lifecycle. In ITIL 4 activities and organisational components are placed in the Service Value System (SVS). It shows how demands from the customers are transformed into value using the service value chain.

Source: AXELOS, ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 Edition (2019)

Value focused

ITIL 4 is value focused. The definition of value is “the perceived benefits, usefulness and importance of something”. Hence different customers have different values from the same output.

Value focused also means that in the continual improvement model you remove activities from the services value chain that do not produce value for the customer. Here you can see lean has inspired ITIL.  

The 7 guiding principles

In the top of the SVS you can see “guiding principles”, they are very similar to the agile manifesto from Scrum.. Here are the The 7 guiding principles:

  1. Start Where You Are
  2. Keep it Simple and Practical
  3. Optimize and Automate
  4. Progress Iteratively with Feedback
  5. Collaborate and Promote Visibility
  6. Focus on Value
  7. Think and Work Holistically

Service value chain

The service value chain figure shows the different types of activities that a demand must go through before it is transformed into value. There are no predefined paths through the value chain, but you normally start engaging with the customer to understand the demand. When the demand is understood you can do the other activity types, and normally you will end up with at product or service that can produce value for the customer.   

Source: AXELOS, ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 Edition (2019)

Practices

ITIL 4 defines a lot of different practices. And here you find all the known management processes and functions from the previous ITIL versions. Eg. Incident Management, Service Desk and Change Management. Most of the the practices are active in different service value chain activities.

Summary

As you can see above ITIL 4 introduces some new concepts and focus areas. You could say that ITIL 4 focuses on: understanding the customer, being flexible and only doing what produces value. Hence, no work should be done because it is stated in a process, it should be done because it produces value to the customer.  

You still have to keep in mind that ITIL might not be the solution to all your problems. Before you implement any new practices you need to determine what your goal is and decide if you believe that the new practices can help. 

Does it make sense to take the certification?

If you work in an environment where ITIL is used or your suppliers or partners use ITIL, I recommend that you take the foundation course, and when you have taken the course you might as well take the exam to get your certification. In the coming years a lot of organizations will try to implement the new concepts in ITIL 4, and it will be good to be able to be one of the first to understand them, and be able to evaluate if they will be valuable to implement them where you work. The more advanced certifications and the books for them are not available at the time of writing (May 2019). 

Kommer dine projekter i mål?

Jeg har lige været til et super godt morgenmøde med Jacob V. Simonsen (https://www.linkedin.com/in/simonsenjacob/)  om “projektledelse uden rationalitet”. Han fortalte bland andet, at under 1/3 af alle projekter når i mål til tiden og inden for budget.

Standard medicinen er: Klarere mål, bedre planlægning, flere analyser og hårdere styring! Jakob kom med et inspirerende alternativ til standardmedicinen: “Fokuser på tvetydige mål, der fokuserer på at formulere en visionær retning for fremtiden”. Det vil give større handlerum, og tillade at man kan ændre kurs, når man bliver klogere undre vejs i projektet.

What can IT learn from lean manufacturing?

I just had the opportunity to read the book “Lean Thinking – Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation” by Daniel T Jones & James P Womack. It outlines the ideas behind lean manufacturing and it is highly inspired by the Toyota car production. I work as an IT project manager which is very different from producing cars. The car industry produces thousands of the same model, whereas an IT project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products. However, I still find the book very inspiring. Below are some of the things that inspired me.

One of the core principles is to focus on what creates value for the customer and remove activities that produce waist. I think it is good to frequently ask yourself the question: Am I producing value for my customer right now? Write it on a yellow note and place it where you can see it all the time.

2) Plans

The book states something along the lines of: “Plans are worthless; planning where you understand each other’s strengths and limitations and create a common vision is extremely valuable. Re-planning should be done every 3 months.” As a project manager I don’t agree to all of this. Plans are very good for communicating with all project stakeholders. But I think it is a good observation that the process of planning is extremely important and if you involve the project team, you are more likely to succeed. Re-planning every 3 months, sounds like a good idea. You have a greater chance of succeeding if you scope your portfolio to several 3-6 months projects, than if you have one big project lasting several years.

3) Focus until you are done

The book states that each co-worker should focus on one task until it is completed to a predefined quality standard. Wow if you manage to organize your project work in that way you will be a project manager rock star. Most work environments that I have worked in are not set up for this. Open office spaces make it easy to be distracted. The default settings on your smartphone allow for constant distractions every time something happens on your mail, social media and other apps. Most of the tasks in my projects do not have a predefined quality standard, because it has not been done before. I think you will get happier, more productive people if you can manage to create a work environment where it is possible to focus on one task until you are done.

4) No extra resources are needed

Finally, the book states that if you need extra resources to continue the lean improvements journey you are doing it wrong. You might need an external expert in a period and your people need to be trained, but these costs should quickly be covered by the savings that you make.

What can you do next?

