Defending ITIL's Value
IT organizations that want value from ITIL must first recognize it is only a means to an end. In other words, the processes are being implemented to create and protect value in a manner that makes business sense. The order, scope, and timing of each phase of implementation must be grounded in achieving this.
To be clear, we need to understand what the largest constraint is and address it. Once that largest constraint has been removed, the resulting state must be assessed and the new greatest constraint identified and addressed.
This approach is based on Eliyahu Goldratts well proven Theory of Constraints (TOC). Far from being an unproven arcane theory, Goldratt and TOC practitioners around the world, have demonstrated repeatedly that organizations are systems made up of business units and are assembled to attain a goal. Within the system there will be one constraint that is greater than any other that is limiting the systems ability to attain its goal. If that constraint is identified it can then be surgically removed and then the throughput of the entire system improves.
To illustrate, consider a twenty foot length of chain whose weakest link can only lift 500 pounds. Even though every other link can lift 8,000 pounds, the total capacity of the chain is constrained to 500 pounds. If we invest $20 million improving every other link of chain except the weakest link, did we improve the capacity of the chain? Of course not and we may well have wasted $20 million and a fair amount of precious time. Instead, if we spent some time carefully inspecting each link, the correction may have only cost a few dollars at most and then the entire chains capacity would increase to the strength of the new weakest link. The improvement process is then repeated over and over improving the overall chains capacity each time.
The power of that simple chain story is that it illustrates what IT and the business do all the time: they pour money into improving operations and telling each group to be all that they can be" without understanding where the constraint is and then focusing resources and management attention to create a true solution.
ITIL gives us IT service management and that is a powerful quality-management philosophy in its own right that groups need to recognize and understand. To effectively and efficiently improve requires that organizations understand what the business needs and then focus continuous service improvement efforts to identifying constraints and properly create solutions.
George Spafford is a principal consultant with Pepperweed Consulting and a long-time IT professional. George's professional focus is on compliance, security, management and overall process improvement.