Scrum, Lean startup, PRINCE2 Agile, SAFe and other agile methods have incorporated some of the principles from lean manufacturing. But I can highly recommend to go back and read the lean literature that agile authors got their inspiration from. In a way it is easier to understand lean principles when the case regards real physical warehouses and cars. 

Feel free to comment below. Have you managed to implement lean principles in your work environment?

Can PRINCE2 be agile?

Some people might claim that there is no need for project managers and classic project management like PRINCE2. You could say: “The future is agile and you need to embrace change and run projects that create disruption in the marked. For this you need agile methods such as Scrum or Kanban. In these methods the project manager is not needed.” In some cases this might be right, but it is important to remember that e.g. Scrum is designed for continuous improvement of an existing product or a technical platform.

What happens in the scenario where you start from scratch? The customer doesn’t know exactly what they want, the needed product has never been built before, the deadline for go-live has already been set and the customer needs a price to get the budget approved. Here Scrum alone will not help you. You need a way to capture the scope of the project and the customer’s quality expectations. You need to be very good at managing change and communicating how changes will affect time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefit. In this case you can get some guidance from the PRINCE2 Agile manual.

PRINCE2 Agile highlights

My background is that I started out as software developer and then changed to project management. Earlier this year i took a good PRINCE2 Agile course and the certification. Below I will outline some of the highlights in PRINCE2 Agile.

Agile is not either or

PRINCE2 Agile gives some good guidance on how you can combine agile methods with classic PRINCE2. The 7 PRINCE2 principles and the 7 PRINCE2 themes still exist. This means that the project board (also know as steering group) and the executive (also known as project sponsor) still governs the project. All the documents and logs that are part of a classic PRINCE2 project still exists, but they are more informal. E.g. the risk register can be yellow notes on the Scrum team’s “information radiator”. An information radiator can be a white board where the team shares important information.  

The life cycle of the project

The high level project stages are still: Pre-project, Initiation stage, subsequent delivery stage(s) and final delivery stage. The PRINCE2 Agile manual gives some examples on how a stage plan can consist of several release plans. The release plan can consist of one or more sprints. It also explains how you can use a flow-based approach like Kanban that has no sprints. I will recommend that you focus on how you can show progress and have a clear agreement on how products/features are prioritized. And finally it is essential that you can show what consequences changes have on cost and deadlines.

What to fix and what to flex?

The manual has a very interesting section on how to manage the six aspects of the project.  When I started out in project management there was only three aspects: time, cost and scope. PRINCE2 governs following six project aspects: time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefit. Since a project by definition is unique and includes many uncertainties you can not fix all the aspects of the project. You need to be ready to flex on some of the aspects to handle changes, issues and new knowledge. PRINCE2 agile fixes time and cost, but some of the scope can change. They flex and fix the scope by prioritizing the products to be delivered. There are zero tolerance for the product that are essential and some of the products that are not essential might not be delivered. To get this to work all stakeholders must accept that “the customer does not need everything”. If you don’t get this acceptance an essential part of the agility is not present.

Organization theme

When I first got to PRINCE2 Agile manual I skipped the first 70 pages and jumped right to the organization theme. I was hoping to find a mapping between Scrum roles and PRINCE2 roles. But I was a bit disappointed that there was no easy solutions. There are no changes in the PRINCE2 project organization, roles and responsibilities. But there is several good suggestions on how you can try to map PRINCE2 roles and Scrum roles.

The senior user, that is part of the project board, will often end up being a lead product owner that has several product owners placed in different project teams.

From my point of view the role that is most complicated to map is the PRINCE2 team manager. The PRINCE2 team manager has the following areas of responsibility:

  • Planning
  • Monitoring and managing progress
  • Liaising with project managers and other stakeholders
  • Final acceptance and handover of products

A good Scrum master can take the team manager role, but if he should be true to the agile values he will cover the responsiblits by a mixture of delegating and facilitating. On a small project the project manager, the team manager and SCRUM master can be the same person.

My experience is that an agile project manager with an experienced agile team will spend very little time managing and more time facilitating and coaching.

The agilometer

The manual includes a tool called the agilometer. It has six “suitability sliders” e.g. ease of communication and level of collaboration. Before you start your project you can use it to assess your project environment to verify if it is suitable for introducing agile concepts. If you are already running a project you can use it to highlight what you can improve to become more agile.   

Conclusion

This article outlines some of the high lights of PRINCE2 Agile from my point of view, and I hope it has inspired you to learn more. Implementing agile methods is not simple nor easy, but it can be done if you take small steps towards improvement every day. If there is low acceptance of agile methods in your project environment you have to be very careful with what agile concepts you introduce. In the end it’s about finding a balance and striving to improve by implementing methods from the appropriate approaches.

PRINCE2 Agile

I just passed the PRINCE2 Agile certification. There are no quick fixes in the book, but it has some good guidance on how to combine traditional project management with agile approaches. E.g. how can the SCRUM roles be combined with the PRINCE2 roles. If you think you are working agile try the PRINCE2 assessment tool called the agilometer. It might be able to give you some new insights